During the quarter of a century before the thirteen colonies became a nation, the northwest quadrant of North Carolina had just begun to attract permanent settlers. This seemingly primitive area may not appear to be a likely source for attractive pottery and ornate silverware and furniture, much less for an audience to appreciate these refinements. Yet such crafts were not confined to urban centers, and artisans, like other colonists, were striving to create better lives for themselves as well as to practice their trades. As Johanna Miller Lewis shows in this pivotal study of colonial history and material culture, the growing population of Rowan County required not only blacksmiths, saddlers, and tanners but also a great variety of skilled craftsmen to help raise the standard of living.
Rowan County's rapid expansion was in part the result of the planned settlements of the Moravian Church. Because the Moravians maintained careful records, historians have previously credited church artisans with greater skill and more economic awareness than non-church craftsmen. Through meticulous attention to court and private records, deeds, wills, and other sources, Lewis reveals the Moravian failure to keep up with the pace of development occurring elsewhere in the county.
Challenging the traditional belief that southern backcountry life was primitive, Lewis shows that many artisans held public office and wielded power in the public sphere. She also examines women weavers and spinsters as an integral part of the population. All artisans -- Moravian and non-Moravian, male and female -- helped the local market economy expand to include coastal and trans-Atlantic trade.
Lewis's book contributes meaningfully to the debate over self-sufficiency and capitalism in rural America.
Subjects: Art & Art History, History
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