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14 The Eastern United States: from the Civil War To Prohibition
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Missouri, Kansas, and the Midwest

In Missouri, the center of winemaking in the Midwest, there was an expansive mood immediately following the Civil War. We have already noted the excited enthusiasm of George Husmann about the future of winemaking in Missouri, and he evidently managed to communicate that enthusiasm to others in the state. The Cliff Cave Wine Company was organized in 1866 to develop 240 acres of vineyard site on the Mississippi River, thirteen miles south of St. Louis. It had cellars in a natural cave—like the one where Tom Sawyer spied on Injun Joe not far away in Mark Twain's Hannibal—and a storage capacity of 100,000 gallons by 1870. The director was Dr. C. W. Spalding, M.D., of St. Louis, the co-editor, with Husmann, of the short-lived Grape Culturist .[64] Another postwar enterprise near St. Louis was the vineyard operated by an Irishman named J.J. Kelley at Webster Groves; there he produced wine from such native varieties as the Delaware and Norton that the French scientist Planchon, visiting in 1873, found excellent.[65]

In the same year that the Cliff Cave Company was set up, another, larger enterprise was founded on the Missouri River, not many miles to the east of Hermann, at Bluffton. This was the Bluffton Wine Company, which secured over 1,500 acres in Montgomery and Callaway counties, laid out the town of Bluffton, and then leased the land to tenants who were to grow the grapes for the winery.[66] This sort of scheme was called a "colony," and in one form or another it occurred frequently in the history of American settlement in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Two of the leading names in Missouri viticulture were among the incorporators of the Bluffton Company, Husmann of Hermann, and Isidor Bush of St. Louis. Samuel Miller, of Pennsylvania, a well-known horticulturist who had introduced the Martha and other varieties of native hybrid grapes, was in charge of the viticultural work. Husmann himself took the presidency of the firm and migrated from Hermann to Bluffton in 1869 when the cellars of the firm were complete and ready to begin production. The party inaugurating the cellars in February 1869 attracted a large group of St. Louis notables, mostly drawn from the German community, and the hopeful officers of the firm announced that they had received an order for forty cases of their Missouri Cynthiana and other wines from President U.S. Grant himself.[67]

In 1867, shortly after the founding of the Cliff Cave and Bluffton wineries, Dr. Spalding and Husmann founded the Mississippi Valley Grape Growers' Association to organize growers on both sides of the river, north and south of St.


The ruins of high hopes in Missouri: the Boonville Wine Company's building, shown in a 
nineteenth-century view, a victim of the bad times for midwestern winemakers after the 
Civil War. (From Charles Van Ravenswaay,  The Arts and Architecture of Germans in Missouri  [1977])

Louis.[68] All this must have seemed good evidence of the secure beginnings and bright future of winegrowing in Missouri. But the young hopes of the growers were soon knocked on the head; the crash of prices in 1871 forced the Bluffton Wine Company into bankruptcy;[69] at the same time diseases, especially the black rot, began to ravage the vineyards beyond all precedent, and the horizon for wine-growers seemed dark indeed. When, in 1880, the irrepressible Husmann published his American Grape Growing and Wine Making , he was forced to admit that the preceding decade had almost entirely falsified the hopes with which it had begun, not just in Missouri but in other states: "Prices in consequence of over production of inferior grapes and wines, came down to their lowest ebb, diseases and other disasters have occurred, and for a time it seemed almost as if grape growing had become a failure."[70] All was not lost, however. There was reason to be hopeful as growers learned their business better, and as the control of winemaking methods became more secure.

One new development of crucial assistance was not far away. This was the discovery, by one of those happy accidents that help to make revolutions, of the fungicide called bordeaux mixture, a compound of copper sulphate and lime. The mixture was applied by a harassed French grower to his vines bordering a roadside to make them look unappetizing and so to discourage casual thefts. Its fungicidal properties were somehow noticed, and it was then tested and brought to the attention of the public by the French scientist Alexis Millardet of Bordeaux in 1885.[71] It


was soon thereafter introduced into the United States through the Department of Agriculture. Trials were made in afflicted vineyards in South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, and Missouri, with spectacularly good results.[72] This work was, incidentally, one of the first significant contributions of the newly established state agricultural experiment stations. Called "the first broad spectrum fungicide,"[73] bordeaux mixture for the first time gave the embattled eastern grape grower an effective weapon against black rot and downy mildew.

