Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Mountains on the Market

Mountains on the Market: Industry, the Environment, and the South

Randal L. Hall
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 322
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Mountains on the Market
    Book Description:

    Manufacturing in the Northeast and the Midwest pushed the United States to the forefront of industrialized nations during the early nineteenth century; the South, however, lacked the large cities and broad consumer demand that catalyzed changes in other parts of the country. Nonetheless, in contrast to older stereotypes, southerners did not shun industrial development when profits were possible. Even in the Appalachian South, where the rugged terrain presented particular challenges, southern entrepreneurs formed companies as early as 1760 to take advantage of the region's natural resources.

    In Mountains on the Market: Industry, the Environment, and the South, Randal L. Hall charts the economic progress of the New River Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, which became home to a wide variety of industries. By the start of the Civil War, railroads had made their way into the area, and the mining and processing of lead, copper, and iron had long been underway. Covering 250 years of industrialization, environmental exploitation, and the effects of globalization, Mountains on the Market situates the New River Valley squarely in the mainstream of American capitalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3649-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Thomas Jefferson bears much responsibility for the longtime idealism about agrarian life in the United States, but he also revealed a deep faith in the power of industry and commerce. “All the world is becoming commercial,” he informed George Washington in March 1784. “Our citizens have had too full a taste of the comforts furnished by the arts & manufactures to be debarred the use of them.”¹

    Representing Virginia in Congress, Jefferson was negotiating his home state’s cession of its western territories to the young United States. He had definite ideas about where Virginia’s western boundary should fall—the state should...

  4. Chapter 1 Industrial Inroads and Pragmatic Patriots
    (pp. 13-43)

    The Blue Ridge chain provided both a natural and a political barrier for colonial Virginians, but entrepreneurs increasingly breached that wall in the mid-eighteenth century. At the end of the 1750s, leading Virginians saw the potential of the lead deposits on the New River, and they purposefully combined political connections, British mining skills, and slave labor to bring industry into the highlands. Their drive for profit vaulted them over the rocky impediments. During and after the American Revolution, the search for efficient labor and management carried on with a new urgency and enough success to ensure a long-term future for...

  5. Chapter 2 Turnpikes to Ore and More
    (pp. 44-73)

    Prosperous northeastern cities and their fertile hinterlands led the young United States into a new industrial age in the first half of the nineteenth century, but the comparatively rural white people in the South continued to prosper in older ways. Because the lack of cities limited consumer markets in the region, the extractive industries, including those in the New River valley, rarely grew into more complex manufacturers and processors. A modest great divergence started.¹ Slavery remained at the heart of the South’s economic and political system, and copper and lead, for instance, often went north for use in workshops and...

  6. Chapter 3 Wheels and Rails in the New America
    (pp. 74-102)

    The entrepreneurs of the Blue Ridge trod a rugged business terrain. Like their counterparts in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, they contributed to the dizzying growth of American industry. Yet they also lived in and supported a society that countenanced slavery, and they defended it with hands-on brutality. The Civil War freed the slaves yet set back aspects of Blue Ridge industrialization. Nonetheless, at the war’s conclusion, the entrepreneurial energies of native white residents, newly reliant on wage labor, mingled with a fresh, stronger influx of northern capital. Old patterns continued, but with new intensity. Geological study grew more precise, the investments...

  7. Chapter 4 Corporate Peaks in the Valley
    (pp. 103-129)

    In the twentieth century, on a scale larger than ever before, the Appalachian rocks yielded to the urge for profit, and new entrepreneurs started money flowing in new ways: hydroelectric power, sulfuric acid, and carbide. During the so-called American century, capitalism on New River rose and fell with the national tides at a time when U.S. businesses evolved into the world’