sugar and rum

There is no rum without sugar (this is true for any alcoholic drink). Prior to the Revolutionary War most people drank rum or hard cider. Sailors were paid partly in rum. The early settlers, however, drank it in a punch or toddy. Early on, rum was distilled in the Caribbean where sugar was grown. Then it made sense for the rum to be distilled where the prime market was – New England. By the mid-1700s, though, most rum was made, and made more cheaply too, in New England. Many fortunes were made by this rum and I’ve read that one of those fortunes was made by. the Kennedy family.

But I digress.

What were some of the consequences of this cheap and easily obtainable rum?

Well, sugar is very labor intensive so the cultivation of sugar resulted in a tremendous need for slaves and was one of the big drivers of the slave trade.

Second, sugar exhausts the soil quickly so planters had to keep finding new land. This was certainly a big reason for the push for plantations and slavery westward.

Third, Americans drank more than ever. ‘Demon Rum’ became one of the many names for rum, leading to the temperance movement and to Prohibition with all of its associated crime and other problems.

And yes, although many New Englanders were abolitionists, New England profited hugely from the trade. New England ships brought slaves to the New World. New England ships brought sugar north. And New England ships brought codfish south for the slaves to eat.

Rum drinking declined after the Revolutionary War since rye was grown in the frontier – then around Pittsburgh – and distilled into whiskey. Of course, that came with its own set of problems.

Sugar is still grown in Louisiana and Domino has a big presence there. (Their factory looks abandoned – broken windows and shabby exterior.) In Louisiana there are two plantings a year.

How much sugar do we consume now? Well, in the early 1700s, a few pounds or less might be ingested by the average person per year. In 1999, the peak of sugar consumption, it was 111 grams a day, just about half a pound a day.  In 2016, that dropped to 94 grams a day. Soda is one culprit but actually sugar and high fructose corn syrup is in just about everything.

And what about rum? Well, by Prohibition, although rum was castigated as the ‘demon’, most people were drinking whiskey. Rum’s big day had already passed. And in a weird twist, New Englanders again made fortunes by becoming ‘rum runners’, making available alcohol during Prohibition.

And it all started with sugar.

 

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Paul Bunyon and logging

When I was a child my mother told me and my brothers stories of Paul Bunyon and his big blue ox Babe.  Re was a giant, as was his ox, and they had many adventures. There is even a statue to him in Bangor, Maine.

 

Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, Maine.JPG

In my childhood mind, he ranked right up there with Batman and Spiderman. Human, yes, but with extraordinary powers.

When I was researching my latest book, however, I discovered that Paul Bunyon represented a certain truth about the early American experience: the loggers or lumber men. In Maine, logging camps were set up in the woods and the massive trees were cut down with nothing more than human sweat and axes. Lumber was important for building, yes, but this was also the era of sailing ships and tall masts were a requirement.

In the spring the loggers would ‘drive’ the logs down one of the many rivers to Falmouth. The lumber drive would end in Falmouth with a celebration. (I’ll bet. Talk about dangerous work!)

If by chance you should visit Maine, you can see the art of log rolling on the road between Ellsworth and Acadia.

 

Death in Salem – and the next new book

I am thrilled to announce that I have received my first copies of Death in Salem and they look stunning. Here is the cover:

death in salem

The books look even better in real life. I will probably be having another Goodreads giveaway later in the summer.

To summarize the plot: Will Rees is on a weaving trip and stops in Salem to buy some imported cloth for Lydia. He gets stopped by a funeral and sees an old friend at the head. Anstiss Boothe, the deceased, has been ill a long time but the very next day her husband Jacob. a wealthy Salem merchant, is dead and this time it is clearly murder. Rees has already left Salem but his friend rides after him and draws him back to investigate.

Smuggling, piracy, prostitution, and of course all the dynamics of interpersonal relationships keep Rees investigating.

I had a lot of fun roaming Salem when I researched this book.

 

Goodreads Giveaway – One Day Left

I cracked the 500 bar of requests! Yay! And I am so close to 600 that I am optimistic that I will reach that as well. So, if you want to put in your name for a free book, do it now. Reviews so far have been great.

Goodreads Giveaway – Two Days left

I think I will cross the 400 mark. My giveaway runs out Sunday night and I always see a big bump over the weekends. I am really excited since I, as the author, think this is my best. Salem is such an interesting town and with a fascinating history – right from the beginning. A community that evolved from witch trials to the leading shipping center of the fledgling USA – amazing.

weekend Warrior

Well, there was no housework done in the Kuhns household this weekend. I left the house on Saturday at 7 am to attend the steering committee meeting for my sisters-in crime chapter. The regular meeting began at 10:30 and I left at 12:30, after a very fascinating talk by a Colonie policeman, for a talk at Cohoes Public library.

What a great talk it was too. And I met an old friend from my days working with the New York Library Association.

On Sunday I spoke at a meeting of the Arlington Women’s group to an assemblage of 78 people. Another great talk. And they fed me lunch.

Now I have to return to real life. Sigh.