Did you finish the title of this post with ‘by the Fourth of July’? And have you heard this phrase as long as far back as you can remember?
As a little kid, I was often confused if being knee high by the Fourth was a good thing, or a bad one. Turns out that it was a measure of how good the season was. If your fields of corn were knee high by the Fourth of July that it was going to be a very successful harvest that year. If they weren’t, well…
Digging into the history of the saying, it’s been passed down through the generations primarily through oral tradition, much like a children’s nursery rhyme. The first time it was known to be used in print was in the New York Daily Times on June 14th of 1854.
Many consider it to be applicable in it’s time, but advancements in selective breeding, soil preparation, earlier planting dates, improved seeding methods, and well calculated application rates of fertilizers mean that corn grows a great deal taller than past varieties. Heritage varieties often grow to be only 4 or 5 feet tall, where now those same strains reach 7 to 8 feet.
Being from the North, I’d always thought that this singsong phrase was talking only about corn, but while I was reading along there were several references from the Southern states where the plant talked about is cotton, not corn.
If you’ve heard other ideas about this singsong saying, be sure to share in the comments.
Wishing each of you a safe and patriotic holiday! May your pie crust be light and flakey and your lattice a soft caramel color. Happy Birthday United States!!!
Catch y’all on the flip side!