Throughout the ups and downs in the rest of the state, the industry at Hermann had been continuous and expanding. The biggest of the town's wineries, the firm of Poeschel & Scherer, put up its main building in 1869, added a cellar in 1874, and was producing on the order of 200,000 gallons in the 1880s. In the next decade it was taken over by new owners as the Stone Hill Wine Company and the production capacity expanded to over a million gallons. When the battleship Missouri was launched in 1901, it was wine from Stone Hill that christened her.[74] Other successful growers at Hermann, though not on the same scale as Stone Hill, were Henry Henze, August Langendoerfer, Frederick Loehnig, H. Schus, and Julius Hundhausen.[75] Winegrowing also continued in and around Augusta, near where Friedrich Muench had pioneered years before. Some vineyards and winemaking also developed in the southwestern corner of the state, in the Ozarks, and around Kansas City on the Missouri River: a hundred acres of wine grapes were reported in that region as early as 1870.[76]

By far the most significant and interesting work in Missouri in the nineteenth century—a work of vital importance to winegrowing around the world—came about through the phylloxera crisis that began its career of devastation in France in 1867, about the time that winegrowing in Missouri was being energetically expanded. It happened that Charles V. Riley (1843-95), the first state entomologist for Missouri, was a leading expert on the phylloxera; he was able, in 1870-71, to establish the identity of the American insect with the unknown creature at large in the vineyards of France, a first step of essential importance in combating the pest.[77] As a resident of Missouri (though English-born), Riley knew something about native American vines; he was one of the first to suggest the idea of grafting vinifera to native American rootstocks, and his authority gave special weight to the suggestion. His work on phylloxera had made him well known in France; he had also visited that country, and he had assisted the experts sent over to this country by the French government to learn about phylloxera.[78] Riley was thus in a position of special importance for the French in their search for a means of fighting against phylloxera. After hundreds of futile and often pathetic "cures" for the phylloxera infestation had been vainly tried in France, and when it gradually became clear that grafting vinifera vines onto resistant American roots was the only reliable and practical way to save the French wine industry, Riley was again appealed to, this time for his advice on the selection of appropriate American varieties for the purpose. He in turn referred the French experts who were carrying out the necessary trials to the veteran growers and nurserymen of Missouri.[79]


The Stone Hill Vineyards and Winery, Hermann, Missouri, in 1888. Descended from the earliest 
winery at Hermann, it grew to be the largest. (From  History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington,
 Crawford and Gasconade Countise

In this way it came about that Missouri took the lead in furnishing the root-stocks that saved the vineyards of France. Three nurserymen in particular, all of them winemakers themselves, were in the forefront of this work. They were George Husmann, who, after the failure of the Bluffton Wine Company, had established himself as a nurseryman in Sedalia, Missouri; Isidor Bush, the learned Austrian whose Bushberg nursery and Bush Wine Company were in St. Louis; and Hermann Jaeger, a trained viticulturist from Switzerland who had come to Missouri in 1867 and planted a vineyard at New Switzerland, in the southwest Ozark region of Newton County. The combination of Riley, Husmann, Bush, and Jaeger probably could not have been matched outside of Missouri in the 1870s, both for relevant scientific knowledge and for practical experience in viticulture. It was highly fitting, then, that Missouri supplied the vines that, after extended trial in France, yielded the sorts that enabled the French to reconstitute their afflicted vineyards. Writing in 1880, Husmann reported that "millions upon millions of American cuttings and vines have already been shipped to France."[80] George Ordish has calculated that the potential market for American rootstocks sufficient to replant the vast vineyards of France was on the order of eleven billion plants[81] —a figure that might well make the Missouri nurserymen imagine wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. But of course the French soon began propagating from their own nurseries of imported American vines. The significant contribution of Missouri was to provide the original vines from which a stock could be propagated and dissemi-


nated in France by the French themselves. The years from 1873 to 1876 were the period of greatest activity in this movement of cuttings from Missouri to France.[82]

