Feeding a Growing City
Changes in New York food production and consumption, 1860 to 1940
Ann Paul, Daniel Salgado, Michael Sanduski, Krishan Sharma,
Joe Tesoro, Sean Winker
From 1860 to 1940 New York City’s population increased over nine fold, rising from 813,669 persons in 1860 to 3,437,202 persons in 1900, to 7,454,995 persons in 1940 (Gibson). This was primarily due to immigration. Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island saw over twelve million immigrants enter New York City. In 1900 an astounding 37% of the City was foreign born, 36.1% in 1920 and 28.7% in 1940 (Gibson). This era served as a period of profound change for the city, as New York underwent great changes to accommodate the great increase in diversified population.
The population surge experienced in New York during this time caused profound change towards nearly every aspect of the city. This increase in population required an increase in the city’s food supply. This massive increase in demand for food products affected nearly every aspect of New York’s food industry. This paper intends to document the changes that occurred in the oyster, fish, meat, grain, beverage, and transportation industries in New York City from 1860 to 1940.
This study will first begin with a literature review focused on the oyster, fish, meat, grain, and beverage industries in New York City during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, along with a discussion on how these goods were transported. The focal points of the literature review will be how these industries changed during this time to meet the growing demand for food. This will be followed by a presentation of the main results and findings with regards to each food industry. A discussion of the results will follow, highlighting how each food industry changed in response to New York’s population surge. A brief concluding statement will then follow.
Oysters eaten by New Yorkers were originally collected only along the East River. By 1850, however, to meet growing demand, oyster beds were scattered throughout New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The oysters enjoyed by New Yorkers throughout the 19th century came from these areas. At the time, Upper New York Bay contained some of the largest oyster beds in the world (Ingersoll, 2010). The Dutch referred to Ellis Island and Liberty Island as Oyster Island and Greater Oyster Isand, respectively. Staten Island served as a major contributor for oysters, with Prince’s Bay providing a substantial portion of New York oysters. The roads of Tottenville in Staten Island were originally created using oyster shells (Jacobsen, 2008). Arthur Kill, a strait separating Staten Island from mainland New Jersey, was once home to thousands of oysters. Both Jamaica Bay, bordering Brooklyn and Queens, and the waters surrounding City Island in the Bronx also housed thousands of oysters that supplied New York. Greenpoint, Brookyln was home to many oystermen because of its convenient location bordering the East River. Between Long Island and Fire Island, the Great South Bay provided fat, succulent oysters known as Bluepoints. Other areas in Long Island, including Port Jefferson, Huntington Bay and Oyster Bay, were also popular harvesting sites throughout the 19th century. Raritan Bay was one of the largest oyster beds in the greater New York area (Ingersoll, 2010). Oysters were also collected near several areas in New Jersey, including Perth Amboy, Shrewsbury, Absecon, and Cape May. New Haven, Connecticut was also once known for its oysters. In New York, oysters were often referred to by specific names according to where they were harvested: New Havens, Saddle-rocks, Raritan Bays, etc. (Jacobsen, 2008)
As early as 1820, several oyster beds throughout New York began to show signs of exhaustion. Demand for oysters, however, continued to increase throughout the 1800’s. To keep up with this demand, New York oystermen began planting beds all around New York with oysters from other areas. By this time it was known that if young oysters, known as spats, were taken from a source and planted in other waters, those oysters would grow and proliferate, assuming the new habitat is suitable (Ingersoll, 2010). Small, young oysters from Arthur Kill and the Raritan River were first planted by City Island during the 1830’s. When these beds began to show exhaustion, oystermen turned to other sources. 1825 marked the first time that Chesapeake spats were brought up by a sailboat and planted in Prince’s Bay, Staten Island. By 1850, Chesapeake Bay offered a large portion of spats that were planted in New York Waters. (MacKenzie 1996) Oysters fully grown in Chesapeake Bay were shipped throughout the country and also were available to in New York City to purchase. (Kurlansky 2006) Throughout the late 1800’s, oystermen collected spats to be planted in New York waters from areas including Rhode Island, New Haven, Wellfleet, Long Island, Maine, and Perth Amboy and Keyport in New Jersey. It was impossible to tell whether a given oyster in New York City was born in foreign waters because the aquatic environments of New York controlled their growth and development once the oysters had been planted here (Jacobsen, 2008).
As the population of both New York and the United States increased during the second half of the 1800’s, so did the demand for oysters. Besides an increase in population, the surge in oyster demand can also be attributed to the development of major railroads from 1840 to 1860, with the Transcontinental Railroad being developed in 1869 (Kochiss 1974). This development made oysters available to cities other than those along the Atlantic Coast. Fueled by an increase in profits due to the demand by western cities, New York oystermen began to greatly increase their efforts in seeding and planting beds (Kochiss 1974). The development of the ice industry throughout the second half of the 1800’s also led to increased oyster demand. Ice prevented spoilage over long distances. Ice also allowed oysters to be enjoyed at more times throughout the year, as opposed to “months that only end in R.” (Ingersoll, 2010)
Throughout this time, oyster popularity boomed in New York City. Oysters were a universal food and enjoyed by both the rich and the poor. Oysters would be sold by street peddlers as well as severed throughout restaurants (Grimes 2009). Oyster plates, with specific sites for holding oyster shells, were sold throughout the city. Oyster houses throughout the city offered the Canal Street Plan, which consisted on unlimited raw oysters on the half-shell for six cents (Grimes 2009). Cookbooks in New York and the Eastern Coast often contained recipes involving oysters. Most recipes during the mid-1800’s often called for using massive amounts of oysters. Eliza Leslie’s Directions for Cookery in 1870, for example, started its recipe for pickled oysters with “Take a hundred and fifty fine large oysters…” (MacKenzie 1996 p.14) By 1874, New York City contained over 850 oyster saloons, cellars, houses, and lunchrooms. Ingersoll describes that in New York City, oysters were pickled, baked, roasted, stewed, fried, and scalloped (Ingersoll, 2010). They were eaten during breakfast, lunch, supper, and dinner, and were made into puddings, soups, patties, and desserts (Jacobsen, 2008). In 1906, an estimated annual per capita consumption was 660 in New York, 60 in London, and 26 in Paris. London served as New York’s primary foreign market for oyster exports during the late 1800’s. (Kurlansky 2006)
By the end of the 19th century, the oyster industry seemed as if it would continue its growth well into the 1900’s. Oyster beds in New York, however, began to close during this time due to increased effluent, or water pollution. By 1884, Jamaica Bay’s famous Rockaway beds were closed due to the massive amounts of raw sewage and waste dumped there by nearby Long Island towns. Such contaminations prevented proper growth of planted oysters. Coming into the 1900’s, the oyster industry faced a drastically reduced demand due to sanitation issues. The United States as a whole began to develop a great concern for good sanitation towards the food industry; some referred to this as “pure-food hysteria.” (MacKenzie 1996) Throughout the 1800’s, oyster packing had been carried out under widely ranging sanitation conditions. New Yorkers knew very little about sanitation, and no one suspected that oysters could pick up diseases due to unsanitary practices (Jacobsen, 2008). During the 1880’s, several outbreaks of Salmonella typhosa, also known as typhoid, occurred in New York City. Outbreaks of other gastrointestinal diseases also occurred. Several scientists linked these diseases to the consumption of oysters. At the time, however, most New Yorkers were skeptical due to the lack of knowledge towards disease. The role of bacteria in diseases at the time was not fully understood. Medical schools in New York did not adopt the “germ theory” of diseases until the late 1880’s and 1890’s. (MacKenzie 1996)
Knowledge towards bacteria became widespread during the 1890’s. Outbreaks of gastrointestinal disorders continued in New York and other areas, and newspapers would often contain articles linking these outbreaks to oyster consumption. Most people began to realize that oysters could easily pick up the typhoid organism from beds polluted with domestic sewage (Jacobsen, 2008). At this time, a “typhoid scare” began to sweep across New York. Soon after, New Yorkers linked every case of typhoid to oyster consumption if the patient had admitted eating them. (MacKenzie, 1996)
Pollution was primarily responsible for both decreased demand and reduced production during the turn of the 19th century. In 1880, oysters from York Bay, known as Yorks, were no longer available because the bay was so polluted with sewage and discharges from factories that oysters could no longer safely grow there (MacKenzie, 1996). The Passaic River, once known as the best fishing river in New Jersey, was polluted to the point where it emitted fumes that would blister the paint off of nearby houses. Sewage was dumped into all of New York’s surrounding waters throughout the 19th century (Blackford, 1988). By 1900, sewage often washed up on beaches and caused the waters to change colors. By 1914, the city began closing most of its public beaches in all five boroughs. Newton Creek, which is along the border between Queens and Brooklyn, was reported to give off a smell so foul that nearby residents had to close their windows in the summer. In 1872, John D. Rockefeller chose the creek to be an oil-refining site. By 1900, enough petroleum had been dumped that the creek was effectively cleared of any aquatic life. Food Inspection Decision No. 110, passed in 1909, prohibited the growing of oysters in polluted waters (Blackford, 1988). “Polluted” in this sense referred to sewage and other impurities openly seen throughout a given body of water. This decision closed many oyster beds throughout New York and New Jersey, especially those related by the East River (Blackford, 1988).
