[Watching and waiting for sampling of molasses] Metadata

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  • Main Title [Watching and waiting for sampling of molasses]
  • Series Title Joe Clark, HBSS, 1939-1989
  • Series Title Tennessee Molasses Stir-off


  • Photographer: Clark, Joe
    Creator Type: Personal


  • Creation: 194u


  • No Language


  • Physical Description: photograph 1 8x10 print black & white
  • Content Description: Narrative by Junebug Clark in the summer of 2014 People watching the molasses syrup as it boils down use short pieces of sorghum cane stalk to make “sop sticks” used to dip into the molasses syrup for a taste. This was the height of the fall social season. Harvesting the sorghum, extracting the juice, boiling it down into molasses could take days and weeks going round the clock to finish. Overall Background: These Molasses Making Stir-off photos were shot by Joe Clark HBSS in the early to mid-1940s. Either on the farm of Fred Whitaker about four miles southwest of Cumberland Gap, or in Cumberland Gap on the farm of Baptist preacher the Rev. Hugh Vancel. More information about these images can be found in scrapbooks in the Clark Family Collection at the University of North Texas Special Collections Library. Specifically in a Detroit news pictorial article published December 13, 1942 titles "stir-off party" where mountaineers make molasses and merriment. Also in life magazine published November 13, 1950 [page 156] titled “Stir-off Time in Tennessee, Fun Starts in Hills as Molasses Boils.’ Also in the library is the NBC Today Show story on Joe Clark HBSS by Bob Dotson. It features Joe Clark returning to Cumberland Gap Tennessee to photograph a molasses stir off taking place in the same location as some of these photographs and attended by some of the same people in the early 1980s. Let me briefly set the scene of the time and era that these photos were made. World War II was raging. Television did not exist. Radio reception sporadic in this mountain country. School was held only three months a year mostly during the winter months. Most news of the changes in the outside world was learned, they say, “By looking at pictures in the Sears catalogs.” They farmed steep and rolling hillsides of very poor land. In most of America, to help in the war effort, the rationing of food and other essentials was prevalent. Very few of these Tennessee mountaineers and hill folk had homes with electricity. None with indoor plumbing. Water came from wells which was diverted from nearby streams. Heat in the winter months from a single fireplace. It is where Joe Clark, HBSS was born and raised. Now living in Detroit Michigan, he returned to photograph and capture the memories and the good times of the people he knew so well so well and to document their lives which he saw changing.


  • Keyword: stir-offs
  • University of North Texas Libraries Browse Structure: Social Life and Customs - Customs - Celebrations
  • Keyword: sop sticks
  • University of North Texas Libraries Browse Structure: Social Life and Customs - Food and Cooking
  • University of North Texas Libraries Browse Structure: People - Groups

Primary Source

  • Item is a Primary Source


  • Coverage Date: 194u
  • Place Name: United States - Tennessee - Claiborne County - Cumberland Gap


  • Name: Clark Family Photography Collection
    Code: CFPC


  • Name: UNT Libraries Special Collections
    Code: UNTA


  • Rights Statement: Reproduction and publication of materials in this collection are subject to the policies of the UNT Special Collections department. Copyright restrictions may apply.

Resource Type

  • Photograph


  • Image


  • Accession or Local Control No: UNTA_AR0749-127-106
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc286427