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Thread: Corn

  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999


    Someone recently asked about a history of corn. I found one, in the sense that I have found references to it, but I haven't found the book itself. (It is out of print.) It supposedly has one chapter devoted to corn distillation. It is: Native Inheritance, The Story of Corn in America, by Howard T. Walden II, Harper & Rowe, 1966.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Louisville, Ky.

    Re: Corn

    Ed Foote gave me a copy of an article on the history of corn. It may be this article. I will look and see and send it to you if you wish.
    Mike Veach

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Midland, MI

    Re: Corn

    The weather being nice tonight (it's not raining), I decided
    to head over to the agriculture library to have a look at
    Native Inheritance, The Story of Corn in America.
    It's out of print, but can be had from online used bookstores
    for $10-$15.

    The book is rather readable, written basically on the level of
    an encyclopedia. The text immediately gives away the 1966
    publishing date, gushing about the atomic age (including mention
    of using radioactivity for genetic mutation...) with a tone that
    betrays either a true belief in bright new tomorrows, or a conviction
    that enthusiasm for technology will, in fact, defeat the Communists.

    That said, it's a nice read all about corn. It's got a quick 12 pages
    on the pre-history of corn in central and south america (apparently
    "native americans" never saw wild corn), and then takes us from the
    1700s to the 1960s in three pages, with a few statistics thrown in.

    The rest of the book has detailed descriptions of hybrid corn, corn
    processing, etc. I didn't know that first-generation hybrids are
    vigorous, but vigor drops off in the second generation, so the best
    corn is a first-generation.

    The chapter on distilling is an basically encyclopedia-level description,
    with plenty of glowing things to say about how how great distilling
    is for modern agriculture.

    Nearby on the shelf was The Story of Corn by Betty Fussell,
    a nice 350-page coffee table book full of fun graphics and pithy
    quotes. Basically a description of the culture of corn. There was
    a chapter on distilling, basically being fun highlights from Carson's
    Social History, Dabney's Mountain Spirits, and
    Foxfire, with a bit of original research thrown in. It had some
    early quotes about corn beer, about bourbon, and about moonshine
    that I had seen elsewhere, but were well presented.

    I'm still on the lookout for information on history of
    grain agriculture in America, with information such as geographic
    distributions of rye vs. corn throughout history, when and how
    corn really took off in Kentucky, what early strains of corn were grown,
    how exactly were rye and corn used at various times, relative prices,
    etc. I think that at some point rye was cheaper and less edible
    than corn, which lead to it's prevalence in distilling... but I
    really have no authoritative references for such things. I'm
    basically looking for information on the history of grain
    agriculture in America with an eye towards the influence
    of "the forces of agricultural history" on distilling.

    Tim Dellinger

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Pelham, AL

    Re: Corn

    I remember hearing an article about corn on NPR, a few years ago. The thing that has stuck in my mind is that in the 19th century, the Italians (in Italy) became so enamored of corn that they started eating it to the exclusion of everything else. They then had a mass malnutrition epidemic.

    Truth can be stranger than fiction.




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