In 1587, an expedition organized by Sir
Walter Raleigh established an English colony of 117 people on the island of
Roanoke, off the coast of present-day North Carolina. On August 18th of that
year, and just fifteen days after the colonists had arrived, the first
English child was born on American soil.
The child's mother was Governor John White's daughter, Eleanor, and her
father, Ananias Dare, served as one of the Governor's assistants. Her
baptism on the Sunday following her birth was the second recorded
sacrament administered in North America. The first baptism had been
administered a few days earlier to Manteo, an Indian chief who was rewarded
for his service by being christened and named "Lord".
Before long, Governor White was forced to leave for England to secure
much-needed supplies. Virginia was less than one year old and little did he
know that he would never see her, or any of the other colonists who remained
When he arrived in England, he found the country to be at war, threatened by
the Spanish Armada. In need of his expertise, Queen Elizabeth extended his
stay and it was not until 1590, three years to the month later, that he was
again able to set sail for Roanoke with supplies for the little colony.
When he arrived in 1591, he found that the settlement had vanished... and it
came to be known in history as Sir Walter Raleigh's "Lost Colony."
A secret code had been worked out that should the colony have to leave
Roanoke Island for any reason, they were to carve their new location on a
tree. If the move was due to an attack, they were to carve over the letters,
or name, with the form of a Maltese cross as a distress signal. Instead of
the expected sign of distress, he returned to find the word "Croatoan"
carved on the tree. To this day, no one is certain where the lost colony
went, or what happened to them.
Many tall tales have evolved from the misty curtain drawn about the Lost
Colony. Virginia Dare is the subject of many variations. According to the
legend, there was an attack by hostile Indians on the Roanoke colonists.
Chief Manteo, returning from a fishing expedition, saw the raid in progress.
By using a secret tunnel, he was able to lead all the inhabitants safely to
nearby canoes. An all-night trip down the Pamlico brought the group to
Manteo's village at Hatteras. There, the colonists were accepted into the
tribe as brothers and sisters.
The fair, blond Virginia Dare was from the beginning a wonder to the
Indians. As she grew in stature and years, many braves paid court for her
hand in marriage. The fair girl loved all the people, both Indians and
white, but was not yet ready to choose a mate.
Chico, the tribal medicine man, was one who was greatly smitten by the
maiden's charms. Though Virginia was kind to him, it was clear that Chico's
ardor was not being returned. Finally, in a fit of passion, Chico vowed that
if she would not marry him, she would have no man. Calling upon the power of
the sea nymphs, Chico lured Virginia to Roanoke Island. Stepping ashore, she
assumed the form of a snow-white deer.
Soon, it was whispered that a white doe was the leader of all the deer of
Roanoke Island. Wherever the remarkable creature went, all others followed.
Many great hunters tried to slay the mystical creature, but no arrow seemed
to find a mark. As time went by, the white doe became a legend as well as a
Dr. Bernard H. Smith, a noted flavor chemist, was charged with establishing
this line of flavors that would carry the name Virginia Dare. With time, the
company's flavoring extract business flourished, and in 1923 the Virginia
Dare Extract Company was incorporated.
Finally, a great hunt was organized, and all the young braves of noble blood
vowed their efforts. Many prizes and honors were to be awarded the victor.
Young Wanchese, son of Chief Wanchese, who had traveled to England, had in
his possession a silver-tipped arrow presented by Queen Elizabeth to his
father. He believed it had magical powers and would bring him the quarry he
As fate would have it, Wanchese did indeed sight the snow-white doe and,
taking careful aim, loosed his deadly missile. The silver tip succeeded
where all others had failed, and the deer fell to the ground. The young
brave rushed forward to claim his prize, but all joy fled and was replaced
by dismay as he heard the deer whisper with her last breath, faint but
clear, "Virginia Dare''.
The name Virginia Dare came to symbolize wholesomeness and purity, and when
Garrett & Company was founded in the region in 1835, the name was
adopted as a brand for its wine, produced from the native Scuppernong grape.
With the institution of Prohibition in 1919, Garrett & Company was
required to reduce the alcohol content of its wine. It was then that they
decided to utilize their uncommonly fine alcohol in the manufacture of
flavoring extracts of the best possible quality.
In 1923, Bernard H. Smith started an independent enterprise in Brooklyn, New
York, manufacturing flavors for industry and home use. Smith ran this
company until his death in 1952, when Lloyd E. Smith took over as head of
the company with factory, offices and laboratory facilities in Bush
Terminal, Brooklyn, NY. It was Lloyd who decided to broaden the scope of the
Virginia Dare Company.
The first flavor developed seventy-eight years ago was Virginia Dare
Vanilla. The company added, flavor by flavor, a reputation for exceptional
quality and excellent service.
Virginia Dare's first major effort in the fast growing franchised bottlers
field was a product known as "Korker", which became a successful
clear lemon-lime product and was followed by a full line of Virginia Dare
bottled flavors, some of which carried interesting names such as "South
Seas" or "Vin-Vie".
Pictured is a 7oz green ACL Korker bottle "Bottled under the auth
VIrginia Dare Extract Co, Brooklyn NY" by the Pepsi Cola Bottling Co in
Fayetteville NC. It claims it is "A Corking Good Drink".
The other Virginia Dare bottle pictured is an amber, paper label bottle with a
cork closure, from the Virginia Dare Extract Company in Brooklyn. It claims
contents of Grenadine Syrup for flavoring and coloring cocktails and mixed
drinks, with instructions for a "Clover Club Cocktail" and a
"Jack Rose Cocktail", and mentions Bush Terminal 10 on the label.
The magazine advertisement for Virginia Dare Wine is from 1947.
The name Virginia Dare now includes a wide assortment of vanilla, tea,
coffee and cocoa concentrates as well as its fruit, nut, sweet, dairy,
chocolate, herbal, spice and tropical flavors. Still located in Brooklyn, on
Third Avenue, they also manufacture a line of masking agents for use in
fortified smoothies, beverages and yogurt.
The quality of Virginia Dare products is as consistent as when it first
started producing wine in 1835. And the same spirit of adventure and
discovery that led development of a thriving business remains.
If you look in the right places, there are many vintage collectibles of this
legendary flavor around today, although comments are that it is not popular
among collectors. The Virginia Dare items in my personal collection are
among my favorites, as much for the interesting history behind its name as