A Nation Divided

Pork and beans, fried bacon, and ribs -- hearty food for hungry Americans. Imagine a time without pigs in America: Spanish explorers brought pigs with them and some escaped. These mean, wild "razor backs" even became the nick-name of some American athletic teams. From pork barrel politics to Super Bowl pigskin, pork-related slang and terminology has a long colorful history. Today, nearly 60 million pigs are raised in America and the average American eats 46 pounds of pork annually.


In 17th and 18th century Europe, bread was the staple food of poor people. Americans, however, fed their grain to animals, then ate the animals -- instead of the grain. Geographically, America had enough land to make this approach possible, and pigs were among the easiest animals to keep. Pigs foraged for their food, and their meat could easily be preserved as bacon, ham, or salt pork. There evolved an American saying..... "to scrape the bottom of the barrel." It means even today to be out of resources, and in actuality the saying refers to a "pork barrel."

As for bread, I count that for nothin'. We always have bread and potatoes enough; but I hold a family to be in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel. Give me children that's raised on good sound pork afore all the game in the country. Game's good as a relish and so's bread; but pork is the staff of life. . . . My children I calkerlate to bring up on pork with just as much bread and butter as they want.

James Fenimore Cooper
The Chainbearer, 1845 [5: 1]

Did You Know?



I wish you could have seen our smoke house... hams and sides of bacon, home-cured over hickory and corn-cob fires... And there were always barrels and barrels of salt pork in the cellar and a barrel of flour in the pantry.

     Anne Meehan [5: 6]



Excerpts from the diary of John S. Jackman, Confederate Soldier:

December 17th, 1864: Pleasant day for winter. We are living well. Have good fresh beef, fresh pork, flour, sorghum, rice and so on, issued in abundance. We make the molasses into candy -- have "candy-pullings" among ourselves.

December 25th, 1864: For breakfast had fresh pork, biscuit, baked sweet--potatoes, etc. Cool disagreeable morning. Bad prospect for a Christmas dinner -- can't cook in the rain.
[5: 2]



On the return home the solitude was terrifying . . . I had entered a war-stricken section of the country where stood chimneys only, standing amid ruins. No wonder they were called Sherman's sentinels, as they seemed to be keeping guard over those scenes of desolation. [5: 3]

Tennessee Refugees



The stated ration was: beef, one pound, or bacon, one-third of a pound; corn-meal, one and one-fourth pounds, with an occasional issue of rice, beans, molasses, and vinegar. Soon, however, the ration dwindled. The lack of vegetables, the crowding, and the filth brought on much sickness. [5: 4]

Cider and Apple Stand


I came to Nebraska in 1865. The trees were so heavy with apples that the limbs broke. Spilled apples were crushed and the juice turned to cider with a highly alcoholic content. It wasn't long until everything was drunk. Even the angle worms got drunk flopping all over. [5: 5]

     C.H. West


1861 Start of the American Civil War

1861 Pony Express

1862 Emancipation Proclamation

1863 First breakfast cereal developed

1863 Gettysberg Address

1864 First commercial salmon cannery

1865 Can opener invented

1865 Union Stock Yards opened in Chicago

1865 13th Amendment ratified (prohibiting slavery)

1865 End of the American Civil War

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