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From the Revolution to the Beginnings of a Native Industry

A After independence much of the winegrowing in this country in many ways resembled what had been done before the Revolution: companies for developing vineyards were founded, as they had been earlier in Virginia in the seventies; communities of foreign viticulturists were subsidized, as they had been before in the Carolinas and elsewhere; religious communities tried to make winegrowing a part of their economy, as they had tried before in Pennsylvania and New England. In general, the typical American winegrower was likely to be a German or a Frenchman, as he had been before the Revolution. Yet the long-sought success was at last a native affair, brought about by a Pennsylvanian growing a North Carolinian grape in, with symbolic fitness, the nation's new capital, Washington, D.C.

Peter Legaux and the Pennsylvania Vine Company

The first notable postrevolutionary attempt to establish a successful viticulture was carried out near Philadelphia, where Penn had planted his vines a hundred years before. In 1786 a Frenchman of an adventurous, but rather dubious, past named Peter Legaux (1748-1827) bought an estate of 206 acres at Spring Mill, on


"Plan de la place de Springmill, ditte Montjoye, dressé par Pierre Legaux pour La Corporation de 
la Vigne de Pennsylvania le 5 fevrier 1802" ("Plan of the site of Springmill, called Mountjoy, prepared
 by Pierre Legaux for the Pennsylvania Vine Company, 5 February 1802"). This plan of Legaux's 
vineyards was made immediately after the Pennsylvania Vine Company had at last succeeded in 
achieving legal incorporation—nine years after the project had been begun—and no doubt expresses
 the renewed hopes to which the event gave rise. They were doomed to disappointment.
 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

the east bank of the Schuylkill, two miles below Conshohocken in Montgomery' County;[1] there he began planting European vines on the slopes of his property and building vaults for wine storage. Legaux's farm has been described for us in unusual detail at an early stage of its development by the French publicist and politician Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, who devoted several pages of his New Travels in the United States of America (1788) to Legaux as a bright instance of what Frenchmen might hope to achieve in America. Brissot found Legaux in a well-built, solid stone house, enjoying a superb view, and surrounded by all the emblems of plenty: six servants, horses and cattle, fields of grain and meadows of grass, beehives


and gardens, and a new vineyard, standing on a southeastern slope and planted with vines from the Médoc.[2] Despite this idyllic presentation, not all was smooth going for Legaux. He lived without his family, who had remained in France; he did not know English well; his servants were often lazy and unruly; and there were quarrels with his neighbors, even though they were all peaceable Quakers.[3]

Legaux, who began life as a lawyer in Metz, was in fact a remarkably difficult and litigious neighbor. When another and later French traveller, the duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, was directed to Legaux's vineyard as one of the sights of the Philadelphia region in 1795, he took an instant dislike to Legaux—a man, he wrote, whose "whole physiognomy indicates cunning rather than goodness of heart." The duc was scandalized to learn that Legaux, in the nine years of his residence in Pennsylvania, had engaged in two hundred lawsuits, all of them unsuccessful![4] Despite this, or in part because of it, Legaux was widely known and well thought of in Pennsylvania. He seems, in fact, to have had a genius for self-promotion. In 1789, only two years after he set out his first vines, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, a badge of unquestioned acceptance in the City of Brotherly Love. As so many others before it had done, the experiment that he was making in vine growing at once aroused hopeful curiosity, and, no doubt, as much or more amused skepticism. It was, at any rate, the object of much attention. When, for example, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1792, Washington and other notables journeyed the thirteen miles from town to see the promising new vineyard.[5] There was even an absurd rumor that the republican French, alerted by the favorable description given by Brissot, and anxious as always for the security of their wine trade, had secretly instructed their American minister to pay Legaux to pull up his vines.[6]

After he had had some experience with growing vines and had learned how hard it is to keep an experiment going without financial backing, Legaux decided to obtain public support. To do this he secured an act of the legislature forming a "company for the purpose of promoting the cultivation of vines," usually called the Pennsylvania Vine Company. The enabling legislation was passed in March 1793, when commissioners were appointed to receive subscriptions for the company's stock of 1,000 shares at $20 each.[7] Despite the respectable auspices of the enterprise, money came in slowly. Only 139 shares were sold in a year, and Legaux soon found himself in difficulties. He wrote to General Washington offering to sell his house as a country residence for the president during congressional sessions (then still held in Philadelphia) on condition that he be allowed to continue his "improvements in the cultivation of the vine"—a work that would be lost were Legaux to be, as he feared, sold up for debt.[8] Though his property was, nominally at least, seized in execution of a writ of sale in 1792, by one means or another Legaux yet managed to hang on to it. On 16 August 1793 the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser proclaimed that

the first vintage ever held in America would begin at the vineyard, near Spring Mill, and in a few weeks Mr. Legaux will begin to produce American wine, made upon prin-


ciples hitherto unknown, or at least unpracticed here. This will form a new era in the history of American agriculture. . . . succeeding generations will bless the memory of the man who first taught the Americans the culture of this generous plant.[9]

The style of the notice tells us something about Legaux's promotional talents—"the first vintage ever held in America" was a fairly audacious claim to be making three hundred years after Columbus. It tells us something, too, about the reasons for his unpopularity with his neighbors, who were probably a bit sour at the thought of blessing Legaux's memory. The vintage yielded, so we learn from a later document, six barrels of wine plus a small quantity of "Tokay"; all were "preserved in perfection without the addition of another [sic ] single drop of alcohol."[10]

Such publicity did little to relieve Legaux's money troubles. In 1794 he petitioned the U.S. Senate for support of his vineyard, without success.[11] An English traveller visiting Legaux that year was much disappointed by what he saw: the vineyard, he wrote, "does not succeed at all." When La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt called the next year, he found Legaux in desperate straits. Because Legaux could not meet the payments, his farm had been sold and he was reduced to living on fifteen rented acres, including the deteriorating house and the vineyard. There, wearing "stockings full of holes and a dirty night-cap," Legaux lived in penury, hiding from suspicious visitors, but still persisting in the care of his vines.[12] And by one means or another he clung to the Spring Mill estate. Whatever one might think of Legaux's behavior as a neighbor and of his unabashedness as a promoter, it is only fair to admit that his determination to succeed at winegrowing was deep and genuine.

Early in 1800 the Pennsylvania legislature passed an act to stimulate the lagging sale of Vine Company stock by making the terms of purchase easier. Thereupon an elegant prospectus—not signed, but doubtless written by Legaux—was put before the public. In this document the history of the vineyard since planting began at Spring Mill in 1787 is recapitulated.[13] Legaux is said to have begun with 300 plants from Burgundy, Champagne, and Bordeaux. Then follows an assertion that later, as we shall see, became the focus of a controversy not yet fully decided. After the first plants were obtained, the prospectus says, Legaux then "procured plants of the Constantia vine from the Cape of Good Hope." This was the vine for which, so Legaux told La Rochefoucauld in 1795, he had paid the remarkable sum of forty guineas,[14] and of which he did considerable advertising. It was not, however, the Constantia grape at all, or anything like it, being in fact the native hybrid best known as the Alexander. Legaux never gave up his insistence that the grape was what he said it was. Since he sold large quantities of it at premium prices under its attractive foreign name, the question has naturally arisen: Was he lying? Or was he honestly deceived? There is presumptive evidence both ways, but not of a kind to settle the matter.

Whatever the truth, the rest of the prospectus is straightforward. It declares that Legaux now had 18,000 vines set out in his vineyard and a nursery of several


Entry for 15 April 1805 in Peter Legaux's journal, recording the receipt of vines from France 
for planting in the vineyards of the Pennsylvania Vine Company. The entry reads: "This 
day at ½ pass 10, o'clock at Night, I received a letter from Mr. McMahon with 3 Boxes of 
Grapevines, sended by Mr. Lee Consul Americain from Bordeaux, all in very good order 
and good plantes of Chateaux Margeaux, Lafitte, and haut Brion. 4500 plantes for 230 
# . . . and order to send in Town for more etc." (American Philosophical Society)

hundred thousand more, all ready to help produce the long-desired American wine. The scope of the company's proposed activity is set forth in detail, its main purposes being "the cultivation of the vine and the supply of wines, brandy, tartar and vinegar from the American soil, and the extension of vineyards and nurseries of plants of the Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux and Tokay wines, and to procure vine-dressers for America."[15] The last object was to be achieved by accepting apprentices at Legaux's vineyard for terms of three to five years, on conditions varying with the size of a shareholder's interest.

Legaux left no opportunity untried. He wrote to Jefferson in March 1801, just after Jefferson's first inauguration, to congratulate him on his election and offering to send him some thousands of vines from Legaux's nursery so that they might be tried in Virginia. When Jefferson politely declined, Legaux responded more boldly, sending him an account of his struggles to found the company and inviting the president to join the subscribers. His enemies were many, Legaux wrote in his charmingly Frenchified English, and especially "the medium classe of the people opposed more phase of this improvement than the richer."[16] Jefferson was either too cautious or too busy or both, for Legaux did not manage to add the dignity of the presidential name to his subscription list. He did, however, send vines to Jefferson the next year, and these were planted at Monticello by one of the Italian vine dressers brought over years before by Philip Mazzei.[17]

At last, in January 1802, the required minimum number of subscriptions to establish the Pennsylvania Vine Company was obtained, the company's incorporation was officially sealed, and Legaux was made superintendent of the company's vineyard at a good salary.[18] It had taken him nearly ten years to reach this official starting point, yet the names of his shareholders make a roster of the federal aristocracy—Citizen Genet, Stephen Girard, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Benjamin Rush, to name a few, were all investors in the Pennsylvania Vine Company.[19] Legaux was right when he told Jefferson that the "richer" rather than the "medium" class were his main support. It is comforting to think that these were, all of them, men of substance already, for they never made a penny from their investment in the Vine Company. The struggle to maintain the company's finances was


William Lee (1772-1840), in uniform as American consul at 
Bordeaux. Lee had a hand in two notable, if unsuccessful,
 winegrowing enterprises in the early Republic. He sent 
vines from the great châteaux of Bordeaux to Legaux's 
Pennsylvania Vineyard Company in 1805; and in 1816 he
 was instrumental in forming the plans for the Alabama 
Vine and Olive Company. He also projected a book 
on winegrowing in the 1820s but did not publish it. (From
 Mary Lee Mann, ed.,  A Yankee Jeffersonian  [1958])

always uphill, and the enthusiasm of the stockholders grew feebler as the struggle grew harder.

We can learn something about that struggle in detail because the journal that Legaux kept as a record of the Vine Company's work from 1803 onwards has survived in part.[20] It tells a story of such wasted labor and frustration that one wonders at the strength of Legaux's persistence—he seems never to have acknowledged to himself that the odds against him were hopeless. The record for the year 1803 will do as a representative instance. In the spring Legaux planted 14,000 vinifera vines at Spring Mill, or Montjoy, as his estate was called. The finances of the company were then relatively vigorous, after the recent completion of the incorporation proceedings, and Legaux was able to hire regular help for the company's vineyards, of which there appear to have been two, and for his own vineyard, which he maintained separately from the company enterprise. Some of the hands were of English stock—Joseph Nobbett and Abel Pond, for example; others were French, such as André Dupalais and Eustache Pailliase. From time to time the journal records the visits to Spring Mill of the managers and stockholders of the company, often accompanied by their wives and daughters, or by distinguished visitors come to see the interesting sight of a commercial American vineyard. But they saw no very cheerful sight in 1803. Heavy frosts in May and a severe hail storm in June blasted the new plantings, and by the end of the season only 582 vines out of 14,000 still grimly survived: "I am unable to make wine this year," Legaux sadly concluded,[21] and that failure made the end almost certain. The next year Legaux managed to make a few bottles of wine from his own vineyard, but the society's property was


in bad shape "by want of supply and money."[22] A fresh start was made in 1805; William Lee, the American consul in Bordeaux, sent 4,500 cuttings from Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite, and Chateau Haut-Brion to guarantee the most aristocratic of all pedigrees to Legaux's republican vineyard.[23] These noble vines were supplemented by another 1,500 from Malaga. All shared a common fate. The heat and drought of the summer afflicted them, and though enough survived to be shown to the governor of Pennsylvania when he paid a visit the next year, Legaux was compelled to write in 1807 that all were neglected and overrun.[24]

The company had been authorized to conduct a lottery to raise funds in 1806, but the plan did not work out, and another lottery in 1811 also failed.[25] By this time the company seemed dead: such labor as was performed was performed by Legaux himself, who confided to his journal that in his lonely and unrewarding work "Nobody is my faithful Companion!!!"[26] Nevertheless, Legaux kept something going. He came to a definite—and correct—conclusion in 1809 when he observed that, of all his grapes, only the one that he called the Cape managed to grow: "all other sorte may be abandoned," he wrote then, and a year later he advised his journal that, in order to redeem the company's purposes, "the best will be to pull out all the plants, and planted again with the Cape of Good Hope."[27]

If Legaux's advice—dearly earned advice it was—had been acted on, the company might have succeeded in making wine, as Dufour was already doing from the Cape grape in Indiana, originally obtained from Legaux's own vineyard.[28] But protracted failures had destroyed Legaux's credit with the managers of the company. He had, indeed, made a first vintage from the company's vineyard with Cape grapes in September 1809,[29] but it was both too little and too late. The secretary of the company was a man who had notions of his own about how things should be done. He was Bernard McMahon, an Irishman who settled in Philadelphia as a nurseryman and seedsman and became the city's oracle on horticulture. His American Gardener's Calendar (1806) was the first thorough guide to the subject published in this country and remained a standard for half a century. McMahon, who took a special interest in the viticultural work of the company, now decided that a change was required. A new superintendent was appointed to oversee the company's vineyard in place of Legaux, but after a year Legaux had the bitter satisfaction of reporting that the man had bungled the job, the vines being pruned so badly that they would produce no grapes at all that season.[30] The dispirited stockholders were now ready to relinquish the entire thing back into Legaux's hands, while retaining title to the land and requiring that Legaux continue to keep up the vineyards. This Legaux was eager to do, but his eagerness had no reward. In the year after his restoration, the vines were devastated by a plague of caterpillars, and at the end of 1813 Legaux made this desolate entry in his journal: "No horses nobody no money and any assistance whatever to expect; what I shall do??"[31]

It is perhaps just as well that the journal for 1814-22 is missing; it could only repeat the tale of hapless vicissitude already clear enough. When the journal resumes in 1822 we hear no more of winegrowing. Legaux is old and ill, more inter-


ested in recording the details of the weather (a lifelong obsession with him) and in collecting information on the diseases that went round the neighborhood than in the state of his vines and the hope for a good American wine. His property at Spring Mill, though it had several times been put up for sale by the sheriff for debt, had at last been rescued by Legaux's son-in-law,[32] and there, in 1827, Legaux died, his dream of the Vineyard Company long since vanished. The forty years of vine growing at Spring Mill seemed to have led to nothing.

Other Pioneers in the Early Republic

Nevertheless, Legaux's name figures prominently in the efforts around the turn of the century that helped to determine what the actual course of successful American viticulture would be. The news of his vigorous, well-advertised, confident activity in its early years had the effect of stimulating others to a renewed attack on the great and still baffling puzzle of how to make an American wine. Legaux's nursery thus became the starting point from which a number of other vineyards grew and the source from which the historically important Constantia or Cape grape was distributed throughout the East. A contemporary eulogist of Legaux's states that the nursery at Spring Mill had furnished the vines for other vineyards not only in Pennsylvania but in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.[33] Some of these can be identified: Johnson's in New Jersey has already been mentioned; Dufour's in Kentucky will be taken up shortly; and one, at least, in Pennsylvania has left a name. This was the vineyard of Colonel George Morgan, whose claim was to have planted the first cultivated vines west of the Alleghenies at his property Morganza in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on the western edge of the state. One authority dates this modest undertaking in 1796;[34] more likely, it did not begin until early 1802, for on 11 December 1801 Morgan wrote to Legaux requesting a shipment of 2,200 cuttings of "Champaign," "Burgundy," and "Bordeaux" vines.[35] Morgan called his work "an adventurous and expensive experiment," and he hoped by it to "render to my country more service than by a thousand prayers for its peace and prosperity, which I daily offer."[36] But he had the pioneer's inevitable result: only 84 of the vines sent by Legaux survived into 1803, and the vineyard was given up in 1806.[37]

The influence of Legaux's example extended even into Maine, where trials with grapes were made by the Englishman Benjamin Vaughan. Vaughan, a prominent sympathizer with the colonial cause in England before the Revolution, had helped with the peace negotiations between the Americans and the English; later he had had to flee England to revolutionary France, where he was imprisoned. After his release he had migrated to Hallowell, Maine. There, though he became a correspondent of, and adviser to, American presidents, he took no active part in politics but devoted himself to literature and to agriculture. Vaughan obtained grape vines from Legaux in 1807, and in that year wrote to his brother in Philadelphia asking


for more cuttings, adding, "I can dispose of hundreds of cuttings for you, and make you a nice vineyard."[38] Vaughan persisted long and hopefully, for in 1819 he took the trouble to compile notes on wines and vines;[39] these are disappointing in their failure to comment on his experience, but something of what that had been is clearly implied by Vaughan's recommendation of native rather than imported vines.

Another positive result of Legaux's activity was to secure the interest of Dr. James Mease (1771-1846), a prominent Philadelphia physician and writer. When the Vine Company was promoted, Dr. Mease became one of the managers. A man of science, he had a technical as well as a commercial interest in the possibilities of grape growing and did what he could to advance the understanding of the subject. In 1802, when he was preparing a revision for American publication of an English work called the Domestic Encyclopaedia , he invited the Philadelphia botanist William Bartram to contribute an article on the native grapes of the United States. Bartram's article describes four species and three varieties of American origin. It was, of course, seriously incomplete, and did not clear up the confusions of nomenclature created by the great Linnaeus himself in naming the American vines, but it was the first published attempt to bring some order to the subject in this country.[40]

Mease himself extended Bartram's article by summarizing various authorities on viticulture and winemaking; he made a genuine attempt to consult local experience, citing Legaux, Antill, and Bartram as well as the more usual eighteenth-century French and English writers. Mease had the missionary zeal so common among the early propagandists: though he thought that the luxurious dwellers in the American seaports were probably too far gone in corruption to be able to leave their foreign wines, he hoped that the pioneers beyond the mountains would turn to making their own wine from native grapes. Mease recommended the Alexander (did he know that it was the same as the grape his associate Legaux called the Cape?), the Bland (another early native hybrid, from Virginia), and the southern bull grape (the muscadine).[41] By taking this position, Mease has been credited with "the first public utterance condemning the culture of the Old World grape and recommending the cultivation of native grapes."[42] This is not strictly true—we have seen that Estave in Virginia and the Society of Arts in London were both on public record in favor of the native grape before the Revolution, not to mention the many individuals from the earliest days who thought, either by logic or experience, along the same lines.[43] Mease's recommendations have, at any rate, the merit of being particular and had behind them more weight of authority than belonged to any earlier writer. His essay deserves Hedrick's compliment as "the first rational discussion of the culture of the grape in America."[44] Mease evidently hoped to expand his Domestic Encyclopaedia essay into a comprehensive treatise, for in 1811 he was at work on a "Natural History of the Vines of the United States," to be published with colored engravings.[45] There is no record of the publication of any such work, however.

The opening of the regions to the west of the original colonial settlements,


which proceeded apace after the Revolution, certainly helped to stimulate fresh experiment, as in the instance of Colonel Morgan. Another, earlier, one had been made by Frenchmen along the Ohio, though Morgan evidently did not know it—his own experiment, he thought, was the first trans-Allegheny trial of grape growing. But before him, in about 1792, the unlucky Frenchmen who had been tempted by the blandishments of the Scioto Company—a land speculation that was for a time the rage of republican Paris—had taken up the cultivation of the native vines they found growing on the islands of the Ohio River near their settlement of Gallipolis. These vines, so they imagined, were the offspring of vines planted by the French at Fort Duquesne (built in 1754 on the site of Pittsburgh and burned in 1758); they thought that bears, who are fond of grapes, might have dropped the seeds and so have spread them along the banks of the Ohio.[46] Another fanciful explanation held that the French soldiers of Fort Duquesne, in order to deprive the British of the luxury of their vines, rooted them out when the fort fell to the enemy and threw them into the river; in this way they were washed down to the islands off Gallipolis.[47]

The writer who skeptically recorded this story did so as an instance of the unreliability of tradition among illiterate men; but there is something touching about this wish to see a French element in the utterly un-Gallic environment of Gallipolis. Visiting the damp, shabby, struggling settlement in 1795, the French historian Constantine Volney found that the round red grapes being cultivated for wine there produced a drink very little different from that yielded by the huge and undoubtedly native vines of the woods. The settlers, whatever their ideas about the origins of their vines, were under no delusions as to the quality of the wine they made, calling it, Volney tells us, "méchant Surêne ."[48] The wines of Suresnes, near Paris, were a byword for sourness; a méchant Suresnes would thus be a superlatively thin and sour wine. It was, incidentally, probably a straggler from the colony at Gallipolis who was reported in 1796 to be making wine from the sand grapes (Vitis rupestris ) at Marietta, further down the Ohio.[49]

There were other Frenchmen who, despite such discouraging results as those at Gallipolis, continued to think well of the winegrowing prospects in this country. One of the earliest publications on viticulture in the new republic appeared at Georgetown about 1795 as A Short and Practical Treatise on the Culture of the Wine-Grapes in the United States of America, Adapted to those States situated to the Southward of 41 degrees of North latitude . This rare treatise, a single oversize leaf printed on both sides, was the work of a Frenchman named Amoureux, who was employed in an American merchant house but was hoping to take up viticulture in the developing settlements to the west—Kentucky, for example.[50] Amoureux's discussion, based wholly on European conditions, could not have led to practical results, but it is symptomatic of the interest that arose when the United States was new and hopes for all sorts of enterprise were high.

Another, slightly earlier, French contribution to the subject of American wine-growing had been made to a very different purpose by Brissot de Warville, whose


visit to Legaux at Spring Mill has already been mentioned. Brissot, who had been in America on an antislavery mission, one of the earliest of such efforts, published an article in the American Museum in 1788 arguing against the development of a wine industry in the United States. Winegrowing only produced wretchedness, Brissot explained; for every man who was enriched by the trade, many more were reduced to poverty by its harsh necessities, which only the capitalist could cope with. Why not let the French bear the burden?[51] Since Brissot was manifestly French, this argument may have failed of its full force. It is, however, interesting to speculate about the reasons held to justify making such a statement in a country where after two full centuries of settlement no one had yet succeeded in making wine in any quantity.

Dufour and the Beginning of Commercial Production

With the appearance of Jean Jacques Dufour—or John James as he came to call himself in his American years—this history takes a new and positive turn. Dufour (1763-1827) was a Swiss, born in the canton of Vaud to a family long engaged in winegrowing. As a boy of fourteen, so he wrote years later in his history of his own work, he had been struck by reports of the scarcity of wine in the United States and had resolved some day to go there and do something about it.[52] The anecdote is revealing. Dufour was, it seems, one of those deliberate characters who can form a resolve and then stick to it, no matter what the obstacles and no matter how many years might intervene between the idea and the execution. It was just this power of perseverance in the service of a single idea that the cause of American winegrowing had to have. There had been any number of clamorous proclamations of assured certainties before; there had even been enthusiasts who persisted year after year, as Legaux had done. But no one yet had had quite the singleness of purpose and stubbornness of Dufour.

He began by studying viticulture in Switzerland in order to prepare for his call, and in 1796, at the age of thirty-three, he set out for the United States. It must have seemed an anxious gamble. Though not exactly impoverished, Dufour had very little money; as the eldest son, he was the hope of a large family; and he would not have impressed an observer as the ideal man for the hard labor of the pioneer, for, whether by accident or congenital deformation, Dufour's left arm ended at the elbow.[53] After his voyage in the steerage, Dufour, with characteristic thoroughness, at once set out on a survey of what had been done before him towards winegrowing in the new states and in the territories beyond. In the next two years he managed first to make personal inspection of all the vineyards around New York and Philadelphia; all, he found, were unworthy to be called vineyards, except for "about a dozen plants in the vineyard of Mr. Legaux."[54] Discouraged to find that things were even worse than he had imagined, Dufour then set off for the West to discover whether that region held any promise. Having heard someone in Phila-


Certificate of a share in the "First Vineyard" of John James Dufour's Kentucky Vineyard Society. 
Though the act of incorporation is dated 21 November 1799, the society was organized earlier, and
 Dufour had already planted vineyards. By 1801 they were already beginning to fail, and the stock 
of the company was never fully subscribed. (From Edward Hyams,  Dionysus: A Social History
 of the Wine Vine

delphia say that the Jesuits had productive vineyards at the old French settlement of Kaskaskia, on the river below St. Louis, Dufour dutifully made his way to that spot. There he found the remnants of the Jesuit asparagus bed, but the forest had swallowed up the vines: such, more or less, was the condition of almost all of the sites that Dufour had been told to see. Turning back east from St. Louis, he was led to Lexington, Kentucky, then the largest settlement in western America, the "Philadelphia of Kentucky" and the "Athens of the West," where enough professional men and merchants were already gathered together to support interest in wine-growing. Dufour was able in a very short time to organize the Kentucky Vineyard Society, a stock company modeled on Legaux's Pennsylvania Vine Company, which Dufour must have studied with interested attention.[55] The young Henry Clay, newly arrived in the booming town of Lexington, was the society's attorney and one of its subscribers.[56]


With the expectation of $10,000 in capital from the sale of two hundred shares at $50 each, Dufour, without waiting for the subscription to be completed, went into action. First he arranged for the purchase of 633 acres (and five slave families) on the banks of the Kentucky River at Big Bend, twenty-five miles west of Lexington. Then, early in the next year, 1799, Dufour travelled back to the Atlantic coast to collect vines for planting on the society's land; some he obtained from Baltimore and New York, but the bulk of his purchases were from Peter Legaux at Spring Mill—10,000 vines of thirty-five different varieties at a cost of $388. With this precious freight loaded on a wagon, Dufour crossed Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh and so back down the river to Kentucky. The cuttings were planted on five acres of the new property, which was then given the hopeful name of "First Vineyard."[57]

The vines grew well in the first two seasons; in the third they began, most of them, to fail. Dufour, like those hapless vignerons imported into Virginia nearly two centuries earlier, must have wondered what sort of curse the country was under, where the flourishing of the vines was the prelude to their death. Meanwhile, the experiment was much talked of in an expansive and confident way by its backers and by the patriotic press, so much so that, in 1802, the French naturalist François André Michaux, in America on a mission of scientific inquiry for Napoleon's government, felt compelled to pay a visit to Dufour to see whether his vines really did pose a latent threat to the French wine trade. Michaux was relieved to discover that First Vineyard, even at so early a stage, was not a success: "When I saw them, the bunches were few and stinted, the grapes small, and everything appeared as though the vintage of the year 1802 would not be more abundant than those of the preceding years."[58]

The symptoms described suggest that the vines were afflicted by black rot. No doubt mildew and perhaps both Pierce's Disease and phylloxera were at work as well. But from the general wreckage of his hopes, Dufour managed to salvage something. He had observed that two, at least, of the thirty-five varieties he had planted showed superior vigor and promised to be productive.[59] These were the vines that Legaux called "Cape," a blue grape for red wine, and "Madeira," for white. What the second and less important of these grapes was it is now impossible to say. So many grapes have been identified with the vines of the Wine Islands and especially with those of the privileged Madeira that one can only guess at what grape is actually meant in any given instance. Since it survived, it was no doubt a native hybrid, and such scant evidence as there is suggests that it was the grape known elsewhere as Bland's Madeira. The blue grape was, on Legaux's say-so, a grape that he had received from South Africa, where it was the source of those legendary wines known as Constantia (the actual source of Constantia is the Muscadelle du Bordelais). Whether Legaux maintained this statement in good faith or not is, as we have already seen, a question whose answer we can never know now. Whatever Legaux may have thought, the "Cape" is in fact the native labrusca hybrid grape once called Tasker's grape, originating in the region of William Penn's old vineyard on the Schuylkill and better known after its discoverer, James


The Alexander grape, first of the American hybrids; it was
 propagated and sold by Peter Legaux as the "Cape" grape, 
and became the basis of John James Dufour's Indiana 
vineyards. It spread to all eastern vineyards, acquiring
 many synonyms (the name "Schuylkill" in this illustration
 is an instance). The Alexander is now a historic memory. 
(Painting by C. L. Fleischman, 1867; National Agricultural Library)

Alexander.[60] Legaux, to whom the Alexander owed its re-creation as a vinifera under the name of Cape grape, does not seem to have thought particularly highly of it at the time he sold quantities of it to Dufour. It was not even included in the vines listed in 1806 as under trial in the nurseries of the Pennsylvania Vine Company,[61] so that no importance seems then to have been attached to it. Within a few more years, however, as we have seen, Legaux recognized it as the only reliable variety of all the many varieties, foreign and native, that he had planted.

In defense of Legaux's good faith in calling a native labrusca a vinifera, it is important to note that the Alexander, unlike most pure natives, has a perfect (that is, self-pollinating) flower; every variety of unhybridized native vine bears either pistillate or staminate flowers that are, by themselves, sterile. Dufour himself was persuaded by this observation that the Cape was a genuine vinifera, and so he thought to the end, not knowing that the perfect-flowered characteristic is the effect of a dominant gene from vinifera that can enter into genetic combination; for all this was long before Mendel had provided any understanding of hybrid patterns. But Dufour's insistence that his grape was not a native probably owed much to sheer stubbornness. His half-brother, John Francis Dufour, stated publicly that the Cape grape was unquestionably a native variety;[62] if the elder Dufour denied this, he must have been holding out against strong evidence.

