Monday, 5 February 2018

When American hops moved west

I knew that the US hop industry was initially centred on the East Coast, mostly in New York State. Then later mostly on the West Coast. But when did it move?

Luckily, I’ve come across some numbers that answer the question. God, I love numbers. Sometimes I think they’re my only true friends.

The last year when more than 50% of the US hop crop came from New York State was 1892. The percentages I’ve calculated myself.

Estimated hop production of the United States, 1889–1899.
Crop. Pacific coast New York Total
Bales % Bales % Bales
1889 106,157 48.78% 111,461 51.22% 217,618
1890 105,619 51.56% 99,229 48.44% 204,848
1891 94,000 45.19% 114,000 54.81% 208,000
1892 105,000 47.09% 118,000 52.91% 223,000
1893 143,000 53.36% 125,000 46.64% 268,000
1894 179,500 56.18% 140,000 43.82% 319,500
1895 180,300 62.11% 110,000 37.89% 290,300
1896 103,000 57.87% 75,000 42.13% 178,000
1897 152,000 66.96% 75,000 33.04% 227,000
1898 151,950 70.04% 65,000 29.96% 216,950
1899 182,000 75.83% 58,000 24.17% 240,000
Total 11 years 1,502,526 57.92% 1,090,690 42.04% 2,594,216
"Hop Culture in California" by Daniel Flint, 1900, Government Printing Office Washington, page 25.

There’s the when taken care of. What about the why? The same pamphlet has some more detailed numbers by state and they seem to provide the answer.

I’d always assumed it was because of disease on the East Coast. But there’s another reason that leaps out from these numbers:

Acreage, yield, and value of hops in the United States in 1889.
States. Acres. Bales. Value. bales per acre price per bale
New York 36,670 111,461 $2,210,137 3.04 $19.83
Washington 5,113 46,185 841,206 9.03 $18.21
California 3,974 36,374 605,842 9.15 $16.66
Oregon 3,130 20,076 322,700 6.41 $16.07
Wisconsin 967 2,381 51,983 2.46 $21.83
Other States 358 1,141 27,829 3.19 $24.39
Total 50,212 217,618 4,059,697 4.33 $18.66
"Hop Culture in California" by Daniel Flint, 1900, Government Printing Office Washington, page 24.

The two rightmost columns are my own calculations from the other numbers. A bale was 180 lbs, in case you’re wondering. The bales per acre is what tells a story. The yield on the West Coast was way higher than in New York. Though someone must have liked the New York hops as the price per bale is higher.

The numbers for 1890 are similar, except the price of hops was much higher.

Acreage, yield, and value of hops in the United States in 1890.
States. Acres. Bales. Value. bales per acre price per bale
New York 35,552 99,229 $6,068,163 2.79 $61.15
Washington 5,282 49,348 2,284,955 9.34 $46.30
California 3,796 31,761 1,521,847 8.37 $47.92
Oregon 3,223 21,174 1,047,224 6.57 $49.46
Wisconsin 871 2,556 142,198 2.93 $55.63
Other States 238 780 41,037 3.28 $52.61
Total 48,962 204,848 11,105,424 4.18 $54.21
"Hop Culture in California" by Daniel Flint, 1900, Government Printing Office Washington, page 24.

I don’t quite understand why the price of hops had trebled when the total produced wasn’t that much less. 


AndyNYC said...

"The crisis for central New York hops growers deepened in the 1890s. The McKinley tariff of 1890 raised duties on hops, sacking, and twine (neither of the latter was manufactured domestically), and growers lost money on baling materials. They also feared England and Germany would retaliate and damage the export market. Dealers thought the tariff reduced their trade in foreign hops without substantially aiding domestic producers, but dealers could pass their costs on to producers or consumers. The New York State Hop Growers' Association called for "a Hop Growers' Exchange" to stabilize prices and increase the power of farmers in the marketing of the crop. Hyde Clarke chaired the committee appointed to explore such an institution. He asserted the the exchange was necessary because New York City firms controlled the hop trade in central New York. He was essentially correct; only two local merchants remained in the business. All of the other dealers in Cooperstown acted on behalf of New York brokers. He also believed that in this situation, country growers had to depend on misinformation passed to them by agents of New York merchant houses, thus giving farmers little reliable knowledge of international prices and crop conditions."
(Harvest of Dissent: Agrarianism in Nineteenth-Century New York, Thomas Summerhill, 2005. p. 186)

qq said...

Disease was one reason why yields were lower in the East - and they had lower-yielding varieties.

R said...

Washington hop fields of this era were not in Yakima where hops are currently grown now that there are dams and irrigation projects to facilitate agriculture on the arid East side of the Cascade Mountains. Late nineteenth centery hop production was in several valleys in Western Washington near Seattle on the more temperate and moist side of the Cascade Mountains, a climate much more similar to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Today there isn't comercially significant hop production in Western Washington but I have seen ferial hops growing in the Puyallup River valley where they once we're grown in abundance.

Alan said...

They also move with the populating of the west. You see CNY town names move to the mid-west then the west coast through the later 1800s. Hops, being a known crop, went along.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Alan is right. Westward expansion plays a major role in this. The downy mildew blight and aphid infestation were an early 20th century occurrence, but the hops industry had been slowly moving west since the mid 19th century. Wisconsin had some success, and eventually Northern California and the Pacific Northwest did as well by the end of the 19th century.

But the decline of New York's Erie Canal, due to the rise or the freight rail system in the U.S. after the Civil War, and the loss of the state's monopoly on getting hops to market, is also big contributor.

Anonymous said...

Also, excellent choice of using a Beverwyck label, I might add. But I may be a bit biased.

Zach said...

So according to an online inflation calculation in modern dollars New York hops in 1890 would sell for around $75/pound! While Washington state would sell for $6/pound. I can see why they would move west