Oysters from Staten Island’s beds were deemed unsanitary. By 1915, the city closed down majority of the oyster beds of Jamaica Bay due to contamination from sewage. In 1924, an outbreak of typhoid occurred in Chicago. The disease was linked to oysters harvested from Raritan Bay, NY. The story was highly publicized and oyster demand fell an estimated 50%-80% throughout the entire country (MacKenzie, 1996). Although water pollution did not dramatically increase during this time, the methods of detection had greatly increased. Technological improvements in water purity tests led to findings that claimed all of New York’s waters were heavily polluted. In 1927, the last of the Raritan Bay beds were closed, officially marking the end of oystering in New York City. The oyster industry began to produce fewer profits and was soon abandoned by many for other lucrative growing industries such as beef (MacKenzie, 1996). Afterward, several oystermen would often collect spats in New York beds and ship them to other waters, such as those in California, to be planted. This practice was soon extinguished, however, because New York’s waters were so polluted, that even the spats carried a foul taste with them when they grew into oysters in foreign waters (Blackford, 1988). During this time, both oyster demand and production continued to drastically decline.
Other local harvesters would often illegally catch oysters and either sell them or consume them. This practice was not widespread, however, due to the obvious health risks. Oysters shipped from other areas, such as Chesapeake Bay and California, were still available in New York (MacKenzie, 1996). Oyster consumption, however, was nowhere near what it had been during the 19th century. Oyster bars still remained somewhat popular in the early 1900’s. The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal debuted in 1913 (Blackford, 1988). The oysters used by the bar, however, were not from New York City. In 1934, the city, losing a Supreme Court case, agreed to stop dumping its garbage into the sea because too much had been washing up on beaches. Reform to improve the city’s waters continued throughout the 20th century. (Ingersoll 2010)
Skyrocketing oyster demand led to significant improvement in oyster-harvesting technology. One of the oldest known instruments for oyster harvesting in North America are tongs, with their use dating as far back as the early 1700’s. (Ingersoll, 2010) Used for collecting oysters in shallow waters, tongs consist of two long rakes attached at some point along their handles. An oyster harvester would dip the tongs into shallow waters until the rakes touched the floor. In a scissor-like motion, the two rakes would be drawn together and everything in-between them, including oysters, would be collected. (MacKenzie, 1996) Although this instrument of oyster harvesting was eventually replaced by more sophisticated ones, tongs were still employed by several local oyster harvesters in New York area up until the early 1920’s. The oysters collected by these harvesters were mostly consumed by either themselves or their families and not used for commercial purposes. (Ingersoll, 2010)
The oyster dredge was one of the most significant improvements in technology during the 19th century to meet up with oyster demand. The first use of dredges in New York was recorded in 1820. A dredge consisted of a heavy steel bar attached to a chain mesh. The mesh would act as a netting basket, and in a scooping motion, a fisherman would drag the dredge along a bed and oysters would be collected onto the mesh (Carriker 2004). From 1860 to 1940, the strong use of dredges led to several improvements in their design. The production of smaller and lighter dredges was most significant improvement. The use of heavy dredges could be destructive to certain bottoms, making them too soft and unfit for planting oysters. Heavy dredges also had a greater risk of breaking the shell edges of oysters, making them lose their liquor and drying up when packaged (Kurlansky 2006).
Tongs and dredges were consistently used in New York for oyster harvesting, and are still used widely today. The most profound changes in harvesting technology in New York during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were towards the naval vessels from which these instruments were used. The dugout canoe was the first known boat from which American fisherman used tongs for oyster collection (Brennessel 2008). Although the use of dugout canoes greatly diminished over time, local harvesters in New York still occasionally used them up until the mid 19th century. Sharpies are narrow, long, flat-bottomed sailboats that were first observed in New York during the 1860’s (Ingersoll, 2010). Sloops, single-massed sailing vessels using fore and aft rigs, and schooners, multiple-massed sailing vessels also having fore and aft sails, were widely used in New York from 1850 to the early 1900’s. The size of both sloops and schooners greatly increased during the late 19th century in order to increase their efficiency and holding capacity for oysters (Kurlansky 2006). Although tongs were used on all of these ships, sloops and schooners were very popular amongst dredgers. During the 1880’s Chesapeake Bay harvesters developed the skipjack specifically for oyster dredging. Resembling a sloop, a skipjack had an extremely long broom and a sharply raked mast. Skipjacks offered harvesters greater maneuverability and an increased capacity for oysters. They soon spread to New York and became the most popular oyster dredging ship in the greater NY area during the 1880’s and 1890’s (Brennessel 2008).
Although dredging was first done under sail, its efficiency was greatly increased by the introduction of the steam engine. The first steam dredger was created in 1804 (Ingersoll, 2010). As steam dredgers were adapted to oyster harvesting, they became dangerously efficient. Several months of dredging could easily clear out a large portion of the oysters in a given body of water. The French referred to the oyster dredge as the “oyster guillotine.” (Carriker 2004) New York and New Jersey both viewed oyster dredging, now fueled by steam power, with great suspicion. In 1820, the oyster dredge was banned from New Jersey, but planted beds were exempted from the ban in 1846. Only sail-powered dredging was allowed in Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay until the 1960’s (Ingersoll, 2010). In Long Island’s Great South Bay, a law banning dredging was passed in 1870, but it was later repealed in 1893. Dredging was favored in the East River because it broke up oyster-shell mounds and clusters and cleaned out the area, making it easier to plant clean shells (Brennessel 2008).
Technological improvements towards oyster aquaculture during the 19th century were also necessary to meet up with growing oyster demand. According to Kurlansky, the oyster beds of Staten Island began showing signs of exhaustion as early as 1810. By the 1820’s, most New York beds had been overharvested and could no longer keep up with the growing demand for oysters (Kurlansky 2006). Because of this, harvesters began to apply a wide spectrum of techniques to maximize oyster production. Most of these aquaculture techniques were greatly developed during the second half of the 19th century. (Ingersoll, 2010)
Oyster harvesters of the 1800’s knew that not all waters were optimal for oyster growth and development. For example, Long Island’s Great South Bay usually contained an abundant number of small oysters on its east bay and a small number of large, plump oysters on its west bay (Carriker 2004). The low salinity of the east bay prevented oysters from growing into a large size, but oyster drills on the west bay killed many of the immature oysters. Harvesters also noticed that oysters would often attach themselves to debris, especially if the debris is smooth. New York harvesters began to throw bundles of smooth sticks and broken pottery into the east bay and wait for oysters to attach to them. Once the oysters were mature enough to survive in the west bay, these harvesters collected the bundles and transported them, producing numerous plump, full-grown oysters (Carriker 2004).
This was the first time oyster planting, also known as seeding, was performed in New York (Brennessel 2008). Eventually this method was perfected and widely used all throughout New York’s oyster beds. For cultivation to have the large-scale efficiency needed to satisfy growing demand, the oysters needed to be collected and moved at a far earlier stage in their development: when they were tiny swimming creatures. Many harvesters began to collect these “spats” and move them to more favorable waters. New York oystermen referred to these creatures as spats because the process of oyster spawning was known as spitting, and that these small animals had been “spat.” (Kurlansky 2006) When cultivating spats, oystermen often collected them in mesh cages until they developed thick, hard shells, until they were eventually planted in beds to grown and fatten. (MacKenzie, 1996)
During the 1800’s, New York City oystermen began to replant their beds with young oysters from Arthur Kill and the Raritan River. By 1865, planting oysters from Chesapeake Bay was common (Carriker 2004). Before this time, New York law prohibited private ownership of oyster beds; any fisherman was welcome to harvest in any NY bed. When fisherman began planting oyster beds, however, complications resulted from other fisherman collecting oysters from planted beds. During the 1860’s and 1870’s, New York and New Jersey passed several laws that allowed the states to lease underwater property to oystermen for the sake of planting. (Kurlansky 2006)
Fish production over this period underwent a series of vast changes as a result of not only the growing demands from city natives but also to satiate the appetites of fish hungry immigrants. According to a New York Times article, in 1884 approximately 60,000,000 pounds of fish were brought to the Fulton Market with over sixty fishing vessels actively bringing their catches to the Fulton slip alone (Anonymous 1884). In fact, the Fulton Fish Market accounted for ninety percent of all wholesale fish sales in the entire city. Despite being partially burned down several times, the market endured the entire period, from 1860 to 1940, and beyond, at its original location by the Brooklyn Bridge above Fulton Street (Anonymous 1879). Dealers during this period had customers as far away as Nevada, and as far south as Baltimore.
The article also depicts the wide variety of ships docked at the market, each with different purpose. It describes many of the small fishing sloops, used primarily in local tidal and coastal waterways, as “almost as broad as she is long, and equally round at both bow and stern.” (Anonymous 1884) In terms of more specialized vessels, the article notes the presence of small “punts” with large numbers of live eels writhing about the deck. Punts are small flat-bottomed boats with square bows that are propelled in rivers and streams by pushing a pole against the riverbed. The article describes the surface of the water as being covered with eighty fish cars, twelve-foot latticework squares submerged in the water, each holding about two hundred fish, used to keep the fish alive until they are ready to be brought into the open air of the dock and then to market (Anonymous 1884). The reporter asks for the location of the catch, to which the fisherman replies that the fish were all were caught within 100 miles of Sandy Hook, a barrier split off of New Jersey that guards the entrance to lower New York Bay, which is known for its rich fishing grounds.
