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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)

Page 19

 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. 
 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
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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