Once he had seen that only two vines gave him any hope, Dufour, with the decision of a practical man, determined to abandon the culture of all other varieties to concentrate exclusively on those two. First Vineyard was begun over again on this basis, and was made to yield at least a little wine: In 1803 Dufour's brother was despatched to Washington, D.C., leading a horse loaded with two five-gallon


barrels of Kentucky wine consigned to President Jefferson.[63] We also hear of a toast, given by Henry Clay after the florid manner of the day and drunk in Kentucky wine at a banquet of the Vineyard Society. This was to "The Virtuous and Independent Sons of Switzerland, who have chosen our country as a retreat from the commotions of war" and who were assured that the wine of Kentucky would drive all painful memory of the Old World away.[64]

That moment may have been—probably was—the high point of the Vineyard Society's fortunes. Dufour had begun his work before all the subscriptions were paid in; the disappointing history of the vineyard provided a reason for not paying any more, and by 1804 the society was wound up, still in debt to Dufour for expenses.[65]

Even before the failure of First Vineyard was clear, Dufour had begun to set up another enterprise, one that became the first practical success in American wine-growing. Dufour seems from the first to have had the intention, once established, of bringing his family and others from his native place over to this country, where they could live secure from the disruptions and damage of the Napoleonic wars. In 1800, inspired by the first promising year in Kentucky, he sent word for his people to come. Seventeen of them, his brothers and sisters, their wives, husbands, children, and several neighbors, arrived in Kentucky in July 1801. There they found that Dufour had already begun to shape his plan for them. Congress had just created the Indiana Territory out of the old Northwest Territory, where settlers might obtain land at $2 an acre. Even at this rate, a purchase was beyond Dufour's means. But he was attracted to the shores of the Ohio, which looked like a region naturally appointed for the growing of grapes, and in 1801 he petitioned Congress for what he called "une petite exception" in his favor.[66] If Congress would grant him lands along the Ohio in Indiana Territory and allow him to defer payment for ten years, he, Dufour, would undertake, at a minimum, to settle his Swiss associates there, to plant ten acres of vines in two years, and to disseminate the knowledge of vine culture publicly. This was a minimum: but, as Dufour assured the gentlemen of the Congress, he foresaw a time when the Ohio would rival the Rhine and Rhone—when "l'Ohio disputera le Rhin ou le Rhône pour la quantité des vignes, et la qualité du vin."[67]

Congress was sufficiently swayed by the prospect to grant to Dufour the "petite exception" that he sought. In 1802, by a special act passed to "encourage the introduction, and to promote the culture of the vine within the territory of the United States, north-west of the river Ohio," Dufour was authorized to take up four sections of land along the north bank of the Ohio, just inside the present boundary of Indiana where it touches Ohio, and was allowed not ten but twelve years in which to pay.[68] Dufour himself did not leave Kentucky for the new grant; with two brothers and their families he stayed on at First Vineyard, evidently still determined to persist with it. The rest of the small Swiss colony went down the Kentucky River to the Ohio and their land grant, which they named New Switzerland (it is today in Switzerland County). There, in 1802, they began planting Sec-


ond Vineyard with the Cape and Madeira varieties already selected by Dufour as the best hope of American growers.

In 1806 Dufour returned to Europe, ten years after his coming to this country, leaving the care of the Kentucky vineyards to his brothers.[69] The purpose of his trip was to settle the financial affairs of his family in Switzerland, especially with a view to paying off the debt on their Indiana lands. The dislocation of things in those days of protracted war could hardly be better shown than by the fact that Dufour did not return for another ten years! First, the English captured the ship on which he was a passenger and he was taken to England. Released, he made his way to Switzerland, but evidently the confusion of his and his family's affairs made it impossible to act efficiently—perhaps, too, Dufour was not reluctant to linger. The wife that he had married before leaving Europe for America had remained behind in Switzerland. Then the War of 1812 intervened. After such delay, he was compelled to petition Congress in 1813 for an extension of the time allowed for payment on his land grant,[70] and it was not until 1817, after his return to the United States, that the sum was paid.

In Dufour's absence the settlement at New Switzerland began to prosper. A first vintage was harvested in 1806 or 1807—the date is not certain—and for a number of years thereafter production rose pretty steadily through good years and bad: 800 gallons in 1808, 2,400 gallons in 1810, 3,200 in 1812. The greatest extent of vineyard—45 to 50 acres—and the largest volume of production—12,000 gallons—seem to have been reached about 1820.[71] By that time the Swiss of Vevay, as the town laid out in 1813 had been named, had acquired a good name up and down the Ohio. A Vevay schoolmaster was inspired by local pride to compose a Latin ode on the "Empire of Bacchus" to celebrate the accomplishments of the Swiss. It opens (in the English version provided by another Vevay classicist) in this lofty strain:

Columbia rejoice! smiling Bacchus has heard
        Your prayers of so fervent a tone

And crown'd with the grape, has kindly appear'd
        In your land to establish his throne.[72]

More sober commentators agreed that Vevay was one of the most interesting and encouraging of western settlements. The veteran traveller Timothy Flint wrote that he had seen nothing to compare with the autumn richness of Vevay's vineyards: "When the clusters are in maturity. . . . The horn of plenty seems to have been emptied in the production of this rich fruit."[73]

As a condition of their land grant, the Swiss at Vevay undertook to promote viticulture generally, and they honored the obligation, giving advice and instruction to those who sought it and distributing cuttings free. There is evidence that at least a few others in the region were able to imitate the success of Vevay. A Swiss named J. F. Buchetti, who was connected with Dufour's community, had, in 1814, a vineyard of some 10,000 vines, mainly the Alexander, at Glasgow, in Barren


County, south-central Kentucky. This was still extant as late as 1846, and had earlier produced wine that Dufour, no doubt prejudiced in its favor, had pronounced to be very good.[74] Besides Buchetti, James Hicks planted Cape and Madeira vines at Glasgow in 1814.[75] Another early Kentucky vineyard, that of Colonel James Taylor at Newport, across the river from Cincinnati, was described in 1810 by an English traveller as "the finest that I have yet seen in America." Taylor, a cousin of President James Madison's, made at least some wine for domestic purposes.[76]

As to the quality of the wine of Vevay, opinions vary according to the experience and loyalties of the critic. It was advertised in Cincinnati in 1813, where it sold for $2 a gallon, as "superior to the common Bordeaux claret";[77] a western traveller in 1817, buying at $1 a gallon at the winery door, found the wine "as good as I could wish to drink."[78] The candor of Timothy Flint (he was a preacher as well as a traveller and writer) compelled him to confess that the wine made from the Cape grape at Vevay "was not pleasant to me, though connoisseurs assured me, that it only wanted age to be a rich wine."[79] Flint's judgment is supported by the German visitor Karl Postel, who came to Vevay in the late, degenerate days of the vineyards and found their wine "an indifferent beverage, resembling any thing but claret, as it had been represented."[80] Whatever the quality of Vevay red—and the red wine from native grapes has always been less pleasing than the white—the producers sold all that they could make. Dufour wrote that people were at first unfamiliar with the flavor of native wine, but that by and by all came to like it, so that "consumption having pretty well kept pace with the product, old American wine has always been scarce."[81] What he might have said more to the purpose is that American wine of any age at all had always been scarce. But why they made red wine rather than white remains curious. The foxiness of such labrusca hybrids as the Alexander is intensified if the juice is fermented on the skins, and reduced if the skins are separated. White wine would be both better suited to the Swiss tradition and less strongly flavored.

While Dufour was absent in Europe, his brothers, in 1809, had finally abandoned First Vineyard, and gone to join the rest of the community on the Ohio.[82] When Dufour returned, then, he found the whole number of his family and friends around the new town of Vevay, where he himself built a house and spent the rest of his days. While he lived, he continued to work and the vineyards of the community continued to produce, though signs of decline were probably appearing among the vines before his death in 1827.

In the year before his death, Dufour published a book at Cincinnati briefly sketching his career as a pioneer of vine growing and embodying the fruit of his experience in this country. Called a Vine-Dresser's Guide , it may fairly claim to be the first truly American book on the subject. The works of Bonoeil, of Antill, of Bolling, and of St. Pierre are of course much earlier, but none of them has anything to say about an extensive experience of actual vine culture in this country. Adlum's book (see p. 145 below), though in some important ways genuinely American, and earlier than Dufour's by three years, is far more derivative. Dufour had earned his


John James Dufour was the first American winegrower to succeed in producing
 wine in commercial quantities. This book, the fruit of his long experience of 
winegrowing in the remote American frontier states of Kentucky and Indiana, 
was published only a year before his death. (California State University, Fresno, Library)


authority; his readers, he wrote, might doubt some of his ideas, but that was because, as he wrote in his own special syntax, he had followed "the great book of nature, from which most all I have to say has been taken, for want of other books, and even, if I had them, among the many I have read on the culture of the vine, but few could be quoted, for none had the least idea of what a new country is."[83]

"For none had the least idea of what a new country is"—the observation, logically so obvious, nevertheless took generations of experience before its truth was fully realized.

Like all those who had earlier addressed the American public on this subject, Dufour urges the great blessing of viticulture—but with a difference, for he is more concerned with personal satisfaction than with transforming the economy and enriching the nation. He wishes specially "to enable the people of this vast continent, to procure for themselves and their children, the blessing intended by the Almighty; that they should enjoy, and not by trade from foreign countries, but by the produce of their own labor, out of the very ground they tread from a corner of each one's farm, wine thus obtained."[84] Such eloquence on the virtues of doing it oneself is very attractive, and suggests that the legion of home vineyardists and winemakers in America today might well choose Dufour for their patron.

Dufour also hoped that the grapes available to American winemakers could be improved. He was by no means satisfied with those that he had to work with. A letter from him in 1819 notes that neither the Cape nor the Madeira ever ripened properly at Vevay. They also suffered from exotic afflictions, including crickets; these, Dufour says, had to be picked off the vines at night by lamplight.[85] The poor Swiss must have felt themselves to be in a strange land indeed on those nights. In his efforts to get a better grape, Dufour himself, he tells us, had made many experiments in grafting vinifera to native roots, but without any success in producing a combination that could resist the endemic diseases.[86] He did not doubt that success could be had, however, and he urged that others with better means should continue trying. So, too, with hybridizing; that would have to be the work of others, but a work absolutely necessary if better wine were ever to be made here.[87]

It was, perhaps, a good thing that Dufour died the year after his book was published, for the wine industry at Vevay had not much longer to live. The immediate trouble was disease, especially the fungus diseases, of which black rot is the chief in importance, and against which today a program of spraying must be maintained. At that time, no one knew what to do. A less immediate, but still important, problem was the indifference of the second generation. To the pioneers—to Dufour and his brothers, and their friends the Mererods and the Siebenthals—who had come from Switzerland expressly to grow wine in a new country, that work was of central importance. The second generation easily lost interest; there were many other, and more secure, opportunities than winegrowing, with its heavy risks and cruel disappointments, and who can blame them if they took them?[88]

There was also the important fact that the wine was not very good, so that, when transport and commerce developed, the wine of Vevay lost the advantage


that it had when it was without competition. Nicholas Longworth wrote that when the Hoosiers and Buckeyes of the Ohio River country were at last able to get better wines, those of Vevay "became unsaleable and were chiefly used for making sangaree, for the manufacture of which they were preferred to any other."[89] Sangaree, incidentally, is one of those undisciplined concoctions that take many forms according to the inspiration of their compounder; we are familiar with it now in its Spanish form as sangria. In earlier times in America, however, the compound was any red wine, diluted with water or fruit juices, and invariably flavored with nutmeg. It is, clearly, no compliment to a wine to say that it was a favorite for sangaree. A frequently printed anecdote says that Dufour himself, on his deathbed, confessed that the wine of his Cape grapes was inferior to the wine from Longworth's Catawba grapes, a conclusion that he is supposed to have stubbornly resisted in his lifetime.[90] The anecdote, however, comes to us from a Cincinnati source and is therefore dubious. In any event, the wine industry of Vevay may be said to have died with its founder. The year after Dufour's death, the vineyards were described as "degenerated," and by 1835 they had effectively ceased to exist.[91]

Given all the confusions, misunderstandings, and wrong directions that had made the history of American winegrowing from the outset, it is appropriate that the basis of the first commercial wine production in the country should have been such a confused quantity as the Cape, or Alexander, grape, whose true name and nature nobody knew. The Alexander could not have made a good wine; not a great deal of that wine was ever produced at Vevay; and the winemaking enterprise there did not last beyond a generation. Nevertheless, it was with the Alexander grape, and at Vevay, that successful commercial viticulture and winemaking began in the United States. The time, place, and people deserve to be strongly marked and specially reverenced by everyone who takes a friendly interest in the subject.

The Spirit of Jefferson and Early American Winegrowing

The first decade of the nineteenth century was the period of Thomas Jefferson's administration; it is especially fitting that the early, tentative successes in American winegrowing should have occurred then, for Jefferson was, both in private and public, the great patron and promoter of American wine for Americans: in private, as both an experimental viticulturist and a notable connoisseur; in public, as the spokesman for the national importance of establishing wine as the drink of temperate yeomen and as the sponsor of enterprise in American agriculture generally. Agriculture was in his words "the employment of our first parents in Eden, the happiest we can follow, and the most important to our country."[92] As for wine, "no nation is drunken where wine is cheap," he had written in 1818.[93] America, he firmly believed, had the potential to yield wine both cheap and good: all that was wanted was "skilful labourers." No account of the history of wine in America is complete without at least a bare summary of "Jefferson and wine."[94]


We have already touched briefly on Jefferson's part in Philip Mazzei's Vineyard Society just before the outbreak of the Revolution. Soon after, Jefferson had been transformed from country gentleman and provincial lawyer into a world-famous statesman, but he had never lost contact with the soil of his own Monticello. Nor had he ever ceased to look for ways and means by which wine could be produced by American farmers. His extended residence in France as American minister from 1784 to 1789 greatly increased his knowledge of wine. An impressive number of pages in the edition of his Papers now appearing in slow and stately procession from Princeton is given over to his correspondence with French wine merchants and with friends for whom he acted as agent and counselor in their wine buying. He also had a collection of the finest French wines made for him by an expert, though whether they were shipped to Virginia does not appear. "Good wine is a daily necessity for me," he said,[95] and the documentary evidence of the trouble he took to secure the best and widest variety is ample proof of the assertion. He also made tours to the wine regions of France and Germany, where, with his habitual energy and curiosity, he questioned the experts and made copious notes, descriptions, and memoranda on the technicalities of viticulture and winemaking.

Jefferson was always ready to welcome a new enthusiasm, and his many remarks on wine show that he frequently changed his preferences: one year it was pale sherry that pleased him most and that he insisted on drinking exclusively; another year it was a light Montepulciano; another, a Bellet from the region of Nice; and yet another, white Hermitage. All of these loves were no doubt genuine, but as a connoisseur Jefferson was evidently as eager to be amused by a novelty as to be faithful to old loves. This propensity may help to explain some of the remarkable things that he had to say about American wines, remarks that will be noticed a little later.[96]

One of the first things that Jefferson did on his retirement from public life was to make a fresh attempt at vine growing: the thirty-five years of public activity that intervened between his part in Mazzei's experiments and his return to private life were only an interruption, not a change, in his purposes. By this time, however, Jefferson had had some experience of the wines that were beginning to be produced from improved varieties of the native grape. Dufour, it will be remembered, sent wine from his Kentucky vineyard to Jefferson. What he may have thought of that we do not know, but he has left a notable response to a sample of the wine produced by Major John Adlum in 1809 from the Alexander grape growing in Adlum's Maryland vineyard. This Jefferson praised in extravagant terms; he had served the Alexander wine to his friends together with a bottle of very good Chambertin of his own importing, and the company, so Jefferson told Adlum, "could not distinguish the one from the other."

Jefferson advised Adlum to "push the culture of that grape," and took his own advice by asking Adlum to send him cuttings to be planted at Monticello, calling himself a "brother-amateur in these things."[97] Adlum obliged, but the cuttings were long in travelling from Havre de Grace to Charlottesville; they arrived in bad


condition, and all subsequently died.[98] This failure ended Jefferson's hopes for some years, during which he made no more efforts of his own. But when, late in 1815, Jefferson was approached by a young Frenchman named Jean David, newly arrived with a scheme for viticulture in northern Virginia, the old enthusiasm flared up again.[99] Jefferson at first cautiously replied to David that he was now too old to work in the cause of American wine and advised him to approach other sympathetic gentlemen: Major Adlum, for example, or James Monroe, then secretary of state, Jefferson's friend and neighbor, who had "a fine collection of vines which he had selected and brought with him from France with a view to the making wine."[100] Jefferson also urged David to concentrate on the native grapes.

David's proposal had evidently set the old ambition to work again, despite Jefferson's protest that he was now too old to take up the work again. By January 1816 Jefferson had decided that he would like to try again for himself. He wrote to Adlum to ask for cuttings as he had done in 1810, saying that he had an opportunity for fresh assistance and reaffirming his faith in the native vine: "I am so convinced that our first success will be from a native grape, that I would try no other."[101] He hedged his bet a little, though, for a few days later he wrote to Monroe to ask for cuttings from Monroe's French vines.[102] Unluckily, after stirring up this old passion in Jefferson, David seems to have backed out. A strange letter from him to Jefferson in February 1816, just when Jefferson had hoped to plant vines, says that, as a loyal Frenchman, he had been struck by a "scrupule. " If he were to succeed in making America abound in native wine, as he had no doubt that he would, would he not be doing an injury to the French wine trade? What could ever compensate him for such a painful thought? Well, perhaps a premium from the state for his intended services to American viticulture would be an adequate reward? And so on.[103] The relation between David and Jefferson ended here, and the author of the Declaration of Independence, the governor of Virginia, the American minister to France, the president of the United States, and the founder of the University of Virginia was once again frustrated in the matter of making grape vines clothe the slopes of Monticello.

Yet he never ceased to believe that the thing might be done by others. On the founding of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle County in 1817, Jefferson drew up a list of its objects that singled out "the whole family of grapes" for the society's "attention and enquiry."[104] He was also heartened by the success of certain gentleman growers in North Carolina with the Scuppernong grape, a variety of muscadine. He had some of the wine from this source in early 1817, the gift of his son-in-law, who praised it as of "delicious flavor, resembling Frontinac"[105] (that is, the sweet wine of Muscat de Frontignan grapes produced in the south of France; it was a favorite of Jefferson's). Jefferson, who had the patriot's tendency to exaggerate the virtues of the native produce, went even further in praise than his son-in-law had ventured: Scuppernong wine, he said, would be "distinguished on the best tables of Europe, for its fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence."[106] Those not partial to Scuppernong wine will not be much impressed by this evidence of


Jefferson's taste. Probably, like his judgment of the Alexander wine sent to him by Adlum, the intent of the remark was to be encouraging rather than impartially judicial. But there is no question that he enjoyed Scuppernong wine. Five years later he was still praising it, describing it as "of remarkable merit" and repeating the conviction that it would earn a place at the "first tables of Europe."[107] He also took pains to learn the names of the best producers so that he could have access to a good supply.[108] For the problem was to get it unadulterated by brandy, Jefferson complained; most was so saturated in brandy as to be, he wrote, "unworthy of being called wine."[109] In fact, according to a description published in 1825, the product called Scuppernong wine was really not a wine at all but rather fresh juice fortified and preserved by apple brandy, in the proportion of three gallons of juice to one of brandy.[110] Another writer, in 1832, dismissed North Carolina Scuppernong as "a compound of grape juice, cider, honey, and apple brandy."[111] Nearly a hundred years later an investigator for the state of North Carolina found that this, or something very like it, was still the practice.[112] We should, therefore, call the Scuppernong wine of the old South not a wine but a mistelle or cordial. It is hard to see how Jefferson could ever have had it in a form worthy to be called wine, but perhaps he had something the secret of which is now gone. His liking for this wine was by no means unshared; according to one good source, Scuppernong wine was always served as a liqueur with the dessert at the White House on state occasions during the presidencies of Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Jackson—"a never-forgotten piece of presidential etiquette."[113]

At one point during his years in France Jefferson had come to the conclusion that viticulture, at least as he observed it in prerevolutionary France, was not a good thing for the United States: the grower either had too much wine or too little in most years, and got little for his produce no matter what. The result was "much wretchedness among this class of cultivators." Only a country forced to take up marginal land in order to employ surplus population was properly engaged in winegrowing, and for the United States "that period is not yet arrived."[114]

This was not, however, a fixed conviction. After his return to the United States, he was always quickly responsive to any new trial of American winemaking in whatever quarter. Though he planted vines of every description—natives and vinifera both—at Monticello over a period of half a century (the earliest record in his garden book is in 1771, the last in 1822), there is no evidence that Jefferson ever succeeded in producing wine from them, and probably after a certain time he ceased even to hope very strongly in the possibility for himself. But he cared much that others should succeed, and, by virtue of his zeal and his eminence, can be called the greatest patron of wine and winegrowing that this country has yet had.


The Early Republic, Continued

George Rapp and New Harmony

A kind of appendix to the chapter of winegrowing history at Vevay is that of the German religionists at New Harmony in western Indiana on the Wabash River, some twenty-five miles from its junction with the Ohio. The Harmonists, as they were called, combine two familiar elements in the history of early American winegrowing, being both an organized migration of non-English peoples traditionally skilled in viticulture (most of them came from Württemberg, in the Neckar valley), and a religious community. Led by the German prophet George Rapp, who preached that baptism and communion were of the devil, that going to school was an evil practice, and that Napoleon was the ambassador of God, the Harmonists, whose main social principles were communism and celibacy, left Germany for the United States in 1803.

George Rapp himself had been trained as a vine dresser in Germany, and the main economic purpose of his community was to grow wine. Following the example of Dufour, they tried to secure an act of Congress that would allow them to take up lands along the Ohio for this purpose on favorable terms. Difficulties arose, however, and they were at first compelled to settle in western Pennsylvania, where they were unhappy to find the land "too broken and too cold for to raise vine."[1] They turned instead to distilling Pennsylvania rye whiskey in substantial quantities, but did not quite give up the plan of carrying on the culture of the vine. In 1807 they laid out a hillside vineyard in neat stone-walled terraces, the standard practice of their native German vineyards but a novelty in the United States.[2]


There they planted at least ten different varieties of vine, probably all native Americans: the Cape and the Madeira as grown by the Swiss at Vevay were certainly among them.[3] In 1809 the Harmonists put up a new brick building with a cellar designed for wine storage, and by 1810 they were expecting about a hundred gallons of wine from their vineyard, now grown to ten acres.[4] The carefully kept records of the society show $1,806.05 received in 1811 for the sale of wine, a remarkable—indeed highly questionable—figure, since we are told that their total production two years later was still only twelve barrels.[5] What were the Rappites selling in 1811? In any case, they thought well enough of their 1813 vintage to send some bottles of it to the governor of Pennsylvania, who shared it with some friends and reported that one of them, "an expert," had found that it "resembled very closely the Old Hock ."[6]

The Pennsylvania settlement, sustained by the well-directed combination of agriculture and manufacture, quickly grew prosperous; but it was not what they wanted. In 1814 Rapp made a foray into the western lands, found an admirable site with a "hill . . . well-suited for a vineyard," and determined to lead the community there to resettle.[7] The whole establishment of Harmony—buildings and lands, lock, stock, and barrel—was put up for sale, the vineyards being thus described in the advertisements:

Two vineyards, one of 10, the other of 5 acres, have given sufficient proof of the successes in the cultivation of vines; they are made after the European manner, at a vast expence of labor, with parapet walls and stone steps conducting to an eminence overlooking the town of Harmony and its surrounding improvements.[8]

In 1814 the move began to the thousands of acres that their disciplined labors had enabled them to buy along the banks of the Wabash. They brought cuttings with them from their Pennsylvania vineyards, some of which Rapp gave to the Swiss at Vevay, where he was well received on his way to his new domain.[9] Early in 1815 Rapp's community had planted their New Harmony vineyard; by 1819 they had gathered their second vintage, and by 1824, at the end of their stay on the Wabash, the Harmonists had about fifteen acres in vines producing a red wine of considerable local favor.[10] For the decade of their flourishing, roughly 1815-25, the two centers of wine production at New Harmony and at Vevay made Indiana the unchallenged leader in the first period of commercial wine production in the United States. The scale of production was minute, but, such as it was, Indiana was its fount. At New Harmony, as at Vevay, the successful grape was the Cape, or Alexander; they had also a native vine they called the "red juice grape."[11] The Harmonists naturally yearned after the wine that they had grown and drunk in Germany, and in the first hopefulness inspired by the hillsides of the Wabash, so obviously better suited to the grape than their old Allegheny knobs, they ordered nearly 8,000 cuttings of a whole range of German vines, including Riesling, Sylvaner, Gutedel, and Veltliner.[12] That was in 1816; more European vines were no doubt tried—another shipment was sent out in 1823, for example[13] —but of course


all were doomed to die. The only thing German about the wine actually produced at New Harmony was Rapp's name for it, Wabaschwein .[14]

The Harmonists knew that it would not be easy to establish a successful viticulture, since, as hereditary vineyardists, they understood the importance of long tradition. When, in 1820, the commissioner of the General Land Office made an official request for a report on their progress in viniculture, they answered that they had yet to find "the proper mode of managing in the Climat and soil," something that "can only be discovered by a well experienced Person, by making many and often fruitless experiments for several years." It was all quite unlike Germany, "where the proper cultivation, soil, and climat has been found out to perfection for every kind of vine."[15] On the whole, their experience in Indiana was a disappointment, a disappointment reflected in these interesting observations, written about 1822, by an unidentified diarist who had just paid a visit to New Harmony:

They have sent almost everywhere for grapes, for the purpose of ascertaining which are the best kinds. They have eight or ten different kinds of wine, of different colors and flavors. That from the fall grape, after a few frosts, promised to be good, as at the Peoria Lake, on the Illinois, where, it is said, the French have made 100 hogsheads of wine in a year.[16] But none has done so well as the Madeira, Lisbon, and Cape of Good Hope grapes. Here the best product is 3 to 400 gallons per acre, when in Germany it is 2 to 1500. They sell it by the barrel, (not bottled) at 1 dollar a gallon. Its flavor is not very good, nor has it much body, but is rather insipid . . . .

The culture of it is attended with so much expense and difficulty, while it is so much subject to injury, that it results rather in a loss than a profit . . . .

From all the experience they have had of it, they are only induced to continue it for the sake of giving employment to their people; and, although it does better than at Vevay and New Glasgow,[17] where it is declining, it will, they say, eventually fail, as it did in Harmony in Pennsylvania.[18]

Though they could not make German vines grow on Indiana hillsides, whatever else the Harmonists touched seemed to prosper—at least to the views of outsiders. The numerous travellers, American and foreign, who passed up and down the Ohio Valley in the decade of New Harmony all testify to the neat, busy, and flourishing air of the scene there: "They have a fine vineyard in the vale, and on the hills around, which are so beautiful as if formed by art to adorn the town," an Englishman wrote in 1823, "Not a spot but bears the most luxuriant vines, from which they make excellent wine."[19] How good the wine was in fact can hardly be known now, but one may doubt. One German traveller in 1819, though much impressed by the excellence of the New Harmony beer—"a genuine, real Bamberg beer"—was less pleased by the wine: "a good wine," he called it, "which, however, seems to be mixed with sugar and spirits."[20] The observation is one that could probably have been made of almost all early American vintages that aspired to any degree of palatability and stability: without the spirits the alcohol content would have been too low; and without the sugar the flavors would have been too marked


and the acid too high. Jefferson, too, complained about the difficulty of getting wine free of such sweetening and fortification.

Another German traveller, the aristocratic and inquisitive Duke Karl Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, called at New Harmony during the course of his extensive travels in 1826, just after the Harmonists had sold their community and moved back to Pennsylvania. They had left some wine of their produce behind them, which the duke described as having a "strange taste, which reminds one of the common Spanish wine." An old Frenchman whom the duke met at New Harmony told him that the Harmonists did not understand winemaking, and that their departure would allow better stuff to be produced. The remark probably says more about the relations between Germans and French than about actual winemaking practices. The duke carried his researches further, however, by visiting the newest and last of the Harmonist settlements; this was at Economy, Pennsylvania, where Rapp had taken his community to escape the unhealthy climate and the ill-will and harassment they faced on the remote frontier from the early, uncivilized Hoosiers. There, at Economy, the duke was served by Rapp himself with "excellent wine, which had been grown on the Wabash and brought from there; the worst, as I noticed, they had left in Harmony."[21] The morality of this conduct is a nice point, but however it might be settled, we know from it that the Harmonists took the trouble to select and specially care for their superior vintages.

Economy, a part of which is now preserved as a state park, lay on the Ohio just below Pittsburgh. As the first two Harmonist settlements had done, this third one quickly prospered; and as in the first two, this one also was furnished with a vineyard, and every home had vines thriftily trained along the walls on trellises of unique design. Within a year of the migration from Indiana, there were four acres of vineyards at Economy,[22] and they continued to be developed in succeeding years. A striking piece of information is that, after all the years of struggle at the two earlier sites, the Harmonists, on this their third and last site, were still persisting in trying to grow vinifera. A visitor in 1831, after noting the hillside vineyard at Economy, laid out in stone-walled terraces after the fashion of Württemberg, added that the vines had come from France and from Hungary.[23] If this were the case, and if they did not also plant some of the old, unsatisfactory natives, the Harmonists cannot have produced much wine at Economy.

Nevertheless, Economy itself did not merely continue to prosper after the death of Rapp in 1847; it was propelled into vast wealth through investments in oil and in railroads. In 1874 the historian of American communistic life, Charles Nordhoff, found the place in high good order, including "two great cellars full of fine wine casks, which would make a Californian envious, so well-built are they."[24] In 1889 the young Rudyard Kipling, on his way from India to England, looked in briefly on Economy and noted the contrast between its accumulating wealth and its declining vigor.[25] By that time, if the Harmonists still paid regard to winemaking, their pioneering work had long since been eclipsed by newer and more commercial efforts.


A rare item testifying to the interest in winegrowing among the Germans of Pennsylvania in the 1820s. 
This reprinting at Reading, Pennsylvania, of a standard German treatise on winegrowing was published
 by Heinrich Sage, who tells us that he went to Germany expressly to acquire information on the subject.
 The title translated is  Improved practical winegrowing in Gardens and especially in vineyards, with 
instructions for pressing wine without a press . . . dedicated to American winegrowers by Heinrich B. 
. (California State University, Fresno, Library)

As for New Harmony on the Wabash, that had been sold in 1825 to the Welsh mill-owner and socialist Robert Owen, who intended to establish a revolutionary model community as an example to the world.[26] Too many theorists and too few organized working hands quickly put the experiment out of order, and the communitarian days of New Harmony ended two years after the shrewd and practical Rapp had peddled the place to the doctrinaire Owen. New Harmony today is notable among midwestern towns for its lively interest in its own past, but it has long since forgotten the "red juice grape" and its Wabaschwein .