Additionally, the above article describes limitless varieties of fish to be had, from cod and halibut, to haddock and salmon, to even huge green sea turtles from Key West. A different source from this same time period even documents a record 500 pound Horse Mackerel being brought in, sold entirely for ten dollars (Anonymous 1897). Clearly one could not hope to find the same variety of fish at the market today, for both legal and especially environmental reasons. Even more interesting, however, are the presence of three pans with 12,000,000 codfish eggs taken from the bottom of fish cars and then combined with milt, or fish seminal fluid, in order to prepare them to be turned over to state hatcheries at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island before being reintroduced to the Long Island Sound (Anonymous 1884). What this tells us is that even in 1884, the state was actively interested in maintaining local fish populations and ensuring the stable livelihood of New York area fisherman.
A later Times article from 1907 titled “How New York City Gets It’s Fish Supply” gives an even more detailed account of the fish brought to market daily. The article notes the presence of hundreds of varieties of fish from Alaska and Oregon to Labrador and Florida. As the article states, these millions of fish mean millions of dollars that must recouped before the fish spoil and all profit is lost (Anonymous 1907). From the article one can also spot an interesting trend: Boston was, at the time, the undisputed cod capital of the world (Kurlansky). The article states how Boston was commonly supplied with cod brought to market in New York, much “like bringing coal to Newcastle,” a practice that follows for a number of inland cities as far as Chicago and St Louis. In this regard, New York acts as a gateway for fish to eastern inland markets. When it comes to such fish as Alaskan halibut and Oregon salmon, however, many of the buyers are local suppliers to New York’s hotel and restaurant industry. Even more interesting is the article’s claim that halibut used to be found off Labrador but have their populations have declined so much that halibut are now brought in from Alaska. Although halibut are still found in Hudson’s Bay in Northeastern Canada, the large ice sheets prevent ships, generally wooden smacks, from fishing in those waters. This speaks to the technology of available vessels and the lack of ice-breaking ships, as well as the build of most vessels, which were still nearly exclusively wooden. While the article states that the reason for the disappearance of the halibut is unclear, overfishing is probably the culprit, owing in large part to the lack of attention paid to the numbers of fish. As later articles mention, there was often a prevailing belief, or, better yet, ignorance, during this era that the sea would always continue to replenish itself (Anonymous 1924).
The article “How New York City Gets It’s Fish Supply” also shows that deception of the types of fish actually provided was as rampant then as it is now. As many recent case studies have shown, fish today is often misidentified; when one sits down to eat yellow fin tuna, in many cases the fish is not even tuna at all (Anonymous 2008). The article states that when a patron orders Kennebec salmon, it usually was not caught within hundreds of miles of the Kennebec River, located in Maine, and comes either from Labrador, part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland, or even from the Columbia River in Oregon. While the fish from Oregon are shipped exclusively by rail to New York, the salmon from Labrador are often brought by boat to Boston and then shipped by rail to New York; evidence that the trade of seafood between the cities noted earlier goes both ways. The article also states that the demand for lobster has grown to such a point that the species is threatened by extinction, nothing that while nearly all catches just a few years ago were wild and caught off the New England Coast, New York’s supply is now dependent upon New England fisheries. The article also makes a related finding to cod: although the majority of fish are caught from local waters, some of New York’s supply now came from as far south as Florida, where the fish at the time were considerably more plentiful (Anonymous 1924). As time has progressed, local seafood catches of many varieties of both fish and shellfish have not only shifted farther and farther away but have also possibly become dependent on the use of fisheries.
As to the actual techniques of fishing the above article cites the use of strategically placed nets off Sandy Hook, which catch schools of fish entering inlets (Anonymous 1924). The article also documents the scores of dinghies, which leave from East Side piers and day in and day out head to the fishing grounds off Sandy Hook in order to drag their nets, pulling in everything from dog sharks, to jellyfish, to mackerel and other prized fish. The article also cites a figure of a fleet of 112 boats, concerned solely with harvesting the still viable oyster and mussel beds off Princess Bay, Rockaway, and Oyster Bay, the two former off of Brooklyn and Queens, the latter on the Long Island Sound (Anonymous 1924). Information from the book, “The Big Oyster: History of the Half Shell” by Mark Kurlansky, a novel examining the history of the oyster in New York City, seems to agree with the above (Kurlansky).
Another Times article from 1916, “Fish For Everyone At their Own Price”, discusses the effect of World War I on meat and fish prices in New York City. Although some steaks had risen in price to thirty cents a pound, quality fish, such as tilefish, could be had for as low as two cents a pound, with the more desirable cod going for six cents (Anonymous 1916). The typical endless variety of more desirable fish such as whiting, kingfish, herring, flounders, and mackerel could also all be had for decent prices, due to an unusually large catch. Tilefish in particular, which had virtually disappeared fifteen years prior, apparently came back in full force, and sold cheaply on the market as a result. In the article, a local proprietor of a fish commission house, William H. Cornell, lamented how little fish New Yorkers eat in comparison to meat. He states, “Why should tilefish at two cents a pound be shipped away from here while poor people save up to buy enough meat for a meal? That’s poor economy.” Indeed as a testament to the waste of fish, apart from the large shipments of fish to inland states west of New York, an earlier Times article entitled, “Tons Of Good Fish Go For Fertilizer”, also documents enough fish for 40,000 meals a day being turned into fertilizer (Anonymous 1916). Unlike grain, which can be stored until the next year in the event of a bumper crop, excess fish catches cannot be saved. The article cites low prices as actually driving away customers who fear for the quality of the fish. Essentially for consumers who have no ability to judge the actual quality of the fish, the idea of “you get what you pay for” drives away customers at such low price points when in fact it should be bringing in hordes of the city’s poor who can hardly afford meat as is. The article cites bluefish as an example, which in most years was considered a luxury due to its relative scarcity, but had fallen to as low as ten cents a pound retail and four to eight cents a pound wholesale due to an unusually large catch, driving away consumers who questioned its quality (Anonymous 1916).
The earlier article on the steadiness of fish prices also provides insight into the state of fishing vessels at the time. Apart from the sloops, punts, and dinghies discussed earlier, smacks made up the backbone of New York’s fishing fleets. These large seaworthy vessels, which often had wells were live fish were held until they could be brought to market, were among the primary ships used in the 19th century and even into the early 20th century. They were characterized by several large topsails and often a bowsprit and jib sail (March).
Apart from the rare years of excess catches and occasional reemergence of local species thought to be hunted to extinction, it is clear that throughout the period from 1860 to 1940 there was an overall general decline in the numbers of wild fish. A Times editorial from 1924 on an address by then Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, to the United States Fisheries Association showcases this decline (Anonymous 1924). Hoover’s speech states that primarily due to both pollution and overfishing of tidal and coastal waterways, yields are down drastically from what they once were, even more so than generally thought. Shad, a prized fish, has had a decreased yield of seventy percent over the past thirty years and lobster catches were one-third of what they were in 1900 (Anonymous 1924). The article states that while coastal and tidal fish had been affected most, not even deep-sea catches were immune from the effects of overfishing. The editorial argues that while Congressional actions, such as a treaty with Canada for the conservation of halibut, as well as the regulation of oil dumping by ships has helped, it is not nearly enough. Hoover’s plan to ensure the stability of the fish supply involves essential two components: a coordinated state and federal effort to restock waters, and to prevent further pollution from all dumping sources. Enacting and enforcing such legislation the editorial argues, however, would be difficult, especially regarding curbing factories’ use of rivers as a means of chemical and sewage waste disposal. As the article concludes, “But the greater the demand for fish as food, the greater the need for protecting its supplies. It is time to forget the old idea that just because the sea is apparently boundless the supply of fishes that live in it is unlimited” (Anonymous 1924). While this information is more general than targeted to the New York City area, its findings can be clearly applied.
Meat production also drastically changed during this period in response to the population increase. The meat packing industry involves the slaughtering, processing, and distribution of animals including cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, primarily for human consumption. Meat production in the 1860s to 1940s took place primarily with the use of slaughterhouses and stockyards (Stewart, 1938). A slaughterhouse is a facility where livestock are processed for consumption as food products. Animal byproducts are also used to make other goods such as leather or paste (Stewart, 1938). A stockyard is a large enclosed area composed of stables or pens in which livestock are kept until they slaughtered or shipped elsewhere (Jennings, 1864).
The procedure by which livestock is processed has remained, for the most part, consistent throughout industrialization (Stewart, 1938). For example, pork production starts with the pigs being bathed after they are driven into the plant. They are then shackled to a revolving wheel where a dispatcher severs the swine’s’ main artery with a blade. From that point the carcasses are passed through a scalding vat and then a scraping machine. Any hair that remains after this process is singed off. The bodies are then washed again and placed on moving trolleys, after which they undergo numerous extensive inspections. The hogs are then transferred to a drying room, followed by a cooler. Here they hang for a about two days at a temperature of about thirty eight degrees (Davis, 2010).
