Sleeter, Christine E. 2011. Becoming white: reinterpreting a family story by putting race back into the picture. Race Ethnicity and Education, Vol. 14, Issue. 4, p. 421.
HEIER, JAN RICHARD 2010. Accounting for the Business of Suffering: A Study of the Antebellum Richmond, Virginia, Slave Trade. Abacus, Vol. 46, Issue. 1, p. 60.
The factory system in one of its earliest forms—the textile mill—made limited strides in the American South during the closing decades of the slave era. While bondsmen were put to work in mills almost from the beginning, the problem of adapting an agricultural work force to the factory system was one that had to be solved simultaneously with the development of the factory system itself. Since then, historians have wondered whether the use of slaves in early industry was an intensification of the human aspects of bondage or whether it represented a marginal improvement in their physical and spiritual welfare. Professor Miller offers no answer to these questions, nor to those of how widespread or how successful was the use of slaves as factory operatives. He demonstrates, however, that apart from the fact that bondsmen took to factory work more readily than poor whites, the problems to be solved by managers, before a successful degree of efficiency could be achieved, were common to all new industrial systems; clearly, the development of an intelligent disciplinary system, enlightened motivation, and good working conditions were as important in using slaves as in using free labor.
1 The American Farmer, IX (October 12, 1827), 235.
2 The standard accounts of industrial slavery in the Old South include: Starobin, Robert S., Industrial Slavery in the Old South (New York, 1970), for the best overall, if sometimes over-stated, treatment of the subject; Lewis, Ronald L. and Newton, James E., eds., The Other Slaves: Mechanics, Artisans and Craftsmen (Boston, 1978), which reprints articles and book chapters dealing with slavery in the salt industry (by John E. Stealey), in the tobacco factories (by Joseph C. Robert), and in the hemp industry (by James F. Hopkins), among other subjects. On the coal and iron industries, see Lewis, Ronald L., Coal, Iron, and Slaves: Industrial Slavery in Maryland and Virginia, 1715–1865 (Westport, Conn., 1979); Bradford, Samuel Sydney, “The Negro Ironworker in Ante-Bellum Virginia,” Journal of Southern History, 25 (May 1959), 194–206; Dew, Charles B., “David Ross and the Oxford Iron Works; A Study of Industrial Slavery in the Early Nineteenth-Century South,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 31 (April 1974), 189–224; Dew, , “Disciplining Slave Ironworkers in the Antebellum South: Coercion, Conciliation, and Accommodation,” American Historical Review, 79 (April 1974), 393–418. On the textile industry, see Lander, Ernest M. Jr., “Slave Labor in South Carolina Cotton Mills,” Journal of Negro History, 38 (April 1953), 161–173; Preyer, Norris W., “The Historian, the Slave, and the Ante-Bellum Textile Industry,” Journal of Negro History, 46 (April 1961), 67–82. On the economics of slavery and the textile industry compare Terrill, Tom E., “Eager Hands: Labor for Southern Textiles, 1850–1860,” Journal of Economic History, 36 (March 1976), 84–99, who argues for the “availability” and utility of free white labor; and Wright, Gavin, “Cheap Labor and Southern Textiles before 1880,” Journal of Economic History, 39 (September 1979), 655–680, who argues that the South did not have “cheap” labor, slave or free, before 1875. The literature on this subject is enormous and growing.
3 On early mills, see, for example, Lander, Ernest M. Jr., Textile Industry in Antebellum South Carolina (Baton Rouge, 1969), 3–49; Miller, Randall M., The Cotton Mill Movement in Antebellum Alabama (New York, 1978), 9–24; and Stokes, Allen H. Jr., “Black and White Labor and the Development of the Southern Textile Industry, 1800–1920” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1977), 13–47. On slaves' spinning and weaving: Henry Cheatam interview, W.P.A. Slave Narrative Collection, Alabama Narratives (Library of Congress); Mandy McCullough Cosby interview, ibid.
4 On later developments in the textile industry, see Lander, Textile Industry in Antebellum South Carolina, 50–98; Miller, Cotton Mill Movement in Alabama, 25–239; Stokes, “Black and White Labor,” 48–132. See also Griffin, Richard W., “North Carolina, the Origin and Rise of the Cotton Textile Industry, 1830–1880” (Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1954); Griffin and Standard, Diffee W., “The Cotton Textile Industry in Ante-bellum North Carolina, Part II: An Era of Boom and Consolidation, 1830–1860,” North Carolina Historical Review, 34 (1957), 131–164; and Griffin and Harold S. Wilson, “The Ante-bellum Textile Industry of Georgia” (unpublished manuscript).
5 On the coal and iron industries, see Lewis, Coal, Iron, and Slaves, 81–146; and Dew, “Disciplining Slave Ironworkers in the Antebellum South,” passim. Lewis's and Dew's interpretations have strongly infiuenced my work.