Before the Harmonists had retraced their steps from Indiana, other significant ventures had been made in Pennsylvania in the new viticulture based on the Alexander grape. The pioneer in these was a Pennsylvania Dutchman named


Thomas Eichelberger, of York County, who, in an effort to put barren land to profitable use, engaged a German vine dresser and planted four acres of a slate ridge in 1818. By 1821 Eichelberger had a small vintage; by 1823 his four acres yielded thirty-one barrels and he had added six more acres. He planned to reach twenty. When the word got round that Eichelberger had been offered an annual rent of $200 an acre for the produce of his vines, there was a scramble to plant vineyards in the Dutch country. "There is land of a suitable soil enough in York county," one writer declared, "to raise wine for the consumption of all the United States."[27] The rural papers of the day are filled with calculations exhibiting the absolutely certain profits to be made from Pennsylvania grapes, and by 1830 there were, according to contemporary report, some thirty or forty vineyards around York and Lancaster.[28] Many amateurs throughout the middle states had also been inspired by the example of York County to attempt a small vineyard.

The grapes most commonly grown were called the York Madeira, the York Claret, and the York Lisbon—all, apparently, variations on the Alexander, though the York Madeira may be a different variety. Later, some of the new hybrid introductions that began to proliferate in the second quarter of the century were used, but these eventually succumbed to diseases and so put an end to the industry. Not before it had made a lasting contribution, however: as U. P. Hedrick writes in his magisterial survey of native American grape varieties, "a surprisingly large number have been traced back to this early center of the industry, so many that York and Lancaster Counties, Pennsylvania, must be counted among the starting places of American viticulture."[29]

Bonapartists in the Mississippi Territory

An unlikely agricultural colony, very different from the religious communities like Rapp's Harmonists, or refugees from religious persecution, like the South Carolina Huguenots, was formed in 1816 out of the refugee Bonapartists, mostly army officers, who had then congregated in considerable numbers in and around Philadelphia. On his second restoration, after the nightmare of the Hundred Days had been dispelled at Waterloo in 1815, Louis XVIII prudently determined to get rid of the more ardent partisans of the emperor, most of them officers of the Grande Armée or political functionaries under Napoleon. Decrees of exile were issued against some, and the fear of official vengeance determined others to leave. Most of them chose to go to the United States, and of these, many chose Philadelphia, not far from where Joseph Bonaparte was spending his exile at Borden-town, New Jersey. How the idea arose and by whom it was directed we do not know, but by late 1816 the French officers in Philadelphia, with various French merchants and politicians, had organized an association with the vague purpose of "forming a large settlement somewhere on the Ohio or Mississippi . . . to cultivate the vine."[30] They called themselves the French Agricultural and Manufacturing So-


ciety and included among their members Joseph Lakanal, one of the regicides of Louis XVI and the reformer of French education under the Revolution. He was sent out to explore the country for suitable sites, and ventured as far as southwestern Missouri on his quest.[31]

The plan soon grew more distinct. The Mississippi Territory was then being highly promoted and rapidly settled. It had, besides, the attraction of lying within the old French territory; Mobile was a French city, and New Orleans was not too remote. They would go, then, to what is now Alabama, where they had been assured that they would find a climate like that of France and a land adapted to the vine and the olive. An agent was sent to Washington to secure a grant of public lands, and in March 1817 Congress obliged by voting them four townships to be paid for at two dollars an acre on fourteen years' credit.[32] The financial arrangement was the same as that made with Dufour in 1802, and no doubt that precedent was consulted. But the scale of all this was much bigger than that of Dufour's project; this was not a family, but a whole community that was to undertake a new enterprise of large-scale winegrowing.

There were 350 members of the group, officially the "French Agricultural and Manufacturing Society," but more often referred to as the "Vine and Olive Association" or the "Tombigbee Association," after the river along whose banks they meant to settle.[33] Their grant extended over 92,000 acres. It was evidently the intention of Congress to make the experiment large-scale and coherent: no individual property titles would be granted until all the property had been paid for, and so, it was hoped, since the colonists thus could not sell their holdings, they would keep at their work. The whole vast tract was meant to remain exclusively French and was to be devoted mainly to vines and secondarily to olives, all tended by "persons understanding the culture of those plants." By the terms of the contract made between the association and the secretary of the Treasury, they were, within seven years of settlement, to plant an acre of vines for each section of land (that is, a total of about 140 acres at a minimum).[34]

Very shortly after receiving their grant, whose exact location was not yet determined, the first contingent of settlers, about 150 in number, sailed for Mobile, from there went up the Tombigbee to its junction with the Black Warrior River, staked their claim, and laid out the town of Demopolis.[35] The affair attracted much attention, and even the English were impressed: a London paper was moved to call the project "one of the most extraordinary speculations ever known even in America."[36] But the whole thing was grandiose, impetuous, and vague—grandiose because it was seriously maintained that the French would supply the nation's wants in wine;[37] impetuous because the would-be planters began settling even before they knew where they were to settle, with disastrous consequences, as will be seen; vague because no one knew anything about the actual work proposed or had any notion of ways and means. The idea that the veterans of the greatest army ever known, men who had been officers at Marengo, Austerlitz, Moscow, and Waterloo. would turn quietly to the American wilderness to cultivate the vine and the olive.


emblems of peace, has a kind of Chateaubriandesque poetry about it, but little to recommend it to practice. There is a certain charm in the splendid incompetence displayed, but the charm is hardly sufficient to offset the fact that the emigrants paid a heavy cost in disease, death, and wasted struggle. They do not seem even to have heard, for example, of the work with native vines done by Dufour, and had no thought of attempting to grow anything but vinifera.

The first step in the debacle was the discovery, when the surveyors arrived, that Demopolis was laid out on land that did not belong to the French grant.[38] The settlers had to abandon their clearings and cabins and to found another settlement, which they called Aigleville after the ensign of the Grande Armée. Meantime, the distribution of lands within the grant was being drawn up on paper in Philadelphia after the first settlers had already made their choice on the spot, and of course the two divisions did not coincide. Once again the beleaguered French had to reshuffle their arrangements. Their lands, in the rich Black Belt of Alabama, were then a difficult mixture of canebrake, prairie, and forest, and were not even hospitable to the native grape, much less to the imported; as for the olives, the winters destroyed them at once. Fevers killed some of the settlers; discouragement sent even more to look for their fortunes elsewhere, a circumstance that at once made the original contract impossible of fulfillment. That had stipulated that no title would be given until all the contracting parties had met their terms, and if some of them simply abandoned the work, then the remnant were left with no means of satisfying the requirements. The provision was altered in 1822 when it was clear that the original plan was not going to work out.[39] Stories, apocryphal no doubt, but expressive, were told of the French officers at work felling trees in their dress uniforms and of their ladies milking or sowing in velvet gowns and satin slippers.[40]Toujours gai was the watchword; no matter how desperate the circumstances, in the evenings the French gathered for parties, dancing, and the exchange of ceremony. Such stories sound like Anglo-Saxon parodies of French manners, and probably are. But they testify to the fact that the French of Alabama struck their neighbors as very curious beings, almost of a different order.

It is sometimes suggested that these French soldiers were merely trifling—that they never seriously intended to labor at agriculture but were simply biding their time before Napoleon should return, or some other opportunity for adventure turn up.[41] That was certainly true of some. But others seem to have worked in good faith. Some vines were reported to be planted in 1818; by the end of 1821 there were 10,000 growing, though the French complained that most of the cuttings that they persistently imported from France arrived dead or dying.[42] A few vines lived long enough to yield a little wine, but it was found to be miserable stuff, coming as it did from diseased vines picked during the intensest heats of summer and vinified under uncontrollably adverse conditions.[43] Nevertheless, the usual optimism of ignorance was still alive; on meeting several of the Frenchmen, one traveller through Alabama in 1821 reported that "they appear confident of the success of the Vine."[44]

Since the settlers were under contract with the Treasury to perform their


One of five panels of hand-painted French wallpaper showing idealized scenes from the 
Alabama Vine and Olive Colony. This one presents the building of Aigleville. The street 
signs—"Austerlitz," "Jena," "Wagram"—bear the names of Napoleon's victories. (Alabama 
Department of Archives and History)

promise, the Congress made inquiry into their progress from time to time. From the report for 1827 we learn that there were 271 acres in vines, but that these were not set out in the form of ordinary vineyards; instead, they stood at intervals of 10' × 20' on stakes set in the midst of cotton fields! By this time, the spokesman for the association had acquired at least one item of wisdom, for he informed the secretary of the Treasury that "the great question seems to be the proper mode of cultivation, and, instead of seven, perhaps seventy years may be required correctly to ascertain this fact."[45] The last official report, dated January 1828, states that the drought of the preceding summer had killed their vines, but that the French were "now generally engaged in replanting."[46] On this note of stubbornness in the face of defeat, the French Vine and Olive Association died out; some members returned to the eastern cities, some to Europe; others went to Mobile or points west.

The net result of the French ordeal in Alabama was to make it clear that, if any grapes were to grow there, they must be natives. In 1829 an American who had managed to obtain lands within the French grant reported that he had observed the repeated failures of the French over several years and attributed the result to their using vinifera. The only grape that ever succeeded was one—unnamed—that had been sent to them from New Orleans by the agent there of the Swiss at Vevay, and


which the French vigneron who planted it called the Madeira.[47] Thus, circuitously and accidentally, was confirmed what they might have learned directly from Du-four's experience: with the natives there was a chance; without, none.

John Adlum, "Father of American Viticulture"

It is now time to take up a story of success, the episode that is traditionally identified as the true beginning of commercial winegrowing as it developed in the eastern United States. The man who is familiarly called the "Father of American Viticulture"—how well-deserved that title is will appear from this sketch of his work—was Major John Adlum (1759-1836), of The Vineyard, Georgetown, District of Columbia.[48] Adlum was born in York, Pennsylvania, and as a boy of seventeen marched off with a company of Pennsylvania volunteers to join the Revolution, but was captured by the British at New York and sent back home. Though he later held commissions in the provisional army raised in 1799, from which he derived his title of major, and in the emergency forces raised in the War of 1812, Adlum, after his brief experience of war, took up surveying as a profession. He chose a good time, for after the Revolution the western lands of Pennsylvania and New York filled up rapidly, allowing Adlum to make a modest fortune through the ready combination of surveying and land speculation. By 1798 he was able to retire, and he settled then on a farm near Havre de Grace, Maryland, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, along whose course he had often travelled in his surveying work. He probably planted a vineyard at once at Havre de Grace, for he seems to have been interested in grapes even before his retirement; while carrying out his surveys he took notes on the native grapes growing wild in the woods and along the streams of Pennsylvania—red and white grapes growing on an island of the Allegheny, black grapes at Presque Isle, where the French were said to have made wine from them, and black grapes along the Susquehanna all came under his notice and suggested that, from such fruit, "excellent wines may be made in a great many parts of our Country."[49]

Nevertheless, his first plantings were of European vines, evidence of the strength of the grip that, at this late date in American experience, the foreign vine still had upon the minds of American growers. It did not take Adlum long, however, to decide that he had made a mistake. When insects and diseases overwhelmed his vinifera vines, he had them grubbed up and planted native vines instead.[50]

One of these was the Alexander, and from it Adlum succeeded in making a wine that had a significant success—he later admitted that his method with that batch was an accident that he could never afterwards duplicate.[51] Nevertheless, he made the most of what he had, which was, in the first place, an astute sense of publicity; he sent samples of his wine to the places and persons where they might have their most effective result. One went to President Jefferson, and with him the


John Adlum (1759-1836), whose Georgetown vineyard produced the first commercial 
wine in the settled regions of the country. Adlum gave a tremendous boost to the 
development of winegrowing by his introduction of the Catawba grape and by his 
publications on grape growing and winemaking in the 1820s. (Portrait attributed to 
Charles Willson Peale, c. 1794; State Museum of Pennsylvania / Pennsylvania 
Historical and Museum Commission)

wine made a home shot. It was, the president wrote, a fine wine, comparable to a Chambertin, and he advised that Adlum look no farther for a suitable wine grape but press on with the cultivation of the Alexander. He should forget about foreign vines, "which it will take centuries to adapt to our soil and climate."[52] Adlum agreed, but observed with the doubtfulness of experience that Americans were not yet quite ready for wine from American grapes—as soon as they knew what they were drinking, they objected to it, though they might have been praising it a moment before.[53] The remark is one the truth of which most eastern winemakers even today will regretfully assent to. But Adlum was determined to persist, even though


he knew that, as a prophet of American wine, his own country would likely be the last to honor him.

In 1816 Jefferson wrote again to Adlum, having been stirred by a fresh prospect of planting wine vines, and learned that great changes had occurred in his correspondent's circumstances. Adlum was now living in Georgetown, on property near Rock Creek, above the Potomac, where he had settled after leaving Havre de Grace in 1814.[54] At the time of Jefferson's letter, Adlum had not yet set out a Georgetown vineyard. It may have been Jefferson's inquiry that aroused Adlum again; it may have been that Adlum had the thought in mind himself; in any case, he was soon back at planting vines, this time on a different basis and with a wholly different success.

The Vineyard, as he called his farm, was a property of some 200 acres; the vineyards themselves were on the south slope of a hill running down to Rock Creek, now part of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. A poetically inclined visitor in the early days found that they made a quiet, sequestered scene; rows of vines, ranged one above the other, rose from the base of a hill washed by a willow-fringed stream, beside which a black vine dresser gathered willow twigs for tying up the shoots of the vines that lined the hill above.[55] The picture is attractively idyllic, but perhaps a bit en beau . What Adlum had was in fact quite a modest establishment, with nothing of the grand château about it: from the vantage of another observer, the vineyard was seen as a "patch of wild and scraggy looking vines; the soil was artificially prepared, not with rich compost, but with pebbles and pounded oyster-shells."[56] The whole property was not large, and the vines occupied but a small part of the whole—some four acres by 1822.[57]

The first vintage at Georgetown of which we have report was made in 1822 and consisted of 400 gallons, in no way distinguishable from other vintages yielded by native vines before.[58] There was this difference, though: it was the produce of the nation's capital, and therefore noticeable and promotable in a way that, for example, the vintages of Dufour's Swiss on the remote banks of the Ohio were not. Here, for example, is how the editor of the American Farmer , a superior publication emanating from Baltimore, greeted Adlum's first offering:

Fourth of July Parties

Would manifest their patriotism by taking out a portion of American wine, manufactured by Major Adlum of the District of Columbia. It may be had in varieties of Messrs. Marple and Williams, and the Editor of the American Farmer will be thankful for the candid opinion of connoisseurs concerning its qualities.[59]

If any patriot-connoisseurs heeded the request, their responses do not appear in the American Farmer , but the publicity can have done Adlum no harm. Yet one wonders what Adlum could have been offering? July is too early by any stretch of the imagination for the vintage of 1822 to have been put on sale. And in any case, Adlum wrote to the American Farmer on 17 September 1822 that he had just then completed his winemaking.[60] The vintage of 1821, we know from Adlum's testi-


mony, had all turned to vinegar.[61] Possibly wine from 1820 was what was advertised in 1822, but there is no record of any production in 1820.

As Adlum himself explained in the American Farmer , in 1822, he had only just begun his work then: he had some vines of "Constantia" and some vines of what he called "Tokay"—not anything like real Tokay, as we shall see, but something portentous nonetheless. He had cuttings for sale, Adlum added, and he hoped himself to have some ten acres in vines soon.[62]

In the next year, Adlum's work was translated to a different plane. His "Tokay" had fruited for the first time in 1822, and the wine that he had made from it in that season developed into something better than any native grape had yielded before. Adlum lost no time in advertising his success, and, as others began to admire, he did not let any consideration of modesty restrain his high claims for the quality of the "Tokay" grape. Jefferson, of course, was one of the first to receive a bottle of Adlum's Tokay; James Madison was another.[63] Jefferson's reply, though polite, must have been a disappointment to Adlum, who may have hoped for something as extravagant as the great man's earlier comparison of Alexander wine to Chambertin. This time, Jefferson restricted himself to the observation that the Tokay was "truly a fine wine of high flavor."[64] That was good enough for promotional purposes; Adlum sent Jefferson's letter (and a bottle of Tokay) to the editor of the American Farmer , where a notice appeared in the next month. Later, Adlum reproduced Jefferson's letter in facsimile as the frontispiece of his book on winegrowing.

The history of the "Tokay" grape, which thus first came to public notice in 1823, is fairly circumstantial, though a number of questions remain as to its origin and early distribution. In sending a bottle to Jefferson, Adlum stated that the vine came from a Mrs. Scholl in Clarksburgh, Maryland, that a German priest had said the vine was "the true Tokay" of Hungary, but that Mr. Scholl (now dead) had always called it the Catawba.[65]

Adlum took cuttings from Mrs. Scholl's vine in the spring of 1819; by 1825 he had determined that "Tokay" was a misnomer, and reverted to the late Mr. Scholl's name, Catawba,[66] which belongs to a river rising in western North Carolina and flowing into South Carolina. Traditionally the grape was found first not far from present-day Asheville, in a region of poor, thinly timbered soil. Whether Scholl had any information to justify the name he gave the grape is not known. After the success of the grape had led to its wide distribution, a good many different stories about its origin were published, but none authoritative enough to settle the matter.[67]

The same uncertainty attends the botanical classification of the Catawba. Early writers called it a labrusca; Hedrick agrees, but adds that it must have a strain of vinifera as well.[68] It has the self-fertile flowers of vinifera, a trait that combines with its improved fruit quality to confirm its vinifera inheritance. As to the character of the grape, that is well established. After more than a century and a half of cultivation, it still remains one of the important native eastern hybrids; for winemaking, it is one of the three or four most valuable of such grapes. The fruit of the Catawbâ is


The Catawba grape, introduced by John Adlum in the early 1820s, the first
 native hybrid to make a wine of attractive quality. Its origins are uncertain,
 but after more than a century and a half of cultivation, it still retains a place
 in eastern viticulture. (Painting by C. L. Fleischman, 1867; National Agricultural

a most attractive lilac, a light purplish-red, yielding a white juice which is definitely foxy, after the nature of its labrusca parent, but which may be transformed into a still white wine that Philip Wagner describes as "dry to the point of austerity" and having "a very clean flavor and a curious, special, spicy aroma."[69] Its superiority to the other grapes available in its day quickly led to its trial all over the inhabited sections of the United States; growers then learned that it presented some severe problems, being susceptible to fungus diseases and, in northern regions, failing to ripen except in special locations. It found a home in Ohio, first along the Ohio


John Adlum's was the first book on winegrowing to be published in the United 
States as opposed to the British North American colonies. It was also the first 
book to assume that American winegrowing would have to be based on native 
American varieties. Both facts give the  Memoir  a special status in the early literature 
of American winegrowing. (Huntington Library)


River and later in the Lake Erie district, and in New York in the Finger Lakes country. It remains, in both states, a staple grape for winemaking, particularly in the production of sparkling wine.

From the evidence of his own descriptions of his winemaking methods, and from the remarks of some critics, it appears that Adlum himself did not make very good wine from his Catawba. Though he disapproved of the established American practice of adding brandy (most often fruit brandy of local production) to wine in order to strengthen and preserve it, he did not hesitate to add large quantities of sugar to the must, so much that the juice would not ferment to dryness. The horticultural and architectural writer Andrew Jackson Downing, a good judge, remembered Adlum's wine as "only tolerable";[70] Nicholas Longworth, who may be said to have succeeded to Adlum's work with Catawba, agreed that Adlum's wine was poor, not only for its artificial sweetness but because, he reported, Adlum was not above eking out his superior juice in lean years with the juice from the wild grapes growing in the woods that surrounded his vineyard.[71] This practice Longworth politely attributed to Adlum's "poverty" (whatever the size of Adlum's fortune when he retired in 1798, it does not seem to have been adequate to carry him easily to the end in 1836). After all these qualifications and reservations have been made, the main point remains: Adlum had found a grape from which good wine might be made; he had been quick to recognize the fact; and he had been able to publicize it effectively. At the time, and given the circumstances, he had done precisely what the long struggle to create an American winegrowing industry needed.

By some providence, the introduction of Adlum's Catawba wine coincided with the publication of Adlum's book on grape growing and winemaking: his Memoir on the Cultivation of the Fine in America, and the Best Mode of Making Wine , published in Washington early in 1823,[72] appeared almost together with the first distribution of Catawba. Perhaps he planned it that way. In any event, the two strokes, the new book and the new wine together, have made Adlum's mark on the record of American winegrowing permanent and visible to a degree hardly matched by any other individual's. His book is interesting, and original to the extent that it chronicles his own experience with vine growing and winemaking, going back to his residence at Havre de Grace at the end of the eighteenth century. As a treatise on viticulture, it is derivative; Adlum did not pretend otherwise, and freely acknowledged the fact that he was following the lines laid down by established European writers. He thus has little or nothing to say on such crucial subjects as the diseases that had to be faced by any American viticulturist. He spends more time on winemaking, but here, too, his achievement is not remarkable. His disposition to use too much sugar in his wine has already been noticed. Moreover, he recommended such practices as fermentation at high temperatures—up to 115° Fahrenheit!—which would horrify winemakers today.[73] But one may make many allowances for Adlum. He wrote with as much independence as could be expected in his circumstances, he clearly understood the importance of native vines, he


firmly opposed the bad practice of drowning wines in brandy, and, in company with all of his notable predecessors, he acted with a conscious sense of patriotic selflessness: "a desire to be useful to my countrymen, has animated all my efforts," he declared in the preface to his Memoir . As he wrote to Nicholas Longworth not long after the triumphant introduction of the Catawba, "in introducing this grape to public notice, I have done my country a greater service than I should have done, had I paid the national debt."[74] And his confidence was infectious. James Madison, in sending two copies of Adlum's book to the Agricultural Society of Albemarle, wrote that now "nothing seems wanting to the addition of the grape to our valuable productions, but decisive efforts."[75]

For the next half-dozen years after he had brought Catawba wine to the public for the first time, Adlum was the recognized oracle on the subject of wines and vines in America. He wrote frequently to the agricultural press—a significantly larger and more influential part of the national press in those rural days than now—describing his practices and setting forth his prescriptions for others. He circularized the great men of the day to attract their attention to the cause of wine-growing, usually sending a bottle of his produce to help make the point; he lobbied the agricultural societies to get them to recognize viticulture and winemaking as activities worthy of official encouragement; he tried to get the federal government to establish a national vineyard in the District of Columbia in which the many varieties of native vines might be planted "to ascertain their growth, soil, and produce, and to exhibit to the Nation, a new source of wealth, which had been too long neglected."[76] Since the intensity of his enthusiasm far exceeded that of the institutions to which he appealed, he did not get very far immediately. But probably much of what we now have is owed to the example he set.

Certainly Adlum's activities had something to do with the noticeable growth of interest in winegrowing that spread over the United States in the 1820s. Adlum himself published exciting figures on the profits to be made from small vineyards, such as almost every American might reasonably plant. In 1824 he notified the public that the demand for cuttings from his vineyard was already growing beyond his ability to supply.[77] In 1825 he was able to boast that he had aroused national interest: "I have correspondents from Maine to East Florida, on the sea-board, and in the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, to the north and west, on the subject of planting vineyards and making wine."[78] It was in this year, probably, that the wealthy Ohio lawyer and landowner Nicholas Longworth visited Adlum and obtained from him cuttings of the Catawba vine:[79] the results of that encounter form part of another chapter. In 1827 Adlum had the dubious pleasure of inspiring a new contribution to the literature of American winegrowing. The work was a treatise in verse called The Vigneron , published in Washington, D.C., by one Isaac G. Hutton.[80] This strange performance, touching on temperance, soils, planting, cultivation, and other subjects, prints an essay by Adlum "On Propagating Grape Vines in a Vineyard" as an appendix, and also makes such familiar allusion to Adlum as to show that, if he did not beget the poem, he must at least have known that it was being perpetrated.[81]


All over the country waves were felt and echoes heard from the stir that Adlum had made. From South Carolina to New York, farmers, nurserymen, and journalists paid a new attention to the grape, not wholly because of Adlum, but in large part because of the fact that he had done well with a native grape at last and was equipped to publicize what he had done. In Maryland, for example, Adlum had been particularly aggressive in advertising his work, but met a disappointing reluctance on the part of the state agricultural society to do anything about viticulture.[82] Then, in 1828, a company of private gentlemen received a charter from the state to form the "Maryland Society for Promoting the Culture of the Vine," capitalized at $3,000, and furnished with many respectable names among its officers.[83] The intention of the society was to show the way towards scientific advance in vine growing and winemaking. Its plan, evidently inspired by Adlum's notion of a national vineyard, was to establish a small vineyard in which trials could be made of both European and native grapes, and, by its example, encourage the formation of other such societies. After a good deal of early publicity, however, not much seems to have been done. The society still had not managed to find land for a vineyard a year after its founding, and hence could do nothing towards hiring apprentices, selling cuttings, holding exhibitions, and diffusing information as it proposed to do. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the society is the fact that, even though it was called forth by Adlum's success with the Catawba, it still proposed to experiment with vinifera; it marked, as Hedrick has noted, the last organized effort to grow European grapes in eastern America—or rather, the last before the renewed trials of the late twentieth century.[84] Of course, the untried assumption that vinifera would grow here continued to be widespread among individuals. S. I. Fisher, for example, in his Observations on the Character and Culture of the European Vine (Philadelphia, 1834), argued that if we would only imitate the vine growing practices of the Swiss, we would succeed in acclimating the foreign vine. Fisher recommends, too, that Legaux's old Pennsylvania Vine Company should be revived for the purpose.

In 1826 Adlum published another treatise—a pamphlet, really—under the title of Adlum on Making Wine ,[85] but his importance now was less as a winemaker than as a nurseryman promoting the wide distribution of native grapes in a country now at last prepared to believe in them. Adlum used a part of his Memoir as a catalog of his nursery, offering cuttings for sale: the list of the varieties he had available is an instructive record of the state of varietal development then. He includes a number of vinifera grapes, but the heart of the list lay in the native vines: "Tokay" (as he then called the Catawba), Schuylkill Muscadel (Alexander), Bland's Madeira, Clifton's Constantia (a variant of the Alexander), Muncy (later affirmed to be Catawba), Worthington, Red Juice, Carolina Purple Muscadine, and Orwigsburgh. The Red Juice grape is presumably that which the Harmonists are reported to have grown along with the Alexander; the Worthington is probably the variety better known as Clinton, a hybrid of riparia, labrusca, and some vinifera; it was later much used for red wine, but without giving much satisfaction—the fruit, Hedrick says, is "small and sour," the wine "too raucous."[86] Bland's Madeira is a labrusca-


vinifera hybrid like the Alexander, and of almost as early discovery as the Alexander. Colonel Theodorick Bland, of Virginia, brought it to notice just before the Revolution, and there are reports of it under various names—Powel or Powell is the most common—in vineyards in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the early nineteenth century. Bland's Madeira was probably the "Madeira" that Dufour obtained from Legaux and grew in Kentucky and Indiana, but we cannot be sure.

In 1828 Adlum brought out a second edition of the Memoir , in which the list has been increased by the addition of four more grapes: an unnamed variety from North Carolina, two labruscas called Luffborough and Elkton, and Isabella. The last is a superior chance hybrid of vinifera and labrusca, introduced and promoted by the Long Island nurseryman and viticulturist William Prince as early as 1816. Originating, probably, in South Carolina, it was the chief alternative to Catawba for many years, for it ripens earlier than Catawba and is therefore preferred by growers in the middle Atlantic and New England states. Had Prince made wine in commercial quantities from the Isabella and publicized it, he might well have challenged Adlum for the position as the first to sponsor a good native grape. Adlum's list is a reasonably complete enumeration of what an American winegrower had to work with at the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. All of these varieties were accidents, the result of spontaneous seedlings; both the Isabella and the Catawba, the best two of the lot, have serious cultural defects and are susceptible to diseases that could not then be controlled; none was fit for the production of red wine, a severe limitation if one agrees that it is the first duty of a wine to be red. It was not, in short, much of a basis to work on, but it was all that was available up to the decade before the Civil War. Then there was a great and sudden increase in the number of varieties available, thanks to a belated but enthusiastic outburst of interest in grape breeding.

One of the last episodes in Adlum's career as a propagandist of winegrowing was his petition addressed to the U.S. Senate in April 1828 stating his claim to recognition for his work as a vineyardist and winemaker and requesting that the Senate take steps to make the newly published second edition of his Memoir "useful to the United States, and of some advantage to your petitioner ."[87] The Senate committee on agriculture, to which the petition was referred, proposed that the Treasury buy 3,000 copies of Adlum's book for distribution by members of the Senate, but the proposal struck the senators as unorthodox and was defeated.[88] It seems reasonable to suppose that Adlum needed the money; Longworth, as we have already seen, noted Adlum's "poverty," and there is further evidence of his neediness in 1831, when Adlum laid claim to a tiny pension for which he was eligible as a soldier in the Revolution.[89] From 1830 until his death in 1836 he does not figure in the public discussion of grapes and wine, though that went on in full flow. Adlum's name fell into obscurity after his death; his modest home in Georgetown stood until, derelict, it was demolished early in this century; the knowledge of his burial place was, for a long time, lost; and the record of his work was forgotten


until brought back to light by the researches of the great botanical scholar and writer Liberty Hyde Bailey at the end of the nineteenth century.

As with most "Fathers" of institutions or of complex inventions, like the airplane or the automobile, Adlum can hardly be claimed to have been sole father to American viticulture. His establishment was at no time anything but a very small affair; he was not the first to introduce a usable hybrid native grape; he was certainly not the first to produce a tolerable wine; nor was his Memoir the first American treatise on the subject. It would be more sensible to say that he came at the right time in the right place, and that he is fully entitled to the credit of introducing the Catawba and of knowing how to promote it. After Adlum, the history of wine in eastern America is a different story.

The South in the Early Republic

A brief look at the South will close this chapter. The South was not merely the source of usable native hybrids—the Isabella and Catawba from the Carolinas; Bland's grape and the Norton from Virginia. It also had a part in the many winemaking trials made after the Revolution.

