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Broom Lore

Broomcorn Johnnys - historic art of broom making

Broom Lore

Broom Lore - Brooms have existed since ancient times, when people used handfuls of reeds to clear dirt out of their living spaces. A reference to sweeping can be found in the Bible; in Luke 15:8 it says, "Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?"

Simple round brooms known as besoms have been made in England since Anglo-Saxon times. Built by craftsmen called besom squires, the brooms were made from birch twigs bound to an ash, hazel, or chestnut pole. Early versions sometimes shed twigs on the floor as they swept. Modern besoms are typically bound together with wire and string instead of the traditional willow stems.

In the early 19th century, broomcorn became a popular crop for farmers to grow alongside their normal staples. The workers who picked the broomcorn were known as "Broomcorn Johnnies." These were often migrants who came through the area in late summer specifically to help with the harvest.