Vicuna–The World’s Most Luxurious Textile


vicuna jacket




A garment made of vicuña wool is so rare and so precious that it is highly unlikely that even the proverbial “gentleman who has everything” has ever heard of one or seen one, let alone worn one.


Vicuña wool is considered the world’s most costly textile:  Based on 2018 pricing, a yard of it retails for approximately $5,000, a custom-tailored men’s suit typically priced between $30,000 and $50,000.  Even a vicuña scarf can command prices of around $2,000.  But for the few men who have ever had the pleasure of wearing a garment or accessory made of vicuña wool, it is worth every penny.


The vicuña (also spelled vicuna and vicugna), the animal that gives the precious textile its name, is a wild South American camelid that lives in the alpine regions of the Andes Mountains. It is a relative of the llama; is believed to be the wild ancestor of the alpaca; and like the closely related guanaco, has never been domesticated.  Smaller, more graceful, and more delicate than the guanaco, the vicuña is native to Peru, northwestern Argentina, Bolivia, and northern Chile, living at altitudes of 3,200-4,800 meters (10,500-15,700 ft.) above sea level. (A small introduced population exists in Ecuador.)  From head to tail, the animal measures about 5 ft., is about 3 ft. tall at its shoulders, and weighs on average less than 150 lbs.

Vicuna photo

By law, a vicuña can only be shorn every two years—after being rounded-up in the wild.  Each year, in an event called a “chacu” (also spelled “chakku,” “chaccu”) that dates back to the Inca era, the vicuñas are herded, captured, and shorn. (Only animals with wool longer than 2.5 cm may be shorn.)  Once shorn, the females and young males are released back into the wild. Old males, however, are slaughtered for their fleece and flesh.


The extraordinary warmth of vicuña wool is derived from tiny scales on the hollow, air-filled fibers, the scales causing the fibers to interlock, thereby trapping insulating-air.  Vicuña wool fibers are amongst the finest in the world, comparable in diameter to that of the angora rabbit and the down-hair (underfur) of the chiru (the Tibetan antelope) that is used to weave the fabled (now infamous and internationally banned on account of traders killing the wild antelope to get is precious fur) shahtoosh shawl, so fine as to be able to pass through a wedding ring. Vicuña, for example, is noticeably finer than cashmere. [It is also much rarer and, correspondingly, much more expensive:  While only 12 tons of vicuña wool that can be processed into yarn are produced annually worldwide, the tonnage of cashmere yarn is 25,000; likewise, 2 pounds of vicuña wool cost between $400 and $600, while a similar amount of cashmere costs $75-$85, with sheep’s wool running around $5-$6.  Harrods of London sells pure vicuña sock by Falke’s for over $600 per pair. And while a cashmere sweater retails for around $1,000, a vicuña one demands $5,000.  Vicuña wool is so fine that to place one’s hand into a sack of the sheared wool is like placing one’s hand into a sack containing nothing but soft, balmy air.]  And since the wool is sensitive to chemical treatment, it is usually left in its natural golden-tan color, dubbed “the golden fleece.”  (Modern manufacturers of the fabric have recently unlocked the secret for dyeing the textile into various fashion-colors.)  But the animal yields small quantities—about one pound per animal per biennial harvest—of a very fine, soft, extremely warm wool. Hence, its justifiably high price.  The Inca civilization (12th-16th century) so prized the wool—declared by Spanish conquistadors “the silk of the New World”—that it was against the law for anyone other than royalty to possess it. And according to Inca mythology, the vicuña was the reincarnation of a beautiful young maiden upon whom a coat of pure gold was bestowed when she acquiesced to the advances of an old, hideous king. Today, the vicuña is the national animal of Peru and is featured prominently in the country’s coat of arms.


The vicuña was protected under Inca law.  And today, there are national and international regulations that safeguard the animal and its precious wool.  But from the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1532 until 1974 when the vicuña was officially declared an endangered species, the animal was largely unprotected, resulting in its being hunted and destroyed almost to the brink of extinction. (In 1824, Simón Bolivar[1783-1830], in his capacity as governor of Peru, banned the killing of the vicuña.)  By the mid-1970s, only about 6,000 vicuñas remained. Part of the reason for the animal’s decline is that, because it lives in the wild, harvesters of the wool tended to shoot the docile creature then collect its precious wool rather than undergo the labor-intensive process that engages the services of hundreds or even thousands of people to form a “human ring” around a vicuña herd then slowly close-in on the animals to round-up the live animals, thereafter shearing them before releasing them back into the wild. In 1987, CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) declared that only wool obtained from living vicuña could legally sold. During the Inca era, it is estimated that 3,000,000 vicuñas roamed their Andean habitat.  Today, as a result of local, national, and international efforts, the vicuña population is around 350,000.  And the gentle animal remains on protected species lists.

vicuna round-up

The world’s foremost trader in luxurious vicuña wool, garments, and accessories made therefrom is the Italian firm of Loro Piana ( ).  Founded in the early 1800s by the Loro Piana family in Trivero, a district in northern Italy renowned for textile production, by the second half of the 19th century, the company had moved its operations to Valsesia, Italy, serving as merchants of wool.  In the 1940s, the company, under the direction of Franco Loro Piana, began exporting its fine wool textiles, becoming world-famous for its production of cashmere and then, in the mid-1990s, vicuña.  In 2013, LVHM (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), the Paris-based French multinational conglomerate of luxury goods, purchased 80% of Loro Piana for $2.25 billion. Today, the Loro Piana family, which has been in the wool business for six generations and over 200 years, owns 15% of the company.





vicuna jacket

China and Crystal Tableware for the Modern Man–by Richard Brendon

Bone China and Crystal—for the modern man

by Richard Brendon


Richard Brendon


When the typical 21st-century gentleman thinks of equipping his household—be it bachelor pad, starter-house, urban penthouse, or country mansion—he does not think of bone china and fine crystal. Simply stated, most men—not even wealthy and worldly ones—do not live like that anymore. As such, luxurious, iconic brands like Wedgwood and Lalique have given way to the likes of Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn.


But for the discriminating modern man who insists—like his father before him—in dining in

elegance and with style, there is a new generation of tableware designers who, using the age-old exquisite materials of bone china and lead crystal, create collections that are at once classic but modern, elegant and therefore understated, simple though luxurious. And one such firm is the design house of Richard Brendon ( ).


Bone China

Stronger than “porcelain china” and “fine china,” “bone china” is a soft-paste porcelain composed of a minimum of 30% bone ash, feldspathic (rock-forming) material, and a fine, white clay called kaolin.


Bone ash is a white substance made by the calcification of animal bones. To make bone ash, the flesh is removed from the bone, then the bone is washed clean. It is then heated to about 1832 °F (1000 °C) in order to remove all organic material, the bone thereby becoming sterilized. The sterilized bone is then ground with water into fine particles that are used as the raw material for bone china. Today, many manufacturers of bone china use synthetic bone ash alternatives such as dicalcium phosphate and tricalcium phosphate. Richard Brendon, however, does not. His bone ash is made from the bones of English cattle.


Relatively resistant to chipping, bone china is also known for its whiteness and translucency. And because it is harder than other porcelains, it can be crafted into thin, delicate objects that are exceedingly durable.


English potter Josiah Spode, in the early 1790s, is credited as the first person to commercially market items made of bone china. And from its introduction until the latter part of the 20th century, bone china was primarily a British product, made almost exclusively in Stoke-on-Trent.


Lead Crystal

Comprised primarily of silica sand, calcium, magnesium, soda, and lime, the earliest examples of crystal glass date back to 500 B.C.E., Mesopotamia. But it was in 1674 C.E. that English glassmaker George Ravenscroft decided to substitute lead oxide for calcium, thereby inventing the now-famous lead crystal that is used to craft some of the most prized glassware known to man.


By adding lead oxide (typically from 18% to 40% by weight), the silica sand, of which glass is primarily comprised, becomes easier to melt. Lead oxide also increases the “working period” of the molten glass, affording artisans more time to manipulate the glass in its formative stages. Besides adding weight and stability, lead oxide also imparts a heightened refractory characteristic, resulting in a finished product with a brilliance that far exceeds that of regular glass. And while there are health issues associated with eating and drinking from vessels with lead content, such issues primarily arise when food is cooked or stored in lead-content vessels. (Drinking wine from glasses made of lead crystal poses no discernible health risk, whereas it is ill-advised to drink liquor that has been stored in a lead-crystal decanter, for example, for three or more months).


Lead-free crystal, sometimes called crystallin, is also a material of high quality with light-refractory properties similar to lead crystal. Crystallin, however, is generally less expensive and is not typically etched and carved. Much of its appeal is its light weight, enabling the manufacture of drinking-glasses that are ultra-thin, thereby enhancing the experience derived from their contents.



Richard Brendon

It is upon centuries-old traditions of English bone-china and lead-crystal manufacturing, then, that young Englishman Richard Brendon, a native of Notting Hill, established his company in London in 2013.


Brendon’s penchant for pottery began in his childhood years when his mother enrolled him in ceramics classes. But it was while studying product design and working at a pub on Portobello Road—famous for its every-Saturday-morning antiques market—that Brendon’s interest in antique ceramics was piqued. And it was while attending those weekly Portobello Market events that Brendon got the brilliant idea to revive “orphaned” antique tea saucers that had long been separated from their presumably broken, but certifiably missing, teacups. So, for his design school graduation exhibition, he produced platinum- and gold-mirrored teacups and paired them with antique saucers, their patterns reflecting on the teacups, seamlessly uniting the two.


Brendon’s ingenious, thrifty, sustainable concept, titled Reflect, was received with critical acclaim, the concept serving as a cornerstone of his design house, which was inaugurated shortly after his graduation. Prestigious clients, commissions, and collaborations soon followed: Harrods, Bergdorf Goodman, Fortnum & Mason, Four Seasons Hotel, etc.


And the natural complement to exquisite British bone china is exquisite British crystal. Thus, since 2013, Richard Brendon has offered several lines of lead-crystal stemware, Fluted and Diamond being the most notable. And in 2018, Brendon collaborated with esteemed English wine critic Jancis Robinson in the creation of an all-wines wineglass made of lead-free crystal.


But what makes Richard Brendon especially appealing to the modern gentleman with discerning taste is the company’s option of creating bespoke—custom-designed, custom-made—collections for clients: Just as a gentleman of means can go to London’s famed Savile Row to be outfitted with a bespoke suit, such a gentleman can go to Richard Brendon to commission a bespoke suite of British bone china and crystal. And for the modern man who otherwise would use tableware by Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, setting his table with a Richard Brendon bespoke collection speaks volumes without uttering a single word.



One Glass For All Wines–the new, versatile wineglass by Jancis Robinson and Richard Brendon

The All-Wines Wineglass

by Jancis Robinson and Richard Brendonthe wineglass designed to complement all wines!


Finally—fi-na-lly—there is a wineglass that can be used—correctly and successfully—for drinking all styles of wine, from red, white, and rosé table wines, to Champagne and prosecco, to Sherry, Port, and Madeira, to Montescudaio vin santo. And the making of that one, über-versatile wineglass required the collaboration of two of the most highly regarded personages in the wine trade: Jancis [No, not Janice] Robinson, the world’s foremost wine critic (so much so that she is a cellar advisor to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and sits on the Royal Household Wine Committee); and Richard Brendon, prominent British designer of bone china collections and a rising star in the rarefied realm of wineglass design.


But laughing all the way to the bank—and banquet—are young, fashionable, wine-drinking men the world over who enthusiastically seek out easy, effortless, elegance, and who have awaited, for untold generations, a savior-glass so that they no longer need feel socially condemned because they do not have cupboards stocked with 8s of 10 different styles of wineglasses; no longer have to hope and pray to inherit stemware; are elated to know that less glasses means less dishes; and now have a one-for-all, all-in-one wineglass that simplifies the already-complicated world of wine. What less could a boy ask for?


When Brendon—confidently, but deferentially—approached Robinson with the suggestion of a collaboration on a line of wineglasses, he had not considered that Robinson, a self-proclaimed, no-waste pragmatist from Northern England, would immediately edit his idea down to a one-glass collection. But when one has been around the notoriously esoteric, trendy, hyped-up wine industry for decades—since the 1970s in the case of Robinson—one manages to learn a thing or two. And one thing Robinson—Oxford University-educated in mathematics—seems to have learned is that wines, like fractions, have a common denominator, thus making them more fundamentally alike than dissimilar. So why all the fuss about specific glasses for specific wines—especially in the 21st century where less is more, simpler is better, and everyone is trying to de-stress and un-clutter?


But the need for a versatile wineglass is nothing new. After all, when attending a wine festival, for example, one is given a pouch-bib with one glass that must serve for sampling all wines. So why did it take this long for someone in the industry to get the brilliant idea to do the seemingly obvious: Make and market an all-wines wineglass to the general public?


To the untrained eye, to behold the Robinson-Brendon glass is to see a wineglass that looks—from a distance at least—like any other modern, Riedel-inspired, long-stemmed wine glass. But to hold the glass, and then to drink from it (after inhaling the aromas contained therein, of course), makes for a singular epicurean experience.


In the height of the designer jeans craze, 15-year-old brunette beauty Brooke Shields, in one of the era’s most provocative television ads, coyishly queried and answered, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing….” A similar sensation, so it seems, must have inspired Robinson to insist upon a wineglass so thin at its rim that it imparts a sensation almost like drinking wine out of thin air….


The glass,—the central figure and pièce de résistance of the Jancis Robinson Collection, a 5-piece wine suite comprised of a long-stemmed, all-wines wineglass; a stemless water glass, its tulip shaped bowl directly informed by its wine counterpart; a wine-bottle-inspired decanter with glass stopper for old, mature wines; a generously proportioned young wine decanter that encourages wines to aerate and is large enough to accommodate the contents of a magnum bottle; and a water carafe, which is the old-wine decanter sans stopper—like all the pieces in the ensemble, is mouth-blown and handcrafted of lead-free crystal by some of Europe’s finest glassblowers, following centuries-old traditions. (The glass’ stem, for example, is not a separate unit that is attached to the bowl. Instead, it is one contiguous element of the sublime whole). But even they had to initially struggle to achieve Robinson and Brendon’s directive to handcraft the world’s thinnest, most refined wineglass. Though sleek, the wineglass is durable, sized to fit into standard dishwashers, and, because of its lead-free composition, resistant to those unsightly “clouds” that tend to descend upon glasses over time. And priced at around $60 per glass and available in sets of two and six, this exquisite wineglass is well within the reach of many a modern gentleman.


The Jancis Robinson Collection by Richard Brendon was officially launched at Harrods of London on July 1, 2018. It is available online at . Bartholomew Broadbent, wine expert and son of the world-famous Christie’s wine auctioneer Michael Broadbent, already swears by Robinson’s new all-wines wine glass, declaring it the finest in the world. And when Broadbent speaks, the world of wine bends its ear.


Chateau Musar–the world’s best wine!

Chateau MusarChâteau Musar—the world’s best wine


There is no such thing as “the world’s most beautiful woman.” But if there were, she would certainly be the incomparable Naomi Campbell. Likewise, to declare a “world’s best wine” would be shamelessly subjective; but if a wine were so lauded, Château Musar would undoubtedly be the one.


According to the foremost experts, connoisseurs, and purveyors of fine wine, Château Musar is arguably the world’s greatest wine. And it has a cult-like following—in a notoriously trendy industry—to prove it. Experiencing the wine can be so moving, so profound, that people first introduced to it have been known to shed tears. And since each bottle is subtly unique—even within a single vintage—tears have been known to beget tears with the opening of each subsequent bottle. That is because to taste the wine is to awaken dormant memories—some happy, some sad, some beautiful, some painful—of life itself: a late-afternoon walk in an enchanted forest to gather mushrooms with Grandfather; sitting, disillusioned, on a cliff overlooking a tumultuous sea; the intimate scent of a one-night lover; parched soil at the moment it is moistened by a shower of rain; a kitchen table piled high with baskets of fresh game, ripe fruits, herbs and spices, and vegetables in preparation for a scrumptious feast. “Aroma,” more so than “bouquet,” would more aptly describe the wine’s fragrance, for it resonates more as “savory” than “fruity” or “floral.”


Surprisingly, Château Musar does not hail from one of the venerated vineyards of one of the esteemed wine regions of one of the world’s great wine-producing countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Chile. Instead, Château Musar is from the Levant, the Biblical land of Cannan—specifically from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, albeit a valley that has been home to vineyards for over 2,000 years and wine-drinking peoples for seven millennia. But not surprisingly, like the great luxuries and mysteries of the fabled East of yore, Château Musar—since 1979, but especially since 2000—has taken the West by storm.


History of Château Musar

In 1929, after studying medicine for one year in Bordeaux, France, Gaston Hochar (1910-1972), the scion of bankers and traders, realized—to the initial dismay of his father—that wine, not blood, was his passion. So, upon returning to his ancestral Lebanese homeland, where it is believed the Hochar family (pronounced “Ho-shar”) has lived for some 800 years, he entered the wine business in 1930, which at the time in Lebanon was an avocation for farmers, not a vocation for the bourgeoisie. But because Gaston possessed a penchant for things elegant, he set out to transform Lebanese winemaking into a thing sublime: He, for example, became the first Lebanese to market his wine in bottles rather than in casks. Soon, he become the sole official supplier of wine to the French officers’ mess across the Levant. (The French army had been posted in the region since World War I.)


In 1930, Gaston Hochar established the Château Musar winery ( ) in Ghazir, Lebanon, 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of the capital city of Beirut, where it is said the Hochars have lived for 200 years. The vineyard, however, was situated in the sunny (300 days per annum), fertile, Bekaa Valley—known in Classical antiquity as Coele-Syria—at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Beirut. Bekaa Valley, Lebanon’s most important agricultural region, is located between Mount Lebanon to the west and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (the mountain range that forms most of the border between Syria and Lebanon) to the east. Seventy-five miles long and ten miles wide on average, the region boasts a Mediterranean climate of wet, oftentimes-snowy winters and dry, warm summers. The region also boasts a terroir perfect for viticulture. Gaston, it is said, allowed terroir—even if in conflict-prone mountains—to dictate the location of his 180-hectare vineyard. But when it came to the situ for his winery, he insisted upon land securely within his ancestral homeland of Lebanon.


The name “Musar” derives from a 400-year-old castle-turned-convent called “Mzar,” where the winery was first housed. Gaston changed “Mzar” to “Musar,” a name that he thought would be easier to pronounce in both his native Lebanese and abroad. The winery’s first vintage came in 1933.