Once the carcass is rid of heat it becomes firm enough to be carved, so it is sent to another department to be sliced into various cuts (Stewart, 1938). As each worker removes a different section, each cut is transferred to a packing station in another part of the plant. However, prior to that, each cut is trimmed, graded, and cured. When they are cured they sit in a vat of formula (Davis, 2010). Then they are removed, washed again, and examined another time by a company inspector. The meat is then moved to a smoke room where it is smoked over fires according to its size. Finally they are transferred to a wrapping room where they are inspected a final time.
The process by which pork produces products varies from plant to plant, however, the overall process is generally the same. In addition, the same process has been used throughout the period of industrialization, however, many of the factory components were replaced with mechanized components (Stewart, 1938). The production of beef products also follows the same process of cleaning, inspecting, trimming, and curing. (Buckman, 1865)
Much of the new developments in meat processing and packaging originated in Chicago, the United States’ main source of processed meat, before they made their way to New York City. From 1864 to 1900, the meatpackers of Chicago transformed the industry through new uses of technology. One such development by Philip Armour, a Chicago-based company, was the ice room, which made it possible to store meat year-round. Another was the steam hoist, which made lifting and moving carcasses along the assembly line easier (Buckman, 1865). Other developments included the preservation of meat in cans, and chemical treatments that allowed meat packers to produce glue, fertilizer, glycerin, and gelatin from previously unused parts of the animal.
New York City’s meat production took place primarily in the Meatpacking District. The Meatpacking District is an area of Manhattan that runs from Gansevoort Street to West 14th street, between the Hudson River and Hudson Street (Stewart, 1938). At the start of the 20th century, around 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants stood in an area known as the Gansevoort Market, which was an open air farmer’s where meat and other produce was sold (Buckman, 1865).
Many of the apartment houses had several floors removed in order to be converted into two-story warehouses. The roofs were then painted black to block the sun’s heat from the perishables stored below. In 1847, railroad tracks ran down the west side of Manhattan. However, after several accidents between the railroad cars and other traffic, it was decided that a new railroad system would be built as part of a reconstruction effort in the area (Stewart, 1938).
This new line, call the High Line, was an elevated track that stretched 13 miles and officially opened in 1934. It ran from 34th Street to Spring Street and went through blocks rather than over the avenues. In addition, it connected directly to factories so that large shipments of meat and other produce could be shipped and unloaded easily without disturbing traffic (Buckman, 1865).
As the Industrial Era began, there were many changes to the New York diet and they were mainly due to the change in location of production, new methods of transportation, and availability of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Due to the increasing population resulting from immigration, fruits, grains, and vegetables needed to be mass-produced. Susan Williams, author of Food in the United States, 1820s-1890, claims that during early 1830s, or in the beginning of the Victorian era, Americans still lived on farms and in small towns and villages, and many of the families grew and processed their own food at home (Williams 2006). As the settlement moved towards the mid-west during the industrial revolution period across the Agricultural Core (Map 1.1), it was followed by a wave of wheat production for the eastern markets. Shipping did not prove to be a hassle due to the existence of water transport, and flour milling took sites on the points of embarkation, for example Cincinnati on the Ohio River, or when the grains had to be transported from one mode of transportation to another, for example Buffalo, New York, the terminal end of the Erie Canal (An Outline of American Geography). The Erie Canal provided cheap transportation and by 1840, western wheat flour was being used everywhere in New England, by farmers and city residents as well. The cultivation of wheat and rye was reduced due to the Western Canal. The wheat yield from the interior of New York during the 1800-1840 time period was about 20 to 25 bushels. In his article called “NYC Food Detective: What Wheat Where?” Ed Yowell writes, “the effect of the canal was immediate and dramatic and settlers poured west. In 1829, there were 3,640 bushels of wheat transported down the Canal from Buffalo. By 1837, this figure had increased to 500,000 bushels; four years later it reached one million.”
In New England, corn cultivation could not meet the demand of consumption; therefore, corn was imported from the South. As production of wheat moved more towards the west, one crop became the Agriculture Core’s main produce: Corn, or, maize. This crop thrived in the regions long hot days and humid nights. “Corn from western New York and from the Ohio Valley did not figure in eastern markets in its original form, having too little value to stand transportation costs” (Bidwell and Falconer, 1973). The main area of production of barley was the Herkimer County in New York; around 450, 000 bushels of barley was marketed at Albany in 1833 (Bidwell and Falconer, 1973). In eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, potatoes were raised in high quantities for the market. Maine’s potatoes were already known for its good quality in the 1840s and they were sold in Southern markets.
Food processing was usually done on the farm or at home, but commercial food processing grew at a fast pace. The process of milling grain was done in two types of mills: the country mill and the commercial mill, according to Hindle and Lubar (Hindle and Lubar, 1986). The farmer operated country mills seasonally and a part-time miller ground the grain using a portion of the meal as the payment. On the other hand, commercial mills would buy the grain from the farmer and sell the meal for export.
Specialized areas were developed for market gardening and fruit growing between 1820 and 1840 in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island, New York and, in New Jersey. The farmers supplied fruits and vegetables to the local markets. Apples remained the most abundant and important orchard fruit except in New Jersey, where peaches were raised on a considerable scale.
The decrease in wheat acreage in New England between 1840 and 1860 was mainly due to reasons such as: competition of the West, soil exhaustion, and the repeated attacks of the wheat midge, rust, and Hessian fly. The increase in wheat production from the West was due to the newly cultivated prairie farms. “ It would seem that wheat soils of western New York had become generally depleted through continued cropping with the use of lime and gypsum as had been the case in the Mohawk Valley some 20 years before. Soil depletion resulted in frequent winterkilling with crop failures, the impoverished condition of the soil making the wheat plant very susceptible to the attacks of the midge, and thus reducing the already small yield” (Bidwell and Falconer 1973). There was an increase in corn production in the East North Central region, especially in Illinois. In New York and Pennsylvania, little corn was sold but the main objective was to raise enough for consumption on the farm. But in areas where wheat is not cultivated, oats is a prominent crop and its yield on a rich land can be from 60 to 100 bushels. Maine and New York had the greatest increase in oat production from the East and Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri from the West during this time period. The states contributing the most to the barley production were California, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. There were also important increases in New York, Maine, and Pennsylvania since the wheat production reduced in the Eastern states. In 1839, the New England States, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were the leading potato growing states in the country, that is, they produced over 70 percent of the total potato crop of the United States (Bidwell and Falconer 1973). The culture of growing other root crops such as turnips, sugar beets, and rutabagas increased after 1840 in New England and New York. Carrots, turnips, sugar beets, and rutabagas were considered good to be used as feed for cattle and horses. These crops, that is, carrots, turnips, sugar beets, and rutabagas were produced as field crops, but the large amount of labor required for their cultivation soon led to the discontinuation of their production in the eastern farms. By the later part of the 19th century, the American palate for vegetables was expanding. New kinds of vegetables were grown by market farmers and in greenhouses, and exotic vegetables from California and the South were now shipped across the country using the railway system. Market gardeners were on the rise in New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate New York, who supplied the New York City markets. Previously, New York City was supplied by vegetables from the New York counties, Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey, but as the city grew, these suburbs could not produced enough to meet the increasing demands. Tomatoes, potatoes, peas, cabbage, onions, strawberries, and cherries were brought from Charleston, Norfolk, Savannah, and the Bermudas (Williams, 2006). Some of the vegetables eaten by New Yorkers were artichokes, asparagus, beans (both dried and green), lima beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, peas, green peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and turnips (Williams, 2006). Asparagus was considered a luxury good because of its availability only during a certain season.
The Hudson and Mohawk Valleys were known for their apples, pears, and peach orchards, even during 1840 to 1860. By 1850, it seemed that every eastern farmer had an apple orchard and the growing cities demands for these apples were high. Delaware and Maryland were famous for their peach orchards and the water transportation system helped in their quick transportation to the markets of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York. The number of baskets of peaches sold in New York in 1844 was at 12,000 daily during the peach season (Bidwell and Falconer, 1973).
Canning foods became significant in the 1820s, that is moving from jars to tin cans. Since the increasing population of America began to start living in the cities, especially near the eastern coast, farmlands began moving more towards the west. The food distribution network was now under an industrial capitalist economy. As cities began to grow in population, so did the demand for food and amount of food being reached to markets in cities. By 1860, more than 5 million cans filled with food reached cities. As industrial revolution began to grow, fruits such as oranges were imported from Central and South America, and there was an increasing competition between the apple growers in New York and western apple growers. There was an introduction of refrigeration after canning was invented. Tom Shachtman writes in his article “The Conquest of Cold,” “commenting in 1869 on the first refrigerated railroad-car shipment from Chicago to New York, Scientific American predicted, ‘we shall expect to see grapes raised in California and brought over the Pacific Railroad for sale in New York this season.’”
A Brief History of Coca-Cola
In addition to the food industry, the beverage industry saw dramatic changes to keep up with rising demand due to New York’s population increase from 1860 to 1940. Coca-cola had a pivotal role in the beverage industry. Today, it is an immensely popular soft drink served across the globe in over 200 countries (The Coca-Cola Company, 2008). A soft drink is a non-alcoholic beverage that is typically composed of water and a flavoring agent (which comes in an incredible variety). It is often carbonated, though this is not compulsory.