Missouri was also ideally situated to provide a variety of native vines, a point of great importance since it was quickly discovered that American vines were by no means uniform in their power to resist phylloxera. Labrusca varieties, for example, were almost as tender and vulnerable to the louse as was vinifera itself. It was also found that the American species differed widely in their ability to serve as rootstock for vinifera: some took well to grafting, some less well. Another variable was the Americans' tolerance of French soils. Many French vineyards are on chalky soils—those of Champagne, to take a famous example—and some American varieties have an intense, even fatal, dislike of chalk. It was thus necessary to proceed slowly and to try as wide a range of experiment as the material available allowed. Here Missouri could be most useful, for it is a state where southwestern, midwestern, and southeastern climates meet. Labrusca, aestivalis, riparia, rupestris, cordifolia, and other species all grow in Missouri, so that if one sort failed another could be provided. As it happened, the first varieties sent for experiment to France were labrusca and labrusca-riparia hybrids; they did not do well. Then varieties of aestivalis were shipped. In the end, it was found that riparia and rupestris varieties did best, and they provided the basis on which rebuilding could proceed. Jaeger, Husmann, and Bush shipped great quantities of them.[83]

One may mention here that the French did not confine their use of American vines to the roots alone. They also planted the vines for their fruit, and though officially disapproved, there are still many vineyards of old-fashioned American hybrids, known as producteurs directs , to be found in France: Noah, Clinton, Othello, and Lenoir among others. At the same time, experiments were made in hybridizing the American and French vines, just as American hybridizers had been doing on this side of the Atlantic since the middle of the century. The French have produced many valuable varieties through hybridizing, a work still actively carried on, and though the use of such hybrids is now officially discouraged in Europe, they are widely and increasingly planted in the eastern United States. The so-called French hybrids are an unlooked for, but welcome, consequence of the phylloxera disaster.

Hermann Jaeger deserves a word more. He was an indefatigable worker in developing and testing better varieties of grapes for American conditions. With this object he explored the Ozark region and originated hybrids and seedlings from his finds, many of them from the Post Oak grape (V. lincecumii ).[84] Jaeger was also partial to rupestris varieties. When the French scientist Pierre Viala, searching for American vines adapted to chalky French soils, called on Jaeger in Missouri he was offered rupestris wine made by his host; it had, Viala said, "a very good color and a taste good enough."[85] It is interesting to know that one of Jaeger's hybrids found its way from Missouri to the Ardèche region of France, where it became the ancestor of the famous series of hybrids developed by Georges Couderc and Louis Seibel, now widely planted in this country as well as in Europe.[86]

George Husmann also deserves another and final word. In many ways his ca-


reer was symbolic of the fortunes of winegrowing in the United States itself, for it touched many points of development and mirrored many representative changes. A brief outline will make the truth of this proposition clear. We have already looked at his origins in the winegrowing community of Hermann, at his embodiment of the scientific German style of experiment, and at his eager proselytizing for winegrowing through his publications. Then came his failure, in common with that of many others, in the incautious days after the war. Undaunted, he turned to the propagation of vines in a nursery business, and had a large part in supplying the French with native vines to combat the phylloxera. The rest of his story begins in 1878, when he was appointed the first professor of horticulture at the University of Missouri in Columbia. There he at once laid out a vineyard on university ground and had over 130 varieties growing by 1880.[87] In 1881, as though to symbolize the transference of power from the East to the West, Husmann accepted a position as manager of the Talcoa Vineyards in the Napa Valley, California, belonging to the James W. Simonton estate. The vineyards were being destroyed by phylloxera, and Husmann was a recognized expert who might save them. He had sent native root-stocks to California as well as to France in the years when he was a nurseryman.[88]

Husmann's migration to California in 1881 came at just the moment when phylloxera was at last recognized as a menace to the state, and at the same moment that saw the formation of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners and the founding of the university's viticultural program. Husmann set to work with his invariable energy and enthusiasm, and soon had three hundred acres planted in native American vines for experiment to determine their resistance and their suitability for grafting to vinifera.[89] He also continued his interest in the whole subject of winegrowing, making inquiries into the various developments in California and taking part in the professional meetings of the state's winegrowers. The result was that within the decade of his arrival in California he had written a book, called Grape Culture and Wine-Making in California: A Practical Manual for the Grape-Grower and Wine-Maker (1888).