6 Donaldson quoted in Charles Fisher, “A Report on the Establishment of Cotton and Woolen Manufactures and on the Growing of Wool,” Legislative Papers, 1828 (North Carolina Department of Archives and History); Macon Telegraph, November 6, 1827; Niles' Register, 40 (1831), 282; Montgomery, James, A Practical Detail of the Cotton Manufacture of the United States (Glasgow, Scotland, 1840), 192; Southern Quarterly Review, 8 (1845), 146; William Gregg, Essays on Domestic Industry  reprinted in Tompkins, D.A., Cotton Mill, Commerical Features (Charlotte, N.C., 1899), 215. See also Augusta Georgia Courier, April 12, 1828; New York Herald Tribune, March 8, 1860.
7 Columbia (S.C.) Daily Telegraph, May 23, 1849; DeBow's Review, 9 (1850), 432–433. Poor management of the faetory, however, led to economic reverses. The company sold its slaves in 1853 to cover the mill's debts.
8 Moore, John Hebron, “Mississippi's Ante-Bellum Textile Industry,” Journal of Mississippi History, 16 (1954), 83; J. Hastings to James E. Calhoun, May 5, 1845, James Edward Calhoun (Colhoun) Papers (South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina); William B. Lenoir to Selina Lenoir, July 13, 1833, Lenoir Family Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
9 Thompson, Holland, From Cotton Field to Cotton Mill (New York, 1906), 251; Lander, Textile Industry, 91; Griffin and Standard, “Cotton Textile Industry in Ante-Bellum North Carolina, Part II,” 140–141; Griffin and Wilson, “Ante-Bellum Textile Industry in Georgia,” chapter 2.
10 On importing foreign and northern workers, see, for example, Vicksburg Sentinel, November 11, 1844; Huntsville Southern Advocate, December 3, 1851; Lander, Textile Industry, 91–92.
11 The discussion of the “availability” and “cheapness” of white and slave labor follows Wright, “Cheap Labor and Southern Textiles.” On the tendency to retain skilled workers, see Goldin, Claudia, Urban Slavery in the American South, 1820–1860: A Quantitative History (Chicago, 1976), 60, who discovered a similar pattern in southern cities generally. The observations on slave hiring and skilled slaves are based on the records of the Tuscaloosa & Northport Manufacturing Company in the Robert Jemison, Jr. Papers (University of Alabama), the McGehee Papers pertaining to the Woodville Cotton Factory (Louisiana State University), the Roswell mill papers in the Barrington King Papers (University of Georgia), among other collections.
12 On the efforts to inculcate New England values see Miller, Randall M., “Daniel Pratt's Industrial Urbanism: The Cotton Mill Town in Antebellum Alabama,” Alabama Historical Quarterly, 34 (1972), 5–35; Lander, Textile Industry, 60–61, 93–98. Olmsted, Frederick Law, A Journey in the Back Country (London, 1860), 357; Olmsted, , A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (New York, 1856), 356, 547–548; Fisher, “Report on the Establishment of Cotton and Woolen Manufactures”; Camden (S.C.) Journal, November 10, 1827. On white operatives in general, see Griffin, Richard W., “Poor White Laborers in Southern Cotton Factories, 1789–1865,” South Carolina Historical Magazine, 51 (1960), 26–40, who differs from my interpretation. On the tenacity of preindustrial values among workers newly recruited to industry, see Gutman, Herbert, “Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America, 1815–1919,” American Historical Review, 78 (1973), 531–588. Gutman ignores the South in his discussion, but his judgments apply in many instances.
13 Mims, Shadrach, “History of Prattville,” in Tarrant, Susan F.H., Hon. Daniel Pratt: A Biography with Eulogies on His Life and Character (Richmond, Va., 1904), 21, 24–25; Foster, M.F., “Southern Cotton Manufacturing,” Transactions of the New England Manufacturers' Association, Number 68 (190), 164–167; Terrill, “Eager Hands,” 95–98.
14 On the arguments of manufacturers for white labor, see, for example, Miller, Cotton Mill Movement, 33–43, 93, 189–191. On black-white tensions, see Flanders, Ralph B., Plantation Slavery in Georgia (Chapel Hill, 1933), 205; SirLyell, Charles, A Second Visit to the United States (2 vols., London, 1849), II, 34; Thompson, From Cotton Field to Cotton Mill, 251; Terrill, “Eager Hands,” 87.
15 Miller, Cotton Mill Movement, 75–76, 209–212; DeBow's Review, 25 (1858), 717; Tuscaloosa Independent Monitor, September 24, 1857.
16 McGehee Papers, vol. I, 46, 74–75; Pensacola Gazette, September 13, 1845; Starobin, Industrial Slavery, 120. This pattern contrasts with Goldin's arguments about the elasticity and worth of immigrant and native white labor in southern cities; Goldin, Urban Slavery in the American South, passim.
17 Wright, “Cheap Labor and Southern Textiles,” 658.
18 Mims, Shadrach, “History of Autauga County,” (ca. 1886) in Alabama Historical Quarterly, 8 (1946), 251; Frederika Bremer quoted in Starobin, Industrial Slavery, 49; Buckingham, James Silk, The Slave States of America (2 vols., London, 1842), II, 113; Barrington King Letterbook, June-August, 1847 and February-April, 1848, King Papers; Fries, Adelaide L. et al., eds., Records of the Moravians in North Carolina (10 vols., Raleigh, 1922–1966), VIII, 4067; Cook, Harvey T., The Life and Legacy of David Rogerson Williams (New York, 1916), 142.
