Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)
Ihde, Aaron J.; Conners, James W.
Chemical industry in early Wisconsin, pp. 5-20 PDF (5.8 MB)
1955] Ihde & Gonners—Chemical Industry in Wisconsin 19 An indication of the drain on forest resources by charcoal furnaces is given by Billinger.29 His remarks refer to Pennsylvania furnaces of an earlier day but it is probable that Wisconsin furnaces were at least equivalent in their charcoal demand. One furnace required 800 bushels of charcoal every 24 hours. This could be supplied from 20 cords of wood, the average cut from an acre of woodland. MAPLE SYRUP AND SUGAR These saccharine products of maple sap are typically American. The natural abundance of maple trees in Wisconsin resulted in widespread production of both syrup and sugar from the earliest days of the region. Whether or not the Indians were producing maple sugar when the white man came to North America is still a moot question. The best evidence leads to the assumption that the Indians were using maple sap but were taught the art of converting it into sugar by the French. In any case maple sugar became an important item of trade between the French and Indians. When white settlers populated the region in the nineteenth century, maple syrup and sugar production became a part of their springtime activities in those sections where maple groves flourished. Production was mostly on a small scale by individual families and has largely continued so even to the present day. The operations of boiling, clarification with eggs or lime, and crystallization are little changed from the techniques used by the Indians.30 CONCLUSION As a result of our survey of the early development of chemical industry in Wisconsin we must conclude that the industry was timber-based. The types of products and processes were the result of Wisconsin's primary resource. Had Wisconsin been a prairie state, instead of being heavily forested, its chemical industry could not have shown the development it did. Even the lead and iron industries, which at first glance appear unrelated to wood resources, could not easily have developed commercially in Wisconsin had there been no available charcoal for smelting. By the time that charcoal resources were depleted, the iron29J Chem. Educ., 30, 359 (1953). 3° The literature on early maple sugar and syrup production is assembled in "Maple Sugar: A Bibliography of Early Records", Part I., by H. A. Schuette and Sybil C. Schuette in Trans. Wis. Acad. Sci., 29, 209—236 (1935), Part II by H. A. Schuette and A. J. Ihde in ibid., 38, 89—184 (1946).
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