Carbonation is the process of dissolving carbon dioxide gas in water; the resulting liquid retains its gas due to high pressure. When the pressure is lowered (i.e. when you open the bottle), the gas can escape (resulting in the pop and fizz sounds you hear). Occasionally this leads to the disastrous and humiliating (yet often times amusing) event in which the beverage spurts all over the thirsty, unsuspecting soda patron.
“Soft” drinks are named in opposition to “hard” drinks, which have high alcohol contents. Though some soft drinks may contain alcohol, it is found only in negligible amounts.
However, the Coca-Cola we know and love today was not always a soft drink. In fact, it was not always “Coca-Cola”. Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton had originally invented French Wine Coca, which – as the name implies – used wine as one of the key components of its substance. Pemberton marketed his beverage as a panacea for headaches and most other common ailments, including mental and physical exhaustion, gastric irritability, constipation and even impotence (Pendergrast, 32). The coca leaf used in French Wine Coca was also intended to cure morphine addiction in a manner similar to today’s nicotine patch. Morphine addiction was increasingly common after the Civil War – Pemberton himself was inflicted (Pendergrast, 43).
However, French Wine Coca could not last in the market when Atlanta, Georgia passed prohibition law in 1885. One year later, John Pemberton finished his formula for Coca-Cola, and sold it at a nearby pharmacy. From then on, it has grown in popularity eventually becoming what it is today.
An Overview of Alcohol and the Prohibition Years
Although food and beverage demand increased from 1860 to 1940, Prohibition had a significant impact on both alcohol production and consumption in New York. Alcohol has a much longer history than Coca-Cola, spanning millennia instead of mere decades. It has been a part of almost every world culture. Alcohol has been used from festive celebrations to rituals serving the gods. Even today, alcohol is used in religious ceremonies. Alcohol and culture are closely tied.
In chemistry, there are many different kinds of alcohol, but all are organic compounds with a hydroxyl functional group. The details are not necessary; all you must know is that the alcohol found in beverages is called ethanol, which is what is measured when the “alcohol level” of a beverage is determined and reported.
Alcohol level is measured in amount by volume (a percentage). Beers typically range from 5-12% by volume; wines usually range from 9-16%; and distilled liquors are generally much stronger, ranging anywhere from 20% all the way up to 95% by volume.
Alcoholic proof is just another way of determining the strength of an alcoholic beverage. In the United States, alcoholic proof is defined as twice the percentage alcohol by volume. For example, a wine that is 15% alcohol by volume is deemed “30 proof”.
America’s period of Prohibition lasted from the ratification of the Volstead Act in 1919 until its repeal in 1933 due to the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment. The Volstead Act was named after Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversaw passage of the law. The Act legally defined the “intoxicating liquors” to be outlawed, and the law was enforced.
Despite the new law, many American’s chose to continue in their drinking habits; by 1925 there were anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 “speakeasies” in New York City alone. A speakeasy is an establishment such as a bar or tavern that illegally sells alcoholic beverages (Von Drehle, 56).
Here, an interesting question comes to mind: If the production of alcohol was an illegal activity, exactly who was producing the alcohol sold in the speakeasies? How was the alcohol made? What changes underwent the process of alcohol production during the Prohibition?
Bootleggers – “bootlegging” refers to the illegal transportation of alcoholic beverages – were responsible for supplying the speakeasies of New York with alcoholic beverages such as gin, whiskey, and particularly moonshine. Moonshine (also called, “white lightning” and “mountain dew”) refers to any distilled spirit made without a license. “Moonshine” gets its name from the popular myth that it was first produced by the light of the moon by Appalachian distillers. Because it was made without a license during the times of Prohibition, the distillation of moonshine was a serious criminal activity. In short, if New Yorkers (and other Americans, for that matter) could no longer legally obtain their alcohol, they simply produced it themselves.
Increasing population also often leads to increased demand for beverages. The Coca-Cola Company’s website proved invaluable to the research efforts of this paper. Timelines and photographs made it easy to distinguish important information and factual material. Information concerning the history of how Coca-Cola first developed from its beginnings as French Wine Coca came from excerpts of the book “For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Unauthorized History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It”
Many sources concerning alcohol and Prohibition were consulted and referenced in the writing of this section. It is interesting to note that each author had his or her own interpretation of the time period; some authors seemed to side with Prohibition law (Clark, 1976)(Furna, 1965). Still others had a more light-hearted interpretation, and instead sided with bootleggers and rumrunners (Powers, 1999).
Many prohibitionists, those who urged for the passing of prohibition legislation, were evangelical, and pointed to alcohol as a sinful vice that was corrupting the country. However, that may not have all been true. Though bars of the time were regularly filled with patrons, Powers reports that, according to many firsthand accounts, “only occasionally did outright intoxication occur in workers’ barrooms” (12). In “Faces Along the Bar”, Powers shows us that before Prohibition, bars acted in much the same way that churches did:
In one respect at least, prohibitionists were correct: most saloons did cater to a regular crowd. Just as churches had their congregations, so most saloons had loyal constituencies of perhaps fifty to sixty “regulars” who kept them in business. (11)
Other sources were extremely useful as well, such as Assistant Professor of Economics (Auburn University) Mark Thornton’s “Policy Analysis: Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 157: Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure”. This document goes to great lengths to prove why all goals of Prohibition (“to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America”) had failed terribly. While none of his reasons for proving that Prohibition was a blunder are cited here, this chapter does make use of the graphs published in Thornton’s work.
Transportation of Goods
The Erie Canal was one of the most important trade routes leading into New York Harbor during the period between 1860 and 1940. Construction of a waterway from Lake Erie to the Hudson River at Albany was originally the idea of Jesse Hawley, and was published in a newspaper. Governor De Witt Clinton read these articles and decided that Hawley’s idea would be extremely beneficial to commerce in New York and the entire United States. (Levy 2003) It was the contributions and efforts of Governor De Witt Clinton that got approval for the construction of the canal by the state legislature. (Southworth 1907) Construction lasted eight years from July of 1817 to October of 1825 and cost seven million dollars. (McNeese 2009) Building the 83 locks for a four-foot deep, forty-foot wide waterway across slopes and rugged terrain spanning over 350 miles from Lockport to Albany was no easy task. (McNeese 2009) However, the benefits of the canal were easily noticed. Previously, it could take weeks to travel from Buffalo to Albany. The time it took to transport goods across this distance was equally lengthy, and expensive, costing about ten dollars to transport a single barrel of wheat to Albany. By traveling on the Erie Canal, one could travel from Buffalo to Albany in six days, and the price of hauling a barrel of wheat was reduced to thirty cents. (Southworth 1907) By 1860, the beginning of the period being explored by this paper, over 15,000 pounds of grain could be transported to New York Harbor on a single canal boat. (Unknown 1860)
With the canal solidified as one of the most important trade routes in the country with so much activity and transportation on it, it became necessary to expand the Erie Canal in the 1850’s and again in the early 1900’s. The 1860’s began with the tumultuous American Civil War. The Erie Canal facilitated trade between the Union States during the war, and gave them an important advantage over the Confederacy, which lacked a trade route of the Erie Canal’s caliber. (Reisem and Olenick 2000) Despite the fact that the Civil War was raging, construction on improvements to the Erie Canal were completed in 1862. These improvements allowed for larger ships to travel with greater amounts of cargo over the canal. Previously, the canal depth was only about 4 feet, and the ships could only carry about 30 tons of cargo. (Sadowski 2010) With the new improvements the average tonnage of cargo was increased from 30 tons to 240 tons on ships that could travel in the now 7 foot deep canal. (Reisem and Olenick 2000) Boats from the Great Lakes were now able to travel on the canal, which shortened transportation time because cargo would no longer have to be transferred from one ship to a canal boat. This was the first of two canal expansions between 1860 and 1940. The last expansion was completed in 1918 and allowed barges to travel on the canal, which is now twelve to fourteen feet deep and 120 to 200 feet wide. Barges could carry up to 3,000 tons of cargo, which greatly boosted the tonnage of food that could be brought to New York Harbor. (Sadowski 2010)
As beneficial to commerce as the Erie Canal was, it had some negative repercussions for New York farmers. The Erie Canal greatly reduced the price of many commodities, including grain, which was harmful to the farms in the New York City area. Many farmers could not compete with the low prices of grain from the west, and had to find something else to grow because they could not find a market for their products. (Linder and Zacharias 1999) These farmers began growing various vegetables instead. They were able to find markets for their goods, and by the outbreak of the Civil War what is now modern day Brooklyn and Queens, was once the countries biggest supplier of vegetables.
