Did You Know? Pineapple History
Written by RJT employee, Remington Colbert
Pineapples have been a staple of American hospitality since the original colonies. The South has taken it to a higher level, with pineapples found in home decor, architectural elements, and a multitude of dishes. But did you know about how that symbolism came about?
Americans love a good folklore story. The love of oral tradition has been woven into the fabric of our country since the dawn of time. Native Americans told centuries old stories that explain the marvel of the natural world across the country. The origins of pineapple symbolism is a more modern story that shows the origins of this country.
When pineapples were first brought to Europe during the time of Columbus, they were incredibly rare, highly coveted, and incredibly expensive. It took nearly two centuries to perfect a hot house that could grow the tropical pineapple plant in Europe. However, the fruit that did not spoil on the long journey became a huge hit with nobility. In the original colonies, society women of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia would rent pineapples from confectionaries to display on dinner tables as a staus symbol and as a welcome symbol. This is where the symbolism of hospitality first originated. As farming and transportation industries developed, the ability to access these fruits became easier. In time, pineapple elements were seen in fabrics, art, and architecture, and the fruits were found in working-class kitchens across the country. We still see these elements in many places around the country. Charleston, South Carolina has an iconic pineapple fountain on the bay to welcome people to the community.
The sea captains of New England historically traded among the Caribbean Islands. After returning with cargos of spices, rum, and a selection of fruits, including pineapples, captains would drop anchor in the harbor and see to their cargo and crew. After work was done for the trip, captains would return home. It is legend that a returning captain would spear a pineapple on a fence post in front of his home. This would let the community know that he had returned from a safe journey. The pineapple was seen as an invitation for them to visit, dine, and learn about his travels. As this tradition and legend grew, it was common for innkeepers to add pineapples to their signs and advertisements.
No matter which story you believe, pineapples have certainly evolved to become a significant symbol of American hospitality.