Thursday, June 23, 2022

I Musk Ox You A Question

On March 17, 1917, Canadian-Icelandic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote hurriedly to Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada. In his letter, Stefansson enclosed a small sample of wool from a musk ox, which he believed that, "if cultivated, can make Canada, continental and insular, as productive of meat, tallow and wool as the grazing regions of Australia or the Argentine."

Stefansson is clearly excited about the potential that musk ox presents to his nation: he asks Borden to set aside a half-hour for him to regale the PM with the wonders of this creature. He lists the many ways in which the reindeer in particular is an inferior creature and then boldly asserts that musk ox "will replace sheep and cattle on some ranges where these are now profitable."

To touch some musk ox wool, or to compare its texture with samples of camel hair and cashmere, come to Special Collections and ask to see the Papers of Werner Von Bergen (MSS-94).