In what is one of the funniest displays of “wealth” the pineapple was once carried around as proof that the one carrying it was a first-class citizen. Now, I can’t say that I think the tradition made any sense, but in 18th century England, pineapples really were a status symbol. Their very cost set the apart as something only owned by the very rich. Like many of the upper-class citizens of that era, they liked to flaunt their wealth to those less fortunate. So, those rich enough to own a pineapple would carry them around to signify their personal wealth and high-class status. They also adorned everything from clothing to houseware with the tropical fruit.
Pineapples were first imported from South America to Europe by Spanish explorers starting in the 16th century. Though native to South America, pineapples made their way to the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. It was in Guadeloupe that Christopher Columbus first spotted their spiky crowns in 1493. He and his crew took the pineapples back to Spain, where everyone loved how sweet this new, exotic fruit tasted. Unfortunately, because they were a tropical fruit, the pineapples wouldn’t grow in Spain. The only pineapples they could get their hands on had to be imported from across the Atlantic. It was time consuming and expensive undertaking, and often resulted in rotten fruit. From Spain, they then came to England. It was in England that the pineapple became the most prestigious fruit of the 18th century. European sailors brought it home as a sign of successful expedition and evidence of their prosperity. It also became a decorative piece on upper-class dining tables. When a pineapple was seen decorating the dining table of a home, you knew that the family had traveled places and were either explorers or merchants with money, to afford the exotic fruit.
Because of its new-found fame, the pineapple grew to be very expensive. In the American colonies in the 1700s, pineapples were no less special. They were imported from the Caribbean Islands, and the pineapples that arrived in America were very expensive. In fact, one pineapple could cost as much as $8000…in today’s dollars. While they may have been a symbol of wealth, if you ask me, carrying one around would not be a wise way to show that wealth. It wouldn’t take long for that coveted fruit to go bad, and they all you had was the memory of the money spent and thrown away.