back home NMNI HOME
  • explore /
  • engage /
  • enjoy

Crops in America

Maize was used on the farm in the early years but a market developed for it during the 1700s. By the 1800s, most maize was planted in flat rows and by 1820, it was being exported to Ireland in times of food shortage (get closer by clicking on the images).

The crop was harvested by cutting the plant at ground level and tying it up in a bunch called a shock. These were left standing in the field like many tepees until they were ready to be brought to the farmyard.

The ears were cut off and the leaves surrounding the dry cob had to be torn off with a short wooden peg. This was called husking. The grain could then be rubbed off the cob in a process known as shelling.

Pictured left is a corn crib located near the Pennsylvania House at the Ulster American Folk Park. 





Seed packet for ‘Black Mexican Corn’, printed for the Card Seed Company, Fredonia, New York by Stecher Lithographic Company, Rochester, New York, copyright 1908.

Instructions on back of packet read, ‘One qt. for 200 hills. One peck for acre in hills. All varieties may either be sown in rows 3 1/2 feet apart, placing the kernels one foot apart in the row, or planted in hills at a distance of 3 to 4 feet each way.

The richer the soil and the taller the variety, the greater should be the distance between hills. The first planting should be made after all danger of frost is over. For succession, plant every two weeks until late summer.

Seed packet for 'Pop corn, white rice', printed for the Card Seed Company, Fredonia, New York by Dunston of Dunkirk, New York. Instruction on back of packet read, ‘Suitable for the middle and late crop. Ears very large - fourteen to sixteen rowed. Deep kernelled; tender and sweet; remaining a long time in fit condition for the table. A standing and superior variety. Corn is a tender annual and should not be planted before warm weather, in May or early in June. Plant in deep, rich soil, in hills four feet apart, three to four seeds in the hill. Hoe frequently to destroy the weeds; and keep the soil mellow. Earth up the plants when sufficiently large for the purpose.’

Corn dryer, made from wrought iron, from Crumpton, Maryland. There are ten spikes along the length of the dryer, cut from the main vertical strip of iron and bent outwards into a fishbone shape. There is a hole for hanging at the top end, and a hook at the lower end for hanging several dryers in succession. There are traces of black paint on the surface.

Corn shelling tub from North America. This is made from a hollowed out tree trunk. It is open at both ends, with a grating of shaved rods inserted through bored holes near the base to allow kernels to fall through. The tub was filled with ears of corn, and a heavy pestle or stick used to pound the kernels off the cobs.

Label for tin of 'L.J. Callanan's 43 Brand Sweet Corn'. Picture of corn cob, with text reading, ‘ Packed for L.J. Callanan, Oneida, New York. Label printed by Price Brothers and Company, New York, between 1890 and 1930.

Label for tin of 'Golden Grain Sugar Corn' packed at Rome, Oneida county, New York state for C. Burkhalter and Company, 121-123 Hudson Street, New York printed on label. Picture of corn cob on label.

Label for tin of 'Olney and Floyd Cloth of Gold, The Finest Succotash'. Yellow label printed in gilt, dated about 1890. This product was packed by Olney and Floyd at Westernville, Oneida county, New York. Succotash is a stew consisting of kernels of corn, lima beans and tomatoes.