The United States and specifically Pennsylvania has a rich history with hard cider from growing apples to making, selling and enjoying cider in all it’s forms and styles. Below is a brief timeline of cider’s history compiled by Pennsylvania Cider Guild member and historian, Mark A. Turdo.
One hundred and thirty-three years after the New World was discovered, William Blackstone (also spelled Blaxton) is said to have planted the first orchard in America at present-day Boston, MA.
In Vinetum Britannicum, Englishman John Worlidge recommended using hops to preserve low-alcohol cider, but said nothing about hopping for flavor. Hops continued to be recommended as a preservative for low-alcohol ciders through the nineteenth century.
William Penn published recruiting pamphlets in English and German to attract settlers to his new province of Pennsylvania. He said that, among many things, “The Commodities that the Country is thought to be capable of, are Silk, Flax, Hemp, Wine, [and] Sider…”
Pennsylvania began taxing imported cider. Since it was too soon after settlement for any to have been made here, this makes it the first troublesome government regulation on cider.
Only four years after he was granted Pennsylvania and just after his first trip there, William Penn said orchards were planted and producing, though he may have exaggerated the latter.
While visiting Pennsylvania, Englishman Gabriel Thomas said, “The common planting fruit trees, are apples, of which much excellent cyder is made…”
A New Canting Dictionary, printed in England, defined Freeze as, “a small, thin, hard cyder…” This is the earliest reference to to term “hard” cider yet found. This term would gain popularity in America in the early nineteenth century.
Cider was the only libation included in the “widow’s portion”, the annual necessities a husband provides for his wife after his death.
Among the 48 drinks in Reverend Israel Acrelius’s list of drinks in America he included 5 cider and cider-based drinks.
To help stabilize the economy after the French & Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War) Great Britain imposed the Excise Bill, or Cider Tax, in England. Protests and riots unexpectedly broke out opposing the bill. Great Britain repealed the Cider Tax in 1766, but continued to tax her American Colonies instead.
At the outset of the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress included cider in the daily ration for the Continental Army. Due to chronic shortages, it was rarely available and the Army removed it after 1776.
While touring post-Revolutionary War America Johann David Schoepf, a German soldier and physician, said, “The common drink among the people of the middle and northern regions is cyder.”
Manasseh Cutler was surprised to find that the drink he was having was cider with ice in it. He said, “It was exceedingly fine.”
Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and the former Surgeon General of the Continental Army, said drinking cider, among other fermented beverages, in moderation could lead to, “cheerfulness, strength, and nourishment.”
New Jersey orchardist William Coxe published the first American cider manual, A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees, and the Management of Orchards and Cyder, in Philadelphia. Before this American ciderists relied on English cider books, which did not always fit the American climate.
William Henry Harrison’s “log cabin and hard cider” presidential campaign claimed he was a man of the people who grew up in humble circumstances, drinking common cider. In reality he was from a wealthy Virginia family. The campaign swayed many, including Pennsylvanians, and Harrison was elected our 9th president.
The American taste for cider was declining. In the Annual Report of the Transactions of the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society said “The time was, when apples were principally used for cider-making, and when every farmer would, if he could, fill his cellar with ‘hard cider…’”
1850s & 60s
French scientist Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast is a microorganism. Before this fermentation was thought to be a chemical, not a biological process.
The San Jose Scale, an invasive Chinese insect introduced in California in the 1870s, reached the East Coast, decimating orchards. By 1899 it caused millions of dollars of damages to Pennsylvania orchards.
The Federal Government declared cider no longer taxed (unless it’s been fortified), suggesting so little was being produced that it wasn’t worth taxing.
18th Amendment establishing national prohibition was ratified on January 16, 1919, and slated to take effect on January 16, 1920. It remains the only Constitutional amendment to limit American rights.
The National Prohibition, or Volstead, Act passed in October which defined the terms and punishments of the 18th Amendment.
Prohibition and bootlegging began on January 16th.
On October 20th the Prohibition Commission issued a statement explaining that it was permissible for families to produce up to 200 gallons of alcoholic cider annually for their own use, provided they registered for a license. That’s enough for 1600 pints of cider, or 4.4 pints per day.
On December 5th the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and Prohibition.
Massachusetts cider enthusiasts organize before everyone else and hold the first annual Franklin County Cider Days festival.
First Pennsylvania Cidery Opens
First Annual Pour the Core Philadelphia Festival
United States Association of Cider Makers established
Pennsylvania Cider Guild established
First Annual Pennsylvania Cider Festival
Click here to view Frecon’s Cidery’s abridged history of cider.