The Spice Islands

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, September 8, 1911: Had to laugh at the mistake a certain pupil made in school today. It seemed so comical. Something about sailing to the Spice Islands, wherever they are, and that said person had to remain after school this evening in order to recite her history properly.

1910 map of Molucca Islands (just west of New Guinea). They were sometimes called the Spice Islands. (Source; Commercial Geography, 1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This was the fourth day of the school year.  I bet that the history text used at McEwensville High School began with Columbus discovering American—and that the question that the student missed was something about Columbus searching for the Spice Islands but instead finding America.

Years ago the Molucca Islands were often called the Spice Islands. They are now part of Indonesia. In 1911 they were part of the Dutch East Indies. According to a 1911 textbook:

The Moluccas are still, as they were when Columbus set sail in search of them, and chanced upon America, the spice islands; thought the spice trade has relatively declined in modern times, owing to the use of fresh meat and green vegetables.

Commercial Geography (1911) by Edward Van Dyke Robinson

A footnote indicated that the chief spices from the East Indies were: black pepper, cloves, nutmegs and cinnamon.

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