The First New South

The First New South
Southern Agriculture and Industry
Southern Agriculture after the Civil War
• South primarily agricultural in late-19th century
– Still dependent on one-crop, cash-crop agriculture
• Labor system had changed dramatically though
– Planters wanted a return to gang labor
– freemen wanted family farms
• Post-war Southern Agriculture characterized by:
– tenantry and debt peonage
– reliance on a few cash crops rather than on a
diversified agricultural system;
– increasing absentee ownership of valuable farmlands
• Different forms of Tenantry:
– Renters—pay cash or a part of their crop as rent
• Renters owned their crop—use part of it to pay rent
– Sharecroppers—received a share of crop as their pay
• Laws bound tenants to land/controlled labor
– Contract-enforcement statutes
– Emigrant agent laws
– Vagrancy laws
• Farmers bought supplies on credit, backed by a
guarantee to the merchant of a share of their crop
(or a "lien") when it was harvested
– Debt peonage system develops
• Tied tenant to a landowner until debt paid off
• Debt-peonage also caused small farmers who
owned land to lose it as merchants seized it for
payment of unpaid liens
– 1880—1/3 of Southern farmers were tenents
– 1890—½ of Southern farmers were tenents
• ½ of whom were white
– 1900—70% of Southern farmers were tenants
Farmer’s Alliance
• Started in Texas in 1877 by Charles Macune
– 1886, 100,000+ Texas farmers had joined
• Set up cooperatives:
– Buying cooperatives
– Selling cooperatives
• Alliance established banks, stores, processing
plants, grain elevators
• Attempted to est. a Texas Exchange
• Centerpiece of program was sub-treasury plan
– Government warehouses for farmers to store crops
– Government loans to farmers while crops were stored
Cleburne Demands, 1886
• Regulation of RR rates
• Heavy taxation of land owned by
• Federal regulation of banks and currency
• Take U.S. off the gold standard
• Alliances from across nation form a political
wing in 1890s—The People’s Party
– 1890 election, Populists elect 2 governors, 38 U.S.
Congressmen, and win control of 12 state legislatures
• Bourbons feared the rise of the Populists
– Feared the uniting of farmers racial lines
• White Populists were NOT racial liberals
– But did believe black and white farmers had similar
economic interests
– “You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced
from your earnings”—Tom Watson
Omaha Convention, 1892
• Omaha Platform called for:
subtreasury plan
abolition of national banks
end of absentee ownership of land
direct election of U.S. Senators
Government regulation (or ownership) of railroads,
telephones, and telegraphs
– Postal savings banks
– Graduated income tax
– Inflation of the currency
• 1896, the Populists fuse with the Democratic
Party in support of William J. Bryan, and lose
The “New South Creed”
• Henry Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution
espoused a "New South creed":
– Industrialize the South
– Diversify agriculture
– "out-Yankee the Yankees."
• “New South Creed” did not fit with “Lost Cause”
– Question of whether it was better for the South to look
forward or backward?
– Many southern leaders tried to do a little of both
Industrialization in the New South
• Southern industries expanded after
Iron and Steel
• 1890, Southern steel industry produced 20% of
nation’s supply
– Railroads
• Between 1880-90, RR miles more than doubled in
the South
Southern Industry
• Despite progress, Southern industry was never
even remotely comparable to the North
• South still had a colonial economy by 1900
– Developed mainly raw materials, not finished products
– Raw material economy paid low wages
– Even where southern factories produces something—
like textiles—they usually did so in an unfinished
state—had to be sent elsewhere to be finished
– Much of the capital had come from the North, and
profits left the South
Southern Industrial Labor
• High % of Southern factory workers were women.
– Southern factories also hired entire families
• Life in mill towns was rigidly controlled
– Hours were long and wages were low
– attempts at protest/union organization were suppressed
– Company stores sold goods at inflated prices
• Blacks excluded from many factory positions
– Hired only for the least desirable, lowest-paid positions.
• Convict-lease system
• Child Labor
Child textile workers, Bibb Mill No. 1. Macon, Ga.
Lewis Hine Photo, The History Place website
Girl in a Newberry, S.C. mill
Lewis Hine photo from The History Place website
Interior of the Laurel (Miss.) Mills, 1939
Library of Congress Photo
Company houses near cotton mill. Gadsden, Alabama
Library of Congress Photo
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