This was the third phase of Husmann's oracular performances before the American public: in the first, going back to his early days as a grower and wine-maker at Hermann, Missouri, he proclaimed the future of Missouri and the "great west" as the home of a marvelous winegrowing economy; in the second, as a somewhat sobered but still convinced prophet, he sold American vines to the French and wrote a book to encourage eastern American growers generally after a decade of sore disappointment and distress. In his final phase, he joined the growing company of visionaries who had found the future revealed to them in California. In all of this, there was nothing meretricious, nothing affected. Husmann was, clearly, a true believer, wherever he found himself, and a shrewd judge too of what was going on and what might be made of it. That California claimed him at last is no discredit to the rest of the country. I note it here only as completing his role as symbolic instance of the progress of American winegrowing in the century, a progress in which California was surely the culminating stage. Long before his death in


1902, Husmann had left the Talcoa Vineyard for his own property of Oak Glen, in the Chiles Valley of Napa County. The winery that he built there has now disappeared, but the professor's work and his example are still vivid.

As we saw in an earlier chapter, winegrowing in other midwestern states responded very quickly to the early successes in Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri. There were vineyards and wineries in Illinois and Wisconsin before the Civil War, and in Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas not long after it. In Iowa, for instance, the State Horticultural Society reported in 1868 on the results of grape growing and winemaking in sixteen different counties with all the established varieties of native hybrids. The testimony was all optimistic, and one witness declared that "one man can tend three acres of grapes as easily as twenty acres of corn."[90] The fact that corn has long since triumphed over its rivals in Iowa does not necessarily mean that the grape could not still have a significant place there. In the same year as the Iowa report, 1868, Illinois produced 225,000 gallons of wine, more than Missouri and only barely less than New York.[91] The very heart of the Midwest was evidently a place where people thought well of the chances of grape growing and winemaking.

In a large and general view, the two most favored regions for winegrowing in the Midwest were along the two great river valleys of the Mississippi and the Missouri: along the first of these from southern Wisconsin to a point well below St. Louis; and along the second from Omaha to St. Louis. On the Mississippi there was significant viticulture at Dubuque, Nauvoo, Keokuk, and St. Louis; on the Missouri, at Council Bluffs, St. Joseph, Leavenworth, Kansas City, and, of course, at the old German settlements from Boonville to St. Louis. Grapes were not confined to the riverine slopes, however; they were raised on the prairies of the Illinois interior, on the Ozark hills of southwestern Missouri, on the rich black lands of central Iowa, on the arid bluffs of western Kansas, and any other sort of middle western site that might challenge the ambitions of a horticultural pioneer.

It should certainly be known that these middle western states were winemaking states, since the fact is largely forgotten today. Winemaking at Nauvoo, Illinois, is a notable exception in having persisted down to the present day. More typical is the history illustrated on the other side of the river from Nauvoo by the White Elk Vineyards of Keokuk, Iowa. Established in 1869 by Hiram Barney of New York, the one hundred acres of White Elk vines produced, by 1880, up to 30,000 gallons of Concord, Ives, Norton, and Clinton wines a year.[92] But they could not survive the unequal struggle against the growing power of prohibition on one side and the unremitting attack of endemic diseases on the other. There were a number of beginnings comparable to the White Elk Vineyards scattered over the wide distances of the flat Midwest, but to try to give a connected account of them would present a distorted idea of their importance in the general agricultural scene in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Winegrowing was always an exotic activity in most of this territory, at the mercy of unfriendly nature and re-


garded with suspicious hostility by large parts of the population. Still, though winegrowing was scattered and small-scale in these states, its history recapitulates the most familiar themes of pioneer American experience in this effort. In the first place, it was largely the work of continental immigrants, who were almost certain to be German, Swiss, or French. In the second place, it was sometimes an aspect of communitarian life, either religious or utopian. And it had to face the inevitable obstacles: powerful endemic diseases, and intolerant prohibitionist hostility. These themes may be briefly illustrated.

