History of the Pineapple Business in Eleuthera
The pineapple industry was important in the late 19th century. Indeed, it is believed that the Bahamas was the first country to produce pineapple on a commercial scale. The pineapple grew in the Bahamas from the early 1700s but was not exported on a large scale until 1844. During that year, it is believed that upward of 15,000 dozen were shipped to England with their roots, in addition to cut pineapples to the United States.
In 1845, Eleuthera was the premier growing island. In that year, more than 35,000 dozen were shipped to England and the same amount to the United States.
The first canning factory was established in Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera in 1857. J.S. Johnson opened a factory in Nassau in 1876. By the late 1880s and early 1890s, pineapples were the chief export of the Bahamas. In 1885, 92,000 dozen were shipped to the United States of America and England. Eleuthera ranked first as a pineapple producer, followed by Cat Island and Long Island.
The peak year for Bahamian pineapples was in 1892, when nearly 700,000 dozen were exported, valued at almost £60,000. However, by the early 1900s the pineapple industry was in serious decline. By the late 1920s the industry had collapsed.
According to Harper's New Monthly Magazine of 1874, the inhabitants of Harbour Island gained "a livelihood cultivating pineapples on Eleuthera. A fleet of 200 boats is owned in the settlement. Every morning at sunrise this little fleet spreads its wings to the tradewind, and wafts 800 men and boys, black and white, to the lovely beach and cocoa-nut groves on Eleuthera, two miles away. Every night they return. The pineapples begin to ripen in April, and only grow to advantage on a peculiar red soil that is always thin, and is found in but few districts. The plantations are on undulating ground, the highest in the Bahamas, and are skirted by mahogany, logwood, and cocoa-nut groves, overgrown with the brown love vine, and abounding in scarlet-flowered hop, clitoria or wild pea, and various other flowers, while the song of the brown thrush resounds in every thicket. A pine field when the pines are ripe looks as if it were on fire, the scarlet of the spiked leaves forming a flame-colour with the vivid orange-yellow of the fruit. There are two principal varieties of the pineapples, the scarlet and the sugarloaf, the latter of which is the best."