This gummy exudation (gum tragacanth) is a gift of Asia Minor, the shrub yielding it being very widely distributed. To locate exactly its first use would be to antedate historic records. It has ever been before the people in the cradle of humanity, where as a natural product it has always been employed. Theophrastus (633) three centuries before Christ, described it and located its origin. Dioscorides, a Greek writer, and Arabian writers gave it due attention. In fact, it would perhaps be as difficult to locate the first use of wheat as the first use of Tragacanth.
However, until a moderately recent period, only the knotty yellow or brown natural exudation was found in commerce. The natives learned next that by cleaning the bases of the bushes, incising the bark with a knife, ribbons of a pure white or semi-transparent nature could be produced. This is now the favorite form.
Tragacanth comes into Smyrna from the interior of Asia Minor, and from Persia and Armenia. Professor T. H. Norton described to us its collection about Harput, Turkey. Tragacanth of commerce is a conglomerate mixture, good, bad, indifferent, as obtained from the caravans. In Smyrna it is sorted into grades, based mainly on the color. This writer took much interest in the Tragacanth problem, and made many photographs of the Smyrna warehouses, where girls (Jewish) were engaged in sorting Tragacanth and nutgalls. Dealers in the one handle the other.