The Germans of Belleville, Illinois, have already been mentioned, and the Germans, it seems, almost always gave the lead elsewhere in the state, as they had at Belleville. John Bauer, the son of a German winegrower in Rhenish Bavaria, and John Tanner, a Swiss, introduced winegrowing to Nauvoo, Illinois, in the early 1850s, and one of the earliest wineries there belonged to a man from Liechtenstein

named Rheinberger.[93] Louis Koch, a Saxon, operated a winery for many years before and after the Civil War, at Golconda, on the Ohio River.[94] As viticulture spread up and down Illinois along the length of its Mississippi River border, and into the prairies to the east, one continues to encounter German names: Theodore Engelmann operated his Looking-Glass Vineyard at Mascoutah; Dr. H. Schroeder his Marble Front Wine House in Peoria; Friedrich Hecker at Belleville, Fred Schneiter at St. Elmo, and Theophile Huber at Illinois City are other instances.[95] Hecker was a man of considerable eminence, a lawyer and politician from Baden who had been forced into exile for his revolutionary activities. He settled among the learned German farmers in the region of Belleville, fought with distinction in the Civil War, and afterwards cultivated his farm with success. He made viticulture a special interest and corresponded on American grape varieties with experts in Germany at the time of the phylloxera crisis.[96] Theophile Huber, whose vineyard went back to 1867, was an active experimenter in breeding new varieties of native grapes; so were Ludwig Hencke of Collinsville, and J. Balziger of Highland, G. A. Ensenburger of Bloomington, and Otto Wasserzieher of Nauvoo.[97] The German propensity to experiment was not restricted to such eminent names as Engelmann, Husmann, and Rommel, but was diffused widely and shared by many obscure, but useful, workers.

Perhaps no state has been thought of as more thoroughly and permanently "Dry" than Kansas: it was the first state to adopt constitutional prohibition; its politicians were usually notable among the public spokesmen for the Dry cause; it was the home of the absurd Carrie A. Nation, the ax-wielding destroyer of saloons. As the president of the State Temperance Union vaunted in 1890, "Kansas is the mausoleum of the saloon, the sepulchre of its vices, the tomb of its iniquities."[98] Besides, its rolling prairies seem utterly unfitted to grape growing: Bacchus loves the hillsides, and there are none in Kansas. In the popular imagery of the United States, Kansas is a place to grow wheat, and that, in fact, is what most of the state's acreage is devoted to. Yet there was a time when the future of winegrowing looked quite promising in Kansas, and perhaps such a time will come again.


Wild vines flourish in Kansas just as they do in every other part of the Midwest. Captain Etienne Venyard de Bourgmont, on an expedition to what is now the northeastern corner of the state in 1724, was supplied with grapes there by the local Indians; what is more, he and his men made wine from the wild summer grapes that they found growing in abundance along the Missouri River bluffs.[99] Eighty years later, when Lewis and Clark passed the site where Bourgmont had found his grapes, they saw the same abundance: "On the shores were great quantities of summer and fall grapes."[100] It would be another half century before much settlement had been made in Kansas, but when it came, the grapes were still there to meet the pioneer. One settler heading west from Kansas City just after the Civil War recalls the air of June on the Kansas prairie as "fragrant with wild grape blossoms."[101] Another early settler, describing how they used to go "graping" along the Kaw River bottoms, remembered that "one could drive the wagon under the vines as they hung from low tree tops and pick the fruit directly into the buckets and tubs provided."[102] I myself remember in the 1930s swinging across a Kansas creek on a great festoon of wild grape vine hanging from the trees along the bank.

