We use cookies and related technologies to personalize and enhance your experience. By using this site you agree to the use of cookies and related tracking technologies.

Privacy Policy


The Buzz About Moses Quinby, The Man Who Revolutionized Beekeeping in the 1800s

With so much history and boundless nature to explore in Montgomery County, you never know what you might discover. Take famed resident Moses Quinby, for instance, who made history in his natural surroundings.

Quinby was a beekeeper from the Erie Canal community of St. Johnsville, New York, who is widely regarded as the “Father of American Beekeeping.”  Born in Westchester County in 1810, he moved to Greene County in the early 1820s and settled in St. Johnsville around 1853.

Moses Quinby
The bellows smoker was one of Moses Quinby’s revolutionary beekeeping inventions. Photo credit: Margaret Reaney Memorial Library (opens in a new tab)

His inventions quickly became the standards of the practice. Quinby is credited with development of the bellows smoker, a critical tool of the trade. The bellows smoker solved a centuries-old problem for beekeepers. The non-toxic smoke calms the bees and allows their stewards to inspect and maintain the hives.

In addition, he invented one of the first honey extractors and a knife to prepare comb honey for extraction. These advances became essential as the demand for honey exploded during the Civil War, when a shortage of sugar cane hit the North because supplies had been cut off from the South.

A prolific writer, Quinby shared his elite beekeeping knowledge through numerous articles for agricultural publications and several books. His most famous book,  Mysteries of Beekeeping Explained, was published in 1853 and became the beekeeping bible.

Quinby, a devout Quaker, believed his knowledge should be shared freely. He never patented any of his inventions and lived a humble life even though he was one of the first commercial beekeepers in the country.

He died in St. Johnsville in 1875. After his death, son-in-law Lyman C. Root revised Mysteries of Beekeeping Explained and added illustrations, furthering the legacy of Quinby’s critical work that is still in print to this day.