William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Eighteenth-Century Wine-Growing Collection, 1782-1783
Clements Staff and Meg Hixon, August 2011
Eighteenth-Century Wine-Growing collection
This collection contains manuscripts related to a proposed wine-growing enterprise in North America in the late eighteenth century.
The material is in English and French
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
Eighteenth-Century Wine-Growing Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated manuscripts placed at the end.
Efforts to grow wine in North America began when the first European settlers arrived on the continent, but were stymied by the lack of suitable native grapes. Some of the first concentrated efforts to produce a significant amount of wine for export occurred in Jamestown, Virginia, shortly after its settlement, but the wines produced were mostly unprofitable and did not compare favorably to imported European varieties. By the 1730s, however, some planters determined that wine growing should be feasible in the colonies, and persistent farmers attempted, with limited success, to create commercially viable wines in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Thomas Jefferson became a champion of American wine and, following the American Revolution, the domestic wine industry became increasingly popular and successful throughout the United States.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Eighteenth-Century Wine-Growing collection contains a set of documents related to a proposed wine-growing enterprise in North America in the late 18th century. A majority of the documents are financial papers presenting calculations based on various aspects of the wine industry. A reference to land from "the 41st to the 35th degrees of northern latitude" suggests that the collection refers to land somewhere between Connecticut and North Carolina. The documents propose a number of possible plans that the business might follow, and provide a picture of the fledgling American wine industry. Calculations reflect the amount and nature of labor and supplies necessary to begin such a venture, and include in one assessment of the "purchase of 10 Stout Negroes," estimated to cost £40 each. In addition to the financial information and proposals, many of the documents contain prose descriptions of expected developments and project actions to be taken several years into the business. Of note is an undated three-page prospectus calling for the United States to begin producing more of its own goods, including wine: "The late happy revolution having placed the United States of North America in a line with the first known powers of the universe, the earliest attention ought to be given to every measure which may promote their utmost improvement in every branch of agriculture and Commerce."
- United States--History--1783-1815.
- Wine industry--United States.
- Financial records.
Additional Descriptive Data
Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America from the Beginnings to Prohibition. Vol. 1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.