Such an obvious invitation to try grape growing was responded to quickly. We have already noted the work of John Burr and Dr. Stayman around Leavenworth in the 1860s. Another pioneer in grape growing, a bold one, was a nurseryman named A. M. Burns, who set up a nursery on the arid plains of Riley County in 1857 and specialized in vines. In his catalogue for 1866 he wrote as one who had proved beyond doubt the harmony between Kansas and the grape: "I now think I can with safety predict a glorious future for the grape in Kansas. It is only a matter of time, and some who, when I commenced to test the vine, sneered at the idea, may yet live to see the day when our bluffs will be teeming with millions of dollars of wealth, while they ought to hang their heads with shame at their own ignorance."[103] To anyone who has had the patience to read to this point in my narrative, Burns's words will have a distinct pathos: they echo so closely what other intrepid pioneers had to say about their work and their vision in the two centuries before Burns wrote that one can hardly avoid the ironic connection between his boast and their failure. Yet we cannot say that Burns was wrong: only that the trial has not yet been sufficiently made. Burns offered a list of more than 150 varieties for sale, all of them native American vines, including such aboriginal hybrids as the Alexander and the Bland as well as the latest popular hybrids such as the Concord, the Iona, and Rogers' hybrids. He was also producing his own new varieties for trial in central Kansas.[104]

Burns was not just a voice crying alone in the wilderness, for there were many to share his faith. Who was the first to make wine in Kansas does not appear, but the Brenner family must have been among the earliest to do so, and they return us to the theme of the European element in the Midwest. The two brothers Brenner, Adam and Jacob, were born in the celebrated wine town of Deidesheim, Rheinpfalz, and migrated to Kansas in the 1860s. There they settled in Doniphan County, in


the far northeastern corner of the state where the Missouri River forms the boundary and where the early explorers had noted the abundance of native grapes. Jacob Brenner planted his Central Vineyards in 1864 and developed sacramental wines as a specialty; Adam Brenner planted his Doniphan Vineyards in 1865; George Brenner, Jacob's son, planted his Bellevue Vineyards in 1869. The family's vineyards lay adjacent, and included such varieties as Elvira from Missouri, Goethe from Massachusetts, and Norton from Virginia. By 1883 they had, together, over a hundred acres of vines and a winery capacity of over 60,000 gallons.[105] There was at least a touch of French influence in Kansas as well. In Douglas County, just west of Kansas City, Isador Labarriere was growing grapes and making wine in the 1870s, and in the same county August Jacot built a wine cellar and planted a vineyard in the 1880s; there is still a hamlet called Vinland in the area, no doubt evoking thoughts of Vikings rather than of wine in the minds of its Kansas neighbors, who have long been out of the habit of familiarity with wine.[106] In Miami County, not far from Vinland, R. W. Massey had been growing grapes since just after the Civil War around Paola, on the Marais des Cygnes River, where, only a few years earlier, the fanatical John Brown had been preaching against the wickedness of slavery and slaying such proslavery men as he could find. Massey hoped to form a "grape colony" in the area, but there is no evidence that he did so.[107]

When the Kansas State Horticultural Society was formed, it at once made grape culture a part of its work—the grape forms a prominent part of the society's official seal. At the 1871 meeting it approved such varieties as Ives, Norton, and Clinton for "general culture for wine," and Creveling, Catawba, and Delaware for "amateur culture for wine." At the same meeting in 1871 "the manufacture of grapes into wine was ably discussed, pro and con. "[108] In 1871 and 1872 the society heard lectures on the grape from Dr. Stayman of Leavenworth, and from the distinguished Dr. Warder, one of the pioneers of winemaking in Cincinnati.[109] The State Board of Agriculture, an official branch of the state, was also concerned with wine-making; M. Labarriere exhibited his wines to the board in 1873, and the Transactions of the board regularly report the statistics of viticulture in the state. These make rather startling reading for anyone who finds it hard to connect the ideas of Kansas and the grape. In 1872, for example, vineyards were reported in fifty counties, and the production of wine in that year was put at about 35,000 gallons.[110] A year later, though the production of wine had fallen off, there were more than five and a half thousand acres of vines reported in the state, from all but seventeen of its seventy-three counties.[111] The effect of these extensive plantings was evident by 1880, the year the state went Dry: the census of that year reported a production of 226,000 gallons of wine from Kansas. Even after Prohibition, the state took notice of viticulture by establishing an experimental vineyard at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Manhattan (where Burns's nursery was) in 1888. This began with 64 varieties of native grape and had grown to include 157 varieties by 1894; the vineyard was used for experiments in spraying and winter protection, as well as for determining what were the best varieties to recommend to Kansas growers.[112]


