Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Gaines M. Foster

Abstract

Analysis of southern naval stores production, an industry in many respects more representative of southern economic development than cotton textiles, reveals a pattern of continuity between the antebellum and post-war South. Naval stores manufacturing began in the colonial era but languished as a marginally-profitable business until the 1830s when new uses for spirits of turpentine resulted in increased demand and higher prices. Large turpentine operations developed almost exclusively in eastern North Carolina and the slaves, who performed most of the work, experienced distinct work patterns. By the 1850s, destructive gum-harvesting methods led to the depletion of North Carolina's longleaf pine forests; producers determined to continue in the business moved their operations and slaves into fresh pine tracts in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. The antebellum industry's trends---large-scale production, primitive harvesting methods that wounded the trees, and reliance on forced labor---continued after the Civil War. Producers continued moving into the deep South and solved the problem of labor shortages with convict leasing and peonage. Intensive work routines and difficult conditions in isolated forest camps also persisted, despite attacks on the industry's labor practices in the early twentieth century. Moreover, producers continued to migrate through the South as gum collection devastated pine stands. Progressive-era initiatives did bring moderately successful efforts to introduce less destructive harvesting methods than those in use since the 1700s. However, two new problems plagued the industry in the first half of the century: the rapid rise of production costs and competition from both foreign gum naval stores producers and the rapidly growing wood naval stores industry. These rivals, combined with the economic and social changes that affected the South in the 1930s and 1940s, brought the gum naval stores industry to virtual collapse, despite federal assistance through New Deal farm programs. The wood naval stores industry, which relied on heavy mechanization and a small number of well-trained technicians, made gains at the expense of the gum industry. That naval stores production did not modernize until World War II, demonstrates that a significant portion of post-Civil War southern development represented a continuation of antebellum patterns.

ISBN

9780599636330

Pages

734

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