black strap molasses

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat May 28 00:21:01 UTC 2011

At 5/27/2011 02:17 PM, victor steinbok wrote:

>The two citation under "black strap" refer to--what else!--black strap. The
>1936 quote refers to "black strap molasses". The point of my original post
>was to find out the reason for the name "black strap molasses".

Sorry, since you also gave the OED's definition of "black strap"
(without the molasses), I thought that's what you were after.

Earlier than 1936, we find "black strap molasses" in 1872 (yes,
before Prohibition, and probably after the mid-19th century
temperance movement), in my second favorite source, 19th-Century
American Newspapers (it and EAN are my two favorites at least
secondarily because I can access them from home):

New Process of Refining Saccharine, and making the best quality of
Syrups at the Cheapest Rates.  [article title]

[A very long sentence about the treatment by hot water of a
saccharine solution of either sugar or molasses, which ends:]

that the poorest quality of "Black Strap" molasses, worth but 15
cents a gallon, is converted into the finest quality of golden syrup,
equal in color and flavor to that made from pure sugar.

The Atlanta Daily Sun, (Atlanta, GA) Wednesday, October 23, 1872;
Issue 736; col B.

In 1882, "black strap molasses" appears in "(wholesale) prices
current" reports in the Raleigh, NC, News and Observer, in its
listing for the Raleigh Grocery Market.

In 1889 we have a definition in a Boston newspaper, and a
metamorphosis from syrup to liquor:

Trade Topics / Principal Features of the Market ...
Black Strap Molasses [title]
The above name is given to a quality of molasses very strong and
black that is used solely by distillers in the manufacture of rum.

Boston Daily Advertiser, (Boston, MA) Friday, April 19, 1889; pg. 6;
Issue 94; col C.

In 1890, we find that Maine bears are fond of black strap molasses.

[Quotation omitted.]

Morning Oregonian, (Portland, OR) Friday, June 13, 1890; pg. 10;
Issue 9265; col A.

In 1890, it is being sold not just to distillers but from a
disreputable retail grocery (a nickel for perhaps 1/4 gallon = one quart?):

Babette.  [title of a tale]
... and on the corner there was a shop where Mrs. Wall sold over a
shaky counter the nickel's worth of black-strap molasses, dabs of
butter wiped off on the rims of cracked saucers and illegally small
loaves of twist bread.

The Daily Picayune, (New Orleans, LA) Sunday, December 21, 1890; pg.
20; Issue 331; col A.

And a hint that the phrase (or at least the comestible) goes back to 1857:

Luddy to the Bohemians / He Points Out to Them the Good Results of
... The speaker then dwelt at length on the condition of the
workingman of to-day as compared with the low wages of 1857, when the
Democratic party was in power.  At that time, he said, laboring men
were fortunate if they had "black strap molasses and pigs' feet" for
their daily food.

The Daily Inter Ocean, (Chicago, IL) Monday, November 07, 1892; pg.
3; Issue 226; col B.


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