Working against all this interest, whether official, commercial, or amateur, was the powerful prohibitionist sentiment that seems somehow to be just as native to Kansas as its wild grapes are. At the meeting of the State Horticultural Society in 1871, in the very midst of the discussion on winemaking, one member suddenly offered a resolution condemning "the use and manufacture of wines,"[113] and, though the resolution was rejected, the threat that it expressed grew rather than diminished. The passage of constitutional prohibition in 1880 put an end to official encouragement of winegrowing, of course, though it does not seem to have shut down such wineries as already existed. The state of things in Kansas by the end of the century is exhibited by a curious volume published by the State Horticultural Society in 1901 called The Grape in Kansas . On the title page stands this remarkable declaration about "the grape":

The oldest cultivated fruit. The finest of all table fruits. A fruit too good to be made a chief source of the degradation of the race as an alluring (yet intoxicating) principle. To the glory of Kansas, 99½ per cent. of this luscious fruit which grows freely all over the state is used without fermentation.[114]

In its treatment of the grape, the book gives recipes for canned grapes, grape jam, grape jelly, grape marmalade, grape pie, pickled grapes, spiced grapes, and grape syrup, but not a hint about wine. The entire discussion of fermentation is confined to this succinct assertion: "Ferment is decay, decomposition, rot. Alcohol is only produced by decay, decomposition, rot."[115] And that remained the official view of things in Kansas for the next fifty years. It is no wonder that grape growing gradually withered away in a state that its hopeful pioneers had declared—not altogether fancifully—to be "the home of the vine." There are now beginning to be heard in Kansas prophecies of new beginnings in winemaking. If they should be fulfilled, one may hope that the new winemakers of the state will hold the pioneers of the grape in Kansas in pious memory. They have long been lost in the oblivion thrust upon them by the state's history of prohibition.

About a hundred miles north of the early Kansas vineyards, in the same Missouri River country, at least one winegrower was active in Nebraska. Peter Pitz, who had been a winemaker on the Rhine before settling near Plattsmouth, Nebraska, had about twelve acres of vines and a cellar sunk thirty feet deep in the ground against summer heat and winter blasts. Pitz made three kinds of wine from his grapes—white, red, and yellow (!)—and he claimed to do so entirely without the assistance of added sugar or water. A report on his operations in 1896 noted that Pitz's success had stimulated "a number of German capitalists" to investigate the chances of winegrowing in Nebraska.[116] No extensive development followed, but a small industry has persisted in the region, especially on the opposite bank of the Missouri, in Iowa, around Council Bluffs. One may note, too, that back in the days of the grape boom of the sixties, when hybridizing was all the rage, Nebraska made its contribution: two varieties, at least, were introduced by R. O. Thompson, of Nursery Hill, Nebraska, and though neither had any success, they are good evi-


The extraordinary boast of this title page—that it is the "glory" of Kansas to consume
 its grapes fresh rather than fermented—speaks volumes about the attitudes of a constitutionally
 dry state and about the cultural atmosphere in which midwestern grape growers had to work. 
(California State University, Fresno, Library)


dence of the hopefulness of those days. In the same spirit Thompson tested hundreds of varieties of native vines, looking for the elusive one that would yield good wine in the state's unfriendly climate.'[117] Nebraska was later a source of resistant riparia rootstocks for California, shipped out by the carload when that state began to reconstitute its vineyards against the phylloxera in the 1880s.[118]

