Slave sugar, free sugar, and sugar beet sugar.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Before the Civil War there was slave sugar, free sugar, and sugar beet sugar. The only real difference between slave sugar and free sugar is that slave sugar was made in the Americas using slave labor to grow it, while free sugar came from Asia and was grown using free labor. Sugar beets were being grown in Europe but I do not believe it was being imported in to the United States.

Prior to the Civil War some abolitionists, in an effort to avoid supporting slavery, tried to grow sugar beets, but the endeavor failed. The sugar beet industry in United States started post Civil War.

So hear are my questions.
1. With much of the sugar coming from Southern states, did Northern states experience any sugar shortages? If so,were sugar substitutes used in recipes in the Northern states? I take it sugar was available from other countries in the Americas, but am uncertain about imported sugar costs.
2. The South grew plenty of sugar cane, but cost and transportation could be an issue. So did Southerners change recipes so sugar substitutes could be used?
 

Fairfield

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Before the Civil War there was slave sugar, free sugar, and sugar beet sugar. The only real difference between slave sugar and free sugar is that slave sugar was made in the Americas using slave labor to grow it, while free sugar came from Asia and was grown using free labor. Sugar beets were being grown in Europe but I do not believe it was being imported in to the United States.

Prior to the Civil War some abolitionists, in an effort to avoid supporting slavery, tried to grow sugar beets, but the endeavor failed. The sugar beet industry in United States started post Civil War.

So hear are my questions.
1. With much of the sugar coming from Southern states, did Northern states experience any sugar shortages? If so,were sugar substitutes used in recipes in the Northern states? I take it sugar was available from other countries in the Americas, but am uncertain about imported sugar costs.
2. The South grew plenty of sugar cane, but cost and transportation could be an issue. So did Southerners change recipes so sugar substitutes could be used?
I've not read of severe sugar shortages--at least, not in New England. But there must have been some shortage because more than once I've encountered verse by William Cowper:
"I am shock'd at the purchase of slaves,
And fear those who buy them and sell them are knaves;
What I hear of their hardships, their tortures, and groans,
Is almost enough to draw pity from stones.
I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum
?"
It may have been written as sarcasm because Cowper was pro-abolition.

I'm not much of an economist (my check book will show you that!) but I am interested in the abolitionists. The British were among the first to boycott sugar from the West Indies (as early as the 1790's). Americans, like the British, bought sugar from the East Indies. Philadelphia saw the creation of The Colored Free Produce Society of Pennsylvania. In Northampton, Massachusetts, abolitionist Edward Addy established the nation's first beet-sugar factory.
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Other substitutes were Maple sugar and honey. I don't know that Southerners changed recipes but don't imagine that they had any interest in facilitating such usage.
 

FedericoFCavada

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ASU Calvin Shermerhorn's 2017 article, "Sugar's Bitter History"

http://werehistory.org/sugar/

from the article:
"Activists noticed. American Quakers sponsored a Free Produce Movement. New York grocer David Ruggles who, typified the movement, advertised that his “fine sugars . . . are manufactured by free people, not by slaves.” Yet this effort was buried under a mountain of cheap slave-grown sugar.

As the price fell relative to purchasing power, sugar appetites doubled between 1830 and 1850. Each American ate over 12 pounds in 1830 and 30 pounds by 1860 (per capita, Americans consume several times that quantity today).

With growth, the American sugar industry exerted an extraordinary power over Congress. The 1816 tariff gave domestic sugar an advantage of between 16 and 19 percent of the wholesale price of Cuban sugar. But sugar continued to be a high-risk, high-priced business. A sugar estate cost roughly twice as much as a comparable cotton plantation because enslavers demanded gangs of predominantly adult males. And sugar estates needed on-site processing facilities to crush the juice and commence initial boiling. Louisiana sugar masters demanded expanded credit, and a constellation of interests assembled to supply it.

It was a Louisiana slave trader who first came up with a banking scheme to bolster the position of sugar growers. His plan would help his clients buy slaves while attracting foreign investment in the sugar industry. The scheme was called property banking. Planters pledged their estates and bondspersons as assets to a bank and borrowed back a portion of the assessed value."
 

major bill

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I do not know if Sugar Maple trees are plentiful in Southern states. Perhaps some one on the forum knows. It appears to me that many "Southern" recipes call for molasses. Was maple sugar commonly used in cooking in the South?
 