Despite the presence of such distinguished amateurs as Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, Virginia was not one of the leaders in the development of viticulture and winemaking in the early days of the Republic. No doubt many private gentlemen kept up their interest in the subject: Adlum reported that the Virginians were more eager for cuttings from him than any others.[90] Josiah Lockhart, for instance, of Frederick County, bought 2,000 vines of Catawba from Adlum and was producing a few gallons of wine by 1827.[91] One notable event, of considerable importance for the future, was the introduction of the Norton grape by Dr. D. N. Norton of Richmond, Virginia. Sometime around 1820 Dr. Norton planted seed from a vine of the native grape called "Bland" that had fruited near a vinifera grape; one of the resultant seedlings he selected for its superior qualities, which would later be recognized by commercial plantings in Virginia, Missouri, and elsewhere.[92]

Something has already been said about the Scuppernong wine of North Carolina, which had reputation enough to attract Jefferson's interest. "Scuppernong" properly refers to a white variety of the species rotundifolia, the muscadine grape, a variety first brought to notice in North Carolina and much cultivated there from the early nineteenth century on. The popularity of the variety has led to the name Scuppernong being used for muscadines generally, but I restrict it to its original reference. The wine that Jefferson drank and liked was the produce of well-to-do planters around Edenton and Plymouth in the low country on Albemarle Sound; some of this, at least, came from cultivated vineyards. Whether grapes from wild vines were also used is unclear, but seems highly likely. Farther south, Scuppernong wine was almost a vin de pays for the poor; all along the Cape Fear River for a distance of seventy miles, we are told, farmers made wine from the wild grapes and


used it "as freely as cider is used in New England."[93] Observers from time to time noted the ease with which such wine was produced, prompting them to wonder whether it might not be promoted from a hobby or cottage industry to become a staple product for the enrichment of the state.[94] Certainly North Carolina needed such a thing, for its agricultural economy in the first part of the century was well-nigh desperate, the consequence of reckless farming and exhausted soils. More land lay abandoned than was actually in production, and the population declined with emigration.[95] The State Board of Agriculture recognized the possibility of grape culture by distributing vines in the state from 1823 to 1830; but, though the newspapers wrote of what might be done, little in fact came of the effort to turn the worn-out lands of the state into vineyards.[96]

The possibilities of the high ground in the western part of North Carolina, so different from the low and swampy coastal plain favored by the muscadine, were also explored. Around 1827 the state legislature made a grant of 500 acres in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, in the Blue Ridge country, to a Frenchman who undertook to grow grapes experimentally there.[97] What he did, or whether he did anything, are questions for which, as so often happens, no record has been found to answer.

It is in South Carolina, with its intermittent but persistent history of grape growing, going back to the early Huguenot emigration, that much of the interesting work is to be found. Towards the end of the century, the South Carolina Society for Promoting Agriculture (later the Agricultural Society of South Carolina) attempted to assist winegrowing along the familiar lines of importing cuttings from Europe and distributing them for trial,[98] with the usual result: the members were "inexperienced in the peculiar culture of the vine, their labourers were hirelings who did but little, and finally their funds failed them."[99] The one essential thing omitted from such a recital is that the climate and diseases killed the vines quite independently of all the other failures. After this disappointment, the society tried another tack by subsidizing a self-proclaimed expert to cultivate vines near Columbia. A contemporary historian says laconically that "their liberality was misapplied."[100] It is not clear whether this person was the same as "one Magget" who obtained a grant from the legislature around 1800 for the purpose of developing viticulture.[101] Perhaps so; and perhaps it was the same person who in November 1798 gave the address to the Agricultural Society published anonymously as "A Memorial on the Practicability of Growing Vineyards in the State of South Carolina." This was filled with extravagant claims and unreal calculations, demonstrating that, unlike cotton, rice, tobacco, and indigo, the grape presented "an inexhaustible source of riches and opulence."[102]

More productive than the publicly supported efforts were those of individual vineyard owners, of whom there had always been many in South Carolina. The focus of activity after the Revolution shifted from the coast at Charleston, or along the Savannah River, to higher ground around the newly established capital at Columbia and beyond. Benjamin Waring raised grapes and made wine as early as


1802 at Columbia; he was evidently working with a superior selection of native grapes, for he was able to produce wine without added sugar, though with one gallon of brandy to every twelve of juice—a considerable dose to us but a modest measure then.[103] Another, later, Columbia grower was James S. Guignard, who for many years grew Catawba and Norton grapes, as well as one that he called "Guignard."[104] Samuel Maverick, best known for his pioneering work in establishing the cotton culture of the South, was an enthusiastic viticulturist too. At his estate of Montpelier, at Pendleton in the far western corner of the state, Maverick made trials of various grapes, both native and foreign, and of different methods of training, as well as experimenting with soils, fertilizers, and horticultural methods. By 1823 Maverick had nearly fifty varieties growing and with the typical optimism of the time predicted that wine would soon be as valuable to the South as cotton then was.[105] When Caroline Olivia Laurens, wife of Henry Laurens, Jr., visited Maverick in July 1825, she found him full of proselytizing zeal. First he presented the party with "wine of his own manufacturing, equal to Frontinac," and then "he conducted us to his vineyard, which covers an acre or more of land. . .. The old man seemed very desirous that his neighbors should try the cultivation of the vine; he said that he thought this as good a country for grapes as the South of France, and he had no doubt that in a few years wine will be as lucrative a commodity as cotton."[106]

The most active and effective grower was Nicholas Herbemont of Columbia, who began growing grapes about 1811 and who did much to advertise the possibilities of winemaking in South Carolina for the next twenty years. I have not been able to learn much about him. He was evidently French-born, rather than a descendant of the South Carolina Huguenots.[107] He is sometimes referred to as "Doctor," but, on his own authority, he had no claim to the title.[108] In any case, he was an articulate and literate man, writing often for the agricultural press. Like Adlum, he was interested in the technicalities of winemaking and in the search for better native varieties. It is no surprise that, as a Frenchman, he did not immediately concentrate upon the native grapes; it is said that he returned to France in order to bring back vinifera vines to his adopted country.[109] But experience made it clear that success lay with the natives.

Herbemont's best wines came from a grape that he called Madeira, and that others called Herbemont's Madeira; it is now known simply as Herbemont. A member of the subspecies of aestivalis called Bourquiniana, the Herbemont grape probably contains vinifera blood as well. It is eminently a southern grape, sensitive to cold and requiring a long season; given the right conditions, Herbemont is that rare thing among natives, a grape with a good balance of sugar and acid. The white wine that Herbemont made from this grape he called "Palmyra wine" after his farm at Columbia.[110] It is much to be regretted that this excellent practice of naming the wine after the place of its production did not set a clear precedent and so spare us the clarets, madeiras, champagnes, burgundies, and ports whose borrowed names have confused and obstructed the development of a distinctive range of


American types and terms. Herbemont's other favored grape was the Lenoir, another variety of Bourquiniana, also restricted to the South, and giving a red wine better than the average expected from other native grapes—a very guarded praise. Herbemont was not the discoverer or the exclusive promoter of these grapes, both of which had an earlier history quite independent of him. But he did bring them to public notice in connection with his own successful manufacture of wine and he deserves to have his name perpetuated by the first of them.

Like all native winegrowers, he had to overcome much prejudice. The South Carolinian lawyer and politician William John Grayson reported that he and other legislators once sampled the wine of the "urbane and kind hearted" Herbemont. Grayson thought the wine "very pleasant. But not so my more experienced colleagues, adepts in Old Madeira and Sherry; they held the home article in very slender estimation. They thought it, as they said, a good wine to keep, and were content that it should be kept accordingly."[111]

Unlike Adlum, Herbemont did not produce a book on winegrowing, though a series of his articles on grape culture contributed to the Southern Agriculturist (1828) was reprinted as a pamphlet in 1833.[112] Perhaps for this reason in part, and perhaps too because he worked in the relative obscurity of the new, raw town of Columbia, he did not achieve the same effect as Adlum; in every other respect he seems entitled to the same recognition as his better-known contemporary. One might fairly think of them as sharing a divided labor, the one appealing to the mid-Atlantic states and to the North, the other to the South.

The uncertainties of a cotton-based agriculture on exhausted soils and in competition with new lands to the west made the search for alternative crops a familiar business in the seaboard states of the South. Viticulture was a frequently suggested possibility, and, as we have seen, the legislatures of both Carolinas supported experiments that would, it was hoped, bring it into being. Herbemont had his own special ideas about the public usefulness of a winegrowing industry. He was frightened by the future of a South with a slave population whose occupation—cotton—was disappearing from the older regions. What would happen if the slave population continued to grow while the work for which it was destined continued to diminish? What was wanted was a new industry—winegrowing—and a new kind of labor—"suitable labourers from Europe."[113]

In 1827 Herbemont presented his ideas to the South Carolina senate in the form of a memorial urging that the state subsidize the emigration of "a number of vignerons from France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland" who could be established in small communities throughout the state to turn the unprofitable pine barrens and sand hills into rich vineyards. The idea is one familiar from the beginning of southern colonization, but this time, at least, Herbemont recognized that European practices could not be simply transferred unchanged to the United States: "Experience has shown, that the mode of cultivation must be very different here from what it is in Europe." Nevertheless, Europeans could be quickly taught, and would then form a source of labor fit to carry out the agricultural transformation of the state.


The senate received the memorial with murmurs of praise for the "unwearied perserverance, untiring industry, and botanical research of the memorialist," but noted with regret that the state of the treasury would not allow the scheme to be acted on.[114]

A comparable scheme had been submitted to the South Carolina legislature a few years earlier by two promoters named Antonio Della Torre and James C. W. McDonnald. They proposed in 1825 to bring over Italian farmers—"a well conducted free white body of labourers"—to introduce the cultivation of that classic triad in the dream of American prosperity, wine, silk, and oil. Forty thousand dollars, they thought, would be enough to meet expenses through the necessary waiting time before profits started to roll in. Except that the language of their memorial is in a later idiom, one might be reading a prospectus of the sixteenth century—with the difference that the nineteenth-century visionaries were aware of earlier failures. These, however, were easily explained away, and appeal made to the unanswerable evidence of the native vine: "Your memorialists . . . feel assured also that the Great Author of nature would not have caused festoons of the wild grape to adorn many parts of this state, if He intended to declare—'this shall not be a wine country.'"[115] To this theological argument the legislature was politely respectful, but it did not see fit to support the faith with $40,000.

In Georgia, too, winemaking was thought of as a possible way out of agricultural depression. The committee on agriculture of the Georgia legislature reported in 1828 that the desirable commodities of which there was hope were—wine, silk, and oil! The persistence of the original vision, intact, after all the years since the colony's founding says much about the power of the wish over experience. But the committee had, it said, evidence that "very good wine was made in the state as early as 1740."[116] Is it possible that the evidence was that pathetic single bottle of Savannah wine presented to Oglethorpe by Stephens (see above, p. 51)?

Any genuine evidence in favor of the practicability of winegrowing in Georgia would have come from the examples of enthusiastic amateurs. The best known was General Thomas McCall, who, since 1816, had been tending a vineyard on piney land in Laurens County and making wine in small commercial quantities. His experience, which recapitulates the general American pattern, is interesting partly because it went back so far. McCall had known Andrew Estave, the Frenchman who directed the luckless public vineyard at Williamsburg in the early 1770s; McCall also read and made use of St. Pierre's Art of Planting and Cultivating the Vine .[117] He thus bridges the gap between the unbroken failures of prerevolutionary efforts and the tentative successes of the early nineteenth century. McCall, like everyone else, first planted vinifera grapes; when they failed, he fell back upon native vines, particularly one he called Warrenton, now identified as Herbemont. From a local fox grape he also made a wine with the delightful name of "Blue Favorite."[118] McCall had a technician's turn of mind: he kept careful notes on weather and on his wine-making procedures, and contributed an essential improvement to technique by making use, for the first time in the American record at any rate, of a hydrometer to


measure sugar content and so make possible accurate adjustment of the must.[119] This was a great and necessary development if well-balanced, light, dry table wines were ever to displace the over-sugared, brandy-bolstered confections that appear to have been the standard of such wine as Americans had contrived to make. The reputation of McCall's wines was such that the governor, in his message to the legislature in 1827, proposed that the state subsidize their production as a basis for a larger industry.[120] When he began his efforts, McCall said, he had for many years been unable to make "a single convert to the faith . . . they call me a visionary, and other names, as a reward for my endeavours."'[121] In time, he succeeded in interesting other amateurs to dabble in winemaking, and there was a period in the 1820s and early 1830s when Georgian connoisseurs were beginning to talk boastfully about the select vintages of their state. The impulse died with the individuals who imparted it, however; another generation would pass before anything resembling a continuing industry arose.

In 1830, at Philadelphia, the eccentric and unfortunate botanist and savant-of-all-trades, Constantine Rafinesque, born in Constantinople, but long resident in the United States, published the second volume of his Medical flora , a comprehensive treatise on the plants of North America having pharmaceutical value. Rafinesque, an original but undisciplined observer, who died in obscure poverty in the next decade, and whose classifications are the despair of later students, included in his work a long treatise on Vitis , with special reference to American vines and American conditions. He had, he tells us, worked in the vineyards of Adlum at Georgetown in preparation for his opus,[122] and he evidently thought highly enough of the sixty-odd pages that he devoted to the subject in his comprehensive treatise to republish them separately in the same year under the title of an American Manual of Grape Vines and the Method of Making Wine . Though his classifications are fanciful, and his advice on winemaking of no particular originality, Rafinesque obviously cared much about the possibilities of winegrowing in this country, and took the trouble to survey the state of the industry not once but twice, first in 1825 and again in 1830.[123] It is this information that still gives his curious treatise some authority after a century and a half have lapsed.

Dufour, we remember, had surveyed American grape growing at the end of the eighteenth century, and had found scarcely a single vineyard worthy of the name from New York to St. Louis. The changes made in the next quarter of a century are indicated by Rafinesque's summary. In 1825, he learned, there were not more than sixty vineyards to be found in the entire country, ranging from one to twenty acres, and aggregating not more than six hundred acres altogether. That was just after Adlum's introduction of the Catawba, the plantings of the Dutchmen around York, and the experiments of McCall, Herbemont, and others in the South; their contributions had not yet had their chance to take effect. Five years later, in 1830, Rafinesque found that the pace of things had accelerated in unmistakable fashion. There were then, he reported, two hundred vineyards of from three to forty acres, making a total of five thousand acres—a miniscule amount measured


Among his many interests, the unfortunate Constantine
 Rafinesque (1783-1840) paid special attention to grapes 
and wine. He worked in John Adlum's vineyard to gain 
experience, published an  American Manual of Grape 
Vines and the Method of Making Wine
, and made two 
surveys of American winegrowing activity. Rafinesque was 
an inveterate traveller and writer. His main work was in 
botany and ichthyology, but he taught modern languages, 
worked as a merchant, and wrote on banking, economics, 
and the Bible before his death as a neglected pauper. (From
 Rafinesque, "A Life of Travels,"  Chronica Botanica  8, no. 2 [1944])

against the undeveloped expanses of the United States, but still an impressive increase in a mere five years, testifying to a new confidence and a new sort of success in viticulture, so long attempted and so long frustrated in this country. Approximate and even doubtful as Rafinesque's figures are, they are at least symbolically valid as an expression of what was happening at last in the first part of the nineteenth century. As an act of piety towards the pioneers, Rafinesque set down the names of the vineyardists who had done the work: in New York, Gibbs, Prince, and Loubat; in Pennsylvania, Legaux, Eichelberger, Carr, Webb; in Maryland, Adlum; in Virginia, Lockhart, Weir, and Noel. The list goes on and does not bear quoting in full. But it marks the first time that such a thing could have been compiled, and for us it marks the point from which the growth of an industry can be measured. There have been many changes, diversions, obstructions, and failures since Rafinesque compiled his list, but there has not, since then, been any further doubt that the work of winegrowing in this country was a permanent fact rather than a prophecy—at least so far as nature's assent is concerned.


The Spread of Commercial Winegrowing

Nicholas Longworth and the Cincinnati Region

The defrauded settlers at Gallipolis, the nameless Frenchman making wine at Marietta, Rapp's Germans at Economy, Dufour's Swiss at Vevay, and all the other earliest winemaking settlers along the banks of the Ohio, from Pittsburgh almost to the junction with the Mississippi, were vindicated at last by the success of Nicholas Longworth at Cincinnati. As the main highway from east to west during the period of early settlement, the Ohio had inevitably seen repeated trials of viticulture, suggested by the combination of southward-facing slopes and broad waters. Dufour, as early as 1801, had assured Congress that the Ohio would rival the Rhine; it has never done so, but it was the scene of the first considerable wine production in this country, flourishing around Cincinnati from the early 1830s till after the Civil War, and unashamedly flaunting the naive slogan "The Rhineland of America."[1] An account of what lay behind this too-ready formula is instructive as to the chances and changes of commercial winegrowing in the era when useful native varieties had been found but before effective controls against diseases had been discovered.

The first person to plant a vineyard on the site now occupied by Cincinnati, on the great double curve of the Ohio, was a Frenchman named Francis Menissier, a political refugee who had once sat in the French parlement . At the end of the eighteenth century he laid out a small vineyard of vinifera on a slope of the new town (now the corner of Main and Third).[2] There he had success enough—or claimed that he had—to petition Congress in 1806 for a grant of land for vine growing on


the strength of his experiments.[3] The petition was denied, but Menissier's example was not lost.

In 1804 a young man named Nicholas Longworth (1782-1863) arrived in Cincinnati from Newark, New Jersey, to make his fortune in this new and burgeoning town, soon to be a city.[4] Longworth had already discovered a consuming interest in horticulture, but he put that aside while he studied law and began a successful practice. He soon found himself doing even better in land than in the law, and in no very long time he was recognized as having the true Midas touch: property that he bought for a song became worth millions, and Longworth joined John Jacob Astor as one of the two largest taxpayers in the United States. Longworth was a little man, and eccentric in dress, speech, and manner. But he was also strong-willed and successful, so that he could afford to do as he wished. By 1828 he was able to quit a regular business life and devote himself to his horticultural interests. These were fairly wide—he helped to establish the scientific culture of the strawberry, for ex-ample-but his first and most enduring love was the grape.

His attention was caught by the work of the Swiss at Vevay, and as early as 1813 Longworth had begun to experiment with grape growing in a backyard way—this was even before the return of Dufour from his long European sojourn.[5] His first commercial beginnings, in 1823,[6] were with the grape grown at Vevay, that is, the Cape or Alexander, which Longworth set out on a four-acre vineyard in Delhi township under the care of a German named Amen or Ammen. Longworth had the idea—a good one—that by making a white rather than a red wine from the Alexander he might get an article superior to that which the Swiss were selling along the Ohio. What he got, according to his own recollection, was a tolerable imitation of madeira, a white wine that required amelioration with added sugar and fortification with brandy.[7]

That was not what he wanted. The next step—again, as in the case of so many other pioneers, we recapitulate in miniature the general history of vine growing in America—was to try European varieties. He planted these by the thousands, from all sources, over a period of thirty years, and did not publicly repudiate the possibility of using vinifera until 1849.[8] He saw, however, that the development of good native varieties was the most important job to be done. He never faltered in that conviction, and even after his success with the wines of the Catawba, he continued to offer a $500 reward for a variety that would surpass that grape for winemaking.[9] He received and made trial of native vines from all over the United States, but did not succeed in finding a new variety to eclipse the Catawba.

Longworth's primary object was the production of an attractive dry table wine from the native grape, both in the name of "temperance" (already a rallying-cry among the moralists of the United States) and because such wine is the necessary basis of any sound winemaking industry in any country. The American idea of wine was, in Longworth's judgment, thoroughly corrupt: the wine favored by a public without a native winegrowing tradition, and long accustomed to rum and


Nicholas Longworth (1782-1863), the man who made Cincinnati and the
 banks of the Ohio the "Rhineland of America," at the height of his 
reputation as the leading American winemaker. The Catawba grapes on
 the table and the vineyards in the background are the emblems of 
Longworth's achievement. (Portrait by Robert S. Duncanson, 1858; 
Cincinnati Art Museum)

whiskey, generally contained 25 percent alcohol, and, Longworth added, "I have seen it contain forty percent."[10] After his unsatisfactory trials with the Alexander and with imported vinifera, Longworth got his chance when Major Adlum provided him with cuttings of the Catawba in 1825. Why Longworth should have been so slow to respond to this possibility I do not know: he must have known of the new grape as early as 1823, when Adlum began to publicize it. In any case, 1825 is the date of record.[11] Precisely when he got his first wines from the Catawba, is not clear. But by 1828, the year in which he retired to devote himself to wine-


growing, he was already well embarked on the plan with which he persisted through the rest of his life. Young Thomas Trollope, the brother of the novelist, who had accompanied his family to Cincinnati in 1828 on its hare-brained scheme for a frontier emporium selling exotic bijoux, made Longworth's acquaintance then and remembered him as "extremely willing to talk exclusively on schemes for the introduction of the vine into the Western States."[12] Young Trollope's mother, the redoubtable Frances, was quite unflattering about the wine of Cincinnati. A note to her Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) provides what may be the first published judgment on Longworth's wines. It is not encouraging:

During my residence in America, I repeatedly tasted native wine from vineyards carefully cultivated, and on the fabrication of which a considerable degree of imported science had been bestowed; but the very best of it was miserable stuff. It should seem that Nature herself requires some centuries of schooling before she becomes perfectly accomplished in ministering to the luxuries of man, and, perhaps as there is no lack of sunshine, the champagne and Bordeaux of the Union may appear simultaneously with a Shakspeare, a Raphael, and a Mozart.[13]

The basis of Longworth's plan for viticulture was to make use of—or exploit—the labor of the German immigrants flowing into the Cincinnati region and giving it that German flavor that it still retains. When Trollope knew him, Longworth was employing Germans to cultivate vineyards on his own estate at a wage of a shilling a day (Trollope's figure) and food—a peonage advantageous to Longworth and perhaps tolerable to the new immigrants.[14] The Germans were in fact doubly necessary: they not only grew and made the wine, they drank it as well. The dry white catawba that Longworth succeeded in making was unappreciated by Americans used to sweeter and more potent confections; Longworth used to tell about how even the choicest Rheingaus were mistaken by American tasters for cider or even vinegar. The Germans, however, were better instructed, and for many years, Longworth wrote, "all the wine made at my vineyards, has been sold at our German coffee-houses, and drank in our city."[15]

Like all American winegrowers before him and afterwards, Longworth was troubled by the tendency of Americans to prefer wines with European names to those that were honestly, but too adventurously, given names that meant nothing to an uninstructed consumer: "catawba" was dubious at best; "hock" meant familiarity and security. So, at some time in the 1830s, he wickedly put counterfeit labels on his bottles of catawba: Ganz Vorzuglicher (Entirely Superior); Berg Tusculum (Mount Tusculum, after the actual name of one of his vineyard sites); and Versichert (Guaranteed).[16] He did not actually put these labels on the market, but they helped to make his point—still a familiar one—that there were many who could not abide native wine under its own label but who acclaimed it under a foreign one.

Longworth continued, as he had begun, with his system of using German labor, though the terms became more liberal than those described by Trollope in 1828. Typically, Longworth sought to settle a German Weinbauer on a small


Members of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, founded in 1843. At least three of these men—
Dr. J. A. Warder, Robert Buchanan, and Nicholas Longworth—were leading wine-growers in 
Cincinnati. Note the grapes prominent among the fruits displayed on the table. (Cincinnati 
Historical Society)

patch—four acres at most—and to leave him to himself to plant and cultivate. When a crop came in, Longworth would buy the grapes or the must or the vane, and split the profits with his tenant.[17] As the business developed, more and more of the processing went on under Longworth's own control, but the growing continued to be the business of the Germans, who had, as he said, been "bred from their infancy to the cultivation of the vine."

Longworth's earliest public account of his work in winegrowing appears to be an essay he contributed to a local compendium of agricultural advice published in Cincinnati in 1830, in which he urged that silk culture, the perennial rival of viticulture in the American dream, ought to be postponed in favor of the grape, and gave his own experience as his reason for thinking so.[18] In succeeding years the increasing number, frequency, and prominence of his contributions to the press on winegrowing provide an approximate measure of his growing success and recognition. His writings remained irregular and scattered, usually taking the form of letters addressed to particular topics, but they helped to make him the best-known and most frequently consulted expert on the subject of wine in his generation.


Longworth's scale of operations remained small through the 1830s; in 1833, for example, when he took the County Fair prize for his "pure Catawba," the produce of the nine scattered vineyards on which he had tenants was only fifty barrels, or about 3,000 gallons.[19] The development of viticulture in the ensuing ten years is witnessed by the establishment of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society in 1843; it at once took an interest in winegrowing, and made its first report on the subject in the year of its founding.[20]

The explosive expansion of the industry occurred after 1842, when Longworth, quite by accident, produced a sparkling catawba (as it was always called: never "champagne").[21] Even if he did not know how to make one, Longworth decided that a sparkling wine would be his means of opening a market beyond the Weinstuben of Cincinnati. After trying and failing to duplicate his first accidental success, he sent for a Frenchman in 1845. Unluckily, the poor man drowned in the Ohio before he could apply the secrets of his knowledge. Longworth found a successor, who commenced his work in 1847. Though the winemaker was French, Longworth was quite firm about his intent to develop a native wine. "I shall not attempt to imitate any of the sparkling wines of Europe," he wrote in 1849; instead, he aimed to provide "a pure article having the peculiar flavor of our native grape."[22]

By 1848 Longworth had built a 40' x 50' cellar expressly for the production and storage of sparkling catawba; by 1850 he was turning out 60,000 bottles a year and had plans for national distribution of his wine. This he began in 1852, by which year he had two cellars devoted to his sparkling wine, and a production of around 75,000 bottles.[23] The wine was made by the traditional méthode champenoise , in which, after a dose of sugar was added to the wine following its first fermentation, a second fermentation was carried out in the bottles, and the resulting sediment cleared by the tedious process of hand riddling. Losses from bottles bursting under the intense pressure of fermentation were sometimes catastrophically high: when 42,000 of 50,000 bottles were thus lost in a season, Longworth naturally wondered whether it was worth continuing.[24] Something, however, was saved from these losses by distilling the spilled wine into catawba brandy, as a brochure put out by Longworth's firm innocently admits.[25]

A third cellar manager, one Fournier, from Rheims, arrived in 1851 and did better.[26] The troubles and losses of the first years were rewarded; if Americans had been put off by the tart, dry taste of still catawba, they knew without instruction how to be pleased by bubbles. Suddenly, Cincinnati's winegrowers, and Longworth in particular, had a national winner, a widely advertised and widely enjoyed proof that the United States could produce an acceptable wine.

Longworth thoroughly understood the value of advertising. His letters to the press were progress reports on the promising development of his enterprise. He sent his wine to editors and to the competitions of horticultural and state agricultural societies: as early as 1846 he was exhibiting samples of catawba at the annual fair of the American Institute in New York City.[27] In common with a number of other Cincinnati producers, he sent samples of his wine to the Great Exhibition of


1851 in London, the original ancestor of and the model for all subsequent international exhibitions and fairs. The produce of native American grapes was, of course, powerfully strange to British palates; as the official Catalogue of the Exhibition politely remarked, "With many persons the taste for [catawba] is very soon acquired, with others it requires considerable time."[28] The publicity was bound to be helpful back in the United States. One of the great sensations of the Exhibition, the demurely naked Greek Slave of the American sculptor Hiram Powers, was the source of immense national pride in the United States when it was known that the British admired the piece. Powers, as it happened, was a Cincinnati boy whose first patron had been Longworth, another well-publicized fact that helped put Longworth in an attractive light—was he not domesticating both Bacchus and the Muses?[29]

Longworth also sent samples of his wine to eminent men as a way of promoting it. Powers, in Italy, was a useful agent in presenting catawba to politely interested Italians. Perhaps it was during his years in Italy that the poet Robert Browning heard of catawba wine. He knew of it, at any rate, for it is referred to in his curious poem "Mr. Sludge, the Medium" (1864).[30] Longworth made a lucky hit with the poet Longfellow, who responded to a gift of sparkling catawba with some hasty verses (injudiciously included in his collected poems) that have often been reprinted since. A very few lines are enough to show such merit as the poem possesses:

        Very good in its way
        Is the Verzenay
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
        But Catawba wine
        Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.

