The Discovery | The Documentary
 
The Documentary

A few months later, however, Dr. Smith contacted Rocky Lundy, the Executive Director of the Mint Industry Research Council to learn a bit more about mint stills. Mr. Lundy referred Dr. Smith to an excellent history prepared by Dr. James E. Landing (American Essence, 1969) and gave him the names of several prominent mint growers. In the spring of 1997, Dr. Smith met with Michigan mint growers Larry Crosby, J. E. Crosby, Tom Irrer and Dick Woodhams, and received a tour of the historic Crosby still in St. Johns, Michigan. Dr. Smith, who teaches a course on historic preservation at California State University, Fresno, found his interest in the mint industry deepening when J. E. Crosby indicated that family members were hoping to restore their 1920s mint still. In June, 1997, Dr. Smith toured mint stills in the Yakima Valley of Washington with Harry Visser, a mint grower in Sunnyside. A few months later, Dr. Smith spent three whirlwind days with John Reerslev, a second generation mint grower in Junction City, Oregon, exploring old mint still sites in the Willamette Valley. In late 1997 and early 1998, Dr. Smith presented his findings in papers on "Archaic Mint Barns/Stills" given before the Pioneer America Society and the Mint Industry Research Council.

Even though we all brush our teeth, chew gum, suck on cough drops, and swallow medications flavored with peppermint or spearmint oil, most Americans are largely unaware of the two century history of the mint industry and the impact it has had upon our daily lives. With this in mind, Dr. Smith and his wife, Donna Coleman Smith (an elementary school teacher in Fresno, California) started work on a video on the mint industry. Over the past two and a half years, they have traveled across the United States conducting interviews with mint farmers and company officials. The Smiths were also allowed to film field and company operations and were deeply impressed with the work ethic and high standards of the mint industry. Invariably received with gracious old fashioned hospitality from mint farmers and handlers wherever they traveled, the Smiths were offered the use of family and company archival historical photographs and movie footage. These materials have been edited into a four-part video, running over four hours, entitled "American Mint." Rough cuts of portions of this video have been shown before the Oregon Essential Oil Growers League, the Idaho Mint Growers Association, the Washington Mint Growers Association, and the Pioneer America Society. As Donna Smith notes in the introduction to the video, "it has been a real adventure!"


In addition to "American Mint", Heritage Productions has released a 53 minute special edition created with excerpts from "American Mint" entitled "The Historic J. E. Crosby Mint Still." This video shows mint being harvested, stilled and pressured, and tells the fascinating story of the J. E. Crosby Mint Still in St. Johns, Michigan.

 

The historic J. E. Crosby still, one of the oldest survining mint stills in the United States, is part of an important heritage that touches us all. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this video will be donated to a trust fund at the California State University, Fresno Foundation for researching, recording, and restoring historic structures and buildings assocated with the American mint industry.

 
 
Illustration of Dr. Smith & St. Johns mint growers courtesy Rhonda Westfall.
Historic Photograph of Cosby Still courtesy Jim Crosby.

The old Crosby Still is the trademark and logo of Mint Grove, Inc., © 1996 Jim Crosby.
Images of the old Crosby Still are used here with express permission.


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