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American History Glossary
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
Daily Life in the 13 Colonies
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

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Food in the Thirteen American Colonies

The American colonists got their food from several places. The modern supermarket that we know today, where you can get all kinds of food, was not an option back then.

People who lived on the Atlantic coast often caught fish and whales. They sold fish and whale blubber at fish markets, which were usually down by the docks.

Farmers who grew wheat, barley, corn, tobacco, or rice hauled their crops to a town market, where the crops were sold to people in that town or to traders who would ship the goods to other colonies. (These traders would send the goods by boat, on rivers or along the ocean coast, or on wagons.)

A great many American colonists also took care of their own food needs. It was not uncommon for a farm family to have crops growing near the ocean while chickens, pigs, and cows were grazing nearby and for that same family to fish for clams and other fish down at the oceanside. This way, the family wouldn't have to buy food from anyone else. They might have apple trees and rows of corn and wheat. They might turn that corn into cornbread or cornmeal mush. They might turn that wheat into flour themselves and use it to bake bread. They might also hunt wild animals, like deer, rabbits, and turkeys.

The farms of the 13 Colonies took up a much larger amount of the total land available than do farms today. Still, farming is very much a way of life for many people today, just as it was for the American colonists.


More on Life in the 13 Colonies

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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