Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Sam B. Hilliard


The South Atlantic Hearth was the dominant rice producer during the colonial and antebellum periods. Rice production in the region declined after the outbreak of the Civil War, but the region kept the leading position until the 1880s. Along the Lower Mississippi River in southern Louisiana a remarkable amount of rice was produced from the antebellum period, reaching a peak in the 1890s. A major regional shift occurred when rice culture on a large-scale, commercial basis developed in southwestern Louisiana during the 1880s by transplanted Midwesterners. From there it spread into southeastern Texas during the last decade of the nineteenth century, and into the Grand Prairie during the first decade of this century. During this century, it gradually spread along the Lower Mississippi River Valley in eastern Arkansas, Mississippi Yazoo Basin, northeastern Louisiana, and southeastern Missouri. The Gulf Coast Prairies and the Lower Mississippi River Valley remain the most important two rice-growing regions in the South. Water supply and management techniques, farm machinery for rice culture, rice varieties, crop rotation methods, and other cultivation practices have all changed through time in the South, and the development of the agricultural technology for rice farming has contributed to the increasing yield of rice. Southern rice farmers have organized their rice cooperatives for rice marketing, milling, and drying and storage. They also benefited from many other organizations and institutes such as the rice experiment stations, the rice promotion organizations, the Rice Millers Association, and other governmental agencies. The role of government became remarkably active through the production control and price support system after the first Agricultural Adjustment was enacted in 1933. In this study, the historical geography of rice culture in the American South is explained in terms of economic processes, technological processes, agronomic processes, social processes, and political processes. All these processes are also related with each other. Despite the tremendous potential for rice production the future of the southern rice industry depends on various factors including agricultural technology, socio-political environment, international demand for the U.S. rice, and the relative importance of alternative crops.