Another important mechanism of trade that brought food to New York City was the railroad system. The railroads of New York State were at one point disjointed and privately owned. This made them inefficient methods of transportation. However, the railroads were eventually united under the New York Central Railroad by an act of New York State legislation in 1853, and became major contributors to the New York food market with their freight lines. (Atkinson and Flint 1868) Railroads stretched from New York City to Albany, and then across the state to Buffalo. (Solomon and Schafer 2007) Lines also reached the western and southern parts of the country. Multiple lines went to Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, passing through different states and cities. (Atkinson and Flint 1868) In the south, lines reached Memphis, New Orleans, Mobile, Charleston, and Savannah passing through various cities and states along the way. (Atkinson and Flint 1868) The New York Central Railroad expanded towards New England in 1866 with the completion of a bridge across the Hudson, which allowed trains from Boston to travel through the New York Central rails en route to Chicago. (Atkinson and Flint 1868)
Railroads were heavily restricted from carrying freight by legislation. Various fines and penalties were placed on the railroad company to prevent it from carrying freight while the Erie Canal was open during the warm seasons when the water was not frozen. These penalties were meant to promote trade via the Erie Canal rather than the railroad. Tolls and fines varied on different lines. (Solomon and Schafer 2007) Eventually, these restrictions were lightened, and railroads were able to create large revenue by carrying freight to and from New York. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the Transportation Act of 1920 were established to ensure railroad freight rates were fair and appropriate. (Vanderblue 1920) This was originally done to prevent railroad companies from charging excessively high rates simply because there was better way to transport goods when the canal was out of service. Railroad rates regulated by the government remained higher than rates of the canal, but this was because the railroad was a more effective method of transportation, especially of perishable foods.
RESULTS AND FINDINGS
Map 8.1: This map displays the various harbors and oyster beds popular throughout New York during the 1800’s. This map was scanned from The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky, 2006, pp. xii-xiii.
Figure 8.1: This figure displays the use of tongs by a harvester to obtain oysters. The photo originates from 1960 and was taken at Chesapeake Bay. This picture was obtained from A History of Oystering in the United States and Canada, Clyde MacKenzie, 1996, p.4.
Figure 8.2: This figure is an illustration of a typical oyster dredge used during the late 1800’s. This illustration was scanned from Good Tidings: The History and Ecology of Shellfish Farming in the Northeast, Barbra Brennessel, 2008, p.134.
Figure 8.3: This figure displays a photograph of a skipjack sailboat in 1921. This picture was obtained from A History of Oystering in the United States and Canada, Clyde MacKenzie, 1996, p.4.
Figure 8.4: This figure displays an oyster advertisement from 1853. The image was scanned from The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky, 2006, p.111.
Figure 8.5: This table displays the annual oyster catch by weight in pounds for New York State over a sixty-year period. Increments of ten years were used, with slight distortion due to data availability. The Hudson River Valley Commission reported this data in The Hudson Fish and Wildlife: A Report on Fish and Wildlife Resources in the Hudson River Valley, 1996. This data was originally obtained from the annually published Fishery Statistics of the United States, published by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.
Figure 8.6: This table displays the prices of one pound of oyster meat in New York State per year. The Hudson River Valley Commission reported the annual oyster catch in pounds per year (as shown in Table#2), along with the total monetary value of the annual catch in The Hudson Fish and Wildlife: A Report on Fish and Wildlife Resources in the Hudson River Valley, 1996. This data was originally obtained from the annually published Fishery Statistics of the United States, published by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. To obtain the value of one pound of oyster meat, the total value of oysters for a given year was divided by the total number of pounds of oyster meat collected in that year
Figure 8.7: This graph displays the total area in acres of New York State waters that was leased by the state to various companies for the purpose of culturing shellfish. This area is displayed as a function of the year. The Hudson River Valley Commission reported this data in The Hudson Fish and Wildlife: A Report on Fish and Wildlife Resources in the Hudson River Valley, 1996, p.324. This data was originally obtained from the annually published Fishery Statistics of the United States, published by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.
From the earlier information about fish production we can draw a number of results. If one thing is clear, it is that both fish production and consumption in New York City from 1860 to1940 changed vastly. What is less clear is the degree to which they changed. Although through such sources as the New York Times there exists a very visible firsthand look at changes in the production of New York seafood, figures from such sources are primarily observations and single data points, rather than scientifically sound studies, particularly in the earlier period. Given the time period, such information can be expected. What this means is that the results of this paper will tend to be more ordinal than cardinal, that is, more of a ranking in order than series of comparable data points. This does not, however, mean that a clear pattern over the time period cannot be established.
It is clear from all of the above information that most of the trends indicated in the introduction to this paper seem to hold true. While overall yields may have declined during the time period, the variety certainly increased. With the influx of immigrants with religious preferences towards fish, rising prices of other commodities, such as meat, and an overall growing population as a result of urbanization, fish consumption clearly increased. To meet this demand required a greater variety of fish, which consequently came from waters deeper and deeper offshore, eventually even from different oceans. This also speaks to two different things, firstly the evolution of fishing vessels themselves, and secondly the increased use of transportation, mainly rail, and refrigeration associated with it. Fishing vessels during this time period remained relatively specialized. Among the vessels were punts, used for eel fishing, sloops for coastal fishing, and smacks for deepwater trawling. It was not until many of these smacks were converted to steamships that there was a true technological difference in their construction and usage. While the exact reasons for this change in fish production may be less clear, the change is obvious. This period would be a catalyst for future change in seafood production and consumption, owing largely to the changes documented in the city and society above.
The meat industry has been one of the most important food producing entities in America. The mass consumption of meat products across the country has led to the rapid development of meat production in every major city, including New York City. One notable period of development occurred between 1860 and 1940. During this time the methods of the industry greatly expanded due to urbanization leading to faster processing at higher quantities.
The rise of the meat industry in America was in part spurred by the creation of railroads throughout the United States. The transportation of livestock had to be widely developed, as meat production depended on transportation companies to distribute stock to other locations. Various railroad companies performed the majority of this service, as they were apt for relocating large quantities very quickly.
The meat industry in New York City and throughout America developed rapidly in response to a growth in population and a skyrocketing demand. As is the case in any industry, a change in demand called for a change in production. To meet these growing needs, new technology and methodology had to be developed. As a result, during America’s period of industrialization, the meat industry underwent great change to adapt to great change.
Map 8.2: The Agricultural Core. This map displays the area of profound corn production in the United States during the 19th century.
When considering production of grains, the main reason that most of the cash crops were no longer cultivated in the New England and Middle Colonies was the competition they faced from the western agribusinesses. The western farms not only had the extensive area to farm, but with the help of new inventions, they could increase their farm output and sell them at a good price in the New York City markets since transportation, except for the railways, was not expensive and there was an increasing demand from the rising population in eastern markets. The eastern wheat farms used reapers, threshers, seed drills, mowing machines, horse-rakers, and other technologies. The decreasing wheat production in the eastern farms is addressed by the increasing and affordable wheat produce from the West in large quantities to suffice the needs of the growing population in cities such as New York City. All new farm technologies along with extensive area of land led to an increase in wheat production in the West, while wheat farms in New York suffered from problems such as soil exhaustion and basically, competition from the Western farmers. Fruits such as apples were produced mostly in New York and peaches in neighboring states such as Maryland and Delaware. These were mainly orchards and hence they were mass-produced. The other types of fruits were mainly shipped or hauled from various parts of the country and abroad and reached New York City either through the Erie Canal, by railways, or by sea. Mainly the women of a household during the pre-industrial era grew vegetables in kitchen gardens, and not many varieties were grown. Because of the increasing demand for vegetables New York City during the industrial era, local farms in places such as Long Island and a few New York counties could not meet the demands, hence production of vegetables moved more towards other states such as New Jersey and Connecticut. Technologies such as the railway system supported the mass-production of fruits and vegetables farther away from urban cities. The limitations of the research findings include not knowing definitely if and when all the farmers in the East and West used the technologies invented during the industrial era, since farmers still continued to use their old farm implements during the industrial era. They only bought these new inventions if they could afford them and if these implements could help save their expenditure on hand and animal labor. The majority of information on the American diet before and during the industrial era is only known from cookbooks published during those times. It is not certain that the ingredients used in these cookbooks were always grown by the households or available in the local food markets during that time.
Coca-Cola Trends of Development and Expansion
- 1886 – Coca-Cola is first introduced, sold for five cents a glass.
- 1890-1900 – Syrup sales increases from 9,000 gallons to 370,877 gallons.
- 1920 – Coca-Cola is enjoyed in 10 countries worldwide.
- 1909 – About 400 Coca-Cola bottling plants were operating around the country.
- 1940 – Coca-Cola is enjoyed in over 50 countries worldwide.
- 1920 – More than 1,000 bottling plants were operating in the U.S.A.
- 1928 – Sales in bottled Coca-Cola exceed fountain sales (first time ever).
– Coca-Cola introduced at the Olympic games in Amsterdam.
Figure 8.8:The above image is a graphic representation of Coca-Cola’s spread to other countries. As population grew in size, the popularity of the beverage also grew and Coca-Cola began to ship its product to foreign markets. Today, Coca-Cola is sold in over 200 countries.
Alcohol Trends During the Prohibition
Figure 8.9: The above graph illustrates how the per capita consumption of alcohol changed in from 1910-1929. In 1910, the average amount of alcohol consumed in gallons was 1.6 – this is an incredibly high amount, as it is a measure of pure alcohol consumption. From 1910 to 1921, the average declined, eventually reaching a value of about 0.233 gallons (much less when compared to the previous years). From 1922 onwards, the average increases again and seems to level off, hovering around 1.2 gallons, but never again reaching the pre-Prohibition value of 1.6 gallons.
