From Hardtack to Sugar Wafers: How the Civil War Created the Industry for Dainty Biscuits
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium (Fifth Ave. at 42nd St., Manhattan)
Cracker bakeries, sugar refineries, candy makers – New York had them all in 1861 when the Civil War began. Once the huge buildup of troops began, it meant that many more supplies would be needed to feed them. New York’s robust cracker industry was already making thousands of pounds of hardbreads (the actual name of hardtack) for the city’s shipping industry, but with the start of the war, it meant they would have to ramp up production. With the U. S. government buying up every piece of hardbread that could be baked, it made sense to expand, which most cracker factories did. Many bakers also used the money streaming in from government contracts to buy the latest equipment, which encouraged inventors to create even more new machinery. When the war ended, the cracker makers had to keep their expensive new machines running. A cultural shift in eating patterns, plus some innovative bakers, created an entirely new industry that offered all manner of sweet biscuits and dainty treats.