[ Upon his death in 1972, Gaston Hochar passed the winery on to his two sons: eccentric, creative Serge (1939-2014); and conservative, methodical Ronald. In 1959, Serge, while completing his winemaking studies at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux, becomes Château Musar’s winemaker (though, on account of his demonstrated gift at viniculture, he had begun overseeing the company’s wine production from 1954 at the tender age of 15), while Ronald in 1962 begins heading up the company’s marketing and finance departments, thereafter, in 2015, becoming the company’s chairman. Today, Ronald’s son Ralph leads the company’s social media activity as well as sales and marketing for France and Southern Asia. ]


For almost 50 years, Château Musar enjoyed a relatively provincial existence, selling most of its product domestically. Under the stewardship of brothers Serge and Ronald, however, the company began its foray into international marketing—promoting at trade shows, entering international tastings, forging relationships with foreign chefs and restaurants, etc. But Château Musar’s proverbial “big break” came in 1979 when, at the Bristol Wine Fair, Christie’s wine auctioneer extraordinaire Michael Broadbent and esteemed journalist Roger Voss selected a 1967 Château Musar Red as the “discovery of the Fair.” And the rest, as it is said, is history. And, in many ways, it is the company’s decision to market its wine internationally that ensured it survival.


From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon was gripped by a religious-political civil war that pitted the country’s Christian, Jewish, and Muslim populations against each other, the conflict further complicated by interventions and shifting allegiances from Syria and Israel. By the time the war finally came to an end, Lebanon’s pre-war population of three million people had witnessed a death toll of 120,000; one million people had migrated; and 76,000 were displaced, most permanently. The war had a devastating effect on life in Lebanon, its wine industry one of the many casualties as Lebanese people—people with an ancient winemaking tradition—stopped drinking even locally produced wine on account of the abject hardship that took center stage in the theater of war. Most Lebanese wine producers simply ceased operations.


But bon vivants have a way of making sure that life remains beautiful—regardless. And Serge Hochar was the quintessential bon vivant. As such, amidst years of bombings, blockades, and invasions, Château Musar not only survived, it thrived. During those war-torn years, only 1976—the year after the war began—saw no wine production: The precious grapes were left to wither away on the vines. And the mysterious 1984 vintage, made from grapes harvested one month late because of the war and pressed five days after harvest (instead of immediately after the typically three-hour drive from the vineyard to the winery), was not offered at market seven years after the harvest, but was instead uneventfully cellared, where it quietly aged into a remarkable wine that was, according to March Hochar, Serge’s son, finally released to the market 30 years later in 2014.  (Only two truckloads, representing ten percent of the harvest, were allowed past the checkpoints on the road to Damascus—the road connecting the vineyard and the winery.)


Serge Hochar was convinced that it was fate that allowed Château Musar to emerge relatively unscathed from those trying times: No employees died at the hands of the war; the winery was able to ship its wine to its international markets whenever roads, airports, and ports were operational; and the winery’s bunker-like, 5-story-deep cellars—located in the Christian heartland  and containing enough inventory accumulated before and during the war to see the company through a 20-year war—was only slightly disturbed.


Thus, it was Château Musar founder Gaston Hochar’s elegant (but also fortuitous) decision in 1930 to bottle his wine—which served to later facilitate the international marketing of it—that would enable his winery, 45 years later, to weather the woes of war. So, on that fateful day in 1979 when Château Musar was declared the stand-out wine of the Bristol Wine Fair, the winery had long been poised for the celebrity and prosperity that would ensue.


The Wines

Privileged to a six-month-long fermentation process in cement vats; aged for one year in barrels made of French oak from the forest of Nevers; expertly blended before being returned to cement vats for an additional year; then, three years after harvest, bottled then bottle-aged for four years before its release—seven years in the making—onto the market, Château Musar Red is the winery’s eponymous protagonist, its “primo vino,” its “ne plus ultra.” And it is upon Château Musar Red that the winery’s fame, fortune, and international reputation rest. By 2000, the wine had begun its rise to fame in the United States. Celebrated New York restaurant Terroir Tribeca has a designated section named “All Hail the Almighty Château Musar.” Château Musar’s various wines—Château Musar [red, white, and rosé], Hochar Père Et Fils [red], and Musar Jeune [red, white, and rosé]—are today exported to over 55 countries around the world, so much so that when Serge Hochar suffered an untimely death in December of 2014, he was mourned by practically every significant wine publication. And at a retail price of about $55 for the winery’s top-of-the-range Château Musar, the wine is considered one of the best-priced exquisite wines in the world.


Yes, the Broadbent-Voss declaration at the Bristol Wine Fair in 1979 did open the door to Château Musar’s international success as a winery. But at the end of the day, the wine had to speak for itself. And it is Serge Hochar’s philosophy of winemaking and commitment to producing authentic Lebanese wine with minimal human intervention that has ensured Château Musar’s success for the better part of a century. Today, Château Musar is a source of Lebanese pride, a national icon. What Chanel or Dior is for France, Château Musar is for Lebanon.


By 1954—while in his mid-teenage years—Serge Hochar had already established himself as a child prodigy of winemaking, his father allowing him to serve as principal blender of that year’s Château Musar White. Then two years later, in 1956, Serge blended the winery’s Château Musar Red. In those days, under the leadership of Serge’s father Gaston, the winery’s winemaking methodology reflected that of the day, every effort being made to introduce science, technology, order, and standardization to the process. But when artsy Serge assumed full leadership of Château Musar’s winemaking in 1959 at age 20, he began implementing a philosophy that was decidedly natural and non-interventionalist—à la laissez faire wine. And by the 1960s, the winery was on the path of distinguishing itself as a producer of living, evolving, bottle-unique wines: Red wines are fermented in cement or cement-lined vats, regarded as the most neutral material during the formative stages of wine; only the winery’s white wines—in order to achieve the desired clarity—are fined; wines are filtered only for the purpose of removing obviously extraneous materials; oak barrels are comprised of only 10% new wood since the winery’s mission is to produce wine that tastes like wine, not like wood; minimal amounts of sulfites are added only so as to ensure the stability of the wines while in transit; etc. The result is wine that is an authentic, nuanced, unadulterated expression of lands and hands that give it rise.


Precisely why Château Musar (red, white, and rosé), unlike most other unfortified wines, endures for decades—improving all along—is unknown. Grapes, it is said, are exceedingly impressionable fruits, the wine they produce influenced by things big and small, tangible and intangible. Perhaps, then, the Hochar family’s will to produce a living wine amidst the death of civil war has helped to imbue the grapes, and thus the wine, with tenacity and longevity. Likewise, the rocky soil of the villages of Aana and Kefraya, home to the vines of Château Musar, engenders a deep-rooted desire to survive, collaterally imparting character to the grapes and the wine they yield. Though time has not yet revealed when Château Musar is at its optimum, experts recommend that the wine (red and white) be drunk after 15 years, at which point it begins demonstrating its potential for the evolution of secondary and tertiary notes. While no bottles of the inaugural 1933 vintage exist, bottles from several pre-Serge Hochar vintages have been preserved within the cool, dark recesses of the winery’s cellar. “I tasted a red 1952 last Christmas [2017], and although it was produced by my grandfather [Gaston] with a different approach (i.e., he did fine and filter the wines at the time) to my father’s [Serge] noninterventionist philosophy, the wine was very lively, complex and continued opening up for 3 hours after decanting,” said Marc Hochar, head of marketing and sales. It is believed that the initial oak-aging acclimates the wine to minimal exposure to oxygen. And after about 50 years, bottles are reconditioned and outfitted with new corks, thereby preparing the vintages for additional decades of aging. But such methods are not singular to Château Musar. So, for the time being, the lifespans of Château Musar Red, White, and Rosé remain a delicious mystery. Since the 1960s, however, it is the company’s policy to sell only wines produced pursuant to Serge Hochar’s noninterventionist methods, beginning with the Château Musar White of 1954 and the Château Musar Red of 1956.


Château Musar Red

Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault are blended to make what is oftentimes declared the “world’s best wine.” According to Gaston Hochar, managing-director of Château Musar and grandson of his namesake founder of the company, the Cabernet Sauvignon gives the wine its structure, while Carignan provides body, with the Cinsault imparting elegance and finesse. The wine is blended to reflect the overall character of the particular vintage. In its youth, Château Musar Red is dense and richly textured with indications of baked and dried fruits. As the wine ages, however, it acquires tawny hues subtler notes. The company still proudly offers Château Musar Reds from the 1950s. Because the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered, it should be allowed to stand upright for 24 hours before serving, thereby allowing the naturally occurring sediment to settle. Decanting is recommended. The wine should be allowed to breathe for several hours before being served at 18°C. Château Musar Red is beautifully paired with lamb, game, roasts, and mature cheeses.



Château Musar White

Two ancient, indigenous, Lebanese white grapes unite to create Château Musar White: Obaideh, from the chalky, stony soil of the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains; and Merwah, from the calcareous gravels of the seaward side of Mount Lebanon. Seven years in the making—after fermenting in French oak barrels for nine months before being blended and bottled at the end of the first year, then bottle-aged for six years before release onto the market—the wine is in its youth yellow-gold in hue, mildly oaky, and rich and creamy in texture, though dry. As the precious liquid ages in the company’s cellars at Ghazir, it attains tawny hues and mellow, spicy notes. Like its red counterpart, Château Musar White ages beautifully for decades, the company proudly offering bottles dating as far back as 1954. This complex wine, sometimes compared to dry Sauternes or mature white Graves, is best served after breathing for several hours. Decanting is recommended. Best if presented “cellar-cool” (around 15°C), Château Musar White makes for an exquisite complement for foie gras, pâtés, seafood dishes, and spicy foods.


Château Musar Rosé

Since specific grape qualities are required so as to ensure an elegant combination of the varietals, Château Musar Rosé is not made every year. When made, however, at its foundation are the two native Lebanese white grapes—Merwah and Obaideh—the origins of which go back 5,000 years to the era of the Phoenicians, and the Cinsault red grape. The grapes are pressed together, the juice fermented and aged for six to nine months in barrels of French oak. The wine is bottled a year after harvest and released onto the market two years later. Château Musar Rosé is a still, softly oaked tribute to the “blended” rosés of Champagne, a style much admired by Serge Hochar. In its youth, Château Musar Rosé is a gentle salmon-pink in color, with a smooth, balanced, velvety texture. Its refreshing aroma and flavor suggests of citrus, almonds, wild herbs, and peaches. As the wine ages, it takes on a tawny hue, with hints of spice. Château Musar Rosé should be allowed to breathe for several hours before serving at cellar temperature (around 15°C). The wine pairs perfectly with seafood, Provençal dishes, nuts, and olives.



In a dozen years—in 2030—Château Musar will celebrate its centennial year, the company’s iconic status predictably intact. And it is likely that the “formula” finalized by Serge Hochar in 1977 for making Château Musar Red, the wine that has come to be called “the world’s best wine,” will still guide Hochar family winemakers—now in their fourth generation—in the making of the quintessential Lebanese wine that elevated not only the winemaking of the Levant, but of the world.

The Gubelin Grand Prix of St. Moritz–on “White Turf”–The world’s most glamorous horserace

White Turf

Each year, in the ether regions of Earth, there takes place the world’s most ritzy horserace:  the Gübelin Grand Prix of St. Moritz. Founded in 1939 and quickly establishing itself as the marquee equine event in St. Moritz, where organized horseracing dates back to 1907, the one-and-a-quarter-mile-long Gübelin unfolds at 1,800 meters above sea level, atop snow-covered, frozen, Lake St. Moritz. The gallop race, featuring some of Europe’s most esteemed Thoroughbreds, is arguably the highlight of “White Turf,” a series of winter sports—from polo to skikjoering to tobogganing—held on three consecutive Sundays in February.

Each winter, when the lake freezes—as determined by sonar devices—to about 60 centimeters (2 feet) thick, thereby assuring safety for the approximately 15,000 spectators and scores of horses, a racetrack, dubbed “the world’s flattest,” is constructed on the frozen surface. And there, at “the top of the world,” the “sport of kings” plays out more like the “sport of gods.” There, Europe’s best racehorses temporarily abandon their familiar racing surfaces of grass and dirt for a more enchanting one of glimmering snow where the notorious horserace “kick-back” is ice particles, not dust, mud, or herbaceous cuttings.


Getting to St. Moritz, “The Top of the World.”

But if the race on “white turf” is spectacular, then the dramatically beautiful journey to St. Moritz is a most fitting prelude. St. Moritz is situated on the southern side of the Swiss Alps, in the Engadin Valley, within relatively easy reach from Milan, Zurich, and Munich. The nearest major airport to St. Moritz is Balzano Airport in Balzano, Italy, located 167 kilometers (104 miles) from the famous city. Another major airport is St. Gallen-Altenrhein, (located 172 kilometers from St. Moritz), which has international flights from Altenrhein, Switzerland.

.But for jetsetters—who tend to frequent St. Moritz—those options are simply too remote. After all, one of the appeals of St. Moritz is to arrive early and stay late. Thus, open only to private and charter jets, planes, and helicopters, the Engadin Airport, located a mere seven kilometers from the resort town, is the preferred option for the “glitterazzi.”  Upon request, Engadin Airport offers flights to any European destination (See ).  And upon arrival, elite-types are transported by limousine service from the airport to their respective hotels, the city boasting five 5-star accommodations, the oldest of which is the Kulm Hotel.

For “normal” rich-and-famous types, however, there are options that are as glamorous as the White Turf itself. Arriving by railway is widely regarded as the most storied and memorable.  There are two heritage railway lines:  the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express, both of which are world-famous.  The 1930s restaurant car of the Rhaetian Railways is also a highly recommended option. Departing from either Chur, Switzerland, via the Albula Pass, or Tirano, Italy, via the Bernina Pass, the route is regarded as one of Europe’s most stunning. From Landquart, one may journey to St. Moritz via Klosters and the Vereina Tunnel. From Zurich’s main train station, the trip to St. Moritz takes three hours.  Train tickets and schedules are available at or  .

By car or bus, one takes any of the picturesque mountain passes:  from the northern parts of Switzerland; Ticino, Italy (Switzerland’s Italian region); and from Austria.  Arriving from the south, vehicles travel along Lake Como, the Valchiavenna, and the Val Bregaglia.  (Driving from Milan or Zurich takes approximately three hours, four from Munich.)  [One who wishes to avoid driving through the breathtakingly gorgeous mountain passes can take the car-train in Klosters/Selfranga.  See .  The website provides regular updates on road conditions in the Canton of Grisons.] Another option is the famed Swiss postal car, which has regular service running between Chiavenna (Italy) and St. Moritz.   Then, of course, there is the Palm Express, from Lugano (Italy) all the way to the Engadin.

But how remote St. Moritz became the site for one of the world’s most celebrated and celebrity-attended horseraces begins not in 1907, but in the middle of the 1800s when, in 1856, Johannes Badrutt (1819-1889) acquires a guesthouse situated at the site of the present-day Kulm Hotel.  Cognizant of St. Moritz’s crisp, cold, sunny weather—even in the throes of winter—Badrutt thought that the area would be an excellent site for a then-novel concept:  winter tourism.  So, in 1864, he made an often-recounted wager with a Brit:  that the Brit would love St. Moritz’s winter weather; and if not, Badrutt would pay for the Brit’s trip and accommodations.  And the rest, as it is said, is history:  The Brit so liked the sunny Alpine weather—today referred to as “Champagne climate” on account of the lake’s cold, sun-sparkling atmosphere—that he extended his stay.  And other Brits soon followed suit, what would become “the season” at St. Moritz extending from Christmas to Easter.

“When the sun is out, the Brits will play…,” or so they say.  So, winter tourists began organizing winter sports to amuse themselves while at St. Moritz. And by the early 1900s, horseracing was one such amusement.

But winter at St. Moritz is not only about sports:  It is estimated that between Christmas and Easter, winter tourists spend one-half a billion dollars each year. At St. Moritz, all the playthings of the über-wealthy can be found:  luxury cars; private aircraft; fine furs; enviable jewelry. Every major fashion brand is represented there. Fine Champagne flows seemingly uninterrupted in the “Champagne weather.”  And there is, of course, fine dining, meals at the world-famous restaurant “La Marmite” being almost obligatory.

Certainly, there are other exclusive, extravagant, elegant destinations on the planet. But if one wants to experience what is widely considered the most intriguing horserace on the planet—a race that feels like a hybrid of the Cannes Film Festival and the Kentucky Derby—one must venture to the top of the world to find it at “White Turf St. Moritz.”

Literary Critics Praise Volume Two, “Manly Manners: The Cultivation of the Inner, Spiritual Gentleman” by Wayne James

Critics Praise Volume Two of Manly Manners Trilogy by Former USVI Senator Wayne James

 Wayne James’ Manly Manners:  The Cultivation of the Inner, Spiritual Gentleman, is garnering critical acclaim.  Volume two of a trilogy on modern men’s manners and lifestyle, the book received a coveted five-out-of-five-star review from Foreword Clarion, and a glowing review from Kirkus, which does not have a star system but has earned a reputation since its establishment in 1933 for being conservative with its laudatory declarations. “James…finds a more to say about etiquette in this wonderful new volume,” says Claire Foster of Foreword Clarion.  “In this second book, [James] dives deeper to explore the ethical questions that underlie etiquette, providing moral grounding for what would otherwise be empty rituals,” declares Kirkus Reviews.

The premise of volume two is that ethics must be at the foundation of etiquette; and that upholding good manners must be good men. Volume two guides the reader towards achieving inner peace and equilibrium, thereby increasing his inclination towards gentle and genteel behavior. To that end, the book delves into topics that are not typically included in traditional books on manners:  how to gracefully deal with the emotional upheaval of a heartbreak; what distinguishes “love” from “lust” and “in-love”; what differentiates a job from a profession or a calling; how to identify one’s genius, and what are the best ways to avoid midlife crisis; how to survive “frenopause”; what to expect in inter-generational, same-sex marriages; and what distinguishes a “man” from a “gentle man,” a “genteel man,” and a “gentleman,” for example. The book’s mission is to build gentlemen from the inside out—to make men internally happy. “It is harder for a man to be polite and helpful to others if he is fundamentally unhappy in his own life,” James said.

“In order to write volume two, I needed solitude and quietude.  So, I set off for Italy, where a Tuscan friend lent me his family’s grand Palladian villa, set amidst vineyards and olive groves, to enjoy all to myself,” James said. “There, for one full year—actually, for thirteen months—I envisioned myself writing what I would tell a son or nephew or student who was about to depart for distant lands, perhaps never to return. The volume is a veritable ‘master’s class’ on ‘class’ as well as on modern men’s spirituality. The book also contains what I regard to be the masculine wisdoms. I wrote it from my soul—from a place that has allowed itself to be touched by youth and adventure, disappointment and triumph, life and love. My mission with volume two is to give young men a crash-course on what has taken me over a half a century—a lifetime—to learn.”