        There grows no vine
        By the haunted Rhine
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
        Nor on island or cape
        That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.[31]

In 1855 Longworth was able to boast that he had sent a few cases of his wine to London, where it had been successfully sold in the regular way of trade.[32] By this time, Longworth, his large house called Belmont, on Pike Street, adorned with the work of Powers, and his vineyards on a hill (now part of Eden Park) had long beer established as premier attractions among the sights of Cincinnati, to be exhibited to all the many interested travellers who made their way to the Queen City of the Ohio before the Civil War.[33] Longworth was a national figure, celebrated for his wealth, his wine, and, most of all, for being a "character," shabbily dressed, la—conic, unpredictable, and—according to the press at any rate—prodigal of charity. The English journalist Charles Mackay, travelling through the United States as the correspondent of the Illustrated London News in 1858, will do to represent many


Longworth's vineyards recorded in 1858, perhaps more after the fashion of European models than as
 unadorned documentary truth. The steamboat and the train represent American progress, but the style 
of the vendangeurs  and  vendangeuses  is distinctly Old World, as is the single-stake training of the vines, 
like that practiced on the Moselle and the Rhine. (From  Harper's Weekly . 24 July 1858)

others. Cincinnati did not impress him as quite so enlightened a place as its inhabitants liked to think; as they had been to Mrs. Trollope thirty years earlier, pigs were too much in evidence for Mackay's taste, those pigs that, barreled as pickled pork and shipped up and down the river, gave Cincinnati the name of Porkopolis and made it wealthy. Longworth and his wine moved Mackay's unreserved admiration, however; dry catawba, he reported to the English, was better than any hock, and sparkling catawba better than anything coming from Rheims. When prose seemed inadequate to his rapture, Mackay (a facile song writer) broke forth into verse:

Ohio's green hilltops
        Grow bright in the sun
And yield us more treasure
        Than Rhine or Garonne;
They give us Catawba,
        The pure and the true,
As radiant as sunlight,
        As soft as the dew.[34]

Not everyone was so well pleased by Cincinnati's wines: the native character of the Catawba, its labrusca foxiness, was a shock to any uninitiated taste, and some visitors were candid enough to say so. When the Englishwoman Isabella


A menu from the Gibson House, Cincinnati, dated 15 November 1856. 
Sparkling Catawba from the local vineyards is listed on the same terms
 as some distinguished  grandes marques  from Champagne; so, too, 
among the "Hocks," one finds "Buchanan's Catawba" listed along 
with Marcobrunner and Rudesheimer. (California State University, 
Fresno, Library)

Trotter and her husband visited Cincinnati in 1858, almost at the same time as the well-disposed Mackay had been entertained there, they were regaled by their hosts with "most copious supplies of their beloved Catawba champagne, which we do not love, for it tastes, to our uninitiated palates, little better than cider. It was served in a large red punch-bowl of Bohemian glass in the form of Catawba cobbler, which I thought improved it."[35] To balance the record, one may quote a more enthusiastic description of catawba cobbler, provided by the Cincinnati wine-grower W. J. Flagg. The wine, he says, should be young, and sugar and ice added


to it help to temper the heat of an Ohio valley summer: "A cobbler of new wine, grown in the valley of the Ohio, or Missouri, where the Catawba ripens almost to blackness, drunk when the dog-star rages, lingers in memory for life."[36]

Longworth was always the leading name in Cincinnati winemaking, and sparkling catawba was always the glamorous item. But they could not have long stood alone, and in fact a supporting industry developed quickly. Longworth's part of the whole diminished in proportion as others set up and began to develop their vineyards and wineries. In 1848 there were 300 acres planted, of which 100 were Longworth's; in 1852, there were 1,200, distributed among nearly 300 proprietors and tenants. In 1859, perhaps the peak year in the history of Cincinnati wine-growing, some 2,000 acres produced 568,000 gallons of wine, putting Ohio at the head of the nation's wine production.[37] Almost all of this was white, and almost all from the Catawba, which was now indisputably confirmed as the grape of the region. But it did not quite exclude all its rivals. In 1854, at the New York Exhibition of that year, it was Longworth's sparkling Isabella that took the highest award among American wines.[38]

Among the early growers who followed Longworth into viticulture were Robert Buchanan, John Mottier, William Pesor, C.W. Elliott, A. H. Ernst, and a string of doctors: Stephen Mosher, Louis Rehfuss, and John Aston Warder, the last-named becoming later one of the country's most distinguished horticulturists. Not all of them were actual Cincinnatians; at least, not all of them confined their activity to Cincinnati proper. Dr. Mosher, for example, lived and grew his grapes on the Kentucky side of the river, as did others, including the actor Edwin Forrest.[39] Other vineyards in Ohio lay outside Hamilton County, in which Cincinnati stands; vineyards flourished in Brown and Clermont counties, and extended down the river well into Indiana at least in a minor way, and sometimes in more than a minor way. Clark County, Indiana, across the river from Louisville, had 200 acres of Catawba by 1850, and the calculations of the production along the Ohio included the grapes of Kentucky and Indiana as significant additions to those of the immediate Cincinnati region.[40]

Like Longworth, most of the Ohio River proprietors seem to have relied upon tenants, German by choice, to perform the labor in the vineyards (and then it was usually the woman rather than the man who did the work, as Longworth was fond of pointing out).[41] At this uncertain stage, only a man who had other resources could sustain the vicissitudes of such a pioneering enterprise. The actual wine-making was carried out on the tenanted properties in the early days, with predictably uneven results. As production rose, and the reputation of the wine began to be established, winemaking came increasingly under the control of commercial houses whose business it was to perform the vinification, storage, and distribution of the wine. By 1854 Longworth had two such houses; over his main cellars he had built a sort of barracks, four stories high, where poor laborers and their families might live. They showed their gratitude by frequently breaking into the wine vaults below and stealing their landlord's choicest wine, or so it was reported.[42]


A winery on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, in the region of Cincinnati. The vintage
 scene in this picture is described thus: "The grapes, when fully ripe, are gathered in baskets
 containing about a bushel, as well as in a sort of 'pannier' of wood, made very light and strong, 
and which is supported by straps or thongs of willow, on the back of the picker; . . . they are 
brought from the vineyard in this manner and thrown upon the picking tables, where they are 
carefully assorted." (Western  Horticultural Review  I [1850])

Other négociants , as the French would call them, were G. and P. Bogen, Zimmerman and Co. (associated with Longworth), Dr. Louis Rehfuss, and, in Latonia, Ken—tucky, the firm of Messrs. Corneau and Son at their Cornucopia Vineyard, some four miles south of Covington, across the river from Cincinnati. The figures for 1853, a good year, give some idea of the scale of production. The commercia! houses bottled 245,000 bottles of sparkling wine in that year, and 205,000 of stil wine, the value of the whole being estimated at $400,000 at prices ranging from $1.50 a bottle for the finest sparkling wine to 40 cents a gallon for the lowest quality table wine.[43]

The accounts of winemaking methods in Cincinnati show that the general practice in the 1850s was excellent. Longworth himself was emphatic about the necessity of making "natural" wines and confident of his ability to do so. He set a good example. Grapes were picked at full maturity, and all green or unsound berries were removed from the bunches by hand. The grapes were then stemmed


Michael Werk, an Alsatian who prospered by making soap and candles in Cincinnati, 
joined the growing number of Cincinnati vineyardists in 1847. In less than a decade he 
was taking prizes for his wines. Later, when disease threatened to extinguish the Cincinnati 
vineyards, Werk developed large vineyards on the Lake Erie shore and then on Middle 
Bass Island in Lake Erie. (CozzensWine Press , 20 August 1856; California State University,
 Fresno, Library)

and crushed, and the juice fermented without the addition of sugar whenever possible. The French technique of rubbing the bunches over wooden grids in order to remove the stems was introduced by 1850.[44] The hydrometer was a standard tool, so that the winemaker knew whether he had sufficient sugar to insure a sound fermentation; if not, then the addition of sugar before fermentation was allowed. "allowed" by local agreement as to its utility, that is; we are talking about an in-


dustry in its Innocent Age, wholly unregulated and subject only to its own sweet will. Modern producers and dealers may try to imagine what that condition is like. The juice was fermented at low temperatures, under water seal, and quickly racked from its lees, without undue oxidation, and then stored in clean casks in cool cellars.[45] Modern technology could not prescribe better methods, so far as they went. One irregularity Longworth did, it was whispered, allow himself. He was convinced that Americans were partial to the "muscadine" flavor of rotundifolia grapes. In order to get it he bought large quantities of Scuppernong juice in the Pamlico and Albemarle regions of North Carolina and added that to flavor his Ohio catawba.[46] In the spring the wine may have undergone a malo-lactic fermentation, and then was ready for bottling. There was then, as there is now, some disagreement as to the proper length of aging for white wine. Longworth favored a long time in the wood, keeping his superior wines for four or five years. Others thought that a year in cask was enough: "There are many who think the Catawba wine is better at this period than ever afterwards" is how the writer in the U.S. Patent Office Report for 1850 puts it.[47]

Cincinnati wine may be said to have come of age at the beginning of the 1850s. The commercial wine houses, insuring the stability and distribution of the region's produce, were founded then. In 1851 the growers met in Cincinnati and organized the grandly named American Wine Growers' Association of Cincinnati. Its objects were to publish information useful to growers through its journal, the Western Horticultural Review , and to promote the interest of the industry generally, especially by insuring that only pure, natural wine was sent to the market.[48] The association sponsored a "Longworth Cup," awarded annually to the producer of that year's best catawba,[49] and was the first such organization concerned with wines and vines in this country that is entitled to be called an industry organization.[50]

At the Great Exhibition in London, to which, as has already been mentioned, the growers of Cincinnati made a respectable contribution, the official Catalogue explained that Cincinnati was now the "chief seat of wine manufacture in the United States" and that though yet in its infancy, the trade was "attracting much attention, and growing in importance in America."[51] In vindication of the claim, five producers besides Longworth exhibited specimens of catawba wine: Buchanan, Corneau and Son, Thomas H. Yeatman, C. A. Schumann, and H. Duhme. Yeatman, who took a prize for his wine in London, made visits to the vineyards and wine estates of France, Germany, and Switzerland in 1851 and 1852 in order to study European methods.[52] Longworth sent both catawba and unspecified "other wines" to the Exhibition—a reminder that he never ceased experimenting with alternatives to the Catawba grape in hopes of finding a variety without its defects. In the year following the Exhibition, Longworth began the promotion of his wine on a countrywide basis,[53] and with that event the wine of the Rhineland of America may be said to have arrived.

Cincinnati wine had only a very fragile tenure, however, more fragile than was yet recognized, though of course sensible men understood that the obstacles to be


The label of T. H. Yeatman, from he year in which his wine took a prize 
at the Great Exhibition, London. (Western  Horticultural Review  1 [1851])

surmounted were considerable. Robert Buchanan, for example, a successful Cincinnati merchant who began growing grapes in 1843, and who, with Longworth, was a founder of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society and a scientific student of viticulture and winemaking, took a modest view of what he and his fellows had accomplished. In his little Treatise on Grape Culture in Vineyards, in the Vicinity of Cincinnati (1850), the best practical handbook that had yet appeared on the subject in the United States, he wrote simply that "we have much to learn yet in the art of making wines."[54] But, as we have seen, the general principles of production at Cincinnati were in fact quite sound. The real—and soon fatal—weakness in the industry lay in the vine growing rather than in the winemaking. The Catawba did not always ripen well, and the average production was not very large; it seems to have run around one and a half tons per acre, though production as high as four tons was known, and ten was claimed.

Most ominous was the damage done by diseases, powdery mildew and black rot chief among them. In the first years of Catawba growing, these diseases were


Robert Buchanan's little book, first published anonymously, is one of the earliest and 
best accounts of winegrowing around Cincinnati. Buchanan, a Cincinnati merchant, 
had had a vineyard since 1843. His book, which went through seven editions in the 
next ten years, was unlike any of its American predecessors in being based on the 
practices of an established industry. No writer in this country before Buchanan had 
had that advantage. (California State University, Fresno, Library)


only a minor problem in the Cincinnati region, so that the early confident assurances of the unchecked profits to be made by viticulture seemed perfectly justified. But the growth of planting and the passage of years saw mildew and black rot increasingly more frequent, as they had a homogeneous and extensive population of grapes to work upon. The record of each successive year's vintage, so far as this can be reconstructed, shows alarming ups and downs according to the lightness or the heaviness with which the infestations, especially black rot, struck the vineyards in a given year.[55] Even before 1850 black rot and mildew were evident, and the growers were unable to take any action against them. The fungous character of the rot was not generally understood—some attributed the disease to worms, some to cultivating methods, others to the atmosphere or to a wrongly chosen soil[56] —and so when the Catawba, a variety peculiarly susceptible, was touched by the blight, all that men could do was to resign themselves to their loss and speculate on the causes and cures.

Among the other diseases that attacked Ohio grapes, powdery mildew was the most important after black rot. This disease, native to the United States, first attracted serious attention not in its native place but after it had been exported to the Old World. In the 1850s Madeira saw its vines, upon which nearly the whole population depended, ravaged by powdery mildew (generally called oidium in Europe). The people of the island, driven to starvation, were forced to abandon their homes and to emigrate in large numbers. The island's wine trade has never fully recovered from the catastrophe—made more bitter still by the fact that it came from the country where Madeira's wines were held in esteem beyond all others. But Madeira was only the worst-afflicted among many: Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy suffered too. In Italy, the appearance of the disease coincided with that of the first railroads. Peasants, putting these things together, blocked new construction and tore up miles of rails already laid in order to fight the disease.[57]

The control of powdery mildew by sulfur dusting was now successfully tested and developed in Europe, but it did little for the growers of Cincinnati. Native vines, unlike vinifera, are sometimes injured by sulfur, so the cure in this case might not have been much preferable to the disease. Against black rot, even the most perfect application of sulfur would have had no effect. For that disease the effective treatment is a compound of copper sulphate and lime called bordeaux mixture, and that was not developed until 1885, much too late to be of use to the growers of Cincinnati.

Throughout the 1850s rot and mildew were increasingly present in the vineyards of Cincinnati. In that decade, only three good years—1853, 1858, and 1859—were granted to the growers by weather conditions inhibiting the rot.[58] By the end of the decade it was clear that the very existence of the industry was now problematical, for who could endure such helplessness and such uncertainty? Some efforts were made to introduce different and more resistant varieties—the Delaware, for example, seemed at one time to promise a better basis for viticulture, but it did not fulfill the promise. Ives' Seedling, a local introduction that had gained the premium


offered by Longworth's Wine House for the "best wine grape for the United States," also had some vogue, but was not good enough for wine or resistant enough to disease to provide a new basis for the trade.[59] The outbreak of the Civil War reinforced and accelerated the process begun by diseases. Though shortages brought high prices for wine, the vineyards were neglected, and new plantings ceased. A visitor to Cincinnati in 1867 reported that "the wine culture" was "somewhat out of favor at present among the farmers of Ohio."[60] By 1870 the vineyards, though still occupying a substantial acreage, were largely moribund. In that year, the brief flourishing of the Rhineland of America came to a symbolic close when Longworth's wine-bottling warehouse was taken over by an oil refinery.[61]

Longworth himself lived long enough to see the end coming, but refused to admit its certainty. As W.J. Flagg, his son-in-law and the manager of his wine business, wrote of Longworth at the end: "It was well enough he should pass away without knowing how nearly had failed the great work of his life. Among his last words before losing consciousness was an inquiry if [Flagg] had arrived: he wanted to tell him, he said, of a new vine he had found which would neither mildew nor rot. He never found it in this world."[62] The extinction of viticulture around Cincinnati was complete, and so powerful was the effect of the failure that even when, later, it became possible to control the diseases that had overwhelmed the vineyards, no one came forward to take the opportunity. Only in very recent years have tentative efforts been made to revive the industry there: more than a century has been needlessly lost in the interval.

Yet there had , after all, been a flourishing winemaking industry in Cincinnati: to show the possibility of such a thing was the historical importance of Longworth and his fellow growers. After many years of loss, Longworth had, before the end, even made money from winegrowing, and the possibility of doing so again waited only upon better cultivars and effective fungicides.

Meantime, the Cincinnati region had generated a sort of colonial extension of itself upon the shores and islands of Lake Erie, two hundred miles to the north. As early as 1830 a gentleman named H. O. Coit was growing vines and making wine in Cleveland, and he prophesied then that the shores of Lake Erie would someday be famous for their vineyards.[63] The success of viticulture along the Ohio River stimulated experiment with Catawba and other varieties along the lake shore in the 1830s. But it was not until late in the 1840s that anything like a commercial scale of viticulture was approached in this region. Northern Ohio had two centers of grape growing, from Cleveland eastward to the Pennsylvania border on one side of the state, and around Sandusky and the Lake Erie Islands on the other. It was in the second of these that winemaking particularly flourished. Here it was discovered that an ideal matching of variety and site had been stumbled upon: the limestone soil of lake shore and islands is classic grape-growing soil; the delayed springs and protracted autumns that the moderating effect of the lake brings to the islands just suited the Catawba; there, too, the diseases that destroyed the Catawba along the Ohio River did not pursue it with the same destructive effects. There has been an


Not all Ohio winegrowing was confined to Cincinnati or to the Lake Erie shores; this undated
 (c, 1850) trade circular offers altar wine from Martin's Ferry in far southeastern Ohio, just across 
the river from Wheeling, West Virginia. Noah Zane, the founder of Wheeling, is credited with 
having introduced grape culture to the region. (California State University, Fresno, Library)


uninterrupted history of Catawba growing on Kelley's Island and the Bass Islands since the first vineyards were set out, a record of continuity unmatched in the erratic history of American viticulture.[64]

So long as the Cincinnati region prospered, development along Lake Erie was not notably rapid. The boom commenced as the Cincinnati industry declined: large plantings began just before 1860, and the years 1860-70 were remembered as the era of "grape fever."[65] Seven thousand acres had been planted by 1867, and though growth inevitably slowed, there were 33,000 acres in Ohio by 1889, most of it in the Lake Erie counties. The growers, as at Cincinnati, were largely Germans; indeed, some of them were Cincinnati Germans looking for alternatives to the disease-ridden banks of the Ohio.[66]

The Missouri Germans

Cincinnati had sent out its influences in another direction too—down the Ohio to the Mississippi, up that river to St. Louis, and thence upstream along the Missouri to the German settlement of Hermann. Winegrowing of one kind or another was already a venerable activity in the central Mississippi basin. We remember the Jesuits of Kaskaskia, the reputation of whose vineyards Dufour had heard of in Philadelphia before the end of the eighteenth century. The early dominance of the French in the Mississippi Valley meant that many experiments by small communities and by individuals of that vinophile race—clerical as well as lay—were certainly made with both native and imported grapes. In the 1770s the French settlers at Vincennes on the Wabash made red wine of native grapes for their own consumption that gained a good report.[67] Dufour recorded that vines were growing well in the gardens of St. Genevieve, Missouri, below St. Louis.[68] Cahokia, another old French settlement, also made wine before the coming of the British. But these were strictly domestic efforts. The statement is repeatedly made that the French government in the eighteenth century forbade viticulture in its American territories for fear of injury to the home industry.[69] I have not found proof of this; if it is true, it expresses a fear for which, so far as the record shows, there was very little ground in fact. In Missouri, as in Ohio, a winegrowing industry waited upon the appearance of the Germans.

The flow of German emigration that reached Cincinnati in the 1820s moved through and beyond it to St. Louis and the Missouri Valley in the next decade. A large part of it had been attracted there by the idealized, romantic description of the region published in 1829 by Gottfried Duden, a wealthy German who was convinced of the evils of overpopulation in the Old World and sought a new beginning in the American West.[70] He bought a farm along the Missouri River in Warren County in the new state of Missouri and wrote of the rich pastoral beauties of the land in order to draw new settlers. They came in large numbers, hastened along by the repressive politics of the reaction to the revolutionary outbreaks on the Conti-


nent in 1830. When they arrived, they found a wilderness not exactly like the smiling land of overflowing plenty that Duden had led them to expect, but neither did they fare badly. St. Louis and the lands along the Missouri for many miles to the west soon took on a distinctly German character.[71]

It was this fact that caught the attention of the directors of the Philadelphia Settlement Society (Deutsche Ansiedlungs-Gesellschaft zu Philadelphia ). This organization was formed in 1836 to carry out an ideal of German cultural nationalism by founding a colony in the remote West that should be German through and through in every particular.[72] The society sent an agent to the Missouri lands, and there, in the angle formed by the junction of the Gasconade and Missouri rivers, he bought some 11,000 acres for the society, which in turn sold the land to its stockholders. Settlement began in late 1837, and within two years Hermann, as the new town was called (after the German national hero Arminius who defeated the armies of Caesar Augustus), had a population of 450 souls: it was laid out with ambitious amplitude, its Market Street being deliberately made wider than Philadelphia's splendid Market Street by its visionary designers. They also included a "Weinstrasse" in the plan of the city's streets.[73] The difficulties of administering a frontier settlement from Philadelphia quickly led to a new arrangement, by which the Philadelphia Society's assets were transferred to the corporation of Hermann and the society dissolved. The aim of fostering a center of distinctively German culture was not abandoned. Hermann was substantially all German throughout the nineteenth century and was a center from which German settlement spread through east-central Missouri in Augusta, Washington, Morrison, and other towns.

The character of the immigrants was far higher than ordinary: most were men of education, and some were of high professional standing. Their distinction is crudely recognized in their local nickname of Lateinische Bauern —"Latin Peasants"—that is, farmers who could read the learned languages. Earlier, organized German settlements associated with winegrowing in this country were typically religious, on the model of the Pietists of Germantown in the time of William Penn, or of the Rappites in Indiana and Pennsylvania. The Hermannites, however, were thoroughly secular, inclining even, here and there, towards free thought. They cared more for literature, music, theater, and public festivals than for church. In Hermann, stores remained open on the Sabbath, and the early settlers did not trouble themselves to put up a church building, though they were quick to establish a theatrical society and to build a music hall.[74] It is perhaps no cause for wonder that a community so disposed should take to winegrowing and succeed at it as no one yet had succeeded.

The first settlers of Hermann had ventured west with the idea that they would become farmers on the wide prairies, but they found that the land their agent had bought was in broken, hilly, stony country, unfit for the agriculture they had in mind.[75] Viticulture was an experiment obviously worth trying, and though the long history of failure in this country was cause for skepticism, they had the current example of Longworth and his early successes as a hopeful sign to guide them.


The Poeschel Winery building, erected about 1850, near Hermann, Missouri, by the first 
winemaker in the region. Even in the beginning the Germans built solidly. (From Charles 
Van Ravenswaay,  The Arts and Architecture of Germans in Missouri  [1977])

Inevitably—almost as a ritual gesture it seems—some vinifera vines were tried before the end of the 1830s.[76] But the Hermannites were quick to accept the implication of Longworth's work and turned to the native varieties, using cuttings obtained from Cincinnati.[77] The first cultivated grape to produce at Hermann was an Isabella vine planted by Jacob Fugger that fruited in 1845. The first wine, from Isabella grapes, was made in 1846 by Michael Poeschel;[78] there were already 150,000 vines set out in Hermann then, and the economic promise was such that the town established a nursery for vines and offered land for vineyards on extravagantly easy terms.[79] The responses were immediate and strong: six hundred "wine lots" were snapped up, and by 1848 Hermann commenced its era of commercial winemaking with a modest but symbolically important production of 1,000 gallons of wine. The occasion was marked in good German style by a Weinfest that fall. The town cannon was fired in honor of Bacchus, and a steamboat-load of ladies and gentlemen from St. Louis came to join the festivities:[80] the rumor of wine spread instantly through that region, proof of the eagerness with which it was


hoped for. One of the St. Louis gentlemen, a lawyer named Alexander Kayser, was inspired to offer three premiums of $100 for the best specimens of Missouri wine, the first of which was gained in 1850 by a catawba of vintage 1849 from the vineyards of Hermann.[81]

Though the Isabella was the first variety to be used, it satisfied no one. Other varieties were soon tried: the first Catawba crop was produced in 1848; the Norton began to be cultivated around 1850, the Concord in 1855.[82] When mildew and rot began to devastate the Catawba vineyards, as they quickly did, the Germans along the Missouri, unlike their compatriots along the Ohio, had acceptable alternatives to turn to. The Concord, thanks to its tough, productive nature, was not long in occupying the largest share of the acreage in vines, but Hermann would never have established a reputation for wine if it had had only the Concord. The variety for quality was the Norton, a seedling grown by Dr. D. N. Norton, of Richmond, Virginia, before 1830. It had been tried without much enthusiasm in various places, including the vineyards of Cincinnati, where Longworth pronounced that it was good for nothing as a wine grape.[83] The growers at Hermann, however, could venture to disregard the great Longworth's judgment, for their need was desperate. Thus when a Herr Wiedersprecher brought Norton cuttings from Cincinnati, they gave them a trial. To Jacob Rommel belongs the honor of producing the first wine from Norton at Hermann.[84] Thus the Norton caught on in Missouri at a time when the Catawba crop had already been repeatedly damaged by the diseases to which it is vulnerable and the growers were casting about for something to take its place.[85]

A black grape, the Norton yields a dark and astringent wine without foxiness, capable of developing into a sound and well-balanced table wine. Yet the early practice at Hermann was apparently to ferment on the skins for only one or two days and thus to produce wine more pink than red.[86] This was reportedly done to avoid excess astringency. By 1867 the Missourians had learned enough about handling the Norton to please at least one discriminating critic. The philanthropist and writer Charles Loring Brace, reporting on his disappointment with the wines of California that he had sampled on a tour of that state, concluded that "no red wine has ever been produced in America equal to that made by the Germans of Missouri from [the Norton]."[87]

The prominence of the Norton at Hermann links the region with Virginia and the South rather than with Ohio and the northern tradition of white winemaking in the eastern United States. For white wine, the winemakers of Hermann also used a southern grape, the Lenoir. The Catawba persisted, too, but subject to the same wild ups and downs in annual yield, the effect of disease, that plagued the variety at Cincinnati.[88]

By 1855 Hermann was surrounded by 500 acres of vineyards and was producing enough beyond local demand to be able to send wine up the Ohio River to the wine houses of Cincinnati, where Missouri catawba was added to the wine of Cincinnati.[89] By 1861 the volume was great enough to justify the establishment of a large-scale winery at Hermann, built by Michael Poeschel, Hermann's first wine-


The Norton grape, originally found in Virginia, came into its own in the vineyards 
of Missouri in the years just before the Civil War. It is that rare thing, a native grape
 from which an acceptable red wine can be made. (Painting by C. L. Fleischman, 1867;
 National Agricultural Library)

maker, and his partner, John Scherer.[90] This firm, which grew to be the largest winery outside of California, operated until Prohibition, and has, since 1965, been put back into the production of native wines.

The Civil War slowed agricultural development at Hermann, as it did along the Ohio. Nevertheless, the winegrowing industry continued a modest expansion. The Hermann vineyardists exhibited thirty-five varieties of grapes at the Gasconade County Fair in 1862—the only fair held in Missouri that year.[91] The war did brush the town, for the wine in George Husmann's cellar was all drunk by General Sterling Price's Confederates when they raided the town in October 1864. At the end of the war, Hermann had about a thousand acres of vines, more than


half of which were not yet in bearing. The preceding season had yielded 42,000 gallons of wine. And the demand for cuttings from the nurseries of Hermann exceeded their capacity: some two million went out that year. Winegrowing was now spread far beyond Hermann, touching almost every corner of the state, and moving into Illinois and Kansas, the states flanking Missouri on east and west. Augusta in nearby St. Charles County, another center of German settlement, was producing a significant quantity of wine in the 1860s[92] (after many years of dormancy, wine production has been resumed at Augusta). After the war, then, winemaking around Hermann was ready to enter on a steady prosperity that lasted down to Prohibition.

One may ask why Hermann, on river lands not much different from those around Cincinnati, should have succeeded in setting up an industry that long outlasted the one created by Longworth at about the same time? The most obvious, and perhaps most important, reason is that the Germans did not invest everything in the Catawba and so could survive its failure. They had tried other varieties with success that came before they could grow disheartened, as the Germans of Cincinnati had been disheartened. Another reason, less apparent, and much more difficult to demonstrate, lies in the character of the Missouri Germans. They were not tenant farmers but independent proprietors, prepared to take an experimental and scientific interest in viticulture. Perhaps it is significant that many of the pioneers were not Rhinelanders or South Germans like Rapp's Württembergers, but Hessians and Prussians, without experience of winegrowing in Europe. Hermann's first winemaker, Michael Poeschel, for example, was a north German who had no knowledge of grape culture; on the other hand, those who briefly and futilely tried vinifera at Hermann were Rhinelanders, another instance of Old World experience as a handicap in the new.[93]

As for the Missouri Germans' scientific disposition, that is shown in the work of developing new varieties and in the quantity of technical writing devoted to viticulture for which Missouri was remarkable in the nineteenth century. The philanthropic and literary farmer Friedrich Muench, of Washington, Warren County, a man trained to the Lutheran ministry in the University of Giessen and one of the original emigrants attracted by the blandishment of Gottfried Duden's description of the Missouri country, published the earliest treatise that I have found issuing from the Missouri German community.[94] His "Anleitung zum Weinbau in Nordamerika" ("Directions for Winegrowing in North America") appeared in the Mississippi Handelszeitung in 1859; a later version in book form appeared at St. Louis in 1864 as Amerikanische Weinbauschule ; this went through three editions, and was translated in 1865 as School jar American Grape Culture: Brief but Thorough and Practical Guide to the Laying Out of Vineyards, the Treatment of Vines, and the Production of Wine in North America . Muench, or "old Father Muench" as he grew to be called, had been growing grapes since 1846 and continued to do so until 1881, "when he was found dead among his beloved vines, one fine winter's morning of that year, with the pruning shears still in his hand, in his 84th year."[95] Something of Muench's high-minded style may be had from this passage in his School for American Grape Culture :


Friedrich Muench (1798?—1881), trained as a Lutheran minister in Germany, typified the 
enthusiastic style of the German winegrowers of Missouri. "With the growth of the grape," 
he wrote, "every nation elevates itself to a higher degree of civilization." The winery he 
founded in Augusta, Missouri, is in operation today. (State Historical Society of Missouri)

If it prove but moderately remunerative, the vine-dresser, free, lord of his own possessions, in daily intercourse with peaceful nature, is a happier and more contented man than thousands of those who, in our large cities, driven about by the thronging crowd, rarely attain true peace and serenity of mind. With the growth of the grape every nation elevates itself to a higher grade of civilization—brutality must vanish, and human nature progresses. (P. 11)

Before Muench's book appeared, another essay on viticulture was published at Hermann by a second and more important writer, George Husmann, whose An


George Husmann (1827—1902), a pioneer winegrower at Hermann, Missouri, 
was one of the most devoted proselytizers in the cause of the grape in the 
nineteenth century. A viticulturist, winemaker, nurseryman, writer, and professor 
of horticulture in Missouri, he ended his days as a winegrower in California's 
Napa Valley. (State Historical Society of Missouri)

Essay on the Culture of the Grape in the Great West came out in 1863.[96] Husmann, whose father had been a shareholder in the society that founded Hermann, was a north German like Poeschel and Muench, not a Rhinelander.[97] He thus inherited no tradition of Old World winemaking, but had to learn his craft under native frontier conditions. His next publication was The Cultivation of the Native Grape, and Manufacture of American Wines , published in New York in 1866. This book, written as the Civil War was ending, is filled with a kind of visionary excitement over the prospects of a new viticulture in a newly united country, which may in part help to account for its success. In successive editions and under various new titles, it became one of the standard works on the subject, remaining in print well into this century.

The special emphasis of Husmann was on the power of the winemaker to control his work precisely. He explains the use of both the saccharometer and the


acidimeter, by which the winemaker can know exactly how much sugar and how much acid, the two key ingredients in the raw material of wine, he has to work with. Husmann is also frankly on the side of the winemakers who make no bones about adding sugar to a deficient juice and water to an over-acid juice. The object is to reach an ideal balance of sugar and acid; with the help of analytic instruments, Husmann argued, no winemaker need ever be at the mercy of a bad season. His instructions lean heavily on the work of the German chemist Dr. Ludwig Gall, whose "Practical Guide" had been translated in 1860 for publication in the U.S. Patent Office Report, the forerunner of the reports of the Department of Agriculture. There is no doubt that Husmann exaggerates the quality of the wine produced by his methods; he was writing more as a chemist than as a traditional winemaker, and he did not go uncriticized. But, as he very sensibly maintained, since the eastern grower more often than not was compelled to work with fruit low in sugar and high in acid, the choice was simply between making a "natural" wine unfit to drink and an "artificial" wine that was quite palatable—and profitable.[98]

In 1869 Husmann founded a monthly journal called The Grape Culturist at St. Louis, the first to be devoted to the subject in this country. Though it expired in 1871, that it could have been born at all and then have survived for three years is some measure of the status of winegrowing in the Mississippi Valley. It was also evidence of the literary and technical culture of the Germans. The publisher of the magazine was Conrad Witter, a St. Louis German who advertised that he kept a "large assortment of books treating of the culture of grapes and manufacture of wines."[99] It is hard to imagine any other region in the United States at this date in which such a stock of books might have been offered in the hope of sale.