Figure 8.10: The above graph expresses the total expenditure on distilled spirits as a percentage of total alcohol sales from 1890 to 1960. Though this graph does not give us any information as to how many bottles of spirits were sold, or the volume of spirits sold, it is still valuable to see what proportion of the alcohol market was dedicated solely to distilled spirits. In 1922, there was a sharp increase in this percentage. It declined again gradually until 1939, where it decreased sharply to match pre-1922 values (about 45%). From then on, the percentage remained more or less the same with a small increase around 1950.
|Products of animals||Vegetables||Other Agriculture||Total|
|NY RR||375,489 tons||362,478 tons||45,203 tons||783,170|
|Canal||36,151 tons||773,655 tons||6,978 tons||816,784|
Table 8.1:This table displays the tonnage of food transported by the Erie Canal and the various New York railroads in 1859. (Anonymous 1869)
At the beginning of the 1860’s, the Erie Canal brought into New York a greater amount of vegetables and food products in general. The railroad brought in significantly more tons of products of animals. As time went on, this trend stayed constant. Shipments by railroad and steamship began to decline in the 1930’s. At the same time, shipments via trucks began to increase. (George 1935)
Various types of food including meats, vegetables, fruits, sugar, alcoholic beverages, dairy products, live animals and grains were transported to New York via the Erie Canal and New York Central Railroads from western states and parts of Canada. According to James Barton, flour, wheat, and corn were the most imported items with bushels numbering in the millions over a one-year period. Oats, barley, rye, and other types of grains were also important imports. The various meats transported included bacon, beef, beef tongues, ham, mutton, tripe, fish, and slaughtered hogs. The various vegetables shipped included potatoes, peas, and beans. Few fruits were shipped, but the types included various dried fruits and cranberries. Other products such as eggs, cheese, butter, live turkeys, live hogs, and sauerkraut were also imported. (Barton 1851)
Local New York farms played a large role in the amounts of food available in New York markets. They supplemented the foods that were brought in by the canal and railroad. They were also exported nationwide along these trade routes. Farmers would send their crops to New York to be sold in local markets or shipped nationwide. Most of these farms were located in Kings Country. The vegetables they produced included squash, potatoes, onions, carrots, asparagus, turnips, beans, corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, and cabbages. (Linder and Zacharias 1999) Some fruits were also grown in Kings County. These included cherries, pears, raspberries, and apples. These local New York farms remained some of the largest suppliers of vegetables to the nation until urban development transformed the landscape from rural farms to suburbs by the 1920’s. (Linder and Zacharias 1999)
Map 8.1 displays the major harbors/environs in New York during the late 1800’s, which was a period of substantial growth for the oyster industry in New York due to rising demand causing by New York’s population surge. The map displays all of New York’s most prosperous oyster beds at the time: those located at or near Raritan Bay, Prince’s Bay, Arthur Kill, Sandy Hook Bay, Rockaway, Jamaica Bay, Upper New York Bay, City Island, Port Jefferson, and Eaton’s Neck (Kurlansky 2006). All of these oyster beds were heavily used by the end of the 19th century to plant and culture thousands of oysters regularly. Due to polluted waters and governmental regulations, however, many of New York’s oyster beds began to close in the early 1900’s. By 1930, all of New York’s oyster beds had been officially shut down. Thus, the locations from where New Yorkers obtained their oysters profoundly changed as the 20th century progressed when compared to the late 19th century.
Tongs were used throughout the 1800’s to harvest oysters. Even as new technology developed, however, tongs were still widely used by oystermen (Ingersoll 2010). Figure 8.1 displays a harvester in 1960 in Chesapeake Bay using tongs. Figure 8.2 displays an illustration of a dredge. First used in New York in 1820, the oyster dredge was widely used towards harvesting during the late 1800’s in select beds such as Prince’s Bay. This was due to the greatly improved efficiency of the oyster dredge. Figures 8.1 and 8.2 display this improved efficiency. The number of oysters caught in Figure 8.1 with the tongs is much smaller than the large quantity of oysters illustrated in the chain mesh in Figure 8.2. Dredging was banned in several beds in New York due to fear of overharvesting. The development of more efficient sailboats for oyster harvesting also occurred during the late 1800’s (MacKenzie 1996). A skipjack is shown in Figure 8.3. Offering a large oyster carrying capacity and improved maneuverability, skipjacks became the most widely used vessel for oyster harvesting in the East Coast until the mid 1900’s. Other technological developments during this era affected the oyster industry as well. The development of railroads and increased availability of ice made oysters available to non-coastal cities. This increase in oyster demand by these cities led to increased profits by harvesters. Figure 8.4, an advertisement for New York oysters delivered by railroad, displays the effects of this technology. Thus, newly developed technology during the late 1800’s led to an increase in the efficiency of harvesting and the availability of oysters to meet up with increasing demand.
Figure 8.5 displays the annual amount of oyster meat collected in New York State per year. From 1880 to 1911, amount of oysters collected generally increases. The small variation during 1901 was most likely caused by the typhoid scare occurring at the time. The scare reduced demand, which likely affected oyster production. After 1911, however, the oyster production by New York faced a sharp decline. This steep decrease in productivity is explained by the shutting down of New York City’s oyster beds due to water pollution. As mentioned earlier, by 1930, all of New York City’s beds were closed.
Figure 8.6 displays the average cost of one pound of oyster meat in New York per year. From 1880 to 1911, the average price of oysters decreased. This was most likely caused by the large upscale in productivity shown in Figure 8.5. With a greater supply of oysters present, the price would steadily decline. As New York City’s beds closed in the 1920’s, there is a sharp increase in oyster price. This increase is most likely due to limited availability of oyster meats. Those meats had to be imported from other areas, causing a rise in price. It should be noted that these observations are only speculation; the true factors affecting prices at the time most likely covered a wide spectrum of issues and go beyond the scope of this study.
Figure 8.7 displays the total amount of aquatic land leased to companies for the use of shellfish culturing. The amount of land leased steeply increases until 1915, at which point the graph experiences a sudden regression. This regression was most likely caused by the shutting down of oyster beds, which significantly began to occur during the 1910’s. The shutting down of beds would make less land available to lease and make the available land more valuable. It is interesting to note that although several typhoid scares occurred during the early 1900’s, the acres of land leased still seemed to rise on an upward trend.
Fish production over this period raises a series of questions ripe for discussion and elaboration. The New York Times article cited from 1907 titled “How New York City Gets It’s Fish Supply” mentions the common practice of importing halibut all the way across the nation via rail due to the low numbers of the fish found traditionally off the coast of Labrador. As the Panama Canal had not yet been built one cannot help but to wonder how the fish had been brought from Alaska, for bringing the fish all the around the tip of South America would have certainly spoiled the fish before they could be brought to market. The above article answers this question by stating that at least five carloads of halibut arrive at the New York Fulton Fish Market each week, having been packed in ice and rushed across the continent at express speed, which still amounts to at least ten days of transportation time. For buyers to put up with non-fresh fish packed in ice for no fewer than ten days and burdened with what must have been the then significant cost of cross country transportation via rail shows that the catch of Atlantic halibut must have been so low as to warrant the demand for expensive and non-fresh Pacific halibut. Additionally, this fact also goes to further show how consumption of such imports must have been largely local because it simply does not make economic sense to ship such fish cross-country to New York and then double back to inland cities. The Times documents that the flow of fish from New York to cities inland generally consisted of catches from Atlantic waterways (Anonymous 1907.)
While the above speaks to the changes in production and demand spanning the time period it does not elaborate much on increased demand for seafood as a result of changing demographics in the City. The influx of such groups as Eastern European Jews and especially Catholics, such as Southern Italians, during the period had a great number of implications on the consumption of seafood (Foner). It is not difficult to draw connections between the huge influx of immigrant groups during this period, particularly Catholics, and the increase in demand for seafood, which is consequently linked to production. In order to demonstrate the effect of Good Friday on seafood demand in New York, one can draw a connection to the much-reviled yet massively consumed Filet-O-Fish sandwich from McDonalds. It is very true that the Filet-O-Fish, the first addition to the original McDonalds menu, was introduced by a struggling McDonalds franchisee, Lou Groen, in 1962 as an attempt to save his restaurant, which was located in an area that was eighty-seven percent Catholic (Anonymous 2007). Groen lamented the fact that his Friday’s take, due to Catholic religious restrictions on the consumption of meat, was always low and reasoned that if he were to introduce a fish sandwich, he might be able to capture some of the Good Friday crowd. By introducing the Filet-O-Fish, Groen was able to save his restaurant and compete with other area leaders, which had already introduced fish sandwiches to cater to the Friday crowd.
Although the story takes place well after the time period in question and in an area across the country, what is important is that by documenting strict adherence to religious custom that affects fish consumption and consequently demand, we can apply this same concept to the influx of different immigrant groups such as Southern Italians and Eastern European Jews over this time period who, for religious and cultural reasons, often consumed as much or more fish than their native counterparts. Additionally, in terms of heavy consumption by Eastern European Jews an earlier cited Times article makes repeated reference to the large number of freshwater fish sold to the “foreign” residents of the Lower East Side, undoubtedly referring to the large numbers of Orthodox Jews who called that area home (Anonymous 1907).
This inference of increased consumption as a result of religious dogma is also backed up by historical documentation. An 1887 New York Times article written during Lent, when adherence to Catholic traditions is arguably strongest, documents the liveliness of the markets on Fridays (Anonymous 1887). The article states that the Fulton Market was well stocked to meet the large Friday demand, which has historically been the busiest day of the market, particularly during Lent (Anonymous 1884).