Fairfield

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I do not know if Sugar Maple trees are plentiful in Southern states. Perhaps some one on the forum knows. It appears to me that many "Southern" recipes call for molasses. Was maple sugar commonly used in cooking in the South?
I'm sure that it wasn't--but I thought that the OP talked about sugar substitutes in the northern states.
 
Joined
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Location
Southwest Mississippi
Before the Civil War there was slave sugar, free sugar, and sugar beet sugar. The only real difference between slave sugar and free sugar is that slave sugar was made in the Americas using slave labor to grow it, while free sugar came from Asia and was grown using free labor. Sugar beets were being grown in Europe but I do not believe it was being imported in to the United States.
I've never in my life heard of sugar being labeled as "slave or free" sugar.

But it's an interesting post @major bill !
 
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I do not know if Sugar Maple trees are plentiful in Southern states.
Nope.

Maple trees are in the Northern New England states & Canada.
It appears to me that many "Southern" recipes call for molasses.
Very much so.

We use molasses in quite a few "every day" recipes.
Molasses are made from the sugar cane stalk.

And historically ... you are correct.

For a enslaved person to find themselves on a Deep South Sugar Plantation was beyond horrible.
A Cotton Plantation was bad enough, a Sugar Plantation was ten times worse.

Perhaps this would be better discussed on the " Slave Talk" forum.

But yeah , Southerners still use molasses.
 
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That's because you probably don't read abolitionist literature. 🙂 It wasn't a label but terms often used--both in Britain and in the North.
You are right.

Reading abolitionist literature has never been a pastime of mine.
But I have read enough within an overall historical context.
Again, I'd never hear of sugar referred to as "free or slave" sugar.

However, I honestly do appreciate this lesson !

Can you provide any links to publications of the era that refer to these descriptions of sugar ?

Thanks.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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You are right.

Reading abolitionist literature has never been a pastime of mine.
But I have read enough within an overall historical context.
Again, I'd never hear of sugar referred to as "free or slave" sugar.

However, I honestly do appreciate this lesson !

Can you provide any links to publications of the era that refer to these descriptions of sugar ?

Thanks.
"The Slave's Cause" (Manisha Sinha; Dr. Sinha holds the Draper Chair of American History at the University of Conn.) is a terrific description of the movement in general and all activities. It isn't an easy book to read--the simplest thing to do is to google "sugar" and "abolition". You might also Google "David Ruggles" as well as "abolition" "northampton". But the first suggestion will bring you into British descriptions as well (the sugar bowl that I showed in #2 is British).
 
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And Michigan. The local Amish used to pay me to tap my Red and Sugar Maple trees on my property in the Northern Lower Peninsula.
Michigan too !

I didn't mean to leave anyone out.

But if the Amish ladies are using Michigan maple syrup within their cakes & pies, I know it will be delicious !
 
Joined
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Location
Southwest Mississippi
"The Slave's Cause" (Manisha Sinha; Dr. Sinha holds the Draper Chair of American History at the University of Conn.) is a terrific description of the movement in general and all activities. It isn't an easy book to read--the simplest thing to do is to google "sugar" and "abolition". You might also Google "David Ruggles" as well as "abolition" "northampton". But the first suggestion will bring you into British descriptions as well (the sugar bowl that I showed in #2 is British).
Thanks !

After I started thinking about it, the horrors at British sugar plantations in their Caribbean Colonies/ Island Territories seemed to be the
impetus for the UK to ban slavery many years before the United States fully addressed the complete issue.

I've toured some of the English Plantations that still remain in Jamaica.
More "grandeur" than most remaining Southern plantation homes.
Actually the French and Spanish started all of it.

Anyway, back to food.
If one is in Jamaica, try some roadside "jerk chicken".

And the Jamaican version of Caribbean Rum Cake is heavenly !
 
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FedericoFCavada

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Briefly: Historically, sugar cane emanated in far away New Guinea. It was cultivated in the Indian sub-continent, and from there, by trade through the Indian Ocean monsoon system to the ancient near east or Levant.

