America's expert on wool and wool production; his Wool Lab at University of Wyoming lasted over 100 years.
1880-1951 | Artist: Othmar J. Hoffler (1893-1954)
Impact & Accomplishments
John A. Hill’s Saddle & Sirloin citation reads, “a noted authority on wool, he was considered one of the most influential men in the industry.”
Hill was born on a small farm near Carrollton, Ohio. In 1901 he worked on his uncle’s ranch near Cody, Wyoming, enrolling in the University of Wyoming the following year. Upon graduation, he was named the school’s special wool technologist and head of the new wool department. His tenure at the university was interrupted for service as an infantry captain during the Great War. Hill was named dean of the college and director of the agricultural experiment stations in 1923.
His pioneering work on the strength, measurement, and scouring of wool helped expand range sheep production in the West. In 1932, Dean Hill served as president of the American Society of Animal Production and was their Outstanding Livestock Man in 1949, the year he was inducted into the Saddle & Sirloin Club.
Voted Wyoming’s Outstanding Citizen in 1942, he was given an honorary L.L.D. degree by the University of Wyoming in 1947. Dean Hill retired in 1950, after forty-four years at the school.
Did You Know?
“The Wool Lab was founded in 1907 by John Hill, who became Dean of the College of Agriculture at UW,” explains Carly-Ann Anderson, library assistant at UW in charge of collecting and cataloguing artifacts from the lab. “It was in operation in some capacity until 2012.”
The UW wool lab was also home to an interesting collection of wool samples, collected and preserved in sealed mason jars. The oldest wool sample is a Saxony Merino clip from 1837.
“He greatly improved wool cleaning and scouring, and established improved culling techniques to resolve problems caused by poor sheep breeding,” said David Kruger, a UW agricultural research librarian. "He personally assisted ranchers in culling, and was widely respected in Wyoming agriculture. Wyoming stock growers who followed Hill’s direction found that their fleece averages had increased by two to three pounds after one year which translated into $1.5 million additional dollars for sheep growers across the state."
UW College of Agriculture Dean John Hill stands behind the Warhill sheep he developed with Fred Warren in this 1950 photo at the Warren Livestock Co. The Warhill breed has a natural tendency to twin and is well suited to a range environment. From left are Hill, Fred Warren, Dave Cook and James Davison. (American Heritage Center Photo)