Publication Date





Louisiana State University Press


Michael S. Frawley is asking us to do some fresh thinking about the late antebellum economy of the Gulf South. His focus is on three states, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, that formed the heart of the Old South’s Cotton Kingdom. His claim is that both contemporary observers (think principally Frederick Law Olmstead) and modern historians (think principally Fred Bateman and Thomas J. Weiss) have seriously underestimated the importance of manufacturing in this trio of slave states.

To prove his point, he has plowed through an astonishing array of sources, beginning with the manuscript 1860 United States Census of Manufacturing. He convincingly argues, however, that census data is an inadequate measure of the extent of manufacturing establishments in these Gulf states. Too many concerns were simply overlooked. So he has turned to the extensive R. G. Dun credit reports, to city directories, to newspapers, to contemporary journals, and to local histories to compile a more complete roster of manufacturing concerns. The results are striking. “The census marshals…missed almost 20 percent of the firms in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas,” he discovered (p. 128).