Why the pineapple?
The pineapple, a sought-after delicacy in colonial America, was the ultimate symbol of hospitality used to create an atmosphere of good cheer.
Due to its seemingly exotic qualities and rareness, the pineapple soon became a symbol of hospitality in early America. Because trade routes between America and Caribbean islands were often slow and perilous, it was considered a significant achievement for a host to procure a ripe pineapple for guests.
Pineapple quickly became a status symbol in the eighteenth century as only wealthy patrons with the best gardeners could cultivate the delicate, expensive plant that required daily upkeep year-round. Gardeners of wealthy estates competed to produce superior pineapples and varieties others did not grow. A pineapple was a costly and highly complimentary gift reserved for royalty, gentry, or family heads in imperial Europe. Having a pineapple as a centerpiece for important dinner parties was so highly regarded that some shops even rented the fruits out to households by the day.
In addition to wealth, pineapple represented hospitality and a successful voyage. Sailors often brought back the durable exotic fruit and placed it on their porches or speared onto fences, indicating their safe return and welcoming friends to visit.
Pineapple has continued to symbolize a friendly, welcoming environment in both Europe and America, often included as motifs on doors of homes, shops, and hotels.
Drower, George. 2002. Gardeners, Gurus & Grubs: The stories of garden inventors and innovations. Sutton Publishing Limited, England. 2001.
Gorely, Jean. July 1945. “The Pineapple Symbol of Hospitality.” Antiques (July 1945): Dole Archives, Hamilton Library Pacific Collections, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI.
Okihiro, Gary Y. 2009. Pineapple Culture: A History of the Tropical and Temperate Zones. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.