Early American settlers brought along pinches of seeds to produce the spices and herbs used by their various cultures in food preparation. The fertile soils and plentiful rainfall in the East were perfect for the weedy plants that produced the aromatic yields.
There were, however, some products that could not be grown by the settlers--pepper, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. These precious imports were valuable possessions, and great care was taken when they were stored. Spices were stowed in racks hung high on a wall, out of harm's way and away from children and animals. Sugar, a cook's most treasured luxury, was stored in sugar chests, often with tops that could be locked to deter pilferage by four-legged and two-legged raiders.
Country woodworkers were responsible for most of these racks and case goods, occasionally using local woods that were not suitable to the function of the piece. Joinery was unsophisticated; tiny wooden pegs, wire nails, glue and wrought-iron nails were often used.