Published by the iUniverse division of Penguin-Random House, distributed by Ingram Books, and with a glowing foreword by Baron Peter von Troil of Finland and Sweden, Manly Manners:   The Cultivation of the Inner, Spiritual Gentleman (ISBN:  978-1-5320-2818-2) comes on the heels of the critically acclaimed volume one, Manly Manners:  Lifestyle & Modern Etiquette for the Young Man of the 21st Century (Nov., 2016; 840 pages), declared by BlueInk Reviews, “one of the 21 best indie books of 2017”; “ornately mannered prose,” says Kirkus Reviews; and “Emily Post…would likely tremble in her petticoat at some of the subjects James takes on,” says Claire Foster of Foreword Clarion. The edgy-but-elegant trilogy gives guidance on everything from how to eat caviar and open a bottle of Port with a feather, to how to suggest an enema before engaging in anal sex, to how to distinguish a blazer from a sport coat. Manly Manners is already being touted as “the new Bible of masculine behavior.”  James, also a lawyer, fashion designer, historian, and art collector, has been writing the 1,800-page, three-volume treatise since completing his tenure in the U.S. Virgin Islands senate in January of 2011.

Volumes one and two of the Manly Manners trilogy are available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats at bookstores worldwide and online at , , and .  Volume three is scheduled for a fall 2019 release.



Front Cover Vol. II Manly Manners Official

The “Panama Hat” of Montecristi, Ecuador–one of the masculine luxuries of the world

Montecristi Panama HatPanama Hats

What came to be called “Chinese Checkers” in 1928 was actually invented in Germany in 1892 and is not a form of checkers. And French fries, it is believed, originated in Belgium. But when it comes to misnomers, the Panama hat takes the crown, for the hats are actually made in Ecuador. And while, understandably and rightfully, Ecuadorians themselves never refer to the hats as “Panama hats,” but instead as “sombreros de paja toquilla,” the rest of the civilized world calls them Panama hats, oftentimes having no knowledge of the true origin of the hats.

The History of the Panama Hat
In 1526, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in what is today Ecuador, he encountered the inhabitants of the coastal areas wearing almost-brimless headwear made of woven straw. And those 16th-century straw hats apparently had ancient origins, for ceramic figures from the region dating back to about 4000 B.C.E. depict persons wearing headwear similar to that worn by the Ecuadorians encountered by Pizarro. The Ecuadorian straw hats also resembled the European “toque,” a diminutive hat with a small brim, fashionable during the 16th century. Consequently, the Europeans called the straw used to make the local hats “paja toquilla,” presumably after “toque.”

Beginning as early as the middle of the 1500s, hat-weaving had emerged as a cottage industry all along the Ecuadorian coastline, with hat-weaving and hat-wearing becoming more popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Even then, however, the hats of highest quality came from what is today the Province of Manabi. And in Manabi two towns, Montecristi and Jipijaba, emerged as the leaders of the blossoming hat-weaving industry, both towns gaining a reputation for producing the absolute finest hats.


How a Hat Made in Ecuador Came to be Called “Panama Hat”
In 1835 Manuel Alfaro migrated from Spain to Ecuador, settling in Montecristi and establishing himself in the local hat industry. With the intention of exporting the hats, Alfaro organized the various hat artisans into a viable production system. He sent his hats to the port cities of Guayaquil and Manta, bound for Panama, a crossroads of the Americas and gateway for the East and West. Alfaro also established a trading company in Panama, dealing in hats, cocoa, and pearls. And when the California Gold Rush hit in 1849, the hat of choice for providing protection from the sun while panning gold was the Ecuador-made straw hat.

Also significantly contributing to the misnomer is the fact that during the construction of the Panama Canal (1881-1914), the 48-mile manmade waterway that cuts across the Isthmus of Panama to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, many of the laborers donned Panama hats since the lightweight hat provided excellent protection from the sun. But one of the greatest publicity boosts for the now-classic hat occurs in 1906 when a photo of American president Theodore Roosevelt sitting at the controls of a steam shovel during his three-day inspection tour of the construction of the canal was published in seemingly countless newspapers and magazines the world over. The early 20th-century equivalent of “going viral,” the photo helped established the hat as a fashion statement as well as to indelibly associate the hat with Panama.

By 1850, Americans had developed a taste for the Ecuadorian hats—not carrying a label of origin—that were widely sold in Panama. Thus, is was only a matter of time before the hats became known as “Panama hats,” Americans purchasing 220,000 per year in the middle of the 19th century.

Manuel’s son Eloy Alfaro (1842-1912) joined the family enterprise and expanded the company’s prominence and channels of distribution. Eloy would go on to become the first-elected president of Ecuador, serving two terms: 1895-1901 and 1906-1911.


The Making of the Panama Hat
Approximately 20 steps and an equal number of specialists are required to produce one Panama hat from start to finish. The end result, however, is one of the world’s true masculine luxuries: There is a certain, particular, undeniable je ne sais quoi achieved when a gentleman effortlessly wears a Panama hat.

The Paja Toquilla palm-like plant that produces the fine straw from which all genuine Panama hats are made is native to South America. And when gathering the raw material to construct Panama hats, only the best frond-stalks from the best plants are selected. (The stalks are cut in a special way so as to ensure the regrowth of the plant.)

After the stalks are selected, they are beaten on the floor, causing the tubular-shaped stalks, each about four feet long, to transform into long strands or streamers. The tip of a needle is then used to further separate the strands into narrower strips. The beaten stalks are then rapidly boiled then hung out to dry in the sun.

Once thoroughly dried, the strands are placed into an oven to be smoke-bleached, using Sulphur, for approximately 24 hours. After the smoking and bleaching, the strands transform into Paja Toquilla straw.

Once removed from the smoking-oven, the best straw is hand-selected for the finest hats, with the lesser-quality straw set aside for lower-quality hats. The straw is evenly cut; then each strand, using the tip of a thumbnail, is further divided into thinner strands. The thinner the straw, the finer the hat.

The prepared straw is then given to an “armador,” who starts weaving the hat with about 12-18 strands of straw. He or she makes the very center of the “plantilla,” the middle-center of the top of the hat’s crown. While some “armadores” use wooden hat blocks when weaving the “armado,” others weave it free-hand.

After the “armador” has done his or her work, the hat then goes to a “weaver,” the person who does the majority of the work, weaving the crown and brim of the hat. Depending on the fineness of the straw, a weaver may take up to several months to complete a single hat.

Once the weaver has woven the crown and brim to the desired size, the hat is handed over to a “rematador,” who weaves the end of the straws back into the brim of the hat, thereby creating an edge that does not unravel. Once that task has been completed, the hat is regarded as “remate.”

Once “remate,” the hat passes along to an “ajustador,” whose job it is to tighten all the straws around the “remate” edge of the brim.

Thereafter, the hat undergoes its first trimming—and the straw extending beyond the “remate” and “adjustado” brim is clipped off with scissors, thereby facilitating the remaining steps in the hat-making process.

Next comes the “lavado” process, where the hat is washed in soap and water, with the aid of a scrubbing-brush. After all, by this point, the hat has been intimately handled by numerous craftsmen, each working with his bare hands.

After a thorough washing, the hat is allowed to air-dry for 24 hours before it is smoke-bleached in an oven, a process which takes a full day. Once removed from the smoke-bleaching oven, the hat is again trimmed.

“Apaliado” describes the process whereby stacks of about six hats are beaten by hand with the use of a wooden mallet, Sulphur sprinkled onto each hat as it is being stacked for the collective pounding. The purpose of the beating is to make the hat more pliable, improving its overall appearance and feel in the process. Special care must be taken to use the right amount of force, for a hat beaten too hard can be destroyed.

Once “apaliado,” the next step is the “planchado,” where several things occur: The hat is assigned a size based on its woven size; the hat is fit onto a wooden hat block; a flat iron is used to iron-out creases in the hat and to give the hat’s brim a good balance; and a break line is created so as to distinguish the brim from the crown. An ironing cloth is used so as to prevent the straw from coming into direct contact with the hot iron (typically an iron, the heating source of which is hot coals that are deposited into the belly of the iron via its “mouth”).

With the aid of a razorblade, the hat is then given a careful, meticulous, final trim.

Hats are then placed onto wooden hat blocks called “shaping-blocks” so that the milliner can give each hat its final shape (with pinched or creased crowns, etc.) (Whereas the finest hats obtain their final shape by hand, hats of a lesser quality are machine-pressed into their final shape).

The finest Panama hats are sold in wooden boxes of balsa—but so are counterfeits, so caveat emptor!

The Grading of Panama Hats
Today, there are two centers of Panama hat production in Ecuador: The city of Montecristi, and the city of Cuenca, the former situated on the coastline, while the latter is located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Though Cuenca produces more hats, the finest hats come from Montecristi, so much so that many Cuenca-made hats are surreptitiously marketed as of Montecristi origin to unsuspecting customers and to meet international demand. Each year there are more Cuenca-made hats sold as “Montecristi” hats than there are Montecristi hats made for sale as such. (The best Cuenca hats come from the town of Biblián, just outside Cuenca proper. Weaving-wise, they rival the hats of Montecristi and Jipijapa. Color- and texture-wise, however, they are not as refined as their coastal counterparts).

Most Montecristi hats are today woven in towns and villages—such as Pile and Pampas—that are situated close to Montecristi. But many of the finishing steps of the production of the hats still take place in Montecristi proper. (See above, “The Making of the Panama Hat”).

In 1836, in response to the increasing popularity of Panama hats, the city of Cuenca, situated in the Province of Azuay, entered the hat industry. Within a few years, Cuenca workshops were thriving, training all who were willing and able to learn the trade. In 1845 Don Bartolome Serrano of Cuenca hired master weavers from the Province of Maniba (in which the city of Montecristi is situated) and went about the business of upgrading then streamlining Cuenca’s production of Panama hats.

But today, an unhealthy rivalry between Montecristi and Cuenca, fueled partly by outside forces demanding the best Panama hats, has resulted in the degradation of the esteemed reputation of one of the true masculine luxuries: an extra fine Montecristi, Ecuador, Panama hat. Mislabeling, false declarations, unwitting buyers, greed, etc., have all resulted in a misnomer of a misnomer.

In order to protect the integrity of the authentic Montecristi Panama hat, The Montecristi Foundation has taken the necessary steps to establish the equivalent of a protected and guaranteed Denomination of Origin that would promulgate manufacturing-standards for the hats; specify the geographical boundaries within which hats labeled and or marketed as “Montecristi” must be made; establish a recognizable logo of authenticity that should be used by all qualified manufacturers; etc.

In the meantime, there is no universally accepted grading-system for Panama hats. Terms such as “grade 10” to describe the highest grade hat or “Fino Fino” or “Super Fino” to describe top-quality hats from Montecristi mean different things to different hatmakers. And such terms are also deliberately misused by unscrupulous vendors to mislead buyers. The moral of the story, therefore, is that a gentleman desiring top-quality Panama hats should purchase hats made in Montecristi or Jipijapa and sold by the most reputable manufacturers. Brent Black’s The Panama Hat Company of the Pacific ( ) is one of the world’s foremost purveyors of high-quality, authentic Panama hats of Montecristi, Ecuador. The company’s website offers a wealth of information, including how to properly measure one’s head when ordering a hat; how to determine the quality of hats; how to care for Panama hats; etc.

Traditionally, one way to gauge the quality of a hat is to count the number of rings in the center of the crown. The general rule is that when it comes to rings, more is more, not less. But that method of determining hat quality is not foolproof. To the extent that it is employed, however, a hat with 10-12 rings—perhaps best determined by holding the hat up to a light, observing from the inside of the hat—is considered good.

A more reliable way to judge a quality hat is to tediously and painstakingly count the number of weaves in a vertical inch and then the number of weaves in the corresponding horizontal inch, thereafter multiplying the two numbers. A hat with, for example, 30 horizontal weaves per inch and 28 vertical weaves per inch (Rarely do the vertical and horizontal weaves number the same.) would have a weaves-per-inch count of 840. A hat with a weave-per-inch count of 900 would be exceedingly rare. (There was once a hat woven with straw so fine that it was finer than fabric. Because the hat was so labor-intensive, it has disappeared, the weavers who wove such hats long dead).

But there is more to an exquisite Panama hat than number of weaves—somewhat the adage, “It’s not size; it’s how you use it….” The quality of the weave is also or paramount importance. Most lay persons can see the difference between a poorly woven hat and an exquisitely woven one. The difference between “very good” and “exquisite,” however, is a much more subtle distinction. Uniformity of color is also more desirable than non-uniformity. At the end of the day, though, the best Panama hats are handmade of natural materials. And as such, every hat will have some minor, even if almost imperceptible, “imperfections” that in many ways add to the charm and uniqueness of the hat. An undyed leather sweatband is preferred.


Sources: , , ,

The History of Chocolate

Chocolates by Antica Dolceria Bonajuto (1880) of Modica, Sicily, Italy—Makers of the World’s Most Masculine, Authentic Chocolates!


It is difficult to conceive of Old World cuisine before its encounter with that of the New World in 1492:  no tomatoes for pizza; no potatoes for vichyssoise; no pineapples for piña colada; no corn for polenta; no chili peppers for salsa; no vanilla for ice cream; and no chocolate for chocolates. But of all the flavors of the known world—Old and New combined—chocolate is widely regarded as the most craved, masculine, and sexy of them all.

If there is a manly food, it is decidedly chocolate.  Admittedly, cucumbers, in obvious and subliminal ways, can conjure images of masculinity.  And there are men who are said to become wildly aroused by the mere sight of mussels, let alone eating them out.  But when it comes to men’s lifestyle, chocolates win “sexiest masculine food,” bar none. Valentine’s Day, the sexiest day of the year, has become synonymous with chocolates. (Somehow, presenting a lover with a platter filled with firm cucumbers or a bowl brimming with mussels on February 14th does not equate to “sexy.”) And many a man can attest to the benefits—actual, collateral, and then, hopefully, horizontal—of presenting a boxful of chocolates to a lover.

Despite its familiarity and ubiquity, however, many of chocolate’s devoted devourers have little or no idea whence the delicacy is derived.  Certainly, God could easily have made a chocolate tree that would each year bear bars of dark and milk chocolates.  But He did not. And had He, it is likely that chocolate—not the apple—would have been declared the Forbidden Fruit.

“Cocoa” means “bitter water” in the ancient Aztec language. Theobroma cacao, the botanical name for the species that grows the fruit, the seeds of which are processed into precious chocolate, is a tree that grows to approximately the size of an apple tree and is native to Meso-America.  Theobroma cacao can only grow in the region 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. Each tree bears about 60 pods per year, the pods taking about five months to mature.  Each pod contains approximately 40 cocoa seeds, called cocoa “beans,” yielding enough chocolate for about two standard-sized chocolate bars or seven cups of chocolate drink.

Coco bean pods are beautiful to behold. About nine inches long and with a circumference of about 11 inches at the center, the pods, which grow attached to the trunk and branches of the tree (as opposed to hanging from branches like many other fruits), are oval-shaped but with ends tapered to a blunt point. Convex grooves running lengthwise along the waxy-surfaced pod which, when ripe, ranges in color from golden yellow to claret, give the fruit the appearance of a wood-turner’s finial more so than a fruit crafted by the hand of nature.  When cut open—usually with the machetes with which the pods are hand-harvested—about 40 seeds, approximately the size of the kernel of a Brazil nut, are revealed.  Each seed is covered in a white, sweet-sour, fruity pulp that may be enjoyably eaten.  But despite the tasty pulp, it is the bitter kernel of the seeds embraced by that palatable pulp that is prized the world over. According to 2012 figures, chocolate was an 83-billion-dollar industry ($13 billion in the United States alone), and chocolate was declared the most popular flavor in the United States.

But to get from the mundane-looking cocoa beans to the product that is at once synonymous with “sexy,” “decadent,” and “luxurious” requires several steps.  The fruits are harvested when ripe, and the seeds, covered in their white pulp, are removed from the pods. The fresh seeds, whitish in color, still covered in pulp, are then placed into shallow wooden boxes, covered with banana leaves, and left to ferment.  After the fermentation process, which is said to enhance the flavor of the seeds and serves to transform their color to brown, the seeds are sun-dried for about one week, a process which causes the seeds to lose about 50 percent of their size.  The dried seeds are then roasted, then “winnowed,” a process that causes the husk of each seed to be removed. The seeds are then ground.  But because of their high fat-content, rather than grinding into a powder, they become a thick, rich liquid called “cocoa liquor.”  The cocoa liquor is then allowed to form into a solid, which is called “cocoa mass.” The cocoa mass is then sold to chocolatiers all over the world, each adding a desired amount of sugar, powdered milk, vanilla, salt, etc., to make the chocolates that are enjoyed by people all over the world. [Alternatively, the dried beans are sold to chocolatiers for further processing.]  Generally, the higher the chocolate-content, the more expensive the product. [“White chocolate” has no chocolate content; instead, it is made from the fat-content, called cocoa butter, of the seeds.]

The History of Chocolate

Chocolate as it is known today is not the chocolate as it first appears in the historical record, where its first usage was to produce a wine made from the fruit’s pulp; imbibed as a bitter ritual concoction flavored with peppers; taken as a medicine; and indulged as an aphrodisiac by the Meso-American peoples from as early as 4000 B.C.E. In some cultures, it was reserved for royalty and the nobility; and the seeds were so regarded by the Aztecs that they were used as currency and even counterfeited.

It is said that Columbus was introduced to the drink during his travels to the New World at the end of the 15th century and into the early years of the 16th but was not impressed.  But it was when Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés invaded the Aztec king Montezuma at Tenochtitlan, Mexico, that Europe had its first significant encounter with chocolate.  Instead of mixing water with the pulp then allowing the mixture to ferment, thereby producing a cocoa-derived wine with an alcohol content of approximately 10% by volume, in Montezuma’s Mexico, the tradition was to grind the cocoa beans, thereafter adding hot capsicums to make a bitter, spicy drink. One account claims that Montezuma, who regarded the drink as an aphrodisiac, once drank 50 golden cupfuls of the precious liquid.

When Cortés introduced the drink to Spain in 1519, it was immediately decided that its flavor would be more suitable for European tastes if sweetened with sugar or honey and flavored with vanilla, for example.

For over 100 years, chocolate remained a court secret of Spain, where it was originally, in its bitter form, used as a medicine before being later consumed as a sweetened drink, so much so that a silver service was designed especially for serving cocoa.