The Missouri Germans were soon at work developing new grapes for western conditions; indeed, they were among the very first in America to carry on sustained trials in grape breeding. Jacob Rommel, who was taken by his parents to Hermann in the year of its founding, began work with native seedlings around 1860 and produced a number of varieties that had some recognition in their day.[100] He was looking for vines that had hardiness against the continental winters of the Midwest, resistance to the endemic fungus diseases, and productiveness enough to be profitable, and he sought these qualities in a series of seedlings derived from a riparia-labrusca ancestor. One at least of Rommel's seedlings, the Elvira, a white grape yielding a neutral white wine favored for blending, is still grown commercially in eastern vineyards, mostly in New York and Missouri. In Canada it had a great success, and it was still the most widely grown variety in the vineyards of Ontario as late as 1979.[101] It is, or was, occasionally met with as a varietal, but more often anonymously as part of a sparkling wine blend. Nicholas Grein, called Papa Grein by the younger generation of Hermannites, also introduced a number of riparia-labrusca seedlings, the best known of which is the Missouri Riesling, still cultivated to some extent in the state of its origin (and often confused with Elvira).[102] It has a strong resistance to black rot for an American variety.

By far the most distinguished scientific contribution to viticultural knowledge


Dr. George Engelmann (1809—84) was the leading physician in St. Louis, and, 
at the same time, a botanist of international distinction; Engelmann was the most
 expert of American ampelographers in the nineteenth century. His career illustrates
 the high achievement of the Missouri German community. (State Historical Society 
of Missouri)

made by the Missouri German community came from Dr. George Engelmann (1809-84), an M.D. from the University of Würzburg whose passion was botany.[103] He came to the United States in 1832 as agent for his uncles, who wanted to find investments in the Mississippi Valley. Settling in St. Louis, he became the most sought-after physician in the city, yet still found time to keep up his original work in botany, to carry out observations in biology, meteorology, and geology, and to found the St. Louis Academy of Science. Only a fraction of his work was devoted to grapes, but that is nevertheless an important fraction. He published a number of


The 1875 edition of the catalogue of Bush & Son & Meissner; it later grew
 to include a "grape grower's manual," was translated into French and Italian, 
and was used as a textbook in American agricultural schools. (National 
Library of Agriculture)

brief articles on the classification of native varieties, beginning with "Notes on the Grape Vines of Missouri" in 1860 and ending with an essay on "The True Grape Vines of the United States" in 1875. This appeared as part of the encyclopaedic and learned catalogue of Bush and Son and Meissner, a leading Missouri nursery founded in 1865 by Isidor Bush (not a Missouri German but a Prague-born Austrian).[104] The catalogue passed through numerous editions and was used rather as a text book than as a commercial list; it was even translated into French and Italian. Engelmann's description and classification of the native vines was the scientific standard for his time: on his death it could be said that "nearly all that we know


scientifically of our species and forms of Vitis is directly due to Dr. Engelmann's investigations."[105]

When Engelmann first came to the United States, he made his way to a settlement of Germans on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, about twenty miles east of St. Louis. Here he had some connections, and here he made his base of operations while he explored and botanized before settling down to his medical practice. This was the region of the old French settlements, where grape growing had long been familiar, so familiar that even the American settlers readily took it up. Gustave Koerner, another German immigrant, a friend of Engelmann's, and later a distinguished lawyer, and a friend and political supporter of Lincoln's, recalled what he, Engelmann, and their friends found as they travelled for the first time to Belleville in 1833. Stopping at a farm, they were pleased to find Isabella grapes growing on the trellised house; even better, the farmer offered them a drink of his wild grape wine. "It was really very good," Koerner remembered, though sweetened a bit by added sugar, "the American having no liking for wine unless it is sweet."[106] The Germans themselves, when a group of them settled around Belleville, began at once to grow vines, and long continued to do so. Years later Koerner remembered giving a visiting German poet, who had said disparaging things about American wines, some "old, well-seasoned Norton Virginia Seedling" from the vineyard of a neighbor:

He drank it with great gusto, remarking that it was a very fine wine; he supposed, he said, it was Burgundy. When I laughingly told him it was St. Clair County wine, he would hardly believe me. . . . I must do him the justice, however, of saying that good Norton has really the body of Burgundy, and can never be taken for Bordeaux.[107]

One of the most prominent men among the Belleville Germans was Theodore Hilgard, who had been a lawyer, judge, and man of letters in Zweibrucken and who, after emigrating to Illinois, produced a wine there that he fondly called "Hilgardsberger."[108] More important for this history, Hilgard's son, Eugene, became professor of agriculture at the University of California, director of the Experiment Stations, and dean of the College of Agriculture, positions in which he made contributions of the first importance to the winegrowing of California.[109] He is thus another claim to the historical importance of the Latin Peasants settled in the region of which St. Louis is the center.

St. Louis itself—including St. Louis County—with its layers of French and German history, has been a scene of winemaking since very early times, as these things are measured in American history. The first St. Louis wine on record was made for church use by the Jesuits of St. Stanislaus Seminary at Florissant, north of the city, in 1823; they later developed commercial production as well, and continued the business down to 1960.[110] The earliest purely commercial winery in St. Louis was the firm called the Missouri Wine Company, founded in 1853. It constructed underground cellars for storage (they still survive in downtown St. Louis) and went into business not only in Missouri wines but in wines from Ohio.[111] The


well-known Cincinnati vineyardist Robert Buchanan, for example, sold his vintages of 1855 and 1856 in bulk to the Missouri Wine Company.[112] So the traffic in wine between Missouri and Ohio was a two-way street; we have seen that Hermann sent some of its wine up the Ohio to Longworth in Cincinnati, while Buchanan was shipping downstream to St. Louis. The Missouri Wine Company was advertising its sparkling catawba in the St. Louis papers in 1857, and the probability is that this was Ohio wine. Another interesting, but indistinct, St. Louis enterprise was carried out by Isidor Bush's partner, Gustave Edward Meissner, who planted 600 acres of vines on Meissner's Island, below the city.[113] These may have been intended as a nursery planting; in any case, no wine production is recorded from Meissner's Island.

The main claim of St. Louis to a place in the history of wine in America rests with the American Wine Company, which took over the Missouri Wine Company in 1859 and, through many changes of fortune, persisted up to the early years of World War II. The president was a Chicago hotelkeeper and politician named Isaac Cook, who, despite the struggles of political faction in Illinois, still managed to take an interest in wine as both a connoisseur and a producer. In 1861 he left Chicago for St. Louis, and built up the American Wine Company to a leading place in the American trade.[114] The main stock in trade was called Cook's Imperial Champagne, a label still in use, though it has passed through various hands and been applied to wines of various origins in its more than a hundred years of currency. Under Cook, the American Wine Company bought vineyards in the Sandusky region of Ohio, and though the finishing of the wine was carried out in St. Louis (in the cellars originally built for the Missouri Wine Company), the history of the business belongs perhaps more to Ohio than to Missouri. The American Wine Company also dealt in such wines as Missouri catawba and Norton.

Missouri is the farthest western reach of winegrowing at this stage of American history (excluding for the moment California and the regions of Spanish-American cultivation in the Southwest). After recounting all the early trials and modest successes in Missouri we may glance briefly, by way of reminder, at the obstacles that the pioneers had to face, and that their successors still face. They cultivated a region at the heart of a continent, untempered by any great body of water. The winter cold there sweeps down from the arctic regions of Canada, or off the high mountains and high plains that form the western, windward, edge of the Missouri basin. Even the hardiest grapes may expect to be killed to the ground from time to time in the freezes that flow from these sources. Phylloxera is at home here. Not too far to the south and east is the home of Pierce's Disease. Mildews, both powdery and downy, are alternately favored by heat and by damp; black rot is always present. If the early growers had known all this, would they have ventured at all? In any case, they did not know, and they did venture. The reviving efforts to establish a significant viticulture in Missouri today have an honorable pioneer tradition behind them of successful struggle against very tough odds.


The Development of Winegrowing in New York State

New York presents four different viticultural regions, running from east to west across the state, whose development is roughly parallel to the westward movement of population. The first is around New York City, especially on Long Island; next is the Hudson Valley; then the Finger Lakes of the central part of the state; and last the so-called Chautauqua region, an extension into western New York of the shorelands along Lake Erie.

The gardeners of Long Island, having a large concentrated market just beyond their doorsteps in the city, were naturally interested in seeing if they could succeed in growing wine for it. Not surprisingly, one of the first was a Frenchman, a merchant named Alphonse Loubat, who came originally from the south of France. At a date unrecorded but probably in the 1820s, he set out a vineyard of some forty acres—a notably ambitious effort—at New Utrecht, as it was then known; it is now a part of the Brooklyn waterfront, where the idea of any growing crop is impossible to conceive. Loubat's vines were vinifera, as a Frenchman's would be. Black rot and powdery mildew descended upon him, and he set himself to struggle against them. In the process he is said to have invented the practice of bagging the clusters against their depredations. But at last he was compelled to admit that they were too much for human effort to overcome.[115]

Loubat left a permanent memorial in the shape of a curious little book with the same title as Dufour's, The American Vine-Dresser's Guide , and published just a year later than Dufour's, in 1827, in New York. The book, in French and English on facing pages, opens with a delightful dedication "To the Shade of Franklin"—"À L'Ombre de Franklin." The great man's ghost is invoked to "Protect my feeble essay" and to "protect my vine, and cause it so to thrive that I shall soon be able to pour forth upon thy tomb libations of perfumed Muscatel and generous Malmsey."[116] At the time that he published his Guide , Loubat seems to have had no suspicion at all that his vinifera were doomed, or that the failure of winegrowing in the United States was owing to anything but the inexplicable neglect of a splendid opportunity. The instruction conveyed in his Guide is without any reference to American conditions, and assumes that French practices can be taken over unaltered. He soon had reason to think otherwise, and in 1835 the enterprise that he strove to establish along the banks of the East River came to a rude end when the vineyard property was sold for building lots.[117]

Still, before the end, his work had attracted some attention. Longworth's early trials in Ohio of vinifera were made with vines that he got from Loubat.[118] Another Long Islander, Alden Spooner, the editor of the Brooklyn Long Island City Star and one of the leading citizens of that pastoral community, had watched Loubat's struggles with sympathetic interest, and around 1827 began, in imitation, to plant vinifera grapes in his Brooklyn vineyard, now a part of Prospect Park.[119] Unlike Loubat, however, Spooner soon concluded that the native vines were the only safe bet. He planted the Isabella grape instead, and with this he had success enough to


Alphonse Loubat, a New York merchant born in France, planted a large
 vineyard of vinifera vines in Brooklyn in the 1820s and published a book,
 in both French and English, called  The American Vine-Dresser's Guide
 (1827). Interesting chiefly as a late memorial to the futile belief that vinifera 
would do well in the American East after two hundred years of unbroken
 failure, it was, for some inexplicable reason, reprinted in 1872, when its views 
had long been discredited. (From Loubat,  The American Vine-Dresser's 
 [New York, 1872])

lead him to publish a book (he commanded a press and a bookstore, as well as a newspaper). Spooner's The Cultivation of American Grape Fines and Making of Wine (1846) is a scissors-and-paste job, of the sort that journalists know so well how to do, but it preserves some authentic anecdotes and is useful evidence of the interest in grape growing around New York City at that time.

The most important by far of the early Long Island grape growers was William Robert Prince, the son, grandson, and great-grandson of nurserymen.[120] The Princes operated the elegantly named Linnaean Botanic Garden at Flushing, Long Island, where, among other horticultural specialities, they kept a large collec-


A member of the fourth generation of a family of Long Island nurserymen, 
William Robert Prince (1795—1869) made a special study of the grape and 
published the first comprehensive book on the subject in this country, A 
Treatise on the Vine  (1830). Prince introduced one of the most successful 
of the early hybrids, the Isabella grape. (From U. P. Hedrick,  Manual of 
American Grape Growing

tion of grapes, both native and foreign, for sale: their catalogue for 1830 lists 513 varieties.[121] The youngest Prince, as his father had before him, took a special interest in viticulture and became one of the recognized experts on the subject in the first part of the century, writing frequently for the horticultural magazines and developing the section devoted to vines in his nursery catalogue into a substantial essay on the subject. In 1830 he published a separate work called A Treatise on the Vine , an ambitious and expansive discourse that undertakes, in the easy and inconsequent style of those prespecialized days, to provide a history of the vine from


Noah downwards, a description of two hundred and eighty varieties of grape, and instruction on the "establishment, culture, and management of vineyards." The work is dedicated to Henry Clay in recognition of his part in founding the Kentucky Vineyard Society many years before.

Compared to anything else on viticulture by American writers, the Treatise was a work of an entirely different and higher order—"the first good book on grapes," as Hedrick says.[122] Prince made a serious effort at straightening out the tangle of names used to identify native grapes, and, in his description of native varieties, organized a great deal of local historical information; his prominence as the proprietor of America's best-known nursery made it possible for him to obtain information that no one else could have. Prince promised to publish a second part of his Treatise , to include a "topographical account of all the known vineyards throughout the world, and including those of the United States";[123] for whatever reason, this never appeared, and we can only regret what would have been an unparalleled description of early nineteenth-century viticulture in the United States. He did, at least, print a list of his correspondents and sources, which includes some familiar names: Bolling, whose "Sketch" had been given to Prince; Thomas McCall of Georgia, "who has presented me with a detailed manuscript of his experiments and success in making wines"; and Herbemont, Eichelberger, and Spooner.[124]

Since Prince was able to grow vinifera vines successfully under nursery conditions, he was slow to give up faith in them. A large part of his book is devoted to foreign grapes, which he was confident would grow well in this country. He particularly recommended the Alicante. And no matter what the variety of vinifera, its failure, he thought, could in every case be explained by bad management.[125] An equally large part of Prince's Treatise is devoted to descriptions of some eighty native varieties, far and away the most comprehensive account of the subject that had yet appeared. His own experience showed him the need for improved American varieties, and he was himself one of the earliest of the country's hybridizers, though he does not seem to have introduced any grape of his own breeding. The variety with which Prince's name is associated is the Isabella, which his father obtained in 1816 from Colonel George Gibbs of Long Island, an amateur grower, and named after Gibbs's wife. The grape itself is of disputed origin, but it is generally supposed to be from South Carolina.[126] The Princes did not promote the Isabella at once, but, after Adlum's success in creating notoriety for the Catawba, they began to put forward the Isabella as a superior rival.[127] Unlike Adlum, William Robert Prince was under no illusion as to the value of his labrusca seedling compared to the standard vinifera; still, he wrote of the Isabella, "I have made wine from it of excellent quality, and which has met with the approbation of some of the most accurate judges in our country."[128]

Prince has little to say about mildew and black rot, the diseases that were the bane of native hybrids throughout the East; there is plenty of evidence that these afflictions plagued grape growers around New York when Prince was writing, but he gives them no particular emphasis in his discussion of grape culture. One no-


An advertisement for vines from the Croton Point Vineyards of Dr. Robert Underhill (1802-71). 
Note the offer to send a vine dresser to take care of the vines "when they commence bearing." 
After a generation of successful grape growing along the Hudson, Underhill was himself just 
beginning to make wine for the New York City market. ( The Cultivator , December 1855)


table thing he does do, however, is to call attention to the efficacy of spraying with a mixture of lime and sulfur against mildew. He was the first to do so in this country.[129]

Long Island may be imagined in the early part of the nineteenth century as a rural spot where grape growing for ornament and home use was widespread—local patriotism favored the Isabella, which "soon became the cherished ornament and pride of every garden and door-yard."[130] There, Colonel Gibbs, from whose garden the Isabella came, amused himself with a vineyard, as did Colonel Spooner; there, poor Loubat struggled and failed to compel vinifera to grow on a commercial scale; and there the learned Prince poured out, through his catalogues and monographs, information to the country at large from his base in the Linnaean Botanic Garden. Grapes did grow in Brooklyn (and there are wineries there today; that is a different story). One should also mention the famous nursery and botanic garden founded on twenty sterile, rocky acres at the junction of Jamaica and Flat-bush Avenues in 1825 by the Belgian emigré André Parmentier. This quickly became a flourishing garden, complete with rustic observation tower. Parmentier collected and distributed an unprecedentedly comprehensive variety of imported and native plants, including grapes.[131] All of his grapes were, unluckily, imported, and so his work in that line was more enterprising than fruitful. Also unfulfilled was Parmentier's intention to publish an "Essay on the Cultivation of the Vine," left unfinished at his untimely death in 1830.[132] Long Island thus presented the spectacle of much hopeful activity, but did not get beyond the promise of interesting beginnings.

North from Manhattan, along the Hudson, a landowner named Robert Under-hill, using vinifera vines from Parmentier, laid out a vineyard at Croton Point sometime before 1827—probably just a year or so earlier. By 1827 the failure of the vines was clear to him, and he replaced them with Catawba and Isabella.[133] These grew, and their fresh fruit found a ready and profitable market in New York City. Underhill died in 1829, but his two sons, Robert, a doctor who gave up his practice for vine growing, and William, continued the vineyard at Croton Point in separate holdings; by 1843 the Underhills had twenty-seven acres of vineyard; ultimately, they had seventy-five acres in vines.[134] The scale and the long life of their vineyards give them a claim to be the real founders of the winegrowing industry in New York. But they were not, at first, winegrowers, merely grape growers. Then Robert Underhill, while continuing to sell grapes, began to make wine for himself, and, at last, in 1859, he began to send Isabella and catawba wine to the New York market.[135] Croton Point wines, sold from the "Pure Wine and Grape Depot" in New York City, were advertised as "the pure product of the grape, neither drugged, liquored, nor watered, recommended by leading physicians in all cases where a stimulant of bracing character is required."[136] One notes the emphasis upon therapeutic value, forgivable perhaps in the case of wine produced by a physician, but almost always a sign of the puritanical suspicion of simple sensuous gratification. Dr. Underhill, it may be mentioned, was the first sponsor in the


Dr. Robert Underhill died in 1871, a little more than a decade after he began making wine 
at his Croton Point Vineyards. This advertisement offers the wines left after his death, 
all manufactured in the years 1860-71. (Huntington Library)


United States of the so-called grape cure, one of the many regimens designed to clean out the overfed systems of prosperous Victorians, and then fashionable in Europe. Since the cure consisted in eating five or six pounds of grapes daily, Underhill obviously had an interested motive in sponsoring it.[137]

The Underhills made another contribution to New York viticulture in the form of William's son Stephen, who, between 1860 and 1870, introduced a number of hybrid varieties of his creation and sold them through his nursery. The three generations of Underhills working at Croton Point are a first dynasty in American viticulture (their property is now a county park).[138]

A few miles north of Croton Point, a Frenchman named Thomas Gimbrede was experimenting with native vines at West Point, where he taught drawing to the cadets. Starting about 1820, Gimbrede had collected every variety that he found growing wild in the woods and transplanted them to his garden, "manuring, stimulating and pruning them with great care, in the hope of changing and ameliorating their character." After fifteen years of such experiment, Gimbrede was candid enough to admit that he had had no luck whatever: the natives remained obstinately unimproved by their pampering.[139] But perhaps this barren result may have helped put an end to the notion, so long and fondly entertained, that the "wild" grape could be "tamed" by so simple a process of cultivation in which, as one writer has said, the experimenter acts as a sociologist instead of a geneticist.[140] One hears little of the "taming" idea afterwards.

The first successful commercial winery in New York was founded by a Frenchman named Jean Jaques in 1839, at Washingtonville, on the west bank of the Hudson. Under the name of Blooming Grove, the winery business did well enough to be continued by his sons. In the 1870s the surviving son sold the winery to a firm of New York wine merchants who also dealt in the wines from the original Brotherhood Winery in Brocton, New York. The name of the Washingtonville winery was then changed to Brotherhood, for though the Brocton firm no longer existed, its name continued to have market value. Grapes are no longer grown on the Washingtonville property, and the firm has passed through many transformations, but it survived Prohibition by making sacramental wine and is still going. The winery may fairly claim to be the oldest such enterprise in continuous operation in this country and helps to bolster New York's claim to a central place in the commercial history of wine in America.[141]

One hundred and fifty miles west of the Hudson Valley lie the long, narrow, deep strips of water whose arrangement on the map like the outstretched fingers of a hand has given them their name of Finger Lakes. As Philip Wagner has written, "their beauty is famous and their geology fascinating."[142] But for Wagner and for us, their main interest is in their status as a winegrowing region. The lakes, with their adjacent highlands, keep the climate of the valleys much more equable than in the nearby regions, producing warmer winters and cooler summers and so favoring the grape.[143]


The first vineyards in the Finger Lakes region were planted on this 
spot along the west bank of Keuka Lake (then called Crooked 
Lake) beginning in 1836. (From Goldsmith Denniston,  Grape Culture 
in Steuben County

The Finger Lakes district is, and has long been, the main source of fine table wine, including sparkling wine, in the eastern United States. Its rise to this eminence was not particularly early or rapid, however; the history of the region's development largely belongs to the period after the Civil War, as is also the case in Ohio and Missouri. But, as in those states too, the beginnings at least were clearly made before the war. According to the received account, the first cultivated grapes in the Finger Lakes district were set out about 1830 (the date is disputed) by the Reverend William Bostwick, rector of the newly founded Episcopal Church in


The viticultural region of Keuka Lake (Crooked Lake) as it developed after 1836. 
The Pleasant Valley subregion lies at the far lower left corner of the map, behind 
the town of Hammondsport. It was here that the large-scale winemaking enterprises
 of the valley developed. (From Goldsmith Denniston,  Grape Culture in Steuben County  [1865])

Hammondsport, at the south end of Keuka Lake (or Crooked Lake, as it was then called).[144] There is no record that Bostwick ever made wine from his grapes—he had only a few vines of Catawba and Isabella--but it is pleasant to have his example to show that the ancient tradition linking wine and the church included, in this country, not only the Catholic, the Huguenot, and the German Protestant, but the Anglican communion as well.

Bostwick's example was followed by his neighbors, perhaps with the greatest enthusiasm by J. W. Prentiss, who beginning in 1836 developed a three-acre vine-


yard on the shores of Keuka in the township of Pulteney with vines from Bostwick's garden.[145] Another significant event in the district was the arrival, after 1848, of experienced German vineyardists, refugees from the political revolutions of the Continent. One of these, Andrew Reisenger, after observing Prentiss's success with his small vineyard, set out two or three acres of his own in the same region of the western lake shore, at Harmony, in 1853.[146] The excellent results of Reisenger's professional practices—unknown until then in the neighborhood—showed what crops and profits might be made from viticulture. Local men of substance soon followed Reisenger's lead: planting began in 1855 on the land south of Hammondsport, a shallow valley once a part of the lake and now called Pleasant Valley.[147] The presence of the new German immigrants gave the region an advantage by providing a ready source of experienced labor. By 1859, Hedrick estimates, there were four or five hundred acres of grapes around Keuka Lake.[148] Planting had extended not only south to Pleasant Valley but north into Yates County and to the eastern shore of the lake around Wayne. It included all the established native varieties: Catawba, Isabella, Delaware, Diana, Iona for white wine; Concord, Norton, Ives, and Clinton for red. The market—at first mostly for fresh fruit—was so good that local enthusiasts proclaimed that "a bearing vineyard was as good as a gold mine."[149]

To take advantage of this considerable source, the first winery at Hammondsport, which has been from that time the center of the Finger Lakes industry, was founded in 1860 as the Hammondsport and Pleasant Valley Wine Company, incorporated for the purpose of producing wine, brandy, and champagne.[150] The head of this enterprise was Charles Champlin, one of the gentlemen growing grapes in Pleasant Valley, who was joined in the founding of the company by other Pleasant Valley growers. The handsome stone building that Champlin and his associates put up on the slope looking over Pleasant Valley still stands there. The first winemaker was a German named Weber,[151] but the winery aimed at a French style. The plan to produce a sparkling wine meant that a champagne maker would have to be imported: Longworth had already established that pattern in Cincinnati, and so had the Sainsevains in California. To make the French claim even plainer, the winery obtained the post office address of Rheims, and long continued to use it. The first champagne master was Joseph Masson, who was followed by a brother, Jules, and Jules by his son, Victor.[152] Both of the Masson brothers, originally from France, had come to this country to make sparkling wine in Cincinnati.[153] Thus did the production of sparkling wine in the East, after the decline of the vineyards along the Ohio, reappear and prosper under a succession of Frenchmen. But if the winemaking was French, one must remember that the vine growing owed much to the Germans.

The Pleasant Valley Wine Company shipped its first wine in 1862, and by 1864 its production had risen to around 30,000 gallons.[154] In 1867, at a banquet in Boston, its fame was made. That was a time when the literati of Boston were the tastemakers of the country, and they not merely approved of Champlin's sparkling


The first winery erected in the Finger Lakes Region, the Pleasant Valley winery 
building still stands and is still an operating winery. ( Harper's Weekly , 11 May 1872)

wine, they gave it a name. From the point of view of Boston—the Hub, as they would have said—Pleasant Valley wine came from the remote reaches of the great West: it should be known, therefore, as "Great Western" sparkling wine, and so it has been since.[155] The name of the firm remains Pleasant Valley, but the name on its labels is always "Great Western."

Over the ridge to the west and north of Hammondsport the next valley is that of Canandaigua Lake, where grape growing on a commercial scale was begun in 1854 by a lawyer named Edward McKay, who planted Isabella vines on an acre of ground.[156] In a few years he had an excellent crop, and so his friends and neighbors began to plant vines too. The first winery was put up in 1861 at Naples, on Canandaigua Lake, by the town banker, Hiram Maxfield.[157] After the war a considerable migration of Germans and Swiss to the region took place, and the continued development of winegrowing in the Naples Valley was largely their work. Other sites along the Finger Lakes were being developed as vineyards in the 1850s and 1860s:


Jules Masson, who succeeded his brother Joseph as champagne master at the Pleasant 
Valley Wine Company in the 1860s. They founded the manufacture of sparkling wine in
 New York State. (Harper's Weekly , 11 May 1872)

Union Springs, on Cayuga Lake, was one center;[158] the hillsides of Seneca, largest of the Finger Lakes, began to be planted in 1862.[159] Winemaking, however, stayed close to Keuka and Canandaigua lakes, where it has mostly remained ever since.

Central New York, since the time of its first prosperity through the Erie Canal, has had an honorable place in the history of American horticulture. Generations of orchardists, vineyardists, nurserymen, and, latterly, plant scientists, have introduced and experimented with a great variety of fruits, and have especially attended to the grape. The great monument to this activity in the nineteenth century is the magisterial tome—it can hardly be called a mere book—entitled The Grapes of New


York , produced by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva (also in the Finger Lakes region) in 1908. This work, of some 564 large quarto pages, lavishly illustrated with color plates, was published at the expense of the state under the supervision of the plant scientist U. P. Hedrick, and covers a far wider range than the title indicates. It is in fact an encyclopedia of the history of grape growing in the eastern United States to the time of its publication; it makes clear how large and important a part the work of growers, hybridizers, and scientists in upstate New York has had in that history. No doubt mere historical accident had something to do with all this: while others sought out chance seedlings, as Adlum did in Maryland, or undertook the expensive and frustrating labor of developing sound winemaking practices in unfamiliar conditions, as Longworth did in Cincinnati, the horticulturists of New York were not at all in the forefront of winemaking. When their moment came, however, they were ready, and since the early years of experiment along the Hudson, the state of New York has counted in eastern viticulture and winemaking as no other state has. This need not be a permanent condition of things, but the fact deserves to be recognized here.

The fourth and westernmost region of New York viticulture is along the shores of Lake Erie. The lake shore, which stretches over Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, provides the largest developed grape growing belt in the United States outside California. Planting began around Cleveland in the 1830s and around Sandusky in the next decade, though commercial development did not go very far before the 1860s. The pattern was pretty much the same in the New York section of the shoreline, which lies mostly in Chautauqua County, famous for the Chautauqua Institution as well as for its grapes—an ironic combination, given the prohibitionist character of the Chautauqua movement (the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was conceived at Chautauqua Lake in 1874).

The "grape belt" of western New York, as it has been called since the nineteenth century, occupies a narrow terrace between the waters of the lake and the high ground called the Allegheny Escarpment; the belt extends on one side to Erie, Pennsylvania, and on the other into Erie County, New York, south of Buffalo. The soil is thin, gravelly, and well drained, and though not sufficiently fertile for general farming it is well suited for grapes. More important than soil is climate: excellent air drainage retards fungus diseases, and helps to prevent frost. The combined effect of the lake and of the escarpment makes the growing season notably longer', the winters milder, the summers warmer than in the surrounding hills and valleys. The annual rainfall is less than that of the neighboring lands, to the advantage of the grape. Tradition says that the first grapevines planted in far western New York were cuttings from Massachusetts set out in 1818 on his farm in Brocton by Elijah Fay, a transplanted Yankee among the early settlers of the region. When these vines failed to do well, Fay obtained some plants of Catawba and Isabella from the Long Island nursery of William Prince and planted those in 1824.[160] From that beginning the Chautauqua region began its slow development into what became., later in the century, a virtual monoculture economy of the grape.

Elijah Fay began making wine for himself in 1830 and continued to do so until


Deacon Elijah Fay (1781-1860). A Massachusetts Yankee who migrated
 to the shores of Lake Erie in 1811, Fay is credited with planting the first 
grapes in the Grape Belt of New York State. He began winemaking in 1830,
 in part to supply sacramental wine to the First Baptist Church of Brocton, 
of which he was an early deacon. (From John B. Downs,  History of Chautauqua 

his death in 1860. He was a deacon of the Baptist Church at Brocton, and so maintains the tradition of church and vine. His example does not seem to have inspired many imitators, but here and there small plantings were made, and Fay's family carried on the work. Joseph Fay, son of Elijah, planted the first commercial vineyard of the region in 1851[161] Lincoln Fay, a nephew, was responsible for introducing the Concord grape in the late 1850s.[162] That was a decisive step, for in the Chautauqua grape belt the Concord quickly succeeded in driving out the Catawba and the Isabella, and has ever since remained the overwhelmingly dominant grape. This fact has served to distinguish the eastern, or New York, end of the Lake Erie shore from its western, or Ohio, end, where the Catawba held out against the Concord. In consequence, the Ohio end has always maintained its identity as a wine-growing region, while the New York end has for many years been the great national source of grape juice. That, however, was a late nineteenth-century turn of affairs.

