Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Early South Carolina - Importing Experimental Plants

During the 1770s-1780s grapes were becoming a popular item in both South Carolina & Georgia, where a friendly competition was growing between the neighbors.

By the 1750s, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) had his hand in potential domestic wine production. The May 1, 1783 issue of the South Carolina Gazette in Savannah noted, “Sometime ago Dr. Franklin sent to South Carolina nine vine dressers from Burgundy, and 1,200,000 sets of plants of vines, to try whether those plants would thrive there. Our merchants do not wish they may.”
Benjamin Franklin in London, 1767, wearing a blue suit with elaborate gold braid & buttons, a far cry from the simple dress he affected at the French court in later years. Both personas seemed to be enamored with wine.

The March 1772, issue of the South Carolina Gazette
 announced, “Yesterday also arrive here, with Captain John Turner, the ship Carolina Packet, from London…30,000 plants of Vines producing true Champagne and Burgundy Grapes, procured by the Assiduity of Mr. Masnil de St. Pierre (from the French settlement at Longcanes, called now New-Bourdeaux) who has received great encouragement in London, to perfect his scheme of making wines in the province, and obtained from the Society of Arts a Gold Medal.”

On September 29, 1774 the South Carolina Gazette was carrying news of another experimental plant. Aaron Loocock (1733-1794) was promoting & selling the dying root madder. Aaron Loocock was the author of: Some observations & directions for the culture of madder; First published in 1775, & printed by Peter Timothy, 2 editions. Description of cultivation & processing of madder, a plant used in red dye. He was also a Revolutionary War Patriot. Apparently, Loocock's Medway Plantation was confiscated after the American Revolution. He took great efforts to regain his property. When he arrived in Charleston, he was detained at the Provost briefly. (See The Papers of Henry Laurens: September 1, 1782-December 17, 1792, p 333-34.) “Those Gentlemen who chose to make Trial of this valuable and profitable article may depend on not being disappointed of Plants, if they order them in Time, either delivered at my Plantation at Goose Creek, or to any of their friends at Charles-Town, at Five Pounds a Thousand. Printed directions, from experiences in this Province, will be given.”

Medway Plantation Garden Gate

Evidently Looncook’s were successful, for almost 20 years later in the June 21, 1794 issue of the Augusta Chronicle and Gazette his “printed directions” appeared under this introduction “As the soil and climate of this country is said to be well adapted to the cultivation of that valuable dying-root, Madder, and as the planting, mercantile, and manufacturing interest of the United States may be very much benefited by its cultivation: I make no doubt but that a publication of the following observations on it will be very acceptable…written 20 years ago, by a gentleman in South Carolina…”

On January 9, 1796 in the City Gazette and the Daily Advertiser, Robert Day offered for sale “To Lovers of Improvement Five to Six Hundred LOMBARDY POPLAR TREES, one year old, from 10 to 16 feet high they are the first in America of their age or kind. Also, Two Hundred PLANTS of the large purple sweet WATER GRAPE, One Box, containing Two or Three Hundred PLANTS of the large Cork ASPARAGUS, 2 years old."

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