The communal pattern, which we have seen on both the East and the West Coasts, appeared in the Midwest too, though only in a flickering way. The Icarians of Cloverdale, California, were the remnant of a community of idealistic Frenchmen, inspired by utopian notions, who had settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1849, not long after the Mormons who had founded and built the town had abandoned it for their migration to Utah. The Icarians did not pioneer grape growing at Nauvoo, but when others began it they joined in; not, however, without taking a backward step. They planted European vines, and so had to watch them fail first before finding their way with native vines.[119] Emil Baxter, an Englishman who had joined the Icarians, founded a winery at Nauvoo in 1857 that is still in operation.[120] Meanwhile, a series of bitter schisms among the Icarians, culminating in the exile and death of their leader, Etienne Cabet, had left the Nauvoo community weak and disorganized. In the hope of making a new start, some Icarians migrated to the southwestern corner of Iowa in 1860, not far from that stretch of the Missouri River where the borders of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri approach one another between Omaha and Kansas City. Here they established a small vineyard of Concord vines expressly for winemaking and succeeded in maintaining it for many years.[121] Even after another schism had sent the last expedition of Icarians out to California, the Icarians who remained in Iowa kept their vineyard going. The example had some effect, for as early as 1870 nearby Des Moines County had 250 acres in vines and was producing 30,000 gallons of wine from standard American varieties.[122] It was reported in 1898 that the example of the Icarians had made grape growing a success in southwestern Iowa.[123]

Another communal experiment, also utopian rather than religious, is worth noting just because it repeats so many of the motifs that we have heard from the beginning of American colonization. Ernest Valeton de Boissiere, a wealthy and philanthropic Frenchman inspired by the communitarian theories of his countryman Charles Fourier, in 1868 bought 3,500 prairie acres in Franklin County, Kansas, a region then in rapid development immediately following the Civil War. There de Boissiere intended to make cheese, silk, and wine through the cooperative labors of a community living in a Fourierist phalanstery. Cheese making is a new note, but the combination of wine and silk takes us back to the dreams of Hakluyt and the first days of the Virginia colony. There were 1,000 vines planted by 1871, and ten years later a visitor noted the "acres of grapes then worked into wine." The community also succeeded in producing silk, a display of which was an object of interest at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. But then Silkville, as the community was called, was abandoned in 1892, after twenty years of struggle.[124] The long double avenue of mulberry trees planted to supply the silkworms and the large, austere


communal building of native sandstone long remained to remind the farmers on that windswept prairie of an exotic episode in the history of their county.

As for winemaking in religious communities, that, too, was represented in the Midwest, at least in a token way, in the Amana Colonies in southeastern Iowa, still flourishing 130 years after their founding by the German Community of True Inspiration in 1854. On 25,000 acres of splendid Iowa soil, the Inspirationists quietly developed a prosperous economy based on farming, cabinetmaking, meat smoking, and winemaking, carried out in seven small villages scattered over an area of some twenty square miles. Like the houses of the Rappites in Economy, Pennsylvania, those in the Amanas, often brick-built, had their walls covered in trellises for the growing of grapes. Winemaking was largely for local consumption; in the communal scheme of distribution, the average ration was about a gallon a month for adult men, half as much for women. As though to underline the connection between wine and the spirit, the colonists used the basement of their meeting house (they did not use the term "church") as their wine cellar.[125]

The obstacles that middle western winegrowing had to face were both natural—acts of God, as the insurance companies say—and cultural—acts of man. The obstacles that nature laid in the way were those already long familiar in the shape of weather, pests, and diseases. The special agent of the census bureau assigned to report on viticulture in the United States in 1890 declared gloomily that in Missouri and Kansas in the past ten years there had been "but little progress." The vineyards in Missouri, he affirmed, "have been devastated or ruined," and in Kansas the industry was stagnant (he does not refer to the circumstance that the state was constitutionally Dry).[126] This was too alarming a view, but it at least testified to widespread uneasiness and discouragement. The introduction of the fungicide called bordeaux mixture at about this time gave reason for new confidence, yet production did continue to decline, in the next decade, in Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri. Even more daunting than the struggle with diseases was the intensifying struggle with prohibitionists, enemies to winegrowing who were in fact to prove far more devastating than even the lethal black rot. The rising trend to oppose, obstruct, and forbid the sale of alcoholic drink in any and all forms had to be a severe inhibitor of the wish to plant vineyards and to make wine, not just in Kansas but in any state where organized "temperance" opposition was growing—and that was just about everywhere. The movement was not, perhaps, stronger in the Midwest than in other parts of the country, but the relative feebleness of the winegrowing industry there meant that it had little means of standing up to it.


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14 The Eastern United States: from the Civil War To Prohibition
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