19 Starobin, Industrial Slavery, 35–74.
20 D. Battle to R.H. Battle, September 19, 1844, Battle Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill); Francis Fries Woolen Mill Diary, 1840–1842 (North Carolina Department of Archives and History); House Executive Document #6, 29th Congress, 1st Session (1845), 677. Samuel McAlister's Adams County, Mississippi, steam mill employed thirty blacks.
21 On the quality of American work, see the perceptive remarks of Wallace, Anthony F.C., Rockdale: The Growth of tin American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution (New York, 1978), 182–183.
22 Patton, Donegan & Company to Peebles & Co., November 29, 1847, to Shepherd & Duncan, March 20, 1848, to Fearn, Donegan & Co., September 12, 1848, to James A. Patterson, September 16, 1848, Letterbook, Patton, Donegan and Company Papers (Huntsville Public Library).
23 See, for example, the time books in the Bell Factory File (Huntsville Public Library), the Graham Cotton Mill Papers (University of Kentucky), and the Woolley cotton and woolen mill accounts, Woolley Papers (University of Kentucky).
24 Fries et al., eds., Records of the Moravians, IX, 4734–4735, 4886, 4914, 4956; E.M. Holt Diary, entries for August 8, September 13, 1852, April 24, 1853 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
25 Daybook and Inventory, 1837–1841, Graham Cotton Mill Papers; John Ewing Colhoun Commonplace Book (Clemson University); Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, 15 (1846), 417; Columbia, S.C., Carolina Planter, July 22, 1840. See the daybooks and journals of the Warrior factory and the Tuscaloosa & Northport Manufacturing Company in the Jemison Papers; Patton, Donegan & Co. to Robert Williams, April 1, 18, 1846, to Southwick & Co., August 31, 1846, to Haddock, Hesseltine & Co., December 11, 1847, Letterbook, Patton, Donegan and Company Papers; Bell Factory File; Roswell cotton factory accounts in Barrington King Papers.
26 William B. Lenoir to William Lenoir, December 27, 1834, Lenoir Family Papers; Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, 15 (1846), 417; Miller, Cotton Mill Movement, 128–129, 205, 209, 109, 207; David R. Williams to James Chestnut, October 26, November 16, 1828, January 18, 1829, David R. Williams Papers (South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina).
27 On slave hiring contracts, see the Bell Factory File. On the proximity of mills to plantations, see John W. Fries, “Reminiscences of Confederate Days,” February, 1923, Fries Papers (North Carolina Department of Archives and History); Thompson, From Cotton Field to Cotton Mill, 251; David R. Williams to James Chestnut, November 16, 1828, Williams Papers.
28 Robert Jemison to J.S. Clements, March 18, 1852, Misc. Letters, D, 216, and to (?), May 12, 1845, Misc. Letters, B, 112, Jemison Papers.
29 John Topp to Robert L. Caruthers, January 25, 1839, and Andrew Allisan to Caruthers, January 7, 1842, Robert Looney Caruthers Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
30 On the master's advantages in using the overwork system see Starobin, Industrial Slavery, 104. Lewis, Coal, Iron, and Slaves, 112.
31 Dew, “Disciplining Ironworkers in the Antebellum South,” 407, makes this point for the iron industry; it can be applied to the textile industry. For examples ol overpayments, see the accounts and ledgers of the Warrior factory and the Tuscaloosa & Northport Manufacturing Company in the Jemison Papers; the accounts of the Roswell cotton factory in the King Papers; and the accounts in the Woolley Mill Papers.
32 Stokes, “Black and White Labor,” 113; Francis Levin Fries Diary (typescript), passim (North Carolina Department of Archives and History); Cook, David Rogerson Williams, 140; David Williams to James Chestnut, November 16, 1828, Williams Papers, for the composition of the work force; New York Herald Tribune, March 8, 1860.
33 On thefts, see Starobin, Industrial Slavery, 80; Pendleton (S.C.) Messenger, August 3, 1831; on malingering and flight, see, for example, Patton, Donegan & Co. to Fearn & Crenshaw, May 10, 1847, Letterbook, Patton, Donegan and Company Papers; on arson, see Pendleton (S.C.) Messenger, August 3, 1831; Columbia (S.C.) Daily Telegraph, November 17, 1848; William B. Lenoir to William Lenoir, May 18, 1833, Lenoir Papers; Huntsville Democrat, July 3, 1841.
* Research for this article was assisted by grants from the Penrose Fund of the American Philosophical Society and the Saint Joseph's University Board on Faculty Research. This article also benefited from the advice and encouragement of Milton Cantor, Charles Dew, Stanley Engerman, Ronald Lewis, Melton McLaurin, John Mulder, Tom Terrill, and Gavin Wright.
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