The sudden expansion of the industry in Chautauqua County dates from the


end of the 1850s, as it does also in the Finger Lakes and along the Ohio shore of Lake Erie. In 1859, when there were but a scant forty acres of vines in the county, the first winery, the Brocton Wine Cellars, was founded by three men, one of whom was a son and another the grandson of Elijah Fay, the original vineyardist of the region. The winery produced a modest 2,000 gallons in its first season, from which beginning it grew into a large and profitable business. In 1865 the winery had an inventory of 37,000 gallons, and the forty acres of vines around Brocton had jumped to four hundred: the rapid establishment of a "grape belt" was under way.[163] Western New York thus joined the pattern that was clearly developing in the northern states just before and during the Civil War, a pattern in which the long, intermittent, and frustrating preparations for a winemaking industry were at last completed and the basis laid for the production of wine in significant quantities from native grapes. Despite the years lost to the Civil War in the first half of the decade, the 1860s were the years of a "grape boom," years in which the acreage of vines in New York, Ohio, and Missouri increased at geometrical rates, when wineries were opened to take advantage of the new production, when new varieties were introduced almost daily to an eager public caught up in what the papers called the "grape mania." Some other elements that helped to generate the mania are taken up in the next chapter.


Eastern Viticulture Comes of Age

The Rise of Hybrid Grapes

We have seen how it was that the beginning of American winegrowing depended not so much upon the skills of the winemaker as upon the contributions of the vine grower. The problem, in short, was not how to make wine but how to find a grape that would, first of all, survive, and second, yield a juice worth converting into wine. The answer came at first by accident, through the discovery of chance native seedlings that exhibited new and desirable characteristics. The Alexander was the first of these to be put on record; the Catawba the first to be good enough to maintain itself against the competition of later introductions. The discovery of such grapes was typically made by an amateur or professional horticulturist ranging the woods, or checking out the rumor of a promising vine growing in some domestic garden; again, the Alexander and the Catawba are examples of this pattern. Such plants then passed into the hands of commercial nurserymen, who performed the indispensable service of propagating them and making them widely and regularly available. Legaux and the Alexander, Adlum and the Catawba, and Prince and the Isabella illustrate this phase.

The thought that the accidental process of discovery might be systematized and controlled occurred to many people from time to time. Why wait upon the chances of nature when one could create and select one's own varieties? The simplest and most direct means for doing this lies in the fact that grapes are among those plants that do not breed true from seed. Every cultivated variety is already a storehouse of diverse genetic material, full of dominant and recessive traits ready


to enter into new mixtures and relations in each successive generation. Furthermore, the receptivity of the grape to cross-fertilization means that any grape flowering in the neighborhood of another may easily be interbred. New mixes of good and bad traits may thus be readily generated by planting two or more varieties in proximity and allowing casual cross-fertilization at bloom time.

If the seeds of a Catawba, or of a Cabernet, or of any other grape, are planted, each seedling will show a greater or lesser difference from the parent. This is just what the vineyardist wishes to avoid; he wants the characters of his vines to be reliably perpetuated. Luckily for him, the vine is readily and consistently propagated vegetatively—that is, by cuttings taken from the wood of the vine—and the vineyardist therefore multiplies and maintains his stock by cuttings (or by other vegetative means, such as layering). He has nothing to do with seeds, which would only produce instability and confusion in his materials. But to the plant breeder, the genetic plasticity revealed in the vine's seedlings is just what he wants: it gives him his opportunity. The principles of Mendelian genetics were of course utterly unknown to plant breeders before the end of the nineteenth century. But the tendency to variation in grape seedlings has been known in a practical way for as long as the grape has been cultivated, and it was by taking advantage of the fact that the uncounted varieties of the European vine have been produced. It is surprising, therefore, that deliberate experiment with seedlings of native varieties was so long in coming. But so it was.[1]

As a further refinement of his methods, the plant breeder may control the mixture of qualities he seeks by artificially cross-fertilizing plants that he has selected beforehand for their desirable characters. This is the method of truly scientific hybridizing, requiring delicate manipulation of the vine's flower parts so that pollen from one plant is introduced to the ovary of another. The seed produced by this deliberate cross-fertilizing is then planted and the seedlings selected as they would be in the case of random crossings. Crosses may be made between varieties of the same species, in which case the more precise term métis rather than hybrid is used to describe the offspring. Or crosses may be made between different species, in which case the result is a true hybrid. In this very untechnical discussion I shall pay no attention to the distinction and speak indifferently of crosses and hybrids.

The understanding of the larger elements involved in the phenomenon of hybridization was, both in theory and in practice, quite well developed by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Hybridizing depends upon the principle of the sexuality of plants, a discovery established in the late seventeenth century and fully worked out in the eighteenth; by the middle years of the latter century, genuinely scientific experiment in plant hybridization was being carried on. But for some reason nobody bothered in those early days to work with grapes. Even in the nineteenth century, a time of unparalleled advance in the scientific understanding and improvement of agriculture generally, the work was rather slow to begin. The Europeans, perhaps, had no special reason to carry out grape hybridizing, since they were on the whole well suited with what they had.[2] But the Americans, with abun-


dant reason to look for something better than the pure native vines, were not particularly forward in the business either.

The fact that certain received varieties were actually chance-produced hybrids was first recognized in print by the Philadelphia seedsman Bernard MacMahon: there were, he wrote in 1806, a number of varieties derived from crosses between different varieties of native grapes, or from crosses between native grapes and vinifera; such crosses included the Alexander[3] and the Bland. From these grapes, called "hybrids or mules," MacMahon thought it "probable that good wine may be produced."[4] Another reference to the possibilities of hybridizing grapes occurs in Dufour's Vine-Dresser's Guide , where Dufour expresses the hope that public-spirited people who, unlike him, have the leisure needed for such lengthy affairs, will try the "raising of new species of grapes, either by seeds or grafts." Even better, he thought, would be a public garden where hothouse experiments could be carried out in the actual cross-breeding of selected species.[5] A few years after Dufour, William Prince, in his Treatise , quotes the opinion of Professor Thomas Nuttall of Harvard that "hybrids betwixt the European vine (Vitis vinifera ) and those of the United States, would better answer the variable climates of North America, than the unacclimated vine of Europe."[6] Nuttall's opinion is now the orthodox view, guiding all the work done to provide better varieties for the eastern United States.

Whether Nuttall inspired him to the experiment or whether it occurred to him independently, Prince did undertake to breed new grape varieties, being the first on record in America to do so. In his Treatise on the Vine , he states that he has 10,000 seedlings growing "from an admixture under every variety of circumstance."[7] Like Nuttall, Prince recommended that crosses be made between vinifera and the natives, and he believed that the native species ought to be the summer grape, aestivalis, rather than the labrusca, to avoid the foxy flavor of the latter.[8] It is curious that no further record of Prince's seedlings exists, though when one considers how many thousands of seedlings a modern plant breeder may have to raise before obtaining even one promising specimen it seems quite possible, even likely, that Prince's 10,000 yielded him nothing worth propagating. Another early experimenter with seedling selection was Samuel Pond of Massachusetts, who sometime before 1830 grew a seedling he thought worth introducing for general cultivation. Pond's Seedling, as it was known, has been called the first improved native American grape whose appearance was owing to deliberate experiment rather than chance discovery.[9]

In 1852 the list of approved grapes issued by the American Pomological Society, the standard guide for nineteenth-century horticulturists, named only two varieties, both of them native seedlings. These were the familiar Catawba and Isabella, both of which had been available since the first quarter of the century. There had, of course, been a good many introductions of other seedlings in the years up to 1852, but with very few exceptions they had proved to be disappointments, and they were invariably chance-found seedlings or the result of mixed plantings (as was, for example, the Diana, once a much-promoted grape, introduced in 1843).


What has been called the "novitiate stage"[10] of our grape breeding came to an end in 1852 when Dr. William W. Valk, a physician of Flushing, Long Island, exhibited before the American Pomological Society some grapes from a vine that he had produced by crossing the native Isabella, a labrusca, with the vinifera Black Ham-burgh. The variety, called Ada, is now recognized as the first deliberately produced hybrid of the native and European grapes.[11]

Valk had begun his experiments in 1845, but even before that another grape breeder had begun to create hybrids of native and vinifera species. He was John Fisk Allen, of Salem, Massachusetts, the author of a book entitled The Culture of the Grape (1847). In 1843-44 he had fertilized an Isabella vine with pollen from Chasselas de Fontainebleau. From the produce of the resulting seed, he eventually selected a seedling that was introduced in 1854, two years later than Valk's Ada, as Allen's White Hybrid or simply Allen's Hybrid.[12] This was the first such grape actually to be distributed for cultivation, and so had the important function of establishing the fact against all doubters that the native-vinifera cross could be made practical. The vine was, according to Hedrick, grown for a generation everywhere that grapes were grown in this country and in Canada.[13] Under these testing circumstances, it soon began to show the weaknesses of all primary hybrids, as they are called: a tenderness to cold and a susceptibility to the diseases that had always devastated its European parent in the eastern United States. Its cultivation was therefore given up, and Allen's Hybrid has now joined the Alexander on the list of grapes of historic memory.

By a curious coincidence, a second, even more important, hybridizer was also at work in Salem, a small town in a region where there is no commercial viticulture. This was Edward Staniford Rogers, the son of a Salem merchant, a shy recluse who worked in an old, choked garden adjoining the family home (inevitably one thinks of Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables and its old New England inmates, also denizens of Salem).[14] Inspired by an article summarizing what was then known of the principles of plant hybridization, Rogers made his first and most successful crosses in 1851. For the pistillate (female) parent, he chose the wild Mammoth or Sage grape of New England, vigorously described by a contemporary as "a fox of the strongest odor, and of the most execrable and uneatable quality," but having the desirable characters of vigorous growth, earliness, hardiness, and large size of bunch.[15] Rogers fertilized flowers of this variety with pollen from both Black Hamburgh and White Chasselas vines, and from these crosses he ultimately obtained forty-five seedlings. By the end of the decade he was sending out cuttings of his hybrids, all of them identified by numbers only, to the later confusion of things. Some did acquire names as they entered cultivation: Rogers' No. 1, for example, was christened Goethe; No. 3 became Massasoit; No. 4, Wilder; and so on through ten more names, the best known of which is Agawam (originally Rogers' No. 15). None of these grapes has ever established itself as a leading variety (though one may note that Salem, Rogers' No. 22, was until recent years sold as a varietal wine by Widmer's Winery in New York State). Yet their quality


as a group was astonishingly high, considering the wretched character of the labrusca mother. This demonstration of what hybridizing could do towards quality was not lost. The eminent horticulturist Marshall P. Wilder, president of the American Pomological Society and the namesake of one of Rogers' grapes, proclaimed in a letter to Rogers: "You have achieved a conquest over nature, and your efforts will constitute a new era in American grape culture."[16]

The stir created by Rogers' new grapes excited an unparalleled interest in viticulture generally: "Never before or since," asserts one writer, "has grape growing in the United States received the attention given to it during the decade following the introduction of the Rogers Hybrids."[17] Everywhere in the country, amateurs and professionals took up the challenging sport of grape breeding—a sport in which, at least, some six or seven years might elapse before any fruit could be produced for judgment, and in which the effort of years might well produce nothing at all of any distinct value. Among the notable names—the list might be prolonged through scores and hundreds—a few may be specified. George W. Campbell, a merchant of Delaware, Ohio, was led by his interest to become a professional nurseryman specializing in grapes, of which he produced thousands of seedlings; James H. Ricketts, a bookbinder of Newburgh, New York, introduced flashy new varieties with names like Bacchus, Don Juan, and Lady Washington. George Haskell, a lawyer of Ipswich, Massachusetts, specialized in labrusca-vinifera crosses like his compatriot Rogers.[18] In Missouri we have already noticed Jacob Rommel, whose emphasis was not on hybrids of the natives with vinifera but on crosses between the native species of labrusca and riparia, selected with an eye to the requirements of the Middle West. In Kansas, as early as the 1860s, when the territory had barely been converted into a state, John Burr, a transplanted Connecticut Yankee, began to produce a series of hybrids at his vineyard in Leavenworth, where his neighbor and friend, Joseph Stayman, also produced new varieties of grapes as part of his more extensive work in plant breeding (the Stayman apple has survived better than any of Stayman's grape varieties).[19]

With such widespread activity and interest surging through the country, the press inevitably began to talk of a "new era," as Wilder had said it would be. It was, and it was not. It was, in virtue of the possibilities of scientific breeding that had been vindicated by Allen and Rogers at midcentury. It was not, in virtue of the fact that despite the flood of new varieties poured out in the latter half of the century, eastern viticulture remained based for the next one hundred years almost entirely upon exactly the native varieties already available by 1860.

The defects of such primary hybrids as those we have just been describing were quickly recognized: too much vinifera meant susceptibility to all its weaknesses; too much native vine meant a dominance of all those undesirable fruit qualities, the elimination of which was the very object of the hybridizing in the first place. The next step was to undertake secondary hybrids—crosses of hybrids with natives, or of hybrids with hybrids. The two pioneers of this phase were Jacob Moore, of Brighton, New York, and Andrew Jackson Caywood, of Marlboro, New


York, both commercial nurserymen. Moore, described by Hedrick as a man of "a high degree of intelligence and an unusually keen sense of the latent possibilities in plants,"[20] spent half a century in the unwearied pursuit of a grape that would combine the best of old and new. Moore's most successful introduction, the Diamond (or more often Moore's Diamond) is a cross in which the vinifera strain is dilute, yet strong enough to have its effect upon the fruit quality; it is still used in the sparkling blends of the Finger Lakes, and occasionally in still, dry wines. Caywood's contribution to the permanent varietal stock of eastern viticulture is the grape called Dutchess; it is really a tertiary hybrid, or more, for its parentage of White Concord, Delaware, and Walter combines vinifera, labrusca, Bourquiniana, and aestivalis. Caywood's vineyard at Marlboro is still growing as part of Benmarl Vineyards;[21] and the Dutchess grape still commands the highest prices for native grapes in New York.

Dutchess, Diamond, Elvira, and other varieties that came out of the active ferment of plant breeding following Rogers' hybrids still survive in a modest way in eastern vineyards; they never achieved any moment of dominance. Yet it would be wrong to overlook their share in contributing to the development of American winemaking. The marked improvement in vine and fruit quality that they provided encouraged later experimenters to continue. Furthermore, scientific hybridizing required exact study of the native varieties to establish their characters for vigor, resistance to insects and diseases, hardiness, and fruit quality. Only when such things were determined could intelligent combination of characters be possible, and so the interest in hybridizing had as a necessary consequence the effect of stimulating the essential work of analyzing the material available.

The logic of plant breeding also required that the climate and soils of vineyard sites be studied in new detail and with exactitude, for specific characters implied specific circumstances in which they might best develop. One can see just such knowledge being accumulated in the literature of the latter half of the century; it is fair to say that the emergence of the controlled hybrid had something to do with that accumulation, for it was now, prospectively at least, worth determining such matters so that improved grapes could be grown in proper conditions. In the perspective of European winegrowing, all winegrowing in the rest of the world is still in its infancy. But in the brief chronicle of American winegrowing, the innocent age of viticulture ended with the appearance of the controlled hybrid.

Controlled hybridizing was by no means the only source of new varieties. The chance seedling found in the wild, or the botanical sport growing in a small town garden were still very much part of the picture, and, indeed, have provided the varieties that dominate it still. Of the uncounted number of such grapes, three may be singled out for remark, not just for themselves but because their histories are representative of so much in the story of American winegrowing.

The first of these three, the Delaware, is the fruit of a wild seedling, like the Alexander, the Catawba, and the Isabella. No one knows where it came from, or even who it was, for certain, who had the merit of first cultivating it. Yet it is as


good a native grape—pure-bred or hybrid—as has ever grown in eastern America. It is derived from labrusca, but is so ameliorated by crossing that it is without any foxiness. A well-made Delaware is among the very best white wines, and therefore among the very best wines, that the East produces today from native vines. Hedrick's claim that "there is no variety of Vitis vinifera more richly or more delicately flavored or with a more agreeable aroma"[22] is extravagant, but at least indicates Delaware's standing at the head of the old native varieties.

Delaware came into public knowledge in 1849, when the editor of the local newspaper in Delaware, Ohio (north of Columbus), saw some grapes of this variety brought in from a farm in the neighborhood. On inquiry, he learned that the farmer had brought the vine from New Jersey more than twenty years earlier. Its source in New Jersey appeared to be the garden of a Swiss named Provost, of Frenchtown, Hunterdon County, on the banks of the Delaware River—though that is only a coincidence of names: the grape is named for the town in Ohio, not the river. By this time, Provost was dead, and where he got his vines remains a mystery: some said they came from Italy; some said from a German newly arrived in this country; some said from Virginia by way of Philadelphia.[23] Others disagreed with all such stories of exotic origin and maintained that the vine was a seedling from Provost's own garden. These stories and counter-stories, assertions and contradictions, flowed through the columns of the horticultural press pretty freely in the generation after the Delaware was brought forward, and they have left the question of the variety's origin just where it was before the controversy started. The experts also disagree over the hybrid constitution of the Delaware. As Bailey has said, "It is one of those fortuitous riddles which nature now and then produces, the genesis of which, if known and well considered, might afford new light to the intending breeder of plants."[24] The excellence and the inexplicability of the Delaware are a reminder to the grape breeder not to claim too much for his art. In any case, the qualities of the Delaware as a wine grape were quickly recognized, so that it was established in general cultivation before the end of the 1850s.

The proprietary claim to the second of our exemplary new varieties is quite clear. The grape called Iona was introduced by Dr. C. W. Grant, a dentist originally of Newburgh, New York.[25] Newburgh was a notable spot in these years as the home of the grape breeder A. J. Caywood and of the distinguished horticulturists and journalists Andrew Jackson Downing and his brother Charles. Perhaps Grant acquired some of his enthusiasm for viticulture from them. In 1849 Grant bought Iona Island, an island of 119 acres in the Hudson River near Peekskill; after 1856 he made his home there and devoted himself to the cultivation of his vineyard and to the sale of vines from it. Grant's main stock in trade was his Iona grape, which he identified as a seedling of Diana (itself a seedling of Catawba), and introduced in 1863. Coming into the market as it did towards the close of the Civil War, it coincided with the height of the grape mania sweeping the eastern states, and Grant was astute enough to see that the moment favored him. "Next to oil," as the Gardener's Monthly remarked in 1865 (it was the era of the Pennsylvania oil boom


too), "nothing is so much spoken of in the cars, on the street, by the roadside, everywhere, as the grape, and grape native wine."[26] This was the time when, as one old nurseryman remembered, he had carried over a thousand dollars worth of grape cuttings on his back from his nursery to the shipping office in one trip.[27] Itinerant plant salesmen travelled the country peddling "guaranteed" varieties of vines to eager customers. There was a good deal of honest, but premature, promotion of newly introduced varieties that had not been proven and that, after a few years of trial, belied all the imaginary qualities claimed for them. Worse than that were the inevitable frauds generated by an inflated and heated demand for vines.

Grant well understood how to work in such an atmosphere. He advertised extensively and aggressively in the press, using all the machinery of testimonials, premiums, and self-assertion. A typical advertisement modestly declares that the Iona "equals the best European kinds in richness, purity and refinement ... it is unequalled for fine, rich, enduring wine .... It is only with such grapes as this that we can equal the fine wines of Europe."[28] Grant secured the kind of frequent and respectful mention in magazines and books that comes from applying what we now call public relations, but for which there was not yet, in those days, any name other than "puffing." An extreme, yet characteristic, piece of promotion occurred in 1864 when Grant and his agents proclaimed a grand "Fruit-Growers' Convention" to be held for the encouragement of national horticulture at Grant's Iona Island.[29] By disingenuous means, Grant got a whole raft of New York public men to patronize the "Convention"—William Cullen Bryant, Horace Greeley, and Henry Ward Beecher among them. An ambitious program of papers and demonstrations was outlined, and a special steamer was laid on to bring the crowds upriver from the city to Iona Island. Grant, his island vineyards, and his Iona grape were all prominent in the print promoting this exciting affair.

The whole thing was a bold sham. No steamer appeared on the day appointed. Still, many people made their way to Peekskill by train, to find that no adequate preparations had been made to receive them and that most of the advertised talks and entertainments had not been arranged. What they did find was an unannounced auction of 10,000 cuttings of Dr. Grant's Iona grape at which they were encouraged to bid. No other activities would begin until the auction had been carried out. The notabilities—Bryant, Greeley et al.—had prudently been taken off to lunch and kept in good humor by Grant while the general public was taken for what it would give. When, towards the end of the day, a horticultural meeting was at last held in a huddled up sort of way, only some random and unconcerted speeches were given. Whether Grant was wholly responsible for the details of this dubious enterprise, and whether it did him more good than harm in the long run, we do not know. The episode tells us at any rate that somebody judged that the public interest in grapes at this time would stand a good deal of abusing, and that any publicity was good publicity.

The price of the Iona was kept high, and Grant's exclusive interest in its propagation and sale jealously guarded (the right of securing a patent in new plants was


not obtained in this country until the next century). But Grant did not have a wholly smooth success with his new grape. There were skeptics who doubted out loud that it had anything like the virtues that Grant attributed to it; he had rivals in whose interest it was to denigrate it noisily; and the very intensity of the promotion it received inevitably provoked reaction. It is not surprising, therefore, that, as Hedrick says, "probably no American variety has been the subject of more caustic discussions than this one and it is only within the last few years that its merits could be impartially estimated."[30] And what are the merits? The truth is that the variety has great good qualities and equally great defects. The fruit is sweet, delicate, and juicy, yielding a wine that Wagner describes as "one of the best of those produced by the American hybrids—pale, very clean and dry, with a racy aroma that shows up particularly well under champagnization."[31] The vine itself, however, is condemned as "the poorest in the vineyard"[32] —troublesome to grow, lacking hardiness and vigor, vulnerable to all diseases, demanding special soils. It has for these reasons almost disappeared from commercial cultivation. As for Iona Island, that passed into the hands of the U.S. Navy and served as an ammunition depot until, in 1965, it became a state park. Parking lots and picnic grounds now occupy the land where Iona grapes once grew. So much for the second of our representative hybrids.

Hedrick estimates that in the fifty years following the introduction of Rogers' hybrids, some 2,000 new American hybrids were named and in some way made public.[33] The list of varietal names in The Grapes of New York runs from Abby Clingotten, Ada, Adelaide, Adelia, through Leon, Letovey, Lewis, Lexington, to Zane, Zelia, Zinnia, Zita, and Zoe. In such a spate of new varieties, relatively few might be expected to survive; one would suppose, however, that no one grape would emerge to dominate all others. Yet that, or something very like that, is what happened from the fateful moment when Ephraim Bull noticed a chance seedling growing just outside his garden in Concord, Massachusetts.[34] Bull was a goldbeater by trade, making and selling gold leaf for a living. His passion, however, was horticulture, and especially grape growing, with which he had experimented since childhood. He had left Boston for Concord partly in order to indulge his taste for gardening, and now lived in a house called Grapevine Cottage (where, later, his neighbor to the west was Nathaniel Hawthorne).

The sight of the seedling near his garden suggested to Bull that he might test the theory of the Belgian horticulturist Jean-Baptiste Van Mons that successive generations of seedlings would produce a greatly ameliorated plant. Accounts of the circumstances conflict, and some points remain obscure, but in one tradition (I follow Bailey) the seedling is explained as the result of wild grapes scattered by some grape-eating boys the summer before. This was in 1840. Three years later, Bull obtained fruit from the wild vine and planted whole berries from it in his garden. One of the resultant seedlings fruited in 1849 and seemed so superior that Bull destroyed the other seedlings in order to concentrate on the survivor, a blue-black grape he named Concord, which, he prophesied, would be the basis of a new in-


Ephraim Bull (1806-95), of Concord, Massachusetts, shown here with the original vine of 
the Concord grape that he propagated and named. By far the most popular and widely 
planted grape ever introduced in this country, the Concord still defines "grape" for most 
Americans. (From Kansas State Horticultural Society,  How to Grow and Use the
 Grape in Kansas

dustry: "I venture to predict," Bull wrote, "that the man is now born who will see New England supplying herself with native wines, and even exporting them."[35]

Bull exhibited his new grape before the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1853, and in 1854 it was offered for sale by Hovey and Company, the leading Boston nursery. From that moment it spread throughout the country with astonishing rapidity. So astute was the promotion and so eager the demand that in March 1854 Concord was selling for $5 a plant![36] It reached western New York, the newest region of viticulture, in the year of its release, and it was established as a major variety in Missouri, the western edge of settlement, before the Civil War. No one can calculate the number of fences and back-yard arbors that Concord has adorned throughout America (even on the West Coast), where it has provided the archetypal idea of "grape" for generations of Americans. Its fruit and its foliage and its color are the model for most pictures of the grape in this country, so that the Concord image as well as the Concord flavor is standard for us. The reason for its success is concisely put by Bailey: "It was the first variety of sufficient hardiness,


The first offering of the Concord grape, which was to sweep the country and dominate eastern 
winegrowing for the next century. Note that no claim is made in this notice for the Concord 
as a wine grape. (The Cultivator , April 1854)


productiveness and immunity from diseases to carry the culture of the vine into every garden of the land."[37] Its tough and fruitful nature, and its adaptability to a wide variety of conditions, have made Concord almost irresistible to commercial growers.

Yet one may regret that our American standard of the grape was set by such a variety as the Concord. It is a pure-bred labrusca, with all the foxiness of its kind; the skin is tough and astringent, the seeds large; the sugar content is not high, and the juice will not make even a barely tolerable wine without considerable artificial sweetening. In consequence the wine of Concord is typically sweet, and so has reinforced the American tendency to prefer a sweet to a dry wine. Nor has its wine any delicacy or complexity of flavor: the strong labrusca aroma and the taste of sugar pretty much exhaust its appeal. Like nearly all tastes, the taste for Concord wine can be acquired, but acquiring it entails a considerable lowering of the powers of discrimination. It would be impossible to estimate how much the taste for Concord and for the vinous confections made from it have retarded the development of a civilized tradition in which dry table wines for everyday use are taken as the standard. It is equally impossible to doubt that the Concord has had much to do with the fact that such a development has been greatly retarded. There is, perhaps, a form of Gresham's Law operating on wine as well as on currency, so that the bad drives out the good. But currencies can be reformed, and we can hope from the many signs in America today that a national taste in wine can be reformed too. The withering away of the taste for Concord is a necessary first step.[38]

In 1864 Horace Greeley, who liked to appear as, among other things, a patron of agriculture, offered a prize of $100 to be awarded to the man who should produce the best grape for general culture in America (the "best" being understood to mean the highest possible vinifera character in the fruit and the highest possible native character in the vine). Later that year, obviously impressed by the fanfare that accompanied Dr. Grant's introduction of the Iona, the committee awarded the prize to that grape. This hasty decision at once caused a flap—including charges of fraud—and the prize was withdrawn so that more experience might be gained before a decision was given. Two years later the prize was bestowed on Bull for the Concord, and this time the committee's decision stood firm. Concord—a pure native of the natives, without a suspicion of vinifera genes—was crowned, in Greeley's words, as "the grape for the millions."[39]

Ephraim Bull lived to be ninety before his death in 1895 at the house in Concord where he had developed his celebrated grape. He had grown thousands of seedlings since his discovery of the Concord, but that lightning was to strike only once in his plant-breeding career. He made little or nothing from the fabulous success of the Concord, other growers having quickly propagated and advertised the vine without restraint. His last days were impoverished and embittered. The legend on his tombstone in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at Concord reads: "He sowed, others reaped." A modest memorial stone commemorating Bull and his grape was erected by the town of Concord and is now set into the fence running around the old garden where the original vine grew. It reads thus:


Ephraim Wales Bull planted seeds of a wild Labrusca grape found growing on this hillside which after three generations[40] through his work and wisdom became in this garden in September 1849 the Concord grape.

One has no wish to denigrate Bull, who was, by all accounts, a man of simple virtue and homely eccentricity. Still, as Philip Wagner has well said, the winemaker who approaches the shrine erected to the Concord grape does so with "mingled emotions."[41] That mingling is complicated even more by the knowledge that Bull himself was a teetotaller. Though he made wine, he did not drink it.[42]

The abundance of new varieties of American grapes and the rapidly spreading cultivation of the vine throughout the country began to form a curious new taste: people began eating grapes, as they might do with apples or peaches or cherries, instead of making them into wine. Of course, the fact that grapes were good to eat was no mystery: ancient laws prohibit the casual picking of grapes from vineyards, sufficient testimony that people would do so unless prevented. The French language recognizes both raisins de table and raisins de cure , and of the former there are enough varieties to show that the taste is one going far back into botanic history. But table grapes, in the countries of vinifera, were strictly secondary; the destiny of the grape as a source of wine was so obvious that it was not thought of as a crop for any other purpose (one has to except the raisin grape, while noting that the raisin is, like wine, another form of preserved, not fresh, grape). In America the case was different. On the whole, the native varieties, even improved, were not up to wine-making standards, nor would they make raisins, the ratio of sugar to water being too low. But they had strong flavors (much more marked than those of the relatively bland vinifera), and enough sugar to make them palatable, if not enough for sound, stable wine. Gradually, the native grapes became a staple of the fresh fruit market instead of the winery.

Underhill's vineyards at Croton, for example, were first developed to supply fresh fruit to New York. But grapes for the table were still a new idea: one story says that when the first fresh grapes were sent to Buffalo for sale from the Chautauqua district, no one at first knew what they were meant for.[43] By the end of the century, for some parts of the community at any rate, the grape was almost divorced from its immemorial role as the mother of wine and was thought of rather as a fruit for eating or as a source of pasteurized, unfermented grape juice—a strange transformation! The force of the prohibition movement no doubt had much to do with this development. But the nature of the native grape in itself made it possible. The change is clearly described by Liberty Hyde Bailey (no prohibitionist). North America, he writes, "has given the world a new fruit in its grapes. This American grape is much unlike the European fruit. It is essentially a table fruit, whereas the other is a wine fruit." And, he adds, "it was not until the middle of the present century that the modern table use of the native grape began to be appreciated and understood."[44] In contemplating the phenomenon of the grape boom of midcentury and after, then, one must keep in mind this new American taste for grapes as table fruit as an element in it.


The Creation of Institutional Supports for Winegrowing

In the central decades of the nineteenth century, viticulture and winemaking became permanent institutions in the United States. Before that could happen, however, certain conditions had to be met; and when they were, still others had to be met so that the achievement could be sustained. Information, research, organization, publicity, legislation—all these complicated matters had to be provided for, and to do that a number of different agencies, some with overlapping functions, grew up. Not all can be dealt with here, but the more elementary forms of support may be briefly described.

