On the origin of Longfellow-Flint and bird control

--Walton C. Galinat

The early records of Longfellow's Flint are listed in the possessive as if it originated with the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is listed in this way in the seed catalogue of the W. Atlee Burpee & Co. of Philadelphia, 1886 where it says Longfellow's Flint is well adapted to Massachusetts where it produces 200 bushels of ears to the acre. It appears to me to be a yellow form of Rhode Island Flint. I have one ear of Longfellow's Flint grown in Byfield, Massachusetts on the farm of A. B. Forbes in 1883. The ear is 11 inches long with 8 rows of large yellow kernels. Byfield is near the coast of the north near the New Hampshire border with Massachusetts. Byfield is also the original family homestead of the Longfellows. Perhaps it was here Longfellow wrote his poem, "Blessing the Cornfields" in his Song of Hiawatha (1881:p.136, The Complete Works of Longfellow, Houghton, Miflin & Co. Boston). From my experience, crows are especially fond of Northern Flints and it was so then. The method of bird control used by Hiawatha is described in this poem as follows:

"They perceived no danger near them,
Till their claws became entangled,
Till they found themselves imprisoned
In the snares of Hiawatha.
    From his place of ambush came he,
Striding terrible among them,
And so awful was his aspect
That the bravest quailed with terror.
Without mercy he destroyed them
Right and left, by tens and twenties,
And their wretched, lifeless bodies
Hung aloft on poles for scarecrows,
Round the consecrated cornfields,
As a signal of his vengeance,
As a warning to marauders.
    Only Kahgahgee, the leader,
Kahgahgee, the King of Ravens,
He alone was spared among them
As a hostage for his people.
With his prisoner-string he bound him,
Led him captive to his wigwam,
Tied him fast with cords of elm bark,
To the ridge-pole of his wigwam.
    "Kahgahgee, my raven!" said he,
"You the leader of the robbers,
You the plotter of this mischief,
The contriver of this outrage,
I will keep you, I will hold you,
As a hostage for your people,
As a pledge of good behavior!"


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