Morton’s Praise of Corn

While serving as U.S. secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, a position to which he had been appointed in early 1893, J. Sterling Morton never forgot the agricultural interests of his home state. “For long years a resident of one of the greatest corn states in the union,” reported the Nebraska State Journal on April 26, 1893, “he [Morton] is a firm believer in the value of corn as a food for the human race.” The Journal went on to quote Morton on the importance and commercial value of corn as a food:

“‘I believe,’ he said, ‘that our own people, as a rule, do not appreciate the value of our great American cereal and its extraordinary adaptability for food purposes. The variety of foods which can be prepared from it is extraordinary and it seems to me that no matter how many years a man has been using corn in various ways for food, he is constantly learning of some different form which is new to him. This variety in the food preparations made from corn is a very important item, for everybody understands that a variety in the form of foods is essential to the maintenance of a healthy appetite. . . .

“‘Probably our own civil war furnishes the best possible illustration of the value of corn for human food. It not only furnished a large part of the food supply of the federal forces, but was by far the largest portion of the rations of the southern armies, to whose endurance, under extraordinary privations, we all render willing testimony.'”

Morton went on to comment favorably on attempts to introduce corn into northern Europe: “‘I am convinced that if such measures are pursued as to bring about a thorough understanding among the people of northern Europe of the characteristics of corn, of its real value as a human food, and of the many different ways in which it can be prepared for food, nothing can prevent a steady foreign demand for the food products of American Indian corn, which will raise the price of corn on an average at least 5 cents a bushel on the farm, during a period of ten years. Moreover, in spite of arguments to the contrary, there still exists an immense section of this country in which the yield of corn can be increased far beyond its present production.'” 

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