The agricultural societies, local and state, were among them. Before the days of a vast scientific establishment such as we know, in which the results of research carried on at hundreds and thousands of laboratories, experiment stations, and universities are quickly collected, organized, and published, it was impossible for one man to profit readily from another's experience in this country. Viticulture was especially subject to the penalties of ignorance, as growers kept repeating over and over what were, in the circumstances, their futile trials of vinifera. Even into the nineteenth century the situation persisted: we have seen, for example, how the emigré French of 1817 went off to grow grapes in Alabama in entire ignorance of Dufour's work in Kentucky and Indiana—they learned too late, to their cost, what he might have quickly told them.

The earliest efforts to fill this large vacuum of experimental and practical knowledge in agriculture were made by societies whose interests were much wider than agriculture. We have already seen the work of the London Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in the colonial period; its domestic equivalent, the American Philosophical Society, earned a place in the records for its publication of Antill's pioneer treatise in 1771. But these were societies only incidentally interested in agriculture, and only intermittently in viticulture. The pattern of development since the middle of the eighteenth century has naturally been the formation of groups having more and more narrowly focused special interests—from learned groups like the American Philosophical Society the movement was to general agricultural societies and from them to horticultural societies; that interest was then narrowed to pomological societies and next to associations of grape growers, until at last we reach the departments and special branches of agricultural experiment stations and universities devoted exclusively to research in viticulture or winemaking. The whole process follows a fairly regular chronological sequence, as viticulture and winemaking become more secure and extensive and their requirements more distinct.

Organizations specifically concerned with agriculture appeared soon after the Revolution—the Agricultural Society of South Carolina and the Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, both formed in 1785, were the earliest. Both took an interest in viticulture, too. The example they set was widely imitated in the first half of the nineteenth century, and as state and local agricultural societies pro-


liferated, they made it possible for the next phase to develop. This was the organization of horticultural societies—horticulture being understood as the art of cultivating those plants that grow in gardens, among which grapes are by tradition numbered. Such societies began with the New York Horticultural Society in 1818, but far and away the most prestigious and opulent through the nineteenth century was the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, founded in 1829, expensively housed in Horticultural Hall in Boston, and the proprietor for many years of a thirty-acre experimental garden. The society's library is a major collection, and its publications extend through many notable volumes. The exhibitions of the society around midcentury were important popular and scientific occasions; it was at one of them that the Concord grape was brought before the world. Its long-time president, Marshal Wilder, was enthusiastically interested in viticulture; it was he who presided over the dinner at which Great Western champagne received its name, and it was for him that Rogers named one of his pioneering hybrid grapes.

The next phase of specialization was to restrict horticulture to pomology—the science of fruit growing. The Ohio Pomological Society was founded in 1847, with grape growing as a major, though not exclusive, interest. The increasing importance of fruit culture in the rest of the United States led to the formation of the American Pomological Society, which quickly became the largest and most active organization of pomologists in the world.[45] This was the agency that, during the years of the grape mania, had a major share in publicizing, testing, and passing judgment on the hundreds of varieties that tried to crowd into the market. Its list of approved varieties was always kept to an austerely limited number, no doubt for the real security and comfort of the amateur.

The last refinement of specialization in the middle of the century came about with the formation of societies confined exclusively to grape and wine growers. The first, so far as I can find, was the Gasconade Grape Growing Society of Hermann, Missouri, chartered in 1849 to promote winegrowing in the county of which Hermann is the seat.[46] The next was the American Wine Growers' Association, founded at Cincinnati in 1851.[47] In the next few years the number of comparable organizations formed is rather remarkable, considering the still very small scale of viticulture in this country: the record is perhaps better evidence of the gregarious tendencies of nineteenth-century Americans in their lonely, underpopulated country than it is of the economic importance of the industry. In any case, there were associations organized in Pleasant Valley, New York; Aiken, South Carolina; Evansville, Indiana (this one German-speaking); on the Lake Erie shore; in Nauvoo, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Richland, Missouri; and generally for the states of New York and Illinois.[48] None of these societies has left a trace today, except for a few mouldering files of their publications to be found in scattered libraries. But in their day they provided a structure where none had existed before; they made the efficient exchange of information possible and provided a basis for mutual support and enterprise.

Another service to winegrowing in this country was provided by the fairs and


exhibitions. By midcentury state and county fairs were ritual events in rural America, and in urban America too, at a time when the city was still in touch with the country. Most such fairs accepted wine among their regular exhibits, and many of them made wine judging and the award of premiums part of their activity. The nineteenth century was not only the golden age of the agricultural fair but the era of the international exhibition. The model not just for the first but for all subsequent instances of this sort of exposition sprang full-blown from the brow of Prince Albert in 1851 and was triumphantly revealed to the world as the Great Exhibition. Wine from Cincinnati was among the exhibits sent over to represent American industry at this archetypal exhibition. Thereafter there was no important congress, exhibition, exposition, or world's fair without its contingent of American wines among the competitors. A few labels adorning commercial bottlings today still display the proud golden medals collected in those palmy days—Turin, Vienna, Paris, Rome, London, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro—all acknowledged the humble efforts of the United States to produce wines worthy to be judged with those of the established wine countries.

It was not only at the local and state level that supporting organizations for winegrowing were at work. The national government, too, gave a strong helping hand to the early commercial wine industry, a fact likely to surprise many readers. Any American who has grown up in the twentieth century, after the great chasm made in our winegrowing history by Prohibition, is conditioned to think that the federal government has nothing to do with winegrowing. The subject is not referred to in federal publications; it is not provided for in the sums granted to the appropriate research agencies; it is not an issue in anyone's campaign. This state of affairs is, we may hope, an accident following from the bad old days of the Noble Experiment. The long history of the country's interest in winegrowing was suppressed then, and after Repeal the sensitiveness and timidity of politicians towards the question made it easy for a few aggressive, well-placed legislators to obstruct any effort to restore the industry to a place among the legitimate objects of the government's interest. It is enough to say here that the present situation is an anomaly, and that the federal government was not always derelict in its duty in this respect, as it has been now for more than a generation. Quite the contrary. All of the founding fathers were, without exception, not only steady friends of wine, but active propagandists for it. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were all interested in practical viticulture, and would have been winegrowers themselves if they could have found the way to success.

The best evidence of the official disposition in favor of wine is the fact that, in the early years of the republic, no tax was laid on it. Instead, the government did what it could to help those who undertook to provide the country with native wines. We have already seen how Dufour, in 1802, and the French emigrés, in 1817, were granted large tracts of land on favorable terms in the hope that they could turn the trick of making wine in considerable quantities. Both of these episodes, one may note, were essentially repetitions in the federal era of the experiments


made in colonial Virginia and South Carolina to achieve a winegrowing industry through the assistance of the state.

When both Dufour and the French failed to make good on their promises, Congress quite naturally drew back from further trials of that kind.[49] But when, in the 1840s and the 1850s, it began to appear that viticulture was, after all, going to be successfully established in this country, the federal government again began to contribute to the work. This first took the form of articles on viticulture and winemaking published in the annual reports of the agricultural branch of the Patent Office, the forerunner of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.[50] The articles were of every kind, both historical and technical, and were gathered from both domestic and foreign sources. Translations of French treatises on winemaking, notes from middle western growers on the adaptation of native varieties to new conditions, and remarks on diseases, pruning methods, and the best modes of planting and propagation were all gathered and published for general distribution. One of Longworth's best and most informative articles on the wine industry of Ohio, for example, appears in the Patent Office Report for 1847. The office was also a clearing house for information about new varieties, and it collected and sent out cuttings to be tried by interested growers all over the country.

In 1857 the Patent Office determined to make a systematic effort to collect and study native vines to learn which were best for table and wine. One agent, H. C. Williams, was sent from Washington to explore Arkansas, the Indian Territory (Oklahoma we call it now), and northern Texas. In the next year, 1858, Williams travelled to New Mexico over the Santa Fe Trail, and thence into the valley of the Rio Grande down to El Paso, where he found that a small wine industry, going back to the seventeenth century and based on vinifera, was still in existence. Methods were exceedingly primitive: cowhides, for example, did duty for barrels in that woodless country. But to Williams' eye, the possibilities were spacious: the Rio Grande Valley in west Texas, he informed his superiors in Washington, is "the Eden of the Grape."[51]

At the same time that Williams was making his western explorations, another agent, John F. Weber, was sent on a similar mission to the middle Atlantic and New England states. He collected thirty-eight different varieties that seemed worth examination, and reported that people in the East were keenly interested in grape growing:

I found, in general, a lively interest among all classes for this noble and lucrative branch of horticulture. The intention of the Patent Office to encourage the culture of the vine through the whole country, by collecting and disseminating knowledge relating to it, and the best methods of wine-making, was well appreciated, and especially so on account of the direct way which had been chosen.[52]

One of Weber's specimens had been provided from Concord, Massachusetts, not by Ephraim Bull but by another celebrated Concordian, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had growing on his house a large labrusca of the variety called Sage, or Mam-


The United States Propagating Garden, Washington, D.C., established under the Patent Office in 1858
 (the Department of Agriculture did not yet exist); the collection, propagation, and dissemination of grapes 
was an important part of the garden's work. The trellis that runs behind the ornamental gazebo in this 
engraving and connects the two greenhouses was exclusively for the training of native grapes; elsewhere 
in the garden there were 25,000 vines of some fifty varieties by 1859. ( Report of the Commissioner
 of Patents: Agriculture. 1858

moth. All of the specimens were then sent to Boston for chemical analysis by the distinguished American scientist Charles T. Jackson (the co-discoverer of ether, and, incidentally, Emerson's brother-in-law); the results of Weber's collecting and of Jackson's analyses, published in the official Report of the Patent Office, gave a clearer and more accurate picture of the winemaking promise of the native vines than anything else yet available.

Besides gathering information in the field and from the published literature, the Patent Office did work of its own in Washington. An experimental garden was set up there in 1858, and work with grapes was a large part of the activity carried on.[53] Thus was realized, at last, and in a modest way, that "national vineyard" for which so many early growers, including Antill and Adlum, had prayed. The superintendent of the garden, William Saunders, made grapes a speciality, and published several papers on the subject. Within a year of its establishment, the garden had 25,000 seedlings of fifty different varieties of grapes growing; these included not only natives but vinifera as well, to be used in hybridizing experiments. By 1863 there were one hundred varieties in the garden; from this stock cuttings were sent out for trial in various parts of the country, and to it additions were regularly made from all available sources.

The scale and importance of American agriculture made it inevitable that a separate department of the government would need to be devoted to its interests. This came about in 1862, when the agricultural division of the Patent Office was separated from its parent and reestablished as the Department of Agriculture. The


change made no difference to the policy of encouraging viticulture and winemaking; both subjects remained part of the regular concern of the department, and continued to do so until Prohibition. Since that time, as has been said, the department has, even after Repeal, yielded to prohibitionist pressure and studiously avoided any association with winemaking. It is agreeable to report the first signs of a turn back towards the department's original tradition; the 1977 Yearbook of the department, devoted to the subject of home gardening, contains not merely a brief article on viticulture by a department specialist, but another on home winemaking. It is significant of the lost ground yet to be made up that the winemaking article was written, not by a member of the department, but by the distinguished professional Philip Wagner. Nevertheless, the appearance of the book marks a turn, a welcome turn, in the right direction.

The literature of winegrowing kept pace with the growth of the industry. Articles and books devoted to the subject in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can be counted on one's fingers. By the middle of the nineteenth century the flow of print on vines and wine, if not precisely a flood, had at least become a substantial and steady stream.

The pioneer agricultural magazine was the American Farmer , published in Baltimore from 1819; it was followed by magazines with specialized regional appeal such as the New England Farmer (1822), the Rural New Yorker (1849), and the Southern Cultivator (1843); all of these took practical winegrowing as part of their province. Next came the more highly specialized publications: magazines devoted to horticulture, to pomology, and then to grapes and wine. The Horticulturist , founded in 1846 by the eminent writer and botanist Andrew Jackson Downing, was a type of the best of these.

The first periodical entirely devoted to winegrowing was the Grape Culturist , published in St. Louis from 1869 to 1871 and edited by George Husmann. The magazine was premature: there was not yet a sufficiently widespread commercial interest to sustain it. Yet there are many excellent things in it. In 1854, in New York, a different sort of journal began to appear, this one given over, not to the practical sciences of viticulture and enology, but to what may be called the lore of wine—anecdote, popular history, remarks on current trends, and the like. Wine, as a hobby and as a subject of connoisseurship, has always fostered this sort of interest. It was met in this country by the magazine called Cozzens' Wine Press , issued from 1854 to 1861 by Frederick S. Cozzens, by trade a grocer and wine merchant in New York and by avocation a humorous writer. Cozzens was a loyal champion of American wines, and there is much to be learned about early American wines from his pages, including such exotica in New York City as Kentucky and Virginia catawba, sweet wines from Orange County, New York, and the North Carolina scuppernong wines of J. H. Weller.

Down to the year 1850 there were published in the United States, by a liberal count, only ten books on the subject of vines and wines—the landmarks are Adlum's in 1823, Dufour's in 1826, and Prince's in 1830. But in the decades of the


1850s and 1860s some thirty-seven books, at least, on winegrowing were published in this country. The figure more than triples the output of the preceding fifty years, and the information in many of these books—not all, but many—was fuller and more accurate than it could have been earlier. They include Robert Buchanan's A Treatise on Grape Culture in Vineyards, in the Vicinity of Cincinnati (1850), a modest, but intelligent, brief work; the works of Husmann and Muench based on their experience in Missouri; Agoston Haraszthy's contribution from California, Grape Culture, Wines, and Wine-Making (1862); and, in the South, Achille de Caradeuc's Grape Culture and Winemaking in the South (1858). By the end of the Civil War, a man who wanted to collect a technical library on winegrowing in America could do so.

How good was the technology? That, too, is a question better deferred till later, when the revolutions brought about by Pasteur's studies and by the crises of disease in Europe can be discussed. By way of brief summary, however, it may be said here that at the end of the Civil War there was an impressive accumulation of knowledge about the habits and requirements of the native vine, and there was beginning to be, at least, some experience in knowing how to handle it for wine. The study of individual varieties had been carried pretty far, both in the vineyard and in the chemist's laboratory, and new methods of training had been devised to suit the vigorous habits of the native vines.[54] The techniques of hybridizing were well understood. Control of disease was still at a primitive stage, but that was about to change. The crucial importance of climate to winegrowing had been clearly grasped, and the Patent Office was publishing a detailed series of studies of climatological regions. If none of these things had passed beyond the beginnings, they were at least well begun.

The Grape Boom in the Old South

The main movements in eastern American winegrowing before the Civil War—main in the sense that they led to a continuing industry—were in New York State, northern Ohio, and Missouri. It would be quite wrong, however, to neglect the scattered but frequent efforts at winegrowing throughout the old South. We have seen how, in New York, Ohio, and Missouri, winegrowing not only continued but made considerable advances in size and prosperity throughout the war. In the South, however, it was severely cut back, and it is therefore of some historical interest to see just how widespread interest in it was before Fort Sumter stopped all that.

In Virginia, home of the oldest of all winegrowing traditions in this country, the record is meager. There was evidently a good deal of farm-scale winemaking from native grapes, but nothing more. Perhaps the state's best contribution was the Norton grape, which became so important in the vineyards of Missouri; there is some evidence that commercial plantings of Norton were made in Virginia too before the war, around Charlottesville.[55]


Scuppernong wine continued to flourish as the vin de pays of North Carolina. Its most energetic sponsor was a Yankee named Sidney Weller, a graduate of Union College in New York State, who took over a worn-out farm of some three hundred acres at Brinckleyville, Halifax County, in the late 1820s and began to carry out his progressive ideas on agriculture.[56] In addition to general farming, he went in for winegrowing, based largely on the Scuppernong but including the Norton and a labrusca called Halifax as well.[57] Weller was a good promoter, who filled the agricultural press with accounts of what he called his "American system" of viticulture: this was, in substance, simply to allow his Scuppernong vines unchecked growth on trellises instead of controlling them by any system of pruning: such freedom, presumably, could only be called "American."[58] From grapes grown in this liberated fashion on some twelve acres of vineyard (the largest in the South, Weller thought), he produced several thousands of gallons yearly of scuppernong "hock" and "champagne," which he was able to sell at prices from $1 to $6 a gallon to markets as distant as New York, New Orleans, and St. Louis.[59] He also made his vineyards a place of public resort, charging admission to picnickers and so adding measurably to the land's revenue. In the hands of his son John, Weller's winemaking business continued down to the Civil War.[60] It was afterwards the basis from which Paul Garrett's important winemaking business grew to national prominence.[61]

There were enough other producers of scuppernong wines in North Carolina besides Weller to make the state the nation's largest producer in 1840;[62] grapes were, according to one account, the main crop of the coastal "Bankers and islanders." The wine they made, however, was really only a fortified grape juice.[63] The hope of growing something better than Scuppernong persisted, but instead of sticking with such natives as the Herbemont, Lenoir, or Norton, all of which had been proven in the South, some experimenters, at least, went back to vinifera, with predictable results. Around 1849 Dr. Joseph Togno established a vineyard near Wilmington that he called the North Carolina Vine Dresser and Horticultural Model Practical School.[64] Togno's experience went far back—he claimed to have cultivated vinifera in Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1821 and 1822. His "School" advertised in 1849 that it stood ready to receive "pupils, over 14 years old, attended with or without slave, to learn all the manipulations of the Vineyard, the orchard, and horticulture in general." Togno had imported European vines for his vineyard, and after a year he reported that they were doing well and that he intended to graft them to native rootstocks. But then the enterprise failed. After their first delusive growth, the vinifera vines succumbed to the local diseases. That, however, might have been surmounted, since Togno had learned to appreciate the possibilities of the native vine, especially the Scuppernong, which he proclaimed the "American champagne grape par excellence; its aromatic bouquet making it superior to the Pinot, or Pineau of Champagne."[65] It was one thing to grow grapes; it was quite another to attract young southerners to the study of winemaking. As Togno sadly wrote in 1853, after four years he had had not a single application for admission to his school, and the local Tarheels called the place "Dr. Togno's Folly."[66] Not long


Henry William Ravenel (1814-87), member of the Vine-Growing and 
Horticultural Association of Aiken, South Carolina, founded in 1858. 
Ravenel, descended from one of the old Huguenot families of South 
Carolina, continued in the nineteenth century the trials of winegrowing
 that the Huguenots had begun in the seventeenth century. One of the 
most eminent of botanists in nineteenth-century America, he maintained 
a vineyard at his home, Hampton Hill. (From The  Private Journal of Henry
 William Ravenel, 1859-1887

after poor Togno's debacle we hear of a Frenchman named Kron growing vines and making wine in the far western part of the state around 1860; he had native grapes, especially the Herbemont, but he had also imported vines from France.[67] They would not have survived even if war had not come.

In South Carolina the interesting development just before the war was the formation of the Aiken Horticultural and Vine-Growing Association in 1858, which addressed itself to the central problem of obtaining satisfactory varieties. It hoped to do so "by the raising of seedlings," and offered "handsome premiums towards that object."[68] The leaders of the association included Dr. J. C. W. McDonnald[69] and H. W. Ravenel of Aiken; D. Redmond of Augusta, Georgia, well known as the editor of the Southern Cultivator and as an enthusiastic propagator and grower of grapes; and Achille de Caradeuc of Woodward, who had been making wine since 1851[70] and who published his Grape Culture and Winemaking in the South in 1858.


Ravenel, who was president of the association in 1860, was a descendant of the South Carolina Huguenots and so a link in that chain of winegrowing tradition. He was a botanist of international distinction, and though his special interest was in fungi, he did not neglect the grape. He produced wine from his vineyard, took a prize for "the best foreign grapes" at the association's competition, read a paper on pruning vines to the association, and, after the war, published articles on viticulture.[71]

There were other vineyards then scattered about the state at Charleston, Kalmia, Columbia, Orangeburg, Bluffton, Kaolin, and Redcliffe. The war, obviously, was a severe check to their activity, yet within a year after the war the region around Aiken was reported to have from three to five hundred acres of vines, and wine was being made there in commercial quantity.[72]

The Aiken people, in common with many others in the latter years of the 1850s, were responding to the prospect that the news of oidium in Europe seemed to open. While production in Europe declined precipitously, how could production in the United States fail to enrich the grower? To southerners especially the proposition seemed foolproof, for they had slaves to do the work: as one enthusiast put it, "with all the facilities we possess at the South, with our soil, climate, and more particularly our slaves, nothing can prevent ours from becoming the greatest wine country that ever was."[73] Since the Civil War, to look no farther for reasons, did in fact prevent any such development, the prophecy now looks notably foolish. Yet the writer was talking sense. Grapes had certainly been grown in the South, and who knows what concerted and determined experimentation might not have done? Hope persisted against the heaviest discouragement. During the dark days of the war, the old South Carolinian politician William John Grayson, retired to the country and writing his recollections, noted that the making of wine had not ceased in South Carolina but was "gradually extending in various parts of the state. Some centuries hence our State may be as famous for wine as for cotton or rice." This was taking a very long view indeed.[74]

The Aiken people were also responding to the activity of a German, a Rhinelander named Charles Axt, who had come to Georgia in 1848, had been mightily struck by the vitality of the native vines, and had gone about the Piedmont region of the state since the early 1850s propagandizing for grape culture in broken English—the "itinerant Grape Missionary" he was called.[75] Since the cotton farmers of the region needed another cash crop, and since their lands were running more and more to gullies and washed-out red dirt under the destructive practices of cotton monoculture, Axt found men willing to listen. They especially liked the numbers that he used. He would, he said, undertake to plant and supervise a small vineyard of a quarter of an acre on a client's land; he would tend it for three years at $50 per annum; and at the end of that time he would deliver 350 gallons of wine. That was only a beginning, to show what might be done. After five years, he claimed, he could make an acre yield 2,500 gallons (or roughly the yield from an impossible sixteen tons of grapes). Probably no one ever held him to his claim.

By 1855 he was doing well, supervising vineyards in Georgia, South Carolina,


and Alabama, and operating his own at Crawfordville, not far west of Augusta. This was not bad for a man who had come to Georgia with no capital and little English just seven years earlier. Catawba seems to have been the vine of choice for Axt, but the vineyards of Georgia contained the old southern varieties such as Herbemont and Lenoir too. In 1856 a Vine Growers' Association of Georgia was formed; by 1857 Axt had commercial quantities of catawba in local markets, and had won over all opinion in favor of his vision of the Piedmont as wine country. The Belgian horticulturist Louis E. Berckmans, who had migrated from New Jersey to Augusta to operate a nursery there, described the prospect thus:

In places where no corn or rye will grow I have seen many a goodly acre covered with Catawba and Warren grapes, and yielding from four hundred to six hundred dollars, in soils abandoned as unfit for every other cultivation. South Carolina and Georgia will soon be awake to this new enterprise and acres upon acres of land not worth five dollars are going to be converted into vineyards to supply the union with wine, equal if not superior to any Hock or Madeira.[76]

The last few years before the war saw a grape mania in the South quite as intense as the one sweeping the North at the same time. Vineyards large and small sprang up in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, as well as in the older seaboard states and in the less cotton-dominated states of Kentucky and Tennessee. The southern agricultural papers were filled with a lively correspondence reporting developments, offering advice, disputing questions, and prophesying the future of southern wines and vines. The climactic moment may be located in August 1860, when, on the initiative of the Aiken Horticultural and Vine-Growing Association, a general convention of all interested vine growers in the United States was summoned to a grand meeting at Aiken.[77] The response from the North was chilly—it could hardly be expected, as one northern paper remarked, that people would wish to visit a southern town at the height of the summer.[78] Growers from the South were less troubled by the thought.

When it met at the Baptist Church in Aiken, the convention was largely made up of delegates from Georgia and South Carolina, who called themselves the Southern Vine Growers' Convention and were presided over by James Hammond, a former governor of South Carolina who was himself a winegrower. One of their objects was to establish exact botanical descriptions of grape varieties; another was to "determine upon some manner of naming the different wines"[79] —a subject bristling with problems that are still far from resolved. Varietal naming, which many think of as a recent introduction, was in fact already the standard American practice.[80] But it seemed most unsatisfactory in place of the traditional European principle of naming by place, for the plain reason that, as the prospectus of the convention put it: "the same grape will make totally different wines in different places"—a proposition as true today as it ever was then. As one convention speaker argued, with hundreds of catawba and Warren wines available, and no two of them alike, the names "catawba" and "Warren" could guarantee nothing at all. Place names, brands, or private names were what were wanted.[81]


Furthermore, varietal naming made no proper provision for blends of more than one sort of grape. How could you call it catawba if it was really Catawba, Lenoir, and Scuppernong? The proposals for labelling recommended by the convention were, first, the name of the state, followed by the town or other local name (river, hill, valley, or the like), and then the maker's name or brand. Nothing was allowed for the variety or varieties of grape.[82] The scheme is evidently not a perfect one, but it is interesting evidence of the way in which the difficulty—still being agitated as I write—of naming the wines of a new country was recognized.

The production of wine in Georgia in 1860 was 27,000 gallons, not in itself an impressive figure, but remarkable in comparison to the virtual absence of any production at all in 1850. In 1870, five years after the Civil War had ended, Georgia made 21,000 gallons.[83] Obviously the war did not put an end to winemaking on the scale that it had reached just before it began, but it is equally clear that the expansive and enthusiastic interest of those days had been killed. As for Charles Axt, who inspired the grape growers of Georgia, he was murdered in his bed with a hatchet in 1869; his slayer remains unknown.[84]

One interesting episode, at least, took place in Tennessee before the war. This was in Polk County, high in the hills of the extreme southeastern corner of the state. The enterprise was a sort of religious charity, yet without any distinct religious or economic ambitions, and it left so little record that even local tradition has hardly anything to say of it. Some time in the late 1840s the family of the emigrant Long Island horticulturist André Parmentier bought land in the Sylco Mountains of southeastern Tennessee, and, by 1850, had settled on it six Catholic families—about twenty people—of French, German, and Italian origin.[85] The Parmentiers, a married and an unmarried daughter, were devout Catholics, active in the lay affairs of the church, and they evidently conceived of their Tennessee settlement as a Catholic community. The place was called Vineland, or, in one account, Vinona. There, under the direction of a Monsieur Guerin, and in the midst of forests abounding in bears, panthers, and rattlesnakes, they planted vineyards of Isabella and Catawba grapes and made both white and red wines. There is also evidence that some wine, at least, was made from wild grapes. Because of the great steepness of the slopes—up to 45°—the vineyards were terraced. Polk County is credited with only 613 gallons of wine in the census of 1860, and even supposing that the Catholic communitarians of Vineland made more wine than was officially counted, they still had an industry on only the tiniest scale. What rule of life—religious or political—if any, that they lived by, we do not know. Indeed, everything about the place is unclear, except for the fact that for a decade at least, until the war dispersed it, an exotic little group of Catholics was tending native grapes and making wine for sale in the Scotch Presbyterian territory of the southern Appalachians.

Tennessee, in large part no doubt because of the unfitness of its eastern highlands for anything else, was beginning to be presented as a potential site for winegrowing. As early as 1854 the Horticultural Review noted that a Colonel James Campbell had a prosperous vineyard on the French Broad River near Knoxville


The symbolic—and prophetic—seal of the state of Connecticut:
 laden grape vines as the amblems of divine care in the New 
World. The motto may be translated as "who transplants. 
sustains." (From  The Public Records of the Colony of 
Connecticut, 1706-1716

and concluded that Tennessee was a good place for grapes;[86] in 1856 a Frenchman named Camuse was reported to be producing good wine in the state.[87] David Christy, the geologist, abolitionist, and journalist, published a pamphlet at Cincinnati in 1858 entitled The Culture of the Fine in the South West Alleghenies , calling attention to western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee as places peculiarly suited to the vine. But there was little experience to prove the claim. Mark Twain's luckless father owned a large property in Tennessee (Fentress County, also in the eastern part of the state), a legacy he left to his children that tormented them with false hopes of speculative profits for years. The land, Mark Twain wrote, was in "a natural wine district ... there are no vines elsewhere in America, cultivated or otherwise, that yield such grapes as grow wild here." Twain's father sent some samples to Longworth in Cincinnati, who graciously replied that "they would make as good wine as his Catawbas." But that promise was never acted on. When a buyer appeared with a scheme to settle foreigners on the land and turn it into wine country, Twain's erratic brother Orion, in a transient moment of teetotal conviction, refused to sell the land to a buyer who wished to put it to the wicked work of winegrowing. Such, at least, is the story Mark Twain tells.[88]

In 1859 and in 1860 two surveys of the wine industry appeared; one was written by the British consul in Washington, Edwin Morris Erskine, who, at the request of his government, undertook to gather statistics on the winegrowing industry in the United States. The other was contained in the national census of 1860. Together they give a picture—incomplete, indeed, but reliable within its limits—of the state of things after the first fifty years of more or less successful production in the United States, and with that picture this chapter can fitly close. In Erskine's account, which he put together in part through his own independent travel and inquiry, California was not yet a factor, though reports of its potential were be-


ginning to be heard in the eastern states. Neither was New York State, where the commercial beginnings were still too new to have made themselves visible. But, Erskine reported, the promise was almost unlimited:

About 3,000 acres are cultivated as vineyards in the state of Ohio; 500 in Kentucky; 1,000 in Indiana; 500 in Missouri; 500 in Illinois; 100 in Georgia; 300 in North Carolina; 200 in South Carolina, with every prospect of a rapid increase in all. It is calculated that at least 2,000,000 gallons of wine are now raised in the United States, the average value of which may be taken at a dollar and a half the gallon.[89]

A total of at least twenty-two of the thirty-two states then in the Union contained "vineyards of more or less promise and extent," leading Erskine to prophesy that "the culture of the vine in the United States will extend itself and improve very rapidly; and that, at no distant period, wine will be produced as cheaply and abundantly as in Europe."[90]

The figures of the 1860 census, gathered a year after Erskine's, are less expansive and no doubt nearer to the mark. The national production was put by the census-takers at just over 1,600,000 gallons. California was already yielding a significant quantity of wine—the figure given is 246,000 gallons, almost certainly too low. But the industry was still firmly centered upon Cincinnati, with its outlying provinces of Kentucky and Indiana. Kentucky made nearly 180,000 gallons, Indiana 102,000 and Ohio led all the rest with 568,000. Eleven other states, including—surprisingly—Connecticut, produced more than 20,000 gallons in 1860;[91] New York, for example, though it had gone unnoticed by Erskine, was up to 61,000 gallons. The United States, as it stood on the brink of the Civil War, was not yet making wine enough to supply a nation of wine drinkers—it does not do so even now—but it had increased its production eightfold in one decade. Mr. Erskine had the right notion of the way things were headed.


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