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Sugar and Sugarcane: Historical Resources for a Sweet Industry

This guide is intended as a starting point for those doing historical research on sugar and sugarcane as an industry. The primary focus of this guide is on the industry in the United States as well as international trade.


Detroit Publishing Co. Post's, sugar mill, La. Between 1900 and 1905. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The primary focus of this guide is on historical resources that may be useful for those studying sugar and sugarcane as an industry. Many of the resources are statistical compilations, statistical series, historical overviews, and periodicals. A number of older works have been included as they can provide a contemporary perspective and because they show what was important at the time and hint at the future. While this guide does not cover sugar beets, sugar/sweetener from corn, molasses, artificial sweeteners, or other sources, a few of those sources have been included when necessary, particularly when their scope includes coverage of sugarcane. This guide also does not explicitly cover products made from sugar.

The focus is on the industry in the United States as well as international trade, though there is necessarily some attention paid to the industry and activities in Cuba and the Caribbean. We haven't spent too much time looking at the time prior to the Revolution, but if you are looking for long-term historical perspective the Sugar Act 1764, also known as the American Revenue Act 1764 or the American Duties Act, was a revenue-raising act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain on April 5, 1764.

Foreign publications from South Africa and the Philippines may also contain articles and information that shed light on activities in the United States, however they have not been included. In the United States the primary sources of sugar are Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Texas but since this guide primarily covers sugar and sugarcane, the focus is on Hawaii and Louisiana. Puerto Rico, as a U.S. territory, is also covered. While this guide does not cover the issue of slavery, books treating the economic aspects of this "Peculiar Institution" across the South may offer a broader perspective that could also be helpful.

Although not legal in nature, the guide includes some legal materials, most of which are focused on a few key pieces of legislation like the Jones-Costigan Amendment, also known as the Sugar Act of 1934 (48 Stat 672, 7 U.S.C. § 608(a)) and the Sugar Act of 1937 (50 Stat 903, 7 U.S.C. § 1100 et seq). However, not all of the legislation that updates/extends the 1937 Act (example: Sugar Act of 1948) has been included.

Lastly, this guide is about the industry and not the technical or scientific aspects though some titles and resources that have been included do cover the technical and scientific areas as well as business.

About the Business Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Business Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.