Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hoop poles

Mention a “hoop pole” today and you might inspire images of basketball or tent supports. A century or two ago, however, hoop poles were a well-known and valuable commodity that many local farmers harvested from the wild to earn extra cash.

Hoop poles were long, straight rods, cut in the woods from ash, hickory, hazel, and white oak saplings or from bushes that had been specially pruned for the purpose. While they might be cut in spring or fall, farmers often processed them in midwinter, when they were less busy. Bark and shoots, for instance, had to be removed.

The poles were used around the farm for many tasks such as rollers for moving heavy loads and for temporary floors under haystacks. They were also split to make barrel hoops and basket-weaving material; the poles were hammered to flatten them, soaked in water, and then split into the hoops that held the barrel staves together.

Perhaps the oddest use for hoop poles, however, was as stiffeners in the colossal, but fashionable skirts women sometimes wore in the 19th Century.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information! Steve P

Anonymous said...

Watching the HBO series Deadwood, and some people were referred as Hooppole, almost like they were talking about a nationality

marilyn said...

From old family diaries, in 1868 J. Warren Day of Westford, Mass., earned .12 1/2 per 100 poles. He sold them to the hoop pole man who came around and collected them. The diaries show he did cutting in the winter. The swamps were probably frozen then, too, making access earier.

m. day