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Food in American History, Part 6—Beef (Part 1): Reconstruction and Growth Into the 20th Century (1865–1910)

Grivetti, Louis E. PhD; Corlett, Jan L. PhD; Gordon, Bertram M. PhD; Lockett, Cassius T. PhD

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Abstract

This sixth installment of Food in American History series considers 1865 through 1910, covering America’s reconstruction and growth after the Civil War, with beef as the central food theme. Part 1 follows the rise of the hamburger as an icon in American culture.

Beef is the core, the essence, of American food history, yet it was not native to the Americas (Tables 1 and 2). Explorers and immigrants brought cattle to the New World. Subsequently, oxen pulled covered wagons westward, cows produced milk for pioneer families, and cowboys and cowgirls punched herds along the Chisholm Trail. The story of beef is American history, and the story of beef is one of human challenge, perseverance, and hard work. There is a widely held perception that steak and potatoes define American food patterns. From steaks to hamburgers, from classic beef stew to upscale flavored beef jerky, Americans have chewed on beef and beef products for nearly 400 years.

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Table 2
Table 2
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© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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