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Broom-corn broom

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Broom corn is a plant that grows a much longer tassel at its top than other varieties of corn. The corn that it grows is not considered fit for humans, although it can be fed to farm animals. Broom corn was first grown in Hadley, Massachusetts in the 1790s by Levi Dickinson, although another farmer may have been growing it there as early as 1773. Dickinson began making and selling brooms made from the corn throughout the county, but for several decades the industry was small. In the mid-1820s the industry took off, and by the 1860s broom production was a substantial part of rural agriculture in Hampshire and Franklin counties. These brooms were widely distributed: most of Deerfield's production in the 1830s, for example, were sold in New York City. But after the Civil War, superior quality broom corn from the Midwest cut into the Massachusetts industry, and by the 1880s the industry was in steep decline and had basically disappeared by 1900. Broom corn was one of the many agricultural commodities of the 1800s that were widely sold and replaced locally made items. Prior to the broom corn industry, brooms were made from local materials, such as split birch twigs.


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