Pickle History Timeline



2400 BC: Archeologists and anthropologists believe that the ancient Mesopotamians pickled.
2030 BC: Cucumbers brought from their native India helped begin a tradition of pickling in the Tigris Valley.
  Cucumbers are mentioned twice in the Bible (Numbers 11:5 and Isaiah 1:8) and history sets their first usage over 3,000 years ago in western Asia, Egypt and Greece.
850 BC: Aristotle praisd the healing effects of cured cucumbers. Ancient Sources not only refer to the nutrional benefits of pickles, but claim that they have long been considered a beauty aid. Cleopatra attributed her good looks to a hearty diet of pickles.
Roman emperors, among them Julius Caesar, fed pickles to their troops in the belief that they lent physical and spiritual strength.
The Dark Ages
  900: Dill has been introduced to Western Europe from Sumatra.

Since the Middle Ages, pickles were a common condiment and snack in England. Queen Elizabeth's chefs noted her liking of them, and Shakespeare peppers his plays with references not only to pickles, but new uses of the word as metaphor:
“Oh, Hamlet, how camest thou in such a pickle?” (Act 5, Scene 1.) 'Tis a gentle man here a plague o' these pickle-herring! How now, sot!” (Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5.)
“What say you? Hence, Horrible villain! or I'll spurn thine eyes like balls before me; I'll unhair thy head: Thou shalt be whipp'd with wire and stew'd in brine, Smarting in lingering pickle.” (Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Scene 5.)


Before Amerigo Vespucci set out to explore the New World, he was a pickle peddler in Seville, Spain. Since food spoilage and the lack of healthy meals were such concerns on long voyages, he loaded up barrels of pickled vegetables onto explorer ships. Hundreds of sailors were spared the ravages of scurvy because of his Vespucci's understanding of the nutritional benefits of pickles.

Pickles were brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus, who is known to have grown cucumbers for the purpose of pickling on the island of Haiti.

Cartier found cucumbers growing in Canada in 1535.

In the sixteenth century, Dutch fine food fanciers cultivated pickles as one of their prized delicacies. The area that is now New York City was home to the largest concentration of commercial picklers at the time.

As early as 1606, pickles were being produced at home and commercially in Virginia.
By 1659, Dutch farmers in New York grew cucumbers all over the area that is now known as Brooklyn. These cucumbers were sold to dealers who cured them in barrels filled with varying flavored brines the pickles were sold in market stalls on Washington, Canal and Fulton Streets.
Thomas Jefferson notes: "On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar."
18th Century
Napoleon valued pickles as a health asset for his armies, so much so that he offered the equivalent of $250,000 to anyone who could develop a way to preserve food safely. The man who won the prize in 1809 was a confectioner named Nicholas Appert, who figured out that if you removed the air from a bottle and boiled it, the food wouldn't spoil. He'd have to wait for Pasteur to describe why by making the bottle airtight, no microorganisms could enter, and by boiling it, any microorganisms that existed were killed. Known today as the “boiling water bath,” Appert's discovery was one of the most influential culinary contributions in history.

1820: “A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons, exhibiting the fraudulent sophistications of bread, beer, wine, spirituous liquors, tea, coffee, cream, confectionary, vinegar, mustard, pepper, cheese, olive oil, pickles and other articles employed in domestic economy and methods for detecting them” was published by chemist Frederic Accum. It opened consumers eyes to the possibilities that common household ingredients were tampered with during production in order to improve their appearance or lengthen their shelf-life. This text revealed that pickles were commonly treated with copper to brighten their coloration.

1851: The Scottish chemist James Young patents a way of creating paraffin, which will be used to seal home preserves, through a dry coal distillation.

1860: Louis Pasteur sterilizes milk by heating it.

1881: Alfred Bernardin invented the first metal tops to be used in commercial canning.

1893: Heinz, a new company to touted its “57 varieties” of pickles, preserves, and other jarred foods, introduces the pickle pin at the Chicago World's Fair. The pickle pin resurfaces at world fairs and expositions to this day, marking it one of the most successful marketing efforts in American History.

19th Century

1848: Failed German revolutions bring a large number of German immigrants, Potato Famine in Ireland brings Irish immigrants. From 1870 to1900, religious persecution brings large numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe. Political unrest and economic conditions bring a large wave of immigration from Greece and Italy.


1858: John Mason designed and patented the first Mason jar. Made out of heavier weight glass than normal jars, these were developed to withstand the high temperatures necessary for processing pickles. When the patent expired in 1879, manufacturers of such jars continued to use the term “Mason” on their product. Lucius Styles Ball, who started the Ball Brothers Company in the early 1890s, was one such inventor. Alfred Bernardin invented the first metal tops to be used in commercial canning in 1881. These two companies joined forces as recently as 1993, to form the Alltrista Corporation, is the largest producer of Mason jars today.

1893: Pickle Packers International, a trade organization for workers in the pickling trade, was founded.

1895-1910: Lower East Side pickle purveyors began operations on Ludlow Street

During World War II, the U.S. government rationed pickles, and accounted for 40% of the country's pickle production.
1942: Vlasic Pickles, the polish-style cucumber pickle company, was born in Detroit.

1993: Ball, Kerr, and Bernardin jar makers join forces to form the Alltrista Corporation, today’s largest producer of Mason jars.


1926: Mount Olive Pickles, based in Mount Olive North Carolina, was founded with the intention of brining pickles for other commercial picklers. Instead, they went on to establish one of the biggest names in the pickle industry.

1985: Steven Trotter became the youngest man to conquer the crest of Niagara Falls in a pickle barrel actually, two plastic pickle barrels surrounded by rubber inner tubes.

In September, 2000, after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 41-14 in the blazing, September heat, many players attributed the win to the vim and vigor they gained from drinking pickle juice. "I may start drinking pickle juice when I'm just sitting home chilling," said defensive end Hugh Douglas.

5,200,000 pounds of pickles are consumed annually in the United States. That's nine pounds per person.

2001: The first annual Pickle Day celebration, NYC.
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Copyright NYFM 2003, Dana Terebelski and Nancy Ralph.