spotlight on tobacco

Today we decided to heed the brown signs imploring us to visit Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum (no dancing girls were to be found despite the picture on the website’s homepage), and we drove the 2.4 miles from our home to the state historical site.  Although I felt like I ought to have a fourth grade or eighth grade class in tow (years in NC public schools when NC history is taught), I really enjoyed our visit to the Homestead.

The kids happily sat through a ten minute film narrated by Clyde Edgerton in that hard to describe southern accent and, much to my pleasure, would excitedly point out Durham landmarks when they flashed up on the screen.  (“That’s the water tower! That’s West Village!  That’s the post office!”)

We then headed outside and checked out the tobacco barns and heartily admired the wagon wheels.


Inside the actual house, a very pleasant gentleman encouraged the kids to smell the herb samples that he had and to feel the fuzzy lamb’s ear while the teenagers in the kitchen were being allowed to play with the stove and fry up some bacon and burn some tea biscuits.

An herb and craft festival was held today as well (surprise, surprise), so the kids got to make little treats before we bought our strawberry rhubarb jam and thyme plants to take home with us.


Going home, however, I realized how lacking my understanding of North Carolina agriculture is, so it’s time to now start supplementing my meager knowledge base.

First up:  learn about tobacco auctions.  I knew that they were supposed to be highly festive occasions and that you would not believe the auctioneers at these events.  I’ve always been told that I speak quickly, but I don’t have anything on these gentlemen:

Trolling around for information on NC’s leading crops, I stumbled across this New York Times article from April 1884. I particularly like the excruciating detail of the amount of “guano and fertilizer” used in this year as compared to the previous one and the poetic line of “the apple trees were never more full of blossoms.”  What lovely phrasing for a mundane agricultural report.


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