The Pineapple in 18th Century America
Americans of the colonial era would have recognized the pineapple as a symbol with many meanings. The most noticeable pineapple could have been seen on the signs of the confectioners’ shops, probably because the earliest imported pineapples crossed the Atlantic packed in sugar.
None but the wealthiest and worldliest Americans could afford to import and purchase the tropical fruit, thus implying a certain social and economic status. And since the host who served the rare and extravagant fruit would have been viewed as particularly generous, the pineapple may also have been a symbol of hospitality and cordiality.
The pineapple was present at Jefferson’s Monticello not primarily as a food, for we know of only two Jeffersonian purchases of the fruit, but rather as a decorative motif. Recent archaeological excavations on Mulberry Row, the center of light industry at Monticello, have unearthed an English Staffordshire pearlware bowl dating from about 1795 and decorated with a pineapple.