During the Civil War Era, stockyards were built to supply meat primarily to the surrounding area. There were no car routes or central distribution centers, so distribution over great areas was complicated and inefficient. However, many early builders of the packing industry realized that with the immense growth in the meat-consuming population of America, a more efficient method of meat production was imperative. In the 1920’s the meat industry had evolved from local butchers who did their own slaughtering to great meat producing plants. With the rise of vastly growing meat-consuming public came the rise in demand for a supply of meat that is steady, available, and cheap. To accommodate, thousands of stock-raisers appeared hoping for a quick market and a high price.
Prior to these new developments, meat production costs were much higher. When butchers did their own slaughtering, byproducts were mostly thrown away and fewer animals were handled at a time. Before the advent of transportation systems, meat was a seasonal product. Ranchers in the western United States sold their livestock to middlemen who would then drive it east into the cities. Consumers did their own slaughtering and the butchers that did slaughter did not process their meat or sell processed meat products. Meat that wasn’t consumed right away had to be salted and cured for preservation. In addition, the meat was of lesser quality. However, during the 1920’s meat production changed to incorporate division of labor. In addition the number of livestock dressed daily by a yard reached the thousands rather than one or two a day. This was a result of the growing mechanization used to reduce handling.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains
The implications of new farm equipment invented during the industrial era were more efficient farms, that is, more produce was harvested than before. The hand labor needed for harvesting the same amount was also reduced. The amount of produce that could be threshed and harvested per day increased because of the inventions such as the reaper, horse-raker, and mowing machines. For example: a farmer from New York estimated in the Cultivator VI, 1839-1840 (a periodical series quoted in History of Agriculture in Northern United States 1620-1860), that the work done by one man and a horse-rake could equal the work of 10 men with hand rakes, hence increasing the efficiency of a farm (Bidwell and Falconer 1973). The produce that reached eastern markets from Western farms such as wheat was much cheaper because of the large supply. There was an increasing demand for products from the West due to the reduction in the number of wheat farms in the Eastern States. Since wheat did not perish during the journey from the West to the eastern markets, it was ready to be bought once it reached the eastern market. The relatively cheap price of transportation using the Erie Canal helped the western farmers to save money and earn more when their produce reached the eastern markets. The Western Farmers also used the railway system to transport their produce even though it was much more expensive than using waterways. The railway system had more advantages such as faster transport, ability to run year-round, and the ability to reach places that the canals could not such as the Southern Tier and the Adirondacks (McDonnell). Fruits and vegetables that were grown far from the eastern markets had to be either preserved in tin cans or transported in refrigerators so that they would not spoil as they reached the recipient markets. But the railway system brought fruits and vegetables from states close to New York fast and therefore the produce did not require preservation or refrigeration.
The most convincing argument that Coca-Cola had expanded enormously over this time period is simply in the fact that from 1886 to 1840 (just over half a century), Coca-Cola spread from its humble beginnings in Atlanta, Georgia to a total of 53 countries around the globe.
Prior to its growth in global presence, Coca-Cola had successfully spread to all parts of the United States, resulting in thousands of bottling plants all over the country. Bottling was key to Coca-Cola’s success: Without the ability to bottle and ship the product, Coca-Cola’s horizon’s would have been quite limited. Instead we see that it is sold in over 200 countries today; the classic, contoured Coca-Cola bottle is an instantly recognized symbol no matter where you are on the planet.
From the Figure 8.9, we may infer that the decline in volume of alcohol consumed from 1910 to 1921 is due to the fact that the separate States had been enacting their own prohibition laws before it became national policy in 1919. Therefore, leading up to total Prohibition, there was a gradual decline in alcohol consumption. However, as Prohibition set in, people began to realize ways to get around the law, and consumption again rose to levels before the Volstead Act.
Figure 8.10 shows us that distilled alcohol was the beverage of choice during the Prohibition. This also seems to make sense: Because the sale and shipment of alcohol was illegal, it would make sense to ship as much alcohol per volume as possible in each shipment. For example, beer is only about 5% alcohol by volume, whereas moonshine may be well over 50%. Selling the same number of gallons of moonshine actually transports more alcohol, because the moonshine is purer. After the Prohibition ended, it was not necessary to condense alcohol in this manner, and the normal market distribution of distilled spirits versus other types of alcohol was allowed to resume.
Import/Export of Produce
The Erie Canal and the New York Railroads were both effective mechanisms of trade. As a result, they were constantly in competition with one another. The data in Table 1 reflects this competition. The data shows that animal products were heavily transported by railroad rather than over the Erie Canal. This can best be explained by the fact that the railroad transported goods much quicker than the Erie Canal. Animal products include products such as meat and dairy, which are perishable goods with shorter shelf life than fruits and vegetables. There was a greater chance that some of the cargo would spoil before, or shortly after, it reached its destination in New York City if it was transported over the canal. After the invention of the refrigerated train car in 1872, transportation of perishable goods became even easier. It was still much more expensive to transport goods over rail, so it was not done unless necessary, which was why the tonnage of agricultural products remained lower even after the invention of the refrigerated car.
Agricultural imports gradually increased throughout the period. This was caused by the decline in the number of local farms as they were being transformed by urban development in the modern day boroughs of New York City. By the 1930’s, New York was no longer supplying itself with crops. However, the food markets still needed to be filled, so it was necessary to import more fruits and vegetables from other parts of the country.
The amount of food shipped via the canal and railroads decreased towards the end of the time period because food was coming into the city from trucks instead. This makes sense economically. The railroads were consistently expensive, which discouraged people from shipping goods via freight train. The Erie Canal was much cheaper, but offered extremely slow transportation. There was a chance perishable foods would spoil. The canal was also closed during the winter because it would freeze. Trucking offered cheap and quick transportation of goods, and is still widely used today.
From the information presented above regarding the expansions and increases in tonnage carried by the Erie Canal and New York Central Railroad, a number of subjective conclusions can be made. The growing population in New York City led to a greater demand for food from other regions of the country. The Erie Canal and New York Central Railroads were the most efficient means of importing and exporting goods, throughout the country, so they were expanded to accommodate the growing population.
Over the period 1860-1940 New York’s population increased over nine fold. While the City itself was utterly transformed physically the means of food production evolved even more so in order to meet the massive increase in demand. All food groups as well as the practices of importation and exportation changed in order to meet the needs of a growing New York.
From the period of 1860 to 1940, oyster production initially skyrocketed to meet growing demand until New York’s oyster beds were shut down due to pollution. Oysters were harvested in Raritan Bay, Prince’s Bay, Arthur Kill, Sandy Hook Bay, Rockaway, Jamaica Bay, Upper New York Bay, City Island, Port Jefferson, Eaton’s Neck, and other surrounding areas. By the 1929, however, all of New York’s beds had officially been shut down due to effluent. The technology for harvesting during this period also greatly increased to meet New York’s great demand, with the introduction of the oyster dredge and improved harvesting sailboats such as the skipjack.
Fish production over this period was also no exception to the massive changes that were needed to meet the demands of a growing New York City. With the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, importation of fish from as far away as Alaskan waters became possible to help compensate for declining catches among fish such as Halibut in more local waters. It is clear that although fish catches declined in local waters, the advances in both fishing and shipping technology enabled fish production to meet the ever-increasing demands of New York consumption.
As the demand for meat increased, new meat production technology was developed. These developments made it possible to transport meat farther and store it longer. New York City’s meat production center sprouted in the Meatpacking District on the lower west side, where this new technology was incorporated to meet the demands of a changing New York.
In terms of grain production As the urban population increased, more demand was created and the Western farms, in response, mass produced grains such as wheat, which replaced the staples such as oats, barley, corn of the Anglo-American diet. Oats was still cultivated in New York and enough was produced to supply local markets. Fruits such as apples were in abundance in New York, while peaches were shipped usually from Delaware and Maryland during the 1850s. Vegetables were also produced in the local farms and greenhouses, and where supplied to the neighboring cities. They were also produced far away from the eastern markets, depending on the best climatic conditions needed for the production of that vegetable. For the increasing population in cities such as New York City, mass production of fruits, vegetables, and grains was a must and the technological advancements in farm equipments during the Industrial Revolution helped farmers quench the rising demand.
Beverages also underwent significant changes from 1860-1940. Coca-Cola exploded onto the markets, well on its way to global domination after only about fifty years in existence. One may correlate the company’s fast rate of growth with the equally fast population growth rate. Alcohol use was initially suppressed during the years of Prohibition, but made a comeback as the law started to fade, and was eventually repealed. The way that both beverages were produced changed throughout the time period: John Pemberton changed his formula (creating Coca-Cola), and – for a short while – the American people produced their own alcohol.
Lastly, the changing practices of importation and exportation came as a direct result of other advances in the production of various foods. The two most important trade routes leading into New York City during the period between 1860 and 1940 linked New York to the Western United States. These mechanisms of trade were the Erie Canal and the New York Central Railroads. They supplied the growing population of New York with greater amounts of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products than other trade routes during this period. In sum, production of various foods changed to meet the demands of an ever-growing New York. It was many of the advances made during this period that revolutionized the methods of urban food production for decades to come.
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