Sugar cane required considerable toil and labor to cultivate and also to harvest and process. Once cut, the cane stalks begin to lose their sugar content. During the Crusades, the European Christians discovered sugar. It was not long before it began to be grown in the Mediterranean, places like Cyprus, and eventually Sicily and so on. Before long, it began to be cultivated by slave labor. Venetian merchants, Pontian Greeks, and peoples around the Black Sea and the Levant had a lively trading network, which often included slaves and exotic things like black pepper. Also, sugar.

When Portugal, and later Spain, began to move into the Atlantic and discover uninhabited islands, but also a few that had inhabitants--like the Canary Islands--sugar cane was a sort of "natural." The Portuguese carried out profitable trade with Africans, and also trans-shipped goods for various African polities, including slaves. The very first time a cargo made up almost entirely of kidnapped sub-Saharan blacks to Europe was recorded at the mouth of the Tagus River in Portugal in 1444, long before Columbus' voyage. A chronicler of the court recorded it, and not unsympathetically, because the Infante Henry had to get his royal fifth.

Sugar cane went from the Atlantic islands and areas off the coast of Africa to Northeastern Brazil and the circum-Caribbean.
In the lexicon of sugar mills, a long single fire with various cauldrons and kettles mounted atop is known as a "Jamaica train."

Once upon a time, Barbados was much like the Chesapeake, albeit with far fewer women. Tobacco was the cash crop. Indentured servants would free themselves and become a poor yeomanry of subsistence farmers. In 1637, there was no sugar cane cultivated there. By 1645, fully 40 percent of arable land was growing sugar cane. It wasn't long before Barbados was wholly transformed into a leading sugar island. By the 1670s, something like 65 percent of England's sugar was produced there. Almost a century later, by 1767, fully 80 percent of all arable land was cultivating sugar. Freed indentured servants migrated, often to Virginia.

By the 1700s, St.-Domingue/ Haiti was the leading producer of sugar cane.
Land owners in Cuba chafed at Spanish restrictions, which held much of Cuba's forests for ship building, and the military ports like Havana harbor. Eventually, they managed to gain the ability to obtain large latifundia and slaves to work the land, and cultivate sugar on a great scale. As late as the 1840s, however, coffee and sugar and tobacco vied for space. A series of very destructive hurricanes and other events led to the takeover of sugar monoculture in the west of the island.
 

major bill

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So how did the availability of inexpensive sugar change the diet and recipes of Americans in the present Civil War years? I will use the Northwest as an example. When settlers first moved there, the lack of wide spread transportation networks would have caused sugar to be very expensive. One would think honey and maple sugar would be used in cooking. Once the transportation network improved, then less expensive sugar would be used in recipes.
 

major bill

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Nope.

Maple trees are in the Northern New England states & Canada.

Very much so.

We use molasses in quite a few "every day" recipes.
Molasses are made from the sugar cane stalk.

And historically ... you are correct.

For a enslaved person to find themselves on a Deep South Sugar Plantation was beyond horrible.
A Cotton Plantation was bad enough, a Sugar Plantation was ten times worse.

Perhaps this would be better discussed on the " Slave Talk" forum.

But yeah , Southerners still use molasses.
I agree we need to not stay too far from "food" on the food forum. My intent was to look at the cost of sugar, taxes on imported sugar, and abolitionists avoiding slave grown sugar, and how these impacted recipes and cooking.
 

SandiD

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And Michigan. The local Amish used to pay me to tap my Red and Sugar Maple trees on my property in the Northern Lower Peninsula.
We tap our maple trees here in NY as well. The local nature center makes syrup so the kids can taste the real deal. They even let you try the sap straight from the tree.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Nope.

Maple trees are in the Northern New England states & Canada.

Very much so.

We use molasses in quite a few "every day" recipes.
Molasses are made from the sugar cane stalk.

And historically ... you are correct.

For a enslaved person to find themselves on a Deep South Sugar Plantation was beyond horrible.
A Cotton Plantation was bad enough, a Sugar Plantation was ten times worse.

Perhaps this would be better discussed on the " Slave Talk" forum.

But yeah , Southerners still use molasses.
Don't think slavery talk forum exists, seems dead link.
 
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