Urban fruit snacks, 1851

Strawberries in the nineteenth century were “an almost indispensable luxury on the tables of all classes,” according to the New York Herald, and the spring of 1851 was an unusually good season. On 13 June, the newspaper estimated that at least a hundred thousand gallons had been sold in New York City’s four major markets—Centre, Washington, Fulton, and Catherine.

“Strawberry girls” and “cart hucksters” also sold the fruit throughout Manhattan. As the Herald explained, they

carry them round to the groceries, the saloons, the private houses, and every other place where a pint basket can be sold. These strawberry dealers can be met with at almost every corner with their baskets and covered carts; and many of those little girls, dressed in their simple calico frocks and calico sun bonnets, command a quick sale by their modest expressions of, “please to buy my strawberries.”

The fruit cost between four and seven cents per pint. Probably in response to the Herald‘s article, a Staten Island farmer sent to the newspaper samples of four strawberry varieties: British Queen, Turner’s Pine, Black Prince, and Judge Buel. “They were of delicious flavor,” the paper reported on 14 June 1851, “and several of them measured five inches in circumference.”