Maple syrup industry | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Maple syrup industry

Maple syrup industry | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Wisconsin ranks third among the states in the production of maple syrup and maple products were one of the state's earliest agricultural products. Indians were familiar with the process of tapping trees for sap before white settlement, and it was an established tradition among immigrants from New England, New York, and the Southeast. Maple sap was a primary sweetener in pioneer homes but as the price of imported cane sugar decreased in the 1860s, maple sugar soon lost its standing.  To keep the industry going, producers began converting the sap into a sweet syrup, a favored luxury item on 19th century tables.

By 1900, syrup constituted 100 percent of commercial maple sap production.  Until the Depression, the maple industry was scattered among small-scale producers. But when a serious decline hit the syrup business in the 1930s, producers finally united to improve standards and marketing strategy.  The first cooperative of producers, the Pierce County Maple Syrup Producers Association, was founded in 1932. Marketing was further helped by the establishment of uniform grades by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture in the early 1930s.

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