Saturday, October 06, 2007
CSFC Speakers Series: Landscapes of Fruit, Cityscapes of Profit
CSFC Speakers Series:
American Studies, University of Iowa
“Landscapes of Fruit, Cityscapes of Profit: Fruit Speculation in the Antebellum Midwest”
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Davis Humanities Institute Conference Room
228 Voorhies Hall
University of California, Davis
This image comes from a pamphlet advertising Nicholas Longworth’s wines, Longworth’s Wine House (1866)
Nineteenth century public memory records that famous fruit speculators Johnny Appleseed (1774-1845) and Nicholas Longworth (1783-1863) were enigmatic yet beneficent characters. Both fruit entrepreneurs altered the early Ohio landscape, brought new types of alcohol (one hard cider, the other refined wine) to the new West, and continued a national interest in fruit culture in the growing regional center. But beyond their place in frontier myth, Appleseed and Longworth are early models of a type of agricultural imperialism and capitalist accumulation previously thought to begin in California decades later. Indeed, and in antebellum Ohio, no less, “Johnny” and “Old Nick” used their fruits as expansionist tools in the soon-to-be-solidified Midwestern frontier zone of capitalist speculation. The imperial, racial, and class tensions of the orchard and vineyard are registered in many further cultural locations. Charles Chesnutt’s “The Goophered Grapevine” (1887) illustrates that alcohol production, real estate investment, labor exploitation, and fruit growing were not-so-strange bedfellows in the 19th century. Commercial viticulture provided easy justification for turning public property into private property, legitimating neo-slavery techniques of sharecropping and cheap land sale, and divorcing local ways of knowing and senses of place from their long-standing basis in the land.
Erica Hannickel is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Iowa. She is finishing her dissertation, An Imperial Vineland: Commercial Grape Growing in 19th Century America, on an American Association of University Women (AAUW) fellowship this year. A native of Rocklin, California, she received her BA in Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego and MA in American Studies at CSU Fullerton. When not researching and writing, she is an avid organic gardener and yogi.