But it was in 1660 when Spanish princess Maria Teresa married French king Louis XIV that chocolate began its spread across Europe.  By the middle of the 1700s, chocolate had become popular in the American colony, especially after it became a drink-of-preference after the Boston Tea Party in 1776. [Coffee, the other alternative, was more expensive than cocoa since shipping costs for coffee were significantly higher due to the far distances—at the time from as far away as East Africa and Arabia—from which coffee was imported. ]

In 1828 Dutchman Conrad van Houten invented the cocoa press, a device that extracts the cocoa butter from the “cocoa liquor,” leaving pure, powdered chocolate.  But one of the greatest contributions to chocolate taking its place as one of the world’s favorite flavors was the invention of the chocolate bar in 1847 by Joseph Fry.  By first removing the cocoa butter then adding only a desired amount back into the pure chocolate, Fry invented a solid form of chocolate that could be eaten rather than only drunk.  [The melting-point of the typical commercially available chocolate is body temperature.  But by manipulating the overall percentage of cocoa butter and eggs whites, chocolates with different melting-points can be manufactured. ] Then in 1875, Daniel Peter invented “milk chocolate” when he decided to add powdered milk to chocolate.

Though native to the tropical New World, today, Africa’s Ivory Coast produces 40% of the world’s chocolate.  And many of the regions where the labor-intensive crop is grown have been accused of utilizing child and slave labor to harvest the beans.  It is said that approximately two million children toil in the world’s cocoa plantations.

How chocolate is consumed has evolved over the years.  But since the mid-1800s, when the concept of edible—rather than only drinkable—chocolate emerged, one manufacturer has maintained the old ways of making edible chocolate:  Antica Dolceria Bonajuto ( ) of the city of Modica, in Sicily, Italy.

Over the course of its long history, Sicily has been conquered and colonized by many peoples, including the Spanish.  So, when the Spaniards brought chocolate-making to Europe, Sicily was a beneficiary of that coveted knowledge.

Involved in the confections business since the 1820s, Modica’s Bonajuto family opened their dolceria in 1880; and since that fateful day, six generations of the family have perfected their product, which is today widely regarded as the world’s most authentic, sexy, and masculine chocolate. But such accolades are not a novelty for Bonajuto:  Over 100 years ago, in 1911, the family’s chocolate received national and international acclaim when it won the gold medal at the International Agricultural Industry Exposition in Rome. And innovation, tempered by tradition, remains the company’s guidepost.

The primary reason for the chocolate’s esteem is its use of only the finest chocolate beans and the utilization of old, coupled with new, production methods:  To the extent possible, the chocolate is still handmade by beautifully bronzed Sicilians using the once-nearly extinct cold-processed method.  The rich, almost-black chocolate, which is studded, diamond-like, with sugar crystals that do not dissolve during the cold-processing, is known as “The Black Gold of Modica.” And today, Antica Bonajuto Dolceria is considered the “ambassador of Modica chocolate.”




The History of Slavery in the Danish West Indies–A Comprehensive Timeline

Slavery in the Danish West Indies—A Timeline



Slavery in the French Era—1650-1695 (1733)


-1650:  France acquires St. Croix.  Source of Slaves is Senegal.


-1651:  Phillipe de Lonvilliers de Poincy acquires St. Croix as a private island.


-1653:  de Poincy grants Sainte Croix to the Knights of Malta


-1653-1665:  Knights of Malta attempt the colonization of the island. But the aristocratic knights, who never fully embrace a life of agriculture in the tropics, fail at their colonial endeavor.


-1665:  France acquires St. Croix from Knights of Malta, thereby becoming the first official colonizers of Sainte Croix.  The French, using African slaves, establish approximately 90 plantations along the islands coastline, cultivating indigo, cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane.  A capital is established at present-day Estate Judith’s Fancy. (It is believed that the plantation names “La Grange” [French for “The Farm”] and “La Grande Princesse” [“The Big Princess”] originated during the French era.)


-1695:  King of France declares the colonial effort on Sainte Croix unsuccessful and orders the island’s inhabitants to destroy the island’s infrastructure (so as to discourage interlopers); set the island ablaze; pack up personal belongings and the enslaved population; and head for Saint Domingue (Haiti), concentrating their colonial efforts on that larger island.



Definitions (as applies to this timeline):

African—a person born on the continent of Africa.

Bomba—a slave-driver.

Bosal—an African-born enslaved person recently brought from Africa to the Danish West Indies.

Coloured—a person of mixed racial heritage totaling at least 50% white. (Light-skinned persons with less than 50% white blood were referred to as “light-skinned” blacks.)

Creole—a person, black, white, or of mixed racial heritage, born in the Danish West Indies.  As such, the term was oftentimes preceded by adjectives such as “white” or “black” (e.g., “white creole,” “black creole,” or “colored creole”) for clarification/distinguishing purposes. In general, however, while recently imported blacks were specifically referred to as “bosals,” island-born black were rarely called “creoles.”  Instead, they were referred to as “blacks” or “negroes.”  The term “creole” was more typically used to describe island-born whites or island-born persons of predominantly white ancestry.

Driver—a Bomba or slave-driver.

Field-slave/Plantation slave—an enslaved person who labored primarily in agricultural production, whether in sugarcane, cotton, tobacco, or indigo fields.

Freedman—a person born into slavery but who obtained freedom by testamentary devise; during the lifetime of his/her owner; by some other form of manumission; or by self-purchase.  The term “freedman” is also used to describe persons born free to free(d) non-white parents/mothers.

-Free person—a person born free.

-Grand marronage—running away from enslavement with the intention of permanently separating oneself from one’s owner.

House-slave—a slave who principally worked in the home of his/her master.

Indentured servant—a European or non-African brought to the Danish West Indies in or because of some capacity of indebtedness, with a contractual agreement to render labor for a specified period (usually six years) in order to relieve himself of said indebtedness.

Maroon—a runaway slave.

Mulatto—the offspring of one white parent and one black parent.  (Technically, a mulatto can also be produced by two mulatto parents, but such persons are traditionally classified as “colored” as opposed to as “mulatto.”)

-Petit marronage—running away from enslavement with the intention of eventually returning to one’s owner.

Provision plot (also called “Negro ground”)—a plot of land, approximately 30 ft. by 30 ft., provided by the plantation owner to each adult slave for the purpose of growing basic food for sustenance.

Seasoning—the process by which newly arrived slaves were, through branding, beatings, torture, food deprivation, excessive work, etc., forced into submission so as to accept their lot in life as slaves and the property of their masters.

Unfree—an enslaved person.

Urban slave—a slave who lived in the towns of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, or Frederiksted.

European/White—a person of white European ancestry born in Europe.



Slavery in the Danish Era—1666-1848


-1659:  Establishment of the Danish African Company.  Construction of the slave-trading Danish forts, Christiansborg and Frederiksborg, begins shortly thereafter on the “Gold Coast” (Lower Guinea area) of West Africa.


-1660s:  Denmark officially enters the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.


-1666:  Erik Smith occupies the island of St. Thomas in the name of the King of Denmark.  Denmark attempts to establish a colony on the island, which is occupied by a few English and Dutch interlopers, but the colonial attempt fails within a year and a half, partly because Smith’s colonial efforts were frustrated by the Dutch and English residents, but primarily because of illness. (Dutch vessels transport enslaved Africans to St. Thomas.) Smith and his compatriots die.


-1671:  The royally chartered Danish West India Company (DWIC) established.  In effect a joint-stock company, the DWIC, with investors such as the king of Denmark and other wealthy Danes and foreigners, was granted, among other perquisites, a national monopoly. The company’s overall mission was to successfully administer the colony (as opposed to obtaining African slaves on the continent of Africa, which was the mission of the 1674-established Danish West India and Guinea Company).


-1671:  Denmark, via the Danish West India Company (DWIC), successfully establishes a colony on St. Thomas. Because Danes show little interest in moving to the islands, the DWIC institutes a policy of “colonization by invitation,” enticing European planters to invest in the island.  The Dutch show the most interest, and by the 1680s, St. Thomas was more “Dutch” than “Danish.” By 1701, the Dutch controlled the St. Thomas economy.  And by 1727, Dutch had become the lingua franca of St. Thomas, to wit: Of the nine governors of St. Thomas between 1672 and 1727, the last six (6), beginning with Christopher Heins in 1688, began occasionally issuing proclamations in Dutch as well as in Danish.


-1672:  White indentured servants transported to St. Thomas to serve 6-year terms before being granted full rights.  Most die from hard labor and tropical conditions.


1673:  Slaving vessel delivers 103 enslaved Africans to St. Thomas. [According to leading Danish scholars, approximately 100,000 slaves were shipped to the Danish West Indies during the 129-year period between 1673 and 1802:  775 slaves per year; 64 slaves per month; 21 slaves per island, per month (to service over 200 plantations on all three islands combined and urban slavery in Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, and Frederiksted, all cities ranking amongst the most populous cities in the Danish empire during the 18th and early 19th centuries).  Considering that throughout the history of slavery in the Danish West Indies mortality rate exceeded birthrate; and that until 1792 the general policy was to “buy, not breed,” slaves, many scholars consider a “slave trade” averaging 21 slaves per month, per island, as simply unsustainable, dismissing the 100,000 number as grossly—and perhaps deliberately—deflated.]


-1674:  Founding of the Danish West India Guinea Company (for the purpose of engaging in the Triangular Trade, including acquiring enslaved Africans on the west coast of Africa and transporting them to the New World via the Middle Passage).


-1680:  There are 156 whites and 175 slaves occupying 47 small plantations on St. Thomas.  By the taking of the first census in 1688, there are 317 free inhabitants and 422 slaves.  Forty-five percent (45%) of the white inhabitants declared themselves to be of Dutch nationality, while only 13% were Danish.


-1688:  St. Thomas firmly established as a plantation colony.



Slave Life—on the plantations; in the towns


“Whence They Came”:  The Primary African Homelands of the Africans Transported to the Danish West Indies


While Denmark established its slave-trading fortifications along the Gold Coast of Lower Guinea, it would be unwise to assume that the majority of Africans transported to the Danish West Indies derive primarily from that region.  Firstly, ships from various European nations transported African slaves to the Danish West Indies. Secondly, according to Christian Georg Andreas Oldendorp, who visited the islands in the 1760s, many slaves self-identified/were identified as Fulani, Mandingo, Amina, Akim, Popo, Ibo, and Yoruba, peoples native to a region stretching from the Senegal River to the Bight of Benin, even though Oldendorp insists (even if without recorded data) that the Amina people were the most numerous.  [According to scholar Pauline Homan-Pope, the Twi-speaking Akan-Amina people were the most numerous on St. Croix and St. John in the 18th century.]  Thirdly, across the three centuries of active Danish slave trading—from the 1660s to the early 1800s—various regions along the west coast of Africa were sourced for slaves, shifting, for example, from the Gold Coast to the Congo in the late 18th century.  And fourthly, because of the Free Port status of Charlotte Amalie since 1764, the diverse ethnic make-up of the slave population on that island was remarkable in the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Many scholars today, especially with the advancements in DNA testing, maintain that the enslaved population of the Danish West Indies derives primarily from Upper Guinea to Angola, between the Senegal and Cuanza Rivers.


The Triangular Trade Route Defined

During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the 15th to the 19th century, perhaps most graphically depicted by the “Triangular Trade Route,” European vessels would leave that continent’s great ports laden with European goods to trade for enslaved human beings along with west coast of Africa, thereafter transporting those enslaved souls in the holds of those European ships to a life of toil in the New World, thereafter filling those same ships with products and raw materials from the New World for transport back to the great ports of Europe, only to repeat the notorious, but immensely profitable, three-legged enterprise time and time again. (The Triangular Trade Route of New World slaving nations such as Brazil and the United States featured a triangle pointing in the opposite direction:  the first leg involved ships leaving New World ports en route to Africa to trade goods for slaves; the second leg entailed delivering those enslaved Africans to the Caribbean, where sugar, rum, molasses, and exotic hardwoods, for example, would be loaded onto the ships for delivery to the New World ports of origin, thereby completing the third leg of the triangle.)


The Middle Passage Defined

The second leg of the notorious Triangular Trade Route, the Middle Passage is defined as that portion of the Atlantic Ocean between the west coast of Africa and the New World upon which European vessels transported enslaved Africans to a life of chattel slavery in the Americas between the 15th and 19th centuries.  It is said that sharks would trail behind the slaving vessels devouring the dead, dying, and discarded, so much so, that if the Atlantic Ocean were to dry up today, there would be a trail of human bones stretching from the Bight of Benin to Brazil.



The Middle Passage Described (Edward Reynolds; Isidor Paiewonsky’s Eyewitness Accounts of Slavery in the Danish West Indies)



Upon Arrival in the Danish West Indies:

-Public auction (outlawed in 1830s as dehumanizing)


-The March to the Plantation



[The Earliest Years—See Johan Lorens Carstens]



According to a written account dated 1788 from Johan Lorentz Schmidt, surgeon on the Schimmelmann estates of La Grange and La Grande Princesse:


Plantation Slaves

-The slaves’ day, established by routine, began at 4:00 a.m., when the Bomba (“Driver”) would ring the plantation’s bell or blow a conch shell horn called a tuttue. (According to Peter von Scholten’s 1838 Labor Ordinance, the driver was to be considered the plantation equivalent of a police officer. His typical attire consisted of a red jacket with a green collar).

-Slaves would work until 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., at which time they would be allowed 30 minutes for a breakfast break, which the slaves would take in the cane fields.  Breakfast typically consisted of leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Slaves with nothing to eat would eat a couple stalks of sugarcane (during crop season—December to June).

-After breakfast, work would resume until midday, at which point slaves would be given 90 minutes to eat lunch.  Slaves with families would return to their homes for lunch; but single slaves would typically eat their lunch in the cane fields.  The typical lunch consisted of fungee [also spelled fungi] or johnny cakes with salted fish or beef; kallaloo; or boiled or roasted provisions such as sweet potatoes, yams, or cassavas.

-After lunch, slaves worked without any additional break until sundown. (During the crop season, they would work until late into the night, oftentimes beyond 9:00 p.m., and even later on moonlit nights. Even the ill were expected to work during crop time).

-At the end of the workday, prior to returning home, the slaves had to feed the animals (cut guinea grass, etc.) in a routine called “throwing grass.”

-Only after feeding the plantations’ animals were the slaves allowed to return to their homes in order to attend to their personal needs, the needs of their families, prepare and eat dinner, then, finally, rest for the following day’s labors.

-Because sugarcane grass is a perennial (During harvesting, the grass stalks are cut close to the ground between December and June then allowed to grow back to full height and maturity between July and November, known as the “dead season”) but should be replanted every 4-14 years—depending on the cultivar—in order to obtain highest yields, the years designated for replanting of new cane plants were especially arduous. The difficulty of the work-routine of each stage of the sugar cycle is undeniable, but holing-and-planting is notoriously so.  In order to ease the tedium of their labors, slaves would sing in unison, rhythmically holing and planting.

-Female slaves were expected to return to the fields within two weeks after giving birth.

-A nursing mother worked with her infant tied onto her back.

-Mothers with unweaned children would, while working, lay the children in the cane field atop calf or sheep skin.


Division of Labor

Field-laborers were divided into “gangs”:

-“first gang,” “big gang,” or first-class laborers:  grown men and women.

-“second gang,” “little gang,” or second-class laborers: half-grown adults of both sexes, aged 15-18.  Also called “crooken” gang.

-“third gang”:  children between the ages of 6 and 14.

-“fourth gang”:  children under 6 years of age.




Plantation house-slaves

-There is a paucity of information in the historical record on the housing conditions of plantation house slaves (They did not live inside the greathouses).  What can be gleaned from the records suggests that the standard of housing was the equivalent of urban house slaves—the “long-row” type of housing that is typical in the “big yards” of the towns’ finer homes. Plantation house- slaves typically occupied a separate village (apart from the field-slave village), situated to the rear of the greathouse.


Plantation field-slaves

-By the 1750s, plantation field-slaves lived in the plantation village, generally situated in the immediate vicinity of the sugar works:  mill, boiling house, etc. The standard-size plantation of about 136-150 acres and approximately 70 slaves would likely have a plantation village consisting of about 21 slave huts, generally laid out in three or four rows.  Richard Haagensen, in his 1754 description of plantation houses, describes them as being of wattle-and-daub construction with thatched roofs made from the dried blades of the sugarcane grass. The doorways were very low, requiring a person of average height to bend to enter/exit.  Bare earth served as the floor for the houses, and slaves slept either on the bare earth or a board for a bed.  Only the doorway and a few small openings in the walls allowed for air and light to enter the houses. An interior partition divided the houses into two rooms of unequal size, the smaller of the two serving as the bedroom.  The typical plantation slave village dwelling was expected to house three to four people.  According to Haagensen, slave houses in the Danish West Indies were of poorer construction and accommodations than the homes of the humblest serfs in Denmark.


  1. G. A. Oldendorp, who visited the islands between 1767-1769, reports that the Christianized slaves kept better houses than non-Christian ones. Oldendorp describes Christian slaves as having houses with walls [presumably, wattle-and-daub] plastered with a coat of lime; a separate cookhouse; modest furnishings of tables, chairs, and chests; and mattresses, called “kavanna,” made from reeds.


Writing in the 1780s, Hans West describes slave bedding made of banana leaves.  And according to Schmidt, also writing in the 1780s, a slave woman’s most important item of furniture was a sheep’s or calf’s skin that was used for bedding within the slave huts and as a blanket upon which to lay infants while working in the cane fields.


Very little documented history exists on the actual dimensions of slave dwellings. According to Victor Schoelker, writing in the 1840s, the decade of emancipation, even the slave quarters of the Moravian-owned and -run Friedensthal plantation on St. Croix were deplorable:  wooden planks, instead of beds, were still in use; the slave quarters served as stark contrast with the spacious, airy houses of the missionaries; and the slave houses of the Danish West Indies were of poorer quality than contemporary slave housing in the French West Indies. Bending to enter a slave dwelling was still the order of the day in the 1840s, according to Schoelker.


On St. Croix’s 16 royally leased plantations, however, slave housing had to meet certain minimum standards:  masonry walls; wooden floors; and of high, airy construction; roofs were to be shingled or tiled; and each dwelling had to be partitioned in two with overall measurements of 18 feet by 12 feet, with a separate kitchen.


Peter von Scholten’s 1838 Labor Ordinance calls for housing improvements. But wattle-and-daub slave/laborer quarters remained the order of the day until emancipation (and beyond).  In essence, then, slave housing in the Danish West Indies went from non-existent to deplorable, then remained deplorable for the 246-year-long history of slavery in the Danish West Indies.



-Few slave houses had separate, outdoor kitchens before the 1840s.  Consequently, food was primarily prepared outdoors on open-fires [presumably, on “three-stones”].  During the rainy season, food was prepared indoors on fires established on the earthen floors of the huts.

-C.G.A. Oldendorp describes the system of “provision plots”/ “provision grounds” in the 1760s, where each adult slave was allowed usage of a small tract of land (approximately 30 ft. by 30 ft.) upon which he could grow food to sustain himself. Items such as sweet potato, yam, cassava, okra, tania, etc., were routinely grown on provision plots, the term “provisions” (or “ground food”) used to this day by Caribbean peoples to describe tubers. Some slaves who produced extra provisions would sell/barter them.  (While slaves, themselves regarded as property, could technically own nothing in their own right, and while laws specifically prohibited slaves from selling in their own right, custom, by the 1760s, had sanctioned slaves offering provisions for sale in the public markets (on Market Day) or as itinerant, door-to-door hucksters). (Some English plantation owners did not implement the system of provision plots, instead providing rations for their slaves.)

-In general, the slaves’ diet consisted of rations of salted beef, herring, and cod—with cornmeal and cassava flour, the cornmeal used to make fungi (also spelled “fungee”), and the cassava flour used to make boiled dumplings and a skillet-baked bread called “johnny cakes.” Kallaloo was the main fare, and “provisions” were eaten as the starch complement to the protein rations of salted beef and fish.

-Johan Lorentz Schmidt, who lived on St. Croix between the 1770s and ‘80s while serving as surgeon on the Schimmelmann plantations, La Grange and La Grande Princesse, writing in the 1780s reports that the standard breakfast consisted of fungee and salted meat or fish.

-But even into the 1790s, slaves were still expected to fend for themselves for food.  Sanctioned by custom and viewed as a practical approach to enhancing slave productivity, food rations were specified in Frederik V’s 1755 Reglement, but that instrument was never made law in the Danish West Indies. Until Peter von Scholten’s amelioration initiatives of the 1830s, therefore, slaves in the Danish West Indies had no rights to food.

-Food was especially problematic on St. Thomas and St. John.  By the 1720s, after approximately five decades of marginally successful plantations but blessed with one of the best ports in the entire Caribbean, slavery on St. Thomas had evolved into a primarily urban-based slavery.  Provision plots, therefore, did not exist.  And since food rations for slaves were left largely to the discretion of the owner, St. Thomas slaves were historically challenged with obtaining daily sustenance, a condition that would ultimately adversely impact the evolution of the island’s cuisine. Provision plots also never became the norm on St. John.  And because of the island’s hilly terrain, St. John’s plantations (though, ironically, the largest in the Danish West Indies) enjoyed, at best, modest financial success, thereby adversely impacting their owners’ abilities/inclinations to provide discretionary food rations to their slaves.




-Overall, slaves’ clothing in the Danish West Indies was generally more deplorable and substandard than their food situation.

-House-slaves, whether in the colony’s towns or in the plantation houses, by necessity wore better clothing than field-slaves.  The garments provided to house-slaves were typically commensurate with the status/financial wherewithal of their owners. Urban slaves—washer women, cooks, artisans, harbor laborers, etc.—who occupied support-staff housing in the town’s “big yards,” also, by necessity, wore a better-quality garment than field slaves and were oftentimes the recipients of the “hand-me-down” and “cast-off” garments of their owners.

-According to Haagensen, as late as the 1750s—80 years after slaves were first taken to St. Thomas and 20 years after the Danish colonization of St. Croix—most slaves were still wearing nothing at all or just a rag to cover themselves.  Gardelin’s 1733 Slave Code makes no provisions for slave garments.  And the never-officially adopted 1755 Reglement of Frederik V specifies slaves should be provided with two sets of garments made of coarse linen or cotton or, alternatively, be provided with eight alens (approx. 5 yards) of such fabric from which to construct their own clothing).  Oldendorp, in the 1760s, writes that Christian slaves tended to wear clothing:  men in trousers made of rough linen and, occasionally, a short shirt; women in a skirt and possibly a shirt with a jacket.  All slaves [except for house-slaves in the finest homes] went about barefooted, even when dressed in their finest for the most festive or solemn occasions.


-As late as 1802, Adrian Bentzon suggested that owners who could neither afford to feed nor clothe their slaves should be forced to sell them, indicating that food and clothing remained problematic in the Danish West Indies into the 19th century. 


Belief Systems

-Christian slaves were buried by day in the tradition of their denomination.  Family members of deceased house-slaves were provided with four boards from which to make a coffin.

-Non-Christians slaves, by law, were to be buried at night in unconsecrated ground.  Silence was required at such funerals. According to Johan Lorentz Schmidt, writing in the 1780s, Bosals interred their fellows in the African manner—with dance.

-By the 1780s, wakes, with food and drink, were being conducted in the home of the deceased.

-1788:  Edvard Colbiørnsen (a judge in the colonial services) reports that the Ibos believed that suicide was a sure way to return to the African homeland—provided that the body had not been touched by fire.

-Ancestors as the Christian equivalent of guardian angels.

-General belief in spirits, jumbies, ghosts.

-Obeah practitioners, typically old women, served a dual purpose:  as medicinal healers; and as sorcerers. Witchcraft was punishable by death; medicinal healing was encouraged.

-According to Schmidt, based on his observances of slave life at Estate La Grande Princesse, the first eight days after the birth of a child were critical.  Candles [New mothers were customarily given gifts of wine, rice, and candles.] were left burning each night for the first eight days, and on the eighth day, the child was carefully guarded by in excess of 20 persons in order the protect the newborn from being stolen or eaten by evil spirits. (The belief was that if an evil spirit was able to look the newborn in the eye during the first eight days, the evil spirit would absorb the child’s spirit, resulting in death of the child. Beyond eight days, however, the power of the evil spirit would dissipate.)

-Babies were typically delivered by midwives—typically older slave ladies on the plantation.

-In the 1750s, mothers were expected to return to work within two weeks after delivery.  Only in Peter von Scholten’s Labor Ordinance of 1838 was a work-free post-natal period specified.

-According to Hans West, writing in the 1780s, herbal-induced abortions were widespread:  “Ram Goat Bush” (tagara tragodes) and Adelia Rincinella Linnaes were well-known abortion herbs (similar to the use of “Gully Root” in Barbados and the use of the root of Mimosa Sensitiva in Demerara).



Urban Slaves



-By 1750s, urban slavery was firmly established in the Danish West Indies.  And from its inception, urban slavery tended to facilitate grand and petit marronage as plantation slaves could hide themselves/be hidden within the black ghettos typically situated on the outskirts of the towns.  Likewise, in the case of St. Croix, with its two towns, urban slaves from one town could successfully hide in the black ghetto the other town.

-1758:  Urban slaves account for more than 60% of the populations of Christiansted and Frederiksted.  (And during the second half of the 18th century, the slave population never registered below 50% of the overall urban population.)

1758-1803:  St. Croix’s urban slave population grew from 1,454 to 3,879.

-1797:  Slaves account for 66% of Charlotte Amalie’s total population.

-At the end of the 18th century, the urban slave populations of the three towns exceed that of the white and freedmen population of the three towns.

-By 1838, more than 75% of St. Thomas’ total population resides in Charlotte Amalie, primarily because by 1782, St. Thomas’ position as a thriving Free Port was firmly established, while its status as a plantation economy had begun its decline by the 1720s, thereby enticing the island’s population to its harbor town. In 1802, freedmen own 30% of all slaves in Charlotte Amalie.

-Because of the labor associated with urban living, there were generally more female urban slaves than male urban slaves:  83:100 in Christiansted and Frederiksted; 68:100 in Charlotte Amalie.

-1792:  Burgher Council reports that many poor urban whites and freedmen had no property besides a few slaves and had no other means of income besides what could be earned by those slaves.   Generally, urban slave owners hired-out their slaves to do various income-earning chores:  as carpenters, seamstresses, jockeys, messengers, watercarriers, silversmiths, barbers, hairdressers, musicians, etc.  Such slave owners also used their slaves as “hucksters,” itinerant vendors who sold everything from haberdashery notions to bread and butter to meat and vegetables to candles. In 1784, it is estimated that the total sales from hucksters is in the vicinity of 100,000 Rigsdaller.  (The cost of maintaining the Danish West Indies garrison in 1826 is estimated to be 68,000 Rigsdaller.)  By the beginning of the 1800s, hired-out slaves could bring approximately $2.00-$3,00 per week for their owners, a considerable amount for that time.


Housing, Food, and Clothing of Urban Slaves


Little data were compiled on urban slave dwellings, diets, and their wardrobing.  What is known, however, is that the majority of the people who owned urban slaves were modest whites and freedmen, the latter living in the Free Gut areas of the towns. And since, for the most part, the homes of those owners were modest, it can be inferred that the housing they provided for their slaves was even more modest.  Considering the deplorable housing conditions in plantation villages, and given building regulations and codes for urban structures, however, it is safe to say that the housing of urban slaves was superior to that of plantation slaves, even if only slightly so.




While the plantation slaves were allowed to maintain provision plots and were generally provided with food rations, urban slaves were not afforded such “luxuries.”  But because of access to the towns daily markets, urban slaves were likely to be exposed to greater varieties of food.


While the sale of spirits was prohibited on the plantations, such proscriptions did not exist in the towns.  Taverns could sell spirits to slaves, though tavernkeepers were required to serve the slave patrons outside the establishment, per an ordinance of 1766. And to avoid loitering, slaves were to be sold only one drink. Also, no alcoholic beverages were to be sold on Sundays (per a pre-1766 ordinance), on church feast days, and after the beating of the sundown drum.  Those advisories/ordinances were rarely followed, however.

-1741:  Ordinance forbids whites to sit and drink or gamble with slaves.  Punishment to whites:  8 days imprisonment on bread-and-water diet.




Whereas plantation slaves were afforded approximately 5 yards of coarse linen or cotton from which to construct their garments each year, urban slaves were allowed to construct their garments from linen and cotton or a slightly finer quality.  Also, because of the proximity and intimacy of the urban slave to the towns’ populations, urban slaves were known to obtain cast-offs and hand-me-downs from white and freedmen town residents.  And, of course, slaves owned by wealthy owners dressed in a manner consistent with the wishes of their owners, even if such owners were encouraged to exercise moderation in the wardrobing of their urban slaves.


[-In the 1790s, Christiansted, founded on May 2, 1735, had approximately 664 houses and 250 horses; Frederiksted, founded on October 19, 1751, had 190 houses and 50 horses.]

-1789:  If the ability to avoid epidemics is any indication of overall condition in life, the death rate of slaves in the 1789 influenza epidemic killed 1:77 persons in Christiansted; 1:45 in Frederiksted; and 1:16 everywhere else on the island of St. Croix.  (And the difference in rate between Christiansted and Frederiksted is attributed to the then-foul-smelling lagoon just north of the town of Frederiksted). The statistics suggest that overall living conditions of slaves in the towns exceeded that of slaves on the plantations.


-1774:  Ordinance prohibiting whites from attending any dance at which slaves are present.  Whites were also prohibited from dancing or drinking with slaves. Violators were punishable by imprisonment on bread and water for 14 days or were required to pay a fine of 100 Rigsdaler.


-(After emancipation in 1848, many former plantation slaves moved into the Free Gut neighborhoods of the towns, as evidenced in the censuses of 1850 and 1860 and the subdivisions of Free Gut plots.  Also, post-emancipation, to accommodate the migration to the towns, neighborhoods such as “Pond Bush” in Frederiksted and “Water Gut” in Christiansted [both low-lying, swampy areas prone to flooding, hence their names] were developed.  Additional streets were also added to the towns.  In Frederiksted, for example, New Street and, finally, East Street, were added to serve as residential areas for the town’s black population).





With amputations and castrations of slaves becoming less prevalent in the later decades of the 1700s, whippings remained the go-to device for administering punishment, the quantity of lashes (usually between 25 and 100) determined by the seriousness of the crime.  For urban slaves, most whippings were with cartwhip (also called “cowskin” and “bullbud”) at the prison (forts) [St. Croix’s first designated prison, the Richmond Jail, also known as “Bassin Jailhouse,” was not built until the early 1840s, a handful of years before the 1848 emancipation].  But for more serious crimes, the whippings occurred at the public beating-post, the “Justitsstøte,” located in a prominent place (usually in the market square) of each town, with the whippings for the most egregious violations occurring under the gallows. Whippings were potentially deadly.  In 1803, Governor-General Walterstorff claimed that if administered in anger against the bare flesh, the whipping left marks more indelible than branding, with unknown long-term consequences. Like the punishment of branding, whipping at the gallows rendered a slave ineligible for manumission.


(In 1815, Governor-General Peter Oxholm exempted imprisoned “mustee” [one-quarter black/three-quarter white] and “castice” [one-eighth black/seven-eighths white] children from comprising chain-gangs engaged in public works and road maintenance, his rationale being that persons with sufficient quantities of white blood should not be subject to such degrees of public degradation.)


For private disciplining, owners of urban slaves could either punish them privately or request that the allegedly refractory slave be punished by the authorities at the fort, the private owner thereby availing himself of the public correctional system.


-In 1799, with the assumption of office by Governor-General Lindermann, slaves (urban and plantation, but the option was primarily exercised by urban slaves) are allowed to file complaints to the authorities for alleged abuses by their owners.




-1685 – 1715:  As part of the “colonization by invitation” initiative instituted by the Danish West India Company, the Brandenburgers (part of Prussia, present-day Germany) are invited to help colonize the St. Thomas.  The 30-year lease entitled the Brandenburgers to:

-as much land as could be supported by 200 slaves;

-the ability trade freely with all nations;

-engage in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade;


[The Brandenburgers’ headquarters on St. Thomas is the handsome building with the lion-head portal directly across from the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.  The Brandenburger headquarters is the oldest German building in the New World.  The Danes soon discovered that the lease was far more advantageous to the Brandeburgers than to the DWIC, and the lease was not renewed in 1715].


-1688:   Slave population on St. Thomas is 422; white population is 317. (Another source reports 392 slaves, 338 free).


-1690:  The first year the DWIC declared dividends for its shareholders.


-1700:  By 1700, there are 122 plantations on St. Thomas.


-1708:  DWIC forced to grant a long list of concessions to the island’s planters, including their right to ship and trade their produce with North America and Europe.


-1715:  By 1715, there are 160 plantations on St. Thomas, with 32 operational sugar mills.  The population is comprised of 3,000 slaves and 547 whites.


-1717: Danes acquire, uncontested, St. John.


-1717:  By 1717, the following churches were established on St. Thomas:  Lutheran; Dutch Reformed; French Reformed; Anglican; and Roman Catholic.  All except the Roman Catholic have resident priests by 1717. Thus, by the early 1700s, the Christianizing of the enslaved African population had begun.


-1718:  Denmark establishes colony on St. John.


-By 1720s:  St. Thomas achieves its summit as a plantation economy.


-1721:  By 1721, there were 39 planters on St. John:  25 were of Dutch origin, and 9 were Danish.  The enslaved population of St. John, consequently, spoke a Dutch creole.  


-1725:  Slave population of St. Thomas numbers 4,490; white population totals 324.




Evolution of the Dutch Creole and English Creole Languages in the Danish West Indies.



-From the earliest years of Danish slavery in the DWI, the slave population derived from a variety of nations, cultures, ethnic groups, and language groups of West Africa.  Consequently, upon being randomly grouped on the various plantations in the Danish colonies, and when forced to interact with plantation and municipal personnel, a slave lingua franca emerged by necessity. On St. Thomas, and then on St. John, for the 130-year period between the 1670s and 1800, a Dutch creole, on account of the predominance of Dutch plantation owners and personnel on those islands, emerged.  That Dutch creole was also spoken on St. Croix during its earliest years of Danish colonization since some of the island’s first Danish-era settlers came over from St. Thomas, beginning on September 1, 1734. By the 1760s, however, because of the high percentage of English-speaking plantation owners and personnel on St. Croix, an English creole emerged on the island. Then, as a result of the capital of the Danish West Indies being established as Christiansted, St. Croix, in 1755, and because of the island’s overall economic importance vis-à-vis St. Thomas and St. John, by 1841, an English creole had come to be spoken on all three of the Danish West Indian islands.


Lingua Franca Timeline

-By 1680s: Dutch nationals outnumbered Danish nationals on St. Thomas.  St. Thomas was more “Dutch” than “Danish” by 1680.

– Of the nine governors of St. Thomas between 1672 and 1727, the last six (6), beginning with Christopher Heins in 1688, began occasionally issuing proclamations in Dutch as well as in Danish.

-By 1701:  A Dutch lingua franca emerges on St. Thomas.  (Dutch are considered controllers of St. Thomas’ economy. Dutch dominance on St. Thomas/St. John continued into the 1760s.)

-By 1741:  The English-speaking population of St. Croix exceeds the Danish population by 5:1.

-1749:  Born in Montserrat of Irish extraction, plantation owner Nicholas Tuit[e] visits St. Croix in 1749 in search of a plantation island where he can freely practice Catholicism, the practice of which is restricted in British-owned Montserrat.  Pursuant to the Danish policies of “open colonization” and “freedom of religion,” Tuit arrives in 1754 along with 1,000 English-speaking Catholics, Tuit establishing himself as one of the islands largest plantation operations, he and his heirs between 1754 and 1804 collectively owning more than 2,000 slaves and 1,500 acres.  Similarly, English-speaking Christopher McEvoy, Sr., and then Jr., collectively owned 3,000 acres and 1,000 slaves on St. Croix, the language of the enslaved population on Tuit’s and McEvoy’s plantations undoubtedly being English creole.

-By 1770:  Dutch creole is being written and printed in books—mainly Bibles, prayer books, and hymnals—for use by the black population.

-1770 -1802:  The Royal Danish American Gazette, the first newspaper regularly printed on St. Croix, featured a masthead in the English language.  Also printed in English were obituaries, advertisements, notices of impending auctions, etc. The paper was overwhelmingly English in overall tone. Proclamations and government announcements were published in both Danish and English.

-1780s/’90s:  Danish school headmaster Hans West confirms the existence of an English creole on St. Croix.

-Before the end of the 1700s:  English creole has taken definitive form on St. Croix.

-1802 -1808; 1815 -1917:  Dansk Vestindisk Regerings Avis (“Danish West Indies Government’s Newspaper”), St. Croix’s second regularly published newspaper, was similarly English.

-From 1815:  The St. Thomas Tidende was also English in overall tone.

-By 1841:  English creole had replaced Dutch creole in the Lutheran churches of the Danish West Indies thereby marking the official beginning of English creole as the popularly spoken language amongst the enslaved population of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John.



-1732:  Count Zinzendorf dispatches two Moravian Brethren to St. Thomas to convert the enslaved population to Christianity.  Because of the concept of “Pietism,” which requires that each Christian encounter God through reading the Bible on his own, the illiterate amongst the Moravian-converted enslaved population begin learning how to read the Bible (and, by extension, read in general).  [Get names of two missionaries]


-November 23, 1733:  Slave Revolt on St. John.  The Danish military presence on St. John in 1733 consisted of six (6) infantrymen, one corporal, and one lieutenant.  The overall white population numbered 208, while the slave population stood at 1,087, or 1:4.  According to Mielche, 76 whites, including a 12-year-old girl, were killed in the revolution. [According to Mielche, the total white population on the island was 140.]


On November 23, 1733, enslaved Africans, primarily those formerly of the Akwamu Empire, seize St. John’s fort Fortsberg, thereafter taking control of the entire island, killing many of its white inhabitants. The mission of the slaves was revolution, not simply rebellion.  For seven months, the Africans controlled the island, flying their makeshift flag over the fort.  The revolution was put down when military assistance from neighboring colonial powers, primarily the French of the island of Martinique, arrived to assist Denmark.  Most of the revolutionaries either committed suicide, were executed, or perished in captivity. Approximately 50% of the revolutionaries were females.


-1733:  Demark purchases St. Croix from France for 750,000 Livres.  The Danes “inherit” 50 English families upon the acquisition of the island. (Apparently, after the French abandoned St. Croix in 1695, interlopers—whites of humble means from neighboring British colonies—settled on St. Croix.  The Danes permitted them to remain, granting them each a small tract of land from which they could eke out a living while serving as a white yeomen class to help prevent a St. John-type uprising on St. Croix.) [Denmark in the 1660s had a national population of only about 500,000 people.]


-September 1, 1734:  First Danish-era settlers arrive on St. Croix from St. Thomas and immediately begin construction of Fort Christiansvaern, which is largely completed by 1749.


-1734:  Moravian missionaries (Friedrich Martin, Christian Gottlieb Israel, and Georg Weber) sent to St. Croix to convert and teach the island’s enslaved population, thereby beginning the history of formal education on the island. [Verify that there are only 3.  I think there were four]



-1735:  DWIC begins aggressively inviting planters from other Caribbean islands to establish plantations and help colonize St. Croix since few Danes of financial means were interested.  Besides tax incentives, Danes use cheap land, low-interest loans, and St. Croix’s unexhausted fertile soil as incentives.


-1741:  Five times as many English on St. Croix as Danes.


-1740s:  No formal legislation regarding the manumission of slaves before the 1740s, at which point slaves could be manumitted by testamentary devise or during the life of the owner.  (See below:  October 10, 1776)  Question:  What happened when a slaveowner died intestate and heirless?  Did his/her slave(s) become free?



-1754:  The Danish West India Company (DWIC) transfers administration of the Danish West Indies (St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix) to the Danish crown.


-1755:  Immediately following the transfer of ownership of the Danish West Indies from the Danish West India Company to the Danish crown, the population of enslaved Africans on St. Croix totaled 8,897; the slave population on St. Thomas stood at 3,949; and the island of St. John had a slave population of 2,031, for a total slave population in the Danish colony of 14, 877. (The total free population—whites and non-whites—was 1,979).



Freedmen Within a Society of Free Men and Slaves in the Danish West Indies


Earliest Data on Freedmen:

-1755:  138 freedmen on St. Thomas (no data for St. John and St. Croix)

-1775:  368 freedmen on St. Croix (50 on St. Thomas; no data for St. John)

-1789:  16 freedmen on St. John (953 on St. Croix; 160 on St. Thomas)

-[1797-1815:  Number of freedmen in the Danish West Indies trebled, from 1,418 to 5,035—as a result of immigration, natural increase, and manumissions].


-1755 Frederik V’s Reglement indicates that freedmen have same rights as free-born (white and non-white), but earlier Gardelin Code of 1733 and subsequent ad hoc provisions of 1741 and 1746 indicate that freedmen are not equal to whites under the law.  But even after the 1755 Reglement (which never became law), governors issued many restrictive proclamations, the rationale being that as the colonial representatives of an absolute monarch (until institution of Constitutional Monarchy in 1848), governors were authorized to make proclamations as they saw fit.


-1755:  Nearly 30% of the free population of St. Thomas are freedmen. (1755 is the earliest year of data.)  But in 1775, twenty years later, freedmen account for only 10% of the free population of St. Thomas, the likely reason being migration to St. Croix, which, because of its then-thriving agriculture economy and its 1755 appointment as capital of the DWI, had become the premier island in the colony, offering the most opportunities for free persons of color. Between 1789 and 1797, freedmen on St. Thomas accounted for 25% of the free population on that island, but only 4% of the overall population. The island of St. John never had a total of more than 20 freedmen (10% of the total free population of that island) before the end of the 1700s.  In 1797, freedmen on St. Croix accounted for 35% of the free population but only 4% of the total population.



-1765:  On St. Thomas, freedmen were permitted to serve on the “Town Watch,” a paramilitary entity, the leader of which was called “captain.”  (8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.).  By the 1780s, such patrols of freedmen were armed and uniformed.  [The first “captain of freedmen” was Mingo Tameryn—of 1733 St. John rebellion fame. (See below). His son Pieter Tameryn became a captain of freedmen on St. Croix in the 1770s].



-1774:  No freedman could live in rural areas of the Danish West Indies; they had to live in the “Free Gut” areas. 


-1775:  Freedmen account for 20% of the overall free population of the DWI.



-October 10, 1776:  Definitive laws regarding manumission.  Three state-sanctioned manumissions had occurred prior to 1776:

1)  1733 manumission of Mingo Tameryn for his efforts to thwart the 1733 St. John rebellion.

2)  1759 manumission of Quamina for his role in the revelation of the 1759 conspiracy on St. Croix.

3)  1763 manumission of the elderly Christian Sort (Christian the Black) for his exemplary embrace of the Christian faith and his honesty.


-1775:  Freedmen cannot assume last names of their former owners, the rationale being not to tarnish the good names of upstanding families.


-No freedman’s evidence was admissible against a white person in the local courts.


-Early 1800s:  Freedmen own two-thirds of all slaves in the towns of the Danish West Indies.


-1802:  According to St. Thomas notary public C. G Fleischer, several freedmen are renting properties to white tenants and establishments:


  1. a) Firm of Beverhoudt and Meyer renting property from Hester Frederiks, a free black woman. She also runs a grocery store.
  2. b) Manderpal, a white schoolteacher, occupying a house owned by black innkeeper Marie Joseph.
  3. c) Ludwig Meyer, a gunsmith, renting from Anthony Derry, a black grocery-store keeper.


Freedmen’s Day-to-Day Existence

-June 22-23, 1802:  John Messer, a freedman and Captain of the Frederiksted Town Watch, is arrested, along with his wife Sarra, a slave, for hosting cockfights (Food prepared by Sarra would be served at the events).

-December 25, 1806:  Elisa Messer, a free black, arrested for singing bawdy songs with Fillis, also free, and a slave named Hanna.

-1806:  Benjamin Jeppe, a free black on St. Thomas, obtains a 3-year liquor license (extraordinary for the time).  Ten years later, in 1816, only three rum shops, all on St. Thomas, are owned and operated by freedmen.  All other requests for licenses had been denied.

-1807:  William Cosvelt, a free mulatto, obtains right to hold cockfights in Christiansted once per month for five months.


-1811: During the second British occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, Samuel Hackett, an immigrant freedman, announces that he was receiving freedmen borders and students at his school for freedmen’s children. First recorded attempt at providing education for children of freedmen in the DWI.


-May 1815:  St. Croix’s freedmen refuse to perform militia duty.


-April 1, 1816:  A total of 331 freedmen sign a petition addressed to the Danish king requesting equal treatment as whites.


-April 18, 1834:  Granting of civil rights to freedmen’s population in the Danish West Indies. (But people not manumitted by that date—but manumitted before emancipation—had to serve a 3-year probation period before being granted full, free, equal-to-whites status. Recently arrived foreign freedmen and children over 15 years of age also had a 3-year waiting period before being endowed with full civil rights).





The Slave Codes:


From the very early years of the Danish colonization of the West Indies, the slave population exceeded that of the white.  And the slave codes reflect the discomfort that fact presented to the plantocracy and administration.


Gardelin’s Code of 1733:

Drafted at a time when the slave/white ratio was 5:1, Gardelin’s Code of 1733, the work of Governor Philip Gardelin, can best be described as “draconian.”    The Code coincided with the 1733 rebellion on St. John and the purchase of St. Croix for its potential as a major plantation island necessitating thousands of slaves. Consisting of 19 clauses, almost half of them address the subject of grand and petit marronage, the running away of slaves, “grand marronage” being defined as the taking of leave of one’s owner with the intention of never returning, while “petit marronage” describes those instances when a slave intends a temporary leave from his owner.


At the foundation of Gardelin’s Code is the notion that a slave, as the property of his owner, had no rights; and a slave could possess or own nothing (and could, therefore, offer nothing for sale in his own right).  Slaves had only obligations—but no rights to food, clothing, shelter.  A slave did not even have the right to his own life:  An owner could kill his slave for any or no reason. A slave’s welfare was irrelevant in Gardelin’s Code.


[Despite subsequent codes, ordinances, and sanctions by custom that, de facto, softened the harshness of Gardelin’s Code, those measures were never made law.  As such, Gardelin’s Code remained on the books—and were relied upon by planters and other member of the white population with impunity.  It would not be until 1838, ten years before emancipation, that Peter von Scholten’s reforms superseded Gardelin’s Code that had endured over 100 years].


Re:  Marronage

-Death penalty—after torture in three (3) separate locations—for all ringleaders of marronage, intended or actual, that involved slaves taking leave of the island.

-Leg amputation for running away (or for conspiracy thereof) unless pardoned by owner.  And if pardoned, then 150 lashes and the loss of one ear.

-Punishments range from death to amputations, branding, and whipping for absences of over six (6) months, three (3) months, 14 days, and failure to report an impending marronage.


Re:  Public Order

-Menacing gestures and/or insulting words towards a white person resulted in torture followed by hanging.  (But if it was the wish of the insulted white person, the right hand of the slave would be amputated.)

-Slaves could be beaten by any white person for failing to step aside on public walkways or for failing to dismount when riding.

-Theft of property valued at more than five (5) styvers, or 20 pence sterling, would result in hanging after torture.

-Branding on the forehead and more than 150 lashes was the penalty for theft of less valuable goods.  The same punishment was meted out for the receipt of stolen goods.

-No plantation slave could be in the towns after the beating of the evening drum. Violators were to be beaten.

-Prohibited was all dancing, merrymaking, and funeral rites involving the use of “negro instruments.” (On days of no work, some small diversions were allowed if approved by owner/overseer.)

-Slaves were beaten for practicing obeah.

-Slaves convicted of poisoning or the intent to poison were tortured with glowing pincers, broken on the wheel, then burnt alive.


[Between Gardelin’s Code in 1733 and the ameliorative initiatives under the Governor Peter von Scholten administration in the 1830s and ‘40s, several ad hoc code-attempts, reglements, and custom would converge to shape the evolution of slavery in the Danish West Indies. But since none of those intervening elements ever became actual law, Gardelin’s harsh, inhumane Code, to the delight of many a slave master who would invoke it at will, remained “on the books” for the 100-year period until von Scholten. Below are the intervening attempts at addressing slave life in the Danish West Indies:]


-December 11, 1741:  Governor Moth’s “Articler for Negerene”

-elaborates upon Gardelin’s Code of 1733, providing detailed regulations pertaining to slaves’ movements, public order, and deference to whites.

-eliminated/restricted sexual congress between slave and free.

-whites discovered gambling or drinking with slaves were subject to imprisonment on bread and water.

-no slave woman allowed in room of white man at night—except when performing household or “innocent” chores.


-1742:  Under Governor Moth, there is the first inkling of the concept of the slave’s welfare being a matter suitable for legislation. 


Background Facts:  In 1742, nine years after the Danish purchase and occupation of St. Croix, the island’s lush primordial forests were still being cleared to make way for island-wide agriculture. (The French plantations on St. Croix during the 17th century were all situated along the island’s periphery.) Trees had to be felled, fired, then uprooted.  Overseers and others, without permission from owners, got into the habit of hiring-out slaves to engage in this work on the slaves’ free day(s) [typically Saturday and/or Sunday], compensation being in the form of rum.  As a result, many slaves who engaged in the forest-clearing work would be rendered too tired and too inebriated to render full service to their masters the following Monday. Though motivated by what was in the best interest of slave owners, Governor Moth’s 1742 prohibition of the practice serves as a recognition of his awareness of the welfare of slaves.


-Governor Lindemark, Moth’s successor, in the interest of public order, served to interpret Gardelin’s 1733 Code with even more specificity than Moth:   for example, no slave was to be seen with a dog unless authorized by the slave owner. And the dog had to be on a leash.


King Frederik V’s Reglement of 1755:

Frederik V’s Reglement of 1755 holds the distinction of being the first slavery-era Danish document acknowledging the rights and well-being of slaves.


Re:  Food

-Slaves 10 years and older are entitled to 2.5 quarts of cassava flour or corn meal (or 3 cassavas, each weighing at least 2.5 pounds); 2 pounds of salted beef or 3 pounds of [salted] fish.  Children under 10 years of age were entitled to half of the above-specified rations.


-According to the Reglement, signed by King Frederik V, no slave was to be offered a free day in lieu of rations.  And the custom of giving slaves unrefined rum, called “kill devil,” in lieu of rations was specifically prohibited in the Reglement.


Re:  Clothing

-Two sets of clothing made of coarse linen or cotton annually, or 8 alens (approx. 5 yards) of similar material from which slave could construct his own garments.


Re:  Housing

The Reglement was deafeningly silent on the subject of slave housing.


Re:  Overall Welfare

-Owners were “encouraged” to treat slaves with humanity. But owners were required to care for sick and old slaves, otherwise such slaves would be forfeited to the crown, their owners assessed a daily sustenance fee.


Re:  Religion

-Religious instruction (but not coercion) was to be made available through a mission established by the Danish Lutheran Church.

-All slave children to be baptized at birth and exposed to the catechism of his faith at an appropriate age.  (Learning to write is regarded as unnecessary, but learning to read for the purpose of reading the Bible is encouraged.)  All instruction of slaves is to take place on plantation premises.

-No slave is permitted to enter a church unless in a domestic-servant capacity accompanying a white person. But at death, a baptized slave is entitled to a Christian burial without condition.

-The 1755 Reglement was certain to re-confirm that a slave is property and that Christian baptism did not diminish a slave owner’s rights over his slave, the rational being that baptism impacted a slave’s soul, not his body, which remained the province of the slave master.

-Slaves’ right not to work on Sundays and high holy days is recognized.


Re:  Marriage and Family

-Slaves were permitted to marry, but only with owner’s permission. (All slaves wishing to marry had to be Christian, but slave not wanting Christianity could not practice polygamy.)

-Marriage automatically protected spouses from separation by auction, other sale, attachment for debt, etc. Minors were not to be separated from their parents.

-The Reglement acknowledges that a child born to a slave mother is owned by the owner of the mother.  But the Reglement also rejected the notion of perpetual servitude.

(-Fornication with slave women is specifically prohibited.  White men convicted thereof were to be fined 2,000 pounds of sugar.  And a fine of equal value was to be imposed on the owner of the female slave if he/she was aware of the circumstances but did nothing to prevent the act).


Re:  Marronage

The 1755 Reglement was harsher than the 1733 Code regarding marronage:  There was no distinction between petit marronage and grand marronage.  Under the 1755 Reglement, the first offence enduring up to one month was punishable by branding and loss of both ears.  The second offense was punishable by the loss of both legs. And the third offense was punishable by execution.


Re:  Manumission

-The concept of manumission was acknowledged—by testamentary devise or during the owner’s lifetime. But a slave could not self-purchase his/her freedom, the rationale being that a slave was property and could therefore own nothing.


Re:  Public Order

-Violence or bodily harm perpetrated upon a white person was punishable by death.

-The penalty for theft is not death (as was the case in the 1733 Gardelin Code); instead, the penalty is branding and castration.

-For fear of congregation as a pretext for plotting insurrection, slaves owned by different masters could not assemble at weddings and other festive occasions.  First offense, whipping and branding.  Second offense, death.  (Any white person could arrest any slave found in violation of this law.)

-Slaves could not bear firearms (for example for hunting) unless with master’s written permission.

-Slaves were prohibited from selling anything in the town’s public markets—unless on behalf of the master.


Re:  Judiciary

-Evidence from a slave not admissible in civil or criminal cases (but such evidence could be taken into consideration for determining truth).

-Slaves were, however, indictable for offenses.

-A free person could bring charges against a slave, but a slave could not bring charges against a free person.





Despite the fact that custom had sanctioned certain concessions such as half-free day on Saturday and the selling of provisions from provision plots on Market Day on Sundays (until 1843, when it changed to Saturday, with Sunday being reserved for rest, attending church, attending to provision plots, etc.), when the crown assumed the administration of the Danish West Indies in 1754, Gardelin’s Code was the law.  And Frederik V’s Reglement, in fact, remained a dead document since the Danish authorities permitted its first royally appointed governor, von Pröck [The previous governors under Company rule had been appointed by the board of directors of the Company], to publish whichever portions of the Reglement he deemed appropriate.  Von Pröck exercised that discretion by publishing no part of the instrument, allegedly so as to remain in the good graces of the plantocracy, the preference of which was for slaves to have no rights, à la Gardelin’s Code of 1733.


Impact of the 1759 Conspiracy on the Slave Codes:

The 1759 Conspiracy resulted in many planters setting aside the customary concessions towards slaves that had been witnessed between 1742-1755, reverting to the directives of Gardeline’s Code:


-Itinerant Christmas minstrels were forbidden;

-Random visiting from plantation to plantation—even for spouses—was restricted;

-Selling rum or punch to slaves was forbidden;

-Slaves caught gambling were immediately taken to the whipping-post for 50 lashes.


The 1760s and ‘70s witnessed further reductions in customary privileges and allowances:



-No urban slave could be on street after 9:00 p.m., unless on a documented errand.

-Slaves could not attend Moravian Mission beyond 8:00 p.m. And slaves leaving Services could walk in groups comprised of no more than six persons, each group with a designated leader.

-Dancing (in St. Thomas) until 10:00 p.m. (or later with police permission), but no drumming.

-No slave wakes, the rationale being that they were an excuse for drunkenness and revelry.





-Punishment for gambling on streets raised from 50 to 150 lashes, the rationale being that 50 lashes had not served as a deterrent.

-The Bangelar (the metal-tipped stick used in stick-fighting) was banned.

-Itinerant vendors (“hucksters”) were banned, the rationale being that they encouraged slaves to steal from their masters so as to be able to purchase/barter for the irresistible items offered by the hucksters.

-Efforts were made to limit the amount of mourners at black Christian funerals to six pairs (besides pallbearers) as it was not uncommon for as many of 300 slaves to attend funerals—all dressed in their finest garments.  Rationale:  It was unwise to have so many negroes assembled in one place.

-The ever-popular tea and coffee parties were discouraged on the grounds of their popularity and because they encouraged slaves to dress beyond their means.



Lindemann’s Draft of 1783:

In the beginning of the 1780s, some Danes (and other whites) began arriving at the conclusion that Gardelin’s Code of 1733 was exceedingly brutal, especially as pertaining to public order.  The Colonial Government agreed that Gardelin’s Code was no longer appropriate.



Lindemann’s Draft featured four (4) sections and addressed:

-Regulations pertaining to slaves;

-Regulations for free coloreds;

-Obligations of whites to their slaves;

-Judicial processes vis-à-vis slaves.


-Amputations, branding, executions, etc., should be reserved for offences that could lead to/lead to rebellion.

-Draft offered suggestions for secular education.

-Opportunities for self-purchase.

-Encouragement of slave marriages.

-Regulation of punishments on the estates.

-Mutilations, castrations, etc., to be disallowed.

-Murder of a slave becomes a crime—to be adjudicated in Denmark, not in the colonies.

-The Draft is very strict towards slaves regarding deference to whites:  assault, arson, rebellions and conspiracy thereto, and poisoning all carried death sentences.

-Desertion and marronage no longer capital offenses, but in extreme cases, branding, 200 strokes, and in-chains for life is the penalty.

-Regarding public order, the Draft was very unyielding:  gambling, wakes, unauthorized dances are all prohibited.

-Stone-throwing and kite-flying are banned, the latter because it was known to startle horses, causing many a steed to separate from its white rider.

-Every white person possesses the power to arrest.

-No sexual relations between white men and slave women; and the unthinkable—relations between a white woman and a slave—was not only prohibited, but would result in the deportation of the white woman.

-Slaves were entitled only to summary judicial proceedings.

-Court Martial, to be invoked by local police, was proposed for grave offenses.  (Rationale:  Court matters involving slaves were too costly and too time-consuming.  Petty crimes to be handled by police. Courts to deal with matters involving the death penalty).

-Slaves were not competent witnesses against whites, but baptized slaves could testify against other slaves.

-Slaves’ rights to earn towards manumission.

-Each newborn slave was to be baptized.



Lindemann’s Draft proposed minimum obligations of whites to their slaves:


-food rations

-five to six meters of coarse cloth annually for slaves to construct their own garments

-a hat every two years

-compulsory care when ill

-each estate was to keep a plantation journal to record illness, marronage, rations, etc.


As was the case with Frederik V’s Reglement of 1755 and all the other proposed slave codes after Gardelin’s Code of 1733, Lindemann’s Draft was never officially implemented.



1785 Code by committee under van der Østen

-Code never implemented.


1791:  Commission established by the Danish crown to consider the abolition of the Danish involvement in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

-The Commission was of the opinion that amelioration and abolition were inextricably linked.

-The Commission was of the position that the amelioration of slave conditions should be left to the planter class since it was obvious that there were benefits to be realized by amelioration. (The alternative, the Committee felt, would be insurrection.)

-The Commission upheld the notion of the sacred right of property and the position that slaves are the property of their owners. The Commission opted not to make any statutory inroads that would infringe upon the masters’ discretion in areas pertaining to food, clothing, housing, pre- and post-natal care, or care of children and the sick.

-Peter Oxholm, spokesperson for the planters, lobbied for the continuation of the slave trade, and the Burgher Council of St. Croix was in support of his position.


(As late as 1805, Kirstein, Secretary of the Abolition Commission, was still espousing the position that a comprehensive slave code was not a priority and that the more immediate concern was a police code that would reflect what had become customary for master-slave relations in the Danish West Indies. Thus, even into the beginning of the 19th century, the welfare of slaves was not established by code law.)





-Between 1742 and 1755:  The notion of slave rations (of food and clothing) becomes the custom/practice, though not by law.


-1754:  Danish West India Company sells St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix to the Danish crown, the islands thus becoming a crown colony.


-1755:  Because of the significance of St. Croix as a plantation island and, as a result, its importance to the Danish treasury, St. Croix, after a mere 22 years as a Danish possession and one year under crown administration, becomes the capital of the Danish West Indies, maintaining that distinction until 1871 when the seat of government was temporarily moved to St. Thomas after a series of natural disasters that devastated St. Croix (hurricane, earthquake and tidal wave in 1867; two hurricanes in 1871).


-1755:  Slaves are allowed to marry—with slave owner’s consent.


-1755:  Nearly 30% of the free population of St. Thomas are freedmen. (1755 is the earliest year of data.)  But in 1775, twenty years later, freedmen account for only 10% of the free population of St. Thomas, the likely reason being migration to St. Croix, which, because of its then-thriving agriculture economy and its 1755 appointment as capital of the DWI, had become the premier island in the colony, offering the most opportunities for free persons of color. Between 1789 and 1797, freedmen on St. Thomas accounted for 25% of the free population on that island, but only 4% of the overall population. The island of St. John never had a total of more than 20 freedmen (10% of the total free population of that island) before the end of the 1700s.  In 1797, freedmen on St. Croix accounted for 35% of the free population but only 4% of the total population.


-ca. 1755:  Lutheran Mission for slaves and free people of color established.  In 1756, ten Lutheran missionaries arrive in the Danish West Indies. Instruction and books are in Dutch creole.


-1759:  Conspiracy on St. Croix.  William Davis declared ringleader; “Frank” or “French” declared his collaborator.


-1760 – 1820:  The “Golden Age” of the sugar economy in the Danish West Indies. St. Croix being described as the “Garden of the West Indies.”


-April 9, 1764:  Charlotte Amalie established as a Free Port.  Anyone is permitted to establish an enterprise on St. Thomas for the purpose of engaging in trade in European and/or American goods.  The Ordinance was confirmed and expanded in 1767, enabling enterprises to send cargo wherever they chose.  (The 1764 Ordinance required that return-cargo go to Denmark or that they be transported on Danish ships.)  The Free Port ordinance was renewed on November 4, 1782.


-1768:  Danish slaving vessel Fredensborg wrecks off the coast of Norway on the final legal of its triangular trade route during which it took onboard 265 enslaved Africans on the west coast of Africa and sold the 241 survivors of the journey in Christiansted. Discovered in 1974, retrieved from the wreck were precious elephant tusks from Africa, exotic woods from the Caribbean, and personal items of the crew such as cans of tobacco and leather shoes with fine buckles. The ship and its contents together constitute one of the most comprehensive examples of a slaving vessel ever found—anywhere in the world.


-1768:  Danish crown says public school system for slaves would serve “no useful purpose.”


-1768:  Peter Tongerloe, a “free Negro,” is owner of Estate Catherine’s Hope, situated east of Christiansted, and a townhouse at No. 25 Company Street, Christiansted.  He is also the owner of 10 slaves. Historian Neville A.T. Hall in his Slave Society in the Danish West Indies (p. 144), writes of Johasie Abrams as the owner of the10-acre “plantation” Catherine’s Hope, believed to be named after Abrams’ wife Catherine. Abrams, according to Hall, owns an unspecified number of slaves. Hall describes Abrams as a freedman who owned Catherine’s Hope “before 1800” and indicates that Abrams acquired the property by way of inheritance, along with his freedom, from a white slave owner. It is believed that Peter Tongerloe and Johasie Abrams are one in the same.  Further research is required.  



-1769:  Missionary Peter Lund suggests a special court for dealing exclusively with slaves and slave-matters.  The court was to be comprised of “coloureds” [presumably, persons of at least half-white racial make-up] who would function under the supervision of the governor and other whites. The colonial government thought the proposal administratively impossible; politically incorrect; and premature, given the pending slave code at the time.


-1770:  Armed, able-bodied colonists, numbering 320, serve as militia troops to defend the colony:  100 in Christiansted; 100 in Frederiksted; 80 on St. Thomas; 40 on St. John. (For economic and philosophical reasons, Denmark historically elected to implement a system of colonial defense that was based on local militia rather than on professional soldiers.  The professional soldiery rarely numbered more than was absolutely necessary to serve as official guards and for ceremonial duties).



-1774:  Gambling amongst slaves outlawed.


-1774:  No freedman could live in rural areas of the Danish West Indies; they had to live in the “Free Gut” areas. 


-1775:  Freedmen account for 20% of the overall free population of the DWI.



-October 10, 1776:  Definitive laws regarding manumission.  Three state-sanctioned manumissions had occurred prior to 1776:

1)  1733 manumission of Mingo Tameryn for his efforts to thwart the 1733 St. John rebellion.

2)  1759 manumission of Quamina for his role in the revelation of the 1759 conspiracy on St. Croix.

3)  1763 manumission of the elderly Christian Sort (Christian the Black) for his exemplary embrace of the Christian faith and his honesty.




The establishment of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, as a Free Port figured significantly in the evolution of urban slavery in the Danish West Indies. Also, because Charlotte Amalie, with its excellent harbor and strategic location in the center of the Caribbean Archipelago served a major slave depot for the entire Caribbean, slaves being transported on ships bearing the flags of all the European slave-trading nations passed through St. Thomas, many of those slaves remaining on the island, thereby adding to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the slave population of the Danish West Indies.


-1787:  Danes establish public schools—two in Christiansted, one in Frederiksted, and one in Charlotte Amalie—to educate the islands’ free black and enslaved populations.  Denmark, thereby, becomes the first nation in the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to officially educate its New World black population.  The public education, available at a small fee, focused on reading and memorization.  Extra instructions in writing and mathematics could be obtained at an additional cost.  The Danes (their official religion being the Lutheran faith), recognizing that the Moravians had had more experience in the educating of the black population through the Moravian Missions, utilized Moravian instructors and administrators in the Danish public schools. Moravian instructors would remain the educators of choice of the Danish West Indies school system until 1872.



-1789: “Great School Commission” established in Denmark.  By 1814, Danish public school system organized to educate peasant class.


-1792:  86% of St. Croix’s slaves are plantation slaves; artisans and urban slaves comprise the remaining 14%.


Christian Marriage in the Slave Population of the Danish West Indies


[-1717:  By 1717, the following churches were established on St. Thomas:  Lutheran; Dutch Reformed; French Reformed; Anglican; and Roman Catholic.  All except the Roman Catholic have resident priests by 1717. Thus, by the early 1700s, the Christianizing of the enslaved African population had begun.

-1805:  By early 1800s, church affiliation by slaves exceeds 50%.

-By1835:  99% of all slaves in the Danish West Indies baptized into the Christian faith.]



-1755:  King Frederik V’s Reglement specifies that slaves may marry—but there must be consent by their owners. (And children born to such marriages were owned by the owner of the female slave.)

-1792:  In a population of 8,568 adult slaves 20 years and older, there are 2,338 recorded intimate unions, but only 371 Christian-married couples. After the 1759 Conspiracy on St. Croix, slaves’ ability to congregate and visit from plantation to plantation on their free days is strictly regulated.  Married couples living on separate plantations, therefore, are not able to engage in conjugal visits without permission.

-1805:  At the beginning of the 19th century, after slaves have been authorized to marry for 50 years, only 10% of the adult slave population opts for Christian marriage. But 30% of adult slaves are in committed relationships.



-1792:  Abolition of Serfdom in Denmark


-1792:  One-third of all “Bosals” (newly arrived African-born slaves) expected to die during the “seasoning” process. By the 1830s, “guinea bird” had become an insult used by island-born slaves to describe Africa-born slaves.


-1792:  There are 197 plantations in operation on St. Croix:  71 plantations with 51-100 slaves; 70 plantations with 0-5 slaves; 13 plantations with 151-200 slaves; 4 plantations with 201-300 slaves; and 2 plantations with over 300 slaves. Of St. Croix’s 84 square miles, 40 are flat land, perfect for the cultivation of sugarcane.  Most of the island’s most profitable plantations are situated in the western portion of the island. Many of the plantations east of Christiansted, because of the lower fertility levels of that portion of the island, have few slaves and were devoted to the cultivation of cotton and grazing of livestock more so than to the production of sugarcane. In 1792, thirty-six (36) of the forty-one (41) plantations east of Christiansted had less than 100 slaves.  The average slave population on plantations east of Christiansted is 42).


-1792:  Denmark’s King Christian VII issues the Abolition Proclamation, which specified that Denmark would abolish the slave trade in 10 years, on December 31, 1802, Denmark thereby becoming the first European nation to abolish the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (though Denmark was not the first European nation to end the institution of slavery.  That distinction would go to the British.) 


In the 1790s, for practical and humanitarian reasons, various slave-trading European nations decided to cease going to the continent of Africa to obtain Africans for transport as slaves to the New World (the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade).  However, slaves could still be purchased, sold, and shipped within the New World.  (Furthermore, the institution of slavery itself would not end until the various declarations of emancipation, beginning with the British in 1834 [with the full effect of emancipation to occur in 1838] and ending with Brazil in 1888.)


Below is a listing of when the various slave-trading nations abolished the Trans-Atlantic Trade in enslaved Africans:


-January 1, 1803:  Denmark (and Norway, which, until 1814, was politically joined to Denmark)

-May 1, 1807:  Great Britain

-1813:  Sweden

-1814:  Holland (Netherlands)

-1814:  Spain (Agreed to stop the slave trade—except to her possessions)

-1815:  France

-1816:  Portugal (Agreed to end slave trade north of the Equator.  Therefore, Portugal continued shipping enslaved Africans to Brazil, her largest colony utilizing the labor of enslaved Africans.  Brazil gained its independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822)

-1820:  Spain (except to Cuba)

-1852:  Brazil


Emancipation in the New World—the ending of the institution of slavery itself—would not end until a generation or two later in the colonies of the above-listed nations.  Below is a listing of when emancipation occurred in the various slaving nations: 



*(Haitians claim their emancipation from France in 1803 after defeating the French at war.)


-August 1, 1834:  Great Britain (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales), to take full effect in 1838.

-October 9, 1847:  Sweden

-April 27, 1848:  France

-July 3, 1848: Denmark (by rebellion)

-January 1, 1863:  United States (But it would not take full practical effect until the ending of the American Civil War in 1865)

-July 1, 1863:  Holland

-July 29, 1880:  Spain (All colonies except Cuba, which received emancipation in 1886)

-May 13, 1888:  Brazil (Brazil obtained its independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822, thereby ending Portugal’s official involvement in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and embarking upon its own that would endure for another 66 years.)


-1792:  Danes implement the policy of “Breed, Not Buy.”  Prior to Denmark’s King Christian VII’s Abolition Proclamation in 1792, which set the abolition of the Danish slave trade at January 1, 1803, ten (10) years after the Proclamation, the Danish slaving policy was to “buy, not breed,” to wit Danish slave traders would prioritize the acquisition from West Africa of young males in their physical prime (between the ages of 15 and 35) to serve as slaves in the Danish West Indies.  The objective was to work slaves to death (usually within five years), rather than having them live beyond their physical prime, thereupon becoming less productive and more costly to maintain. Under the old “buy, not breed” policy, a newly purchased, young, male slave would replace his physically expended predecessor. And in the labor-intensive sugarcane system, male slaves were preferred to females, whose productivity would be diminished, even if temporarily, by pregnancy and then infant care. (As such, the male slave population in the Danish West Indies always exceeded that of the female slave population until 1815, twenty-three years into the “breeding initiatives.”)  In addition, because of the poor working and living conditions of the enslaved population in the Danish West Indies, the mortality rate exceeded birthrate well into the late 19th century.  And low birthrate—on account of amenorrhoea, or absence of menses, a condition where women, owing to excessive labor, fail to even menstruate due to excess levels of testosterone because of the excessive labor—remained a problem throughout the history of slavery in the Danish West Indies.


In response to the 1792 Abolition Proclamation, Danish slave traders and plantation owners adopted a new policy: “breed, not buy.”  Thus, they began importing more female slaves, a policy which resulted in 1815—for the first time in the history of the Danish slave trade—a population of female slaves which exceeded that of male slaves.  In 1792, there were 7,364 female slaves and 8,579 male slaves on St. Croix.  But in 1835, there were 10,423 female slaves to 9,453 male slaves on St. Croix.


-1797: Total slave population in the Danish West Indies numbers 32,213 (25,452 on St. Croix; 4,769 on St. Thomas; 1,992 on St. John);

            Total freedmen population in the Danish West Indies numbers 1,418;

            Total white population in the Danish West Indies number 3,062.


-1797:  Total population of freedmen in the Danish West Indies is 1,418, with 80% of that number living on St. Croix. The vast majority of the freedmen in the DWI were “coloureds,” persons of mixed racial heritage, most having at least 50% white ancestry.


-1799:  Official Danish military presence in the Danish West Indies is meager, totaling 447 troops:  373 infantry; 56 cavalry; 18 artillery. (The official military presence was typically supplemented by local militia [armed, able-bodied colonists], consisting of whites and coloureds.


-By 1800:  The forts in the Danish West Indies towns of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, and Frederiksted are, by 1800, well-established as the discipline venues of the colony, so much so that until the 1970s, the phrase, “…I will take you to the fort” [for legal redress, both civil and criminal] remained in everyday usage in the Virgin Islands.


-1802:  Freedmen (typically mulatto or with a higher percentage of white ancestry) owned 30% of the slaves in Charlotte Amalie.


-1802:  Case of Hans Jonathan, a slave from St. Croix taken to Denmark by his owner.  The issue was whether, by setting foot upon Denmark-proper soil, where, in 1802, slavery was not allowed, Hans Jonathan had automatically become free. The Danish court ruled that Jonathan was not entitled to freedom since his owner’s property rights extended to Denmark. The Hans Jonathan ruling was in stark contrast with the Somerset case of 30 years earlier where the English court held that a slave, upon setting foot on English-proper soil, automatically became free.


-1805:  By early 1800s, church affiliation by slaves exceeds 50%.



-1805:  Only 10% of adult slave population opts for Christian marriage; but 30% are in committed relationships.


-March 19, 1820:  John Gutliff (General Buddhoe, General Bordeaux, Moses Gotlieb), leader of the July 3, 1848 rebellion for emancipation, is born enslaved at Estate La Grange, Frederiksted.


-1830s:  Public auctions of slaves outlawed—as inhumane and degrading.


-1831/1832:  First comprehensive census of all three Danish West Indies.


-1828:  Peter von Scholten appointed governor-general of the Danish West Indies.


-August 3, 1832:  Public holiday declared to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Moravian Mission in the Danish West Indies. Ten thousand (10,000) slaves attended the celebrations at the Friedensfeld Moravian Mission.


-April 18, 1834:  All free people (whether free-born or manumitted), regardless of race, are considered equal in the Danish West Indies.


-November 1834:  Copenhagen endorses the idea of a public education system for slaves in the Danish West Indies.


-By1835:  99% of all slaves in the Danish West Indies baptized into the Christian faith.





Slave Education in the Danish West Indies

-1732:  Moravian missionaries arrive on St. Thomas and shortly thereafter on St. John.  Moravian concept of “Pietism,” which holds that Christians should know God through reading the Bible for themselves, requires that slaves learn how to read the Bible, and, by extension, how to read in general, thereby laying the foundation for slave education in the Danish West Indies.  Many enslaved persons gravitate towards the Moravian faith so as to learn how to read.  In 1734, the Moravian missionaries arrive on St. Croix.

-1755:  King Frederik V’s Reglement allows for the preaching of God’s word by Lutheran missionaries to the slave population and for a related Christian education to facilitate the teaching of God’s word.

-1787:  Danes establish public schools—two in Christiansted, one in Frederiksted, and one in Charlotte Amalie—to educate the islands’ free black and enslaved populations.  Denmark, thereby, becomes the first nation in the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to officially educate its New World population. The public education, available at a small fee, focused on reading and memorization.  Extra instruction in writing and mathematics could be obtained at an additional cost. The Danes (their official religion be the Lutheran faith), recognizing that the Moravian had been more successful in educating the slave population through the Moravian Missions, utilized Moravian instructors in the four (4) Danish public schools.  (Moravian instructors would remain the educators of choice in the Danish West Indies school system until 1872.)

-1793:  Danes admit that the Moravian missionaries are more successful at educating slaves than the Lutheran missionaries.

-1796:  Governor Ernst von Walterstorff declares Lutheran missionaries attempt at educating slaves in the DWI a failure.

-November 1834:  Copenhagen endorses the idea of a public school system for slaves in the Danish West Indies.

-1834 – 1838: Planters gradually accept the idea of education for slaves.

-1838:  Construction on the first von Scholten schools begins—though the School Ordinance becomes official in 1839.

-1839:  Public support for slave schools is established, the rationale being that with emancipation on the horizon, an educated slave population would make for a more peaceful and orderly transition into freedom.

-1839:  Peter von Scholten’s School Ordinance becomes official.

-By 1841—Some planters begin privately constructing schools on their plantations.  (Some planters had done so even earlier on humanitarian and religious justifications.)

-May 16, 1841:  First of 17 von Scholten schools opens at Estate La Grande Princesse, the site where almost 100 years earlier (in the 1740s) the first Moravian missionary on St. Croix had been buried. Römer, a Moravian missionary, was named director of the school at La Grande Princesse. The 1839 School Ordinance provided for the establishment of 17 free public schools for slave children in the DWI:  8 on St. Croix; 5 on St. Thomas; and 4 on St. John.  Children 9 years and under were to be educated for three hours in the morning each day, Monday to Friday.  Children aged 10 to 12 were to be educated one day per week, on Saturday mornings.

-1841 – 1846:  School attendance problematic because overseers are not cooperative.

-1844:  Records indicate that not one child from several plantations attended school.

-1846:  Ordinance institutionalizing public school education for slaves in the Danish West Indies. The initiative was regarded as an “experiment.” A major component of the 1846 School Ordinance is that overseers could be fined for preventing school-age children from attending school.




-1838:  Governor Peter von Scholten’s Labor Ordinance.

From the 1830s, and into the 1840s, ameliorative policies had been implemented under Governor Peter von Scholten:

  1. a) The workday’s length was regulated;
  2. b) Discretionary punishment by masters reduced;
  3. c) Public auctions banned as dehumanizing;
  4. d) Plantation journals and inspection thereof mandatory;


  1. a) Saturday becomes free day (Market Day);
  2. b) Sunday free for religion and secular instruction;
  3. c) Slaves earn 4 Rigsdaller per day for working on a free day;
  4. d) Improvements in slave housing.


-1840:  170 plantations and cattle farms on St. Croix.


-1841:  There are 151 plantations in operation on St. Croix.


-1843:  Saturday becomes a free day for the enslaved of the Danish West Indies (thereby joining Sunday, which since the mid-1700s had, by custom and religious lobby, come to be accepted as a free day.  With Saturday becoming a free day, the slaves’ Market Day switched from Sunday to Saturday, thereby affording slaves the opportunity to devote Sunday’s to religious instruction.  (By the mid-1700s, the vegetable and fish markets in the three towns of the Danish West Indies had been established.)


-1845:  A total of 37 slaves from St. John escape to neighboring Tortola, where emancipation had occurred in 1834/38.


-July 28, 1847:  “Free Birth Proclamation.”  Royal proclamation conferring freedom on all slaves born after July 28, 1847, with emancipation for everyone else to occur in 12 years. (Peter von Scholten thought that such a plan–granting freedom to newborns but not to their parents—would be problematic.  He was 100 percent correct, as evidenced by the slave rebellion that occurred less than one year later).



The Unfolding of the July 3, 1848 Emancipation


-Night of Sunday, July 2, 1848: Beginning at nightfall, conch shells (tuttues) blowing on the various estates; signal-fires set.

-Morning of July 3, 1848:  Approximately 8,000 slaves gather at Fort Frederik, demanding immediate freedom. Danish West Indies slaves had been told, via the July 28, 1847 “Free Birth Proclamation,” that slavery would end in 1859.  (The enslaved population in the DWI had been long aware of emancipation in the British West Indies [1834/1838] and had recently become aware of the April 27, 1848 emancipation in the French West Indies.  Based on court testimony in the immediate aftermath of the July 3, 1848 emancipation, rumors were circulating that Denmark, too, had emancipated its slaves but that the DWI planters were withholding the information). There were no betrayers of the July 3, 1848 emancipation rebellion.  Almost 20,000 slaves were aware of the plan.

-4:00 p.m., Monday, July 3, 1848:  Governor Peter von Scholten, who had arrived from St. Thomas in the early hours of July 3, arrives at Fort Frederik and, immediately upon alighting from his carriage, approximately 16 hours after the first blowing of conch shells, declares all unfree, free.

-Monday, July 3, 1848:  Major Gyllich, commander of the Fire Corps, defrayed attack upon his person by large group of newly emancipated people by throwing his sword to the ground and announcing that he was friend, not foe.

-Tuesday, July 4, 1848:  Major Gyllich accompanies Buddoe as he restores calm on several mid-island estates.

-Early hours of Tuesday, July 4, 1848:  Group of newly emancipated people shot just outside the town of Christiansted.  Looting and destruction (except on the island’s eastern plantations) ensue over the next three days.

-Tuesday, July 4, 1848:  Town of Frederiksted put under state of emergency.  Court Martial invoked.  If freedmen re-enter Frederiksted in groups of more than 10 persons, they would be fired upon by cannon from the fort and the frigate in the town’s harbor.

-Thursday, July 6, 1848:  Governor Peter von Scholten suffers what would be described by today’s medical terminology as a nervous breakdown. The Lt. Gov. of St. Thomas, Frederik Oxholm, assumes command of the civil government.

-Thursday, July 6, 1848:  Entire island of St. Croix under State of Emergency.  Mass-arrests conducted.

-Friday, July 7, 1848:  Court Martial proceedings begin.

-Court Martial convened over next five weeks, examining more than 100 prisoners.  (Fort Frederik was overcrowded on account of the number of prisoners plus the whites who had taken refuge there.  Other prisoners were detained on board the Ørnen and various cargo ships in Frederiksted’s harbor).

-Within a week of the convening of the Court Martial, eight (8) persons are executed for charges ranging from felonious wounding and arson to riotous assembly:

  1. a) Decatur of Estate Bethlehem for rioting and theft. (Executed on July 11, 1848)
  2. b) Friday of Estate Castle.  (Executed on July 11, 1848)
  3. c) Augustus of Estate Concordia for felonious wounding.  (Executed on July 11, 1848)
  4. d) Adam of Rosehill for arson (setting fire to the cane field).  (Executed on July 11, 1848)
  5. e) John Simmons of Estate Mt. Pleasant
  6. f) James Heyliger




-Saturday, July 8, 1848:  Lt. Gov. of St. Thomas Frederik Oxholm arrives on St. Croix. The governor of Puerto Rico sends 530 troops.



Leaders of the Rebellion Emerge During the Court Martial Proceedings

-Peter von Scholten reports that he observed Buddoe [John Gutliff, General Budhoe, Moses Gotlieb, Gotlieb Bordeaux] in a leadership role, to wit:  he prevented looting; smashed with his sword a demi-john of liquor (presumably that being carried by a rioter/looter).

-Augustus of Estate Concordia.  Carrying sword.  Blood of a duck killed with same sword smeared onto the front of his shirt.  Told newly emancipated to organize in a line.  Later on Monday, July 3, said that he would decapitate anyone who refused to declare himself/herself free. Took up the whipping post from the Frederiksted Market Square and threw it into the sea.

-Moses of Estate Butler’s Bay.

-July 9, 1848:  Friday of Estate Castle says Martin King [of Bog of Allen] to be blamed for everything. (But Friday later says “Bordeaux was the head of everything.”)

-Four men executed on July 11, 1848, name Buddoe and Martin King as leaders. Decatur and Adam later name Buddoe as leader.


-Buddoe was supposedly “deported” at his own request [never to be heard from/of again].  According to some historians, Buddoe was deported to Trinidad.  Trinidad historians, however, insist that there is no record of Buddoe ever setting foot on Trinidad soil.  A Virgin Islands historian claims to have unearthed evidence of Buddoe in New York whence he maintained contact with his mother and sister. According to local oral tradition, Buddoe, in order to appease the newly emancipated population, was dressed in military regalia as if being sailed off to Denmark to be honored for his leadership role in preventing post-emancipation destruction.  Once the vessel sailed into the high seas, however, it is said that he was ball-and-chained and thrown overboard to a watery death.



Alleged Strategy Underlying the Rebellion

July 3, 1848 was supposed to be a Monday strike to force emancipation.  Sunday-night ringing of plantation bells and blowing of the conch shells were supposed to signal the Monday strike. Slaved aspired towards a free peasantry and a monocrop economy run by freedmen.


A song chronicling the great historic event emerged:


Clear dih road! Ah yoh, clear dih road!

Clear dih road; leh dih slave dem pass….

We ah goh foh ah we freedom!


The date of composition and the name of the composer have been lost to history.


-August 18, 1848:  Peter Hansen appointed governor-general of the Danish West Indies.  His immediate priority was to restore and maintain peace and order; establish labor laws; and to prepare a special report on the rebellion. Dispatched from Denmark, Hansen arrived on St. Croix on November 26, 1848 and assumed command the following day.


-January 26, 1849:  The Labor Contract of 1849. 

-Upon emancipation on July 3, 1848, some newly freed persons immediately left the plantations to which they were once bound and moved into the Free Gut neighborhoods of Frederiksted and Christiansted, in effect refusing to work on plantations, even for wages. Such persons eked out a living as cooks, washer-women, fishermen, tailors, seamstresses, etc. Artisans and skilled laborers such as cabinet-makers, blacksmiths, masons, carpenters, milliners, cobblers, and goldsmiths applied for burger briefs (business licenses) and established themselves, to the best of their abilities, as tradesmen, serving primarily the black community. But burgher briefs were expensive, and the loans that facilitated them oftentimes came with high interest rates. For the vast majority of the former slave population (referred to after emancipation as “laborers”), life continued as sugarcane laborers on the very same plantations to which they were once bound as slaves.

-Prior to Governor Hansen’s arrival, the Committee of Planters had, on July 29, 1848, less than 30 days after emancipation, issued an order stipulating that the former slaves should seek employment somewhere—either on their respective plantations or in the towns.  For those opting to remain on their plantations, contracts were drawn up specifying type of work, quantity of work, and wages to be paid for the contracted-for work.  Laborers who refused to work were to be reported to the Committee of Planters, which would take measures to punish such workers for vagrancy. Since the former slaves had no land upon which to settle to begin their lives anew, it was the consensus of the planter class that laborers would be forced to work on the plantations since very few would have the financial wherewithal to start a business. The order made no provisions for sick and elderly former slaves. Then, to add insult to injury, the order required that laborers, once hired, remain—for life—on the plantation of employment. The laborers, rightfully, regarded the order as tantamount to slavery and rejected it out-of-hand.

-On January 26, 1849, Governor Hansen proposed the Labor Contract that would 30 years later result in the 1878 Fireburn:

  1. a) Laborers were to sign one-year contracts, binding them to a plantation from October 1 to September 30, with the option to terminate—by either laborer or planter—occurring on August 1.  Any contract not terminated by August 1 would be automatically renewed for another year. The rationale supporting the provision was to stabilize the work force.  While, in theory, laborers were free to seek new employment contracts each year, planters had unspoken agreements amongst each other not to hire each other’s laborers, a policy which in effect bound laborers to their plantations for life.  (Laborers desiring to leave the DWI for employment opportunities elsewhere were obliged to purchase passports, which cost 32 cents, thereby being beyond the reach of many laborers. And to further frustrate free travel, laborers wishing to leave the Danish islands in order to seek opportunities elsewhere were required to have money in their possession to demonstrate to the Danish authorities a wherewithal for self-support outside the Danish colony [presumably so that Danish subjects would not become a burden on other nations, thereby putting the Danish colony at risk of earning an unfavorable reputation vis-à-vis other nations].  The amount travelers were required to have in their possession was not a fixed amount and oftentimes was determined at the discretion of the Danish authority issuing the passports—a situation which caused much uncertainty for laborers.  The arbitrary passports policy would ultimately serve as one of the primary catalysts for the October 1, 1878 Fireburn).
  2. b) The signing of a labor contract bound not only the laborer to the plantation, but also his wife and all his children between the ages of 5 and 15—as well as other dependents and elderly relatives. In the case of a female signatory, all her children under the age of 15, as well as any other person dependent upon her, were bound to the plantation.
  3. c) Per the 1849 Labor Contract, laborers were classified into three categories:  First-class workers earned 15 cents per day/75 cents per week/3 dollars per month/36 dollars per year; Second-class laborers were compensated 10 cents per day/50 cents per week/2 dollars per month/24 dollars per year; Third-class employees were paid 5 cents per day/25 cents per week/1 dollar per month/12 dollars per year. Specialized plantation workers such as sugar boilers, blacksmiths, coopers, and wheelwrights were paid 20 cents per day, but with a 5-cents-per-day deduction for food and provisions.
  4. d) Plantation laborers were allowed to maintain their 30 ft. by 30 ft. provision plots (also called “Negro grounds”) from which they could derive their sustenance, but traditional food rations of salted meat/fish and cornmeal/cassava flour ended with emancipation. Laborers who desired those items had to purchase them.
  5. e) The workday extended from dawn to dusk, Monday to Friday.
  6. f) All disputes between laborer and planter were to be resolved by a magistrate.
  7. g) Plantation workers lived in the plantation villages, which were historically substandard and were not improved post-emancipation.


In essence, then, little had changed after emancipation; chattel slavery had evolved into economic slavery. And a mere six months after the enactment of the 1849 Labor Contract, on July 2, 1849, one day short of the one-year anniversary of emancipation, laborers on 77 of St. Croix’s plantations participated in a job action—a strike—until the island’s police and gendarmerie forced the strikers back to work.


In 1850, John Candler and George Alexander, representing the Anti-Slavery Society, visited the Danish West Indies in order to assess the colony’s post-emancipation conditions. Welcomed to the islands and given free rein to assess, both men traveled extensively around St. Croix, visiting various plantations before arriving at the conclusion that the Labor Contract of 1849 had served to neutralize emancipation, rendering the great event in name only.


-1853:  Plantation owners, as compensation for the loss of their slaves as a result of the July 3, 1848 emancipation, were paid reparations in the amount of $50 per slave, regardless of age or sex.
















Crayfish and Snaps Feasts of Sweden–One of the Simple Luxuries of Life!

Crayfish and Snaps Feast of Sweden

There is in Sweden a beautiful tradition where, each year in mid-August, Swedes feast to their hearts’ content on two of the nation’s most beloved and iconic products:  Swedish crawfish and Swedish snaps (“schnapps” in German).

Whether the feast takes place at a grand dinner table in one of Skåne’s stately castles or manor houses, or outdoor atop picnic benches (guests under those circumstances kept warm by heat-lamps), the etiquette is the same.  The table will be set with place-settings for each guest, consisting of a dinner plate upon which will be placed a bib, of fine cloth in formal settings, of disposable plastic in casual environs; a salad-sized plate, situated to the upper-left side of the dinner plate (where a bread-and-butter plate would normally be placed), into which crawfish shells should be deposited; a nutcracker placed to the right side of the dinner plate upon a dinner napkin, for use, if necessary, in cracking the claws of the crustaceans; a shellfish fork, placed to the immediate right side of the nutcracker; and a little shot-glass, placed to the upper-right side of the dinner plate, for snaps.  Absent from the table-setting will be knives, dinner forks, and water glasses. The event can perhaps be best likened to a Maryland crab-and-beer feast.

Once guests have taken their seats, large communal trays, piled high with steaming-hot, claret-colored crawfish, will be brought to the table and set at its center. Led by the host, guests stand and sing the Swedish national anthem. And once they are again comfortably seated, the host dons his bib and places his dinner napkin onto his lap, signaling the commencement of the feast.

Using communal tongs, guests place the desired “first-round” quantity of crawfish onto their respective plates and begin eating.  One by one, crawfish are picked up by the hands, the head-portion separated from the body in a twist-pull movement.  Once the head-portion is separated, it is conveyed, open-end-first, to the mouth of the diner, whereupon the contents of the fish’s head are sucked therefrom and eaten. Slurping is acceptable—and expected—but it should be done with as much discretion as possible. The remaining head-portion is then placed onto the designated shell plate.  The claws are then removed from the carcass in a twist-pull action; cracked, if necessary, with the nutcracker (otherwise by the diner’s teeth); and their contents are extracted with the aid of the shellfish fork if necessary. As is the case with the head-portion, the shells of the claws are also deposited onto the shell plate.  The succulent, flesh-filled tail-portion is twist-pulled away from the rest of the carcass, its relatively soft shell-covering peeled off with the fingers before the flesh is conveyed to the mouth and eaten. The remaining portions of the crustacean are then deposited onto the shell plate.  Thereafter, another crawfish is picked up, and the process is repeated, seemingly ad infinitum, during the hours-long feast.

On occasion, throughout the feast, a diner will propose a toast—whether lauding the host, to health, as thanks for a beautiful summer, to a gentle winter, etc.—each diner indulging by emptying his shot-glass of its contents, then, in unison, declaring, “skoll!” which in Swedish means “health!” As fast as glasses are emptied, they are refilled….

Periodically, shell plates will be removed from the table and replaced with fresh ones, or they will be emptied and replaced.  Additional trays bearing mounds of piping-hot crawfish will also be brought to the table.  At Swedish crawfish and snaps feasts, the exhaustion of the guests always precedes that of the food and drink.

At the end of the feast, bibs are removed, the table of cleared, and fresh napkins and fingerbowls containing warm water with lemon “wheels” floating atop are brought to the table for diners to refresh themselves.

The feast is one of Sweden’s most delightful traditions, and every gentleman should schedule a trip to Scandinavia so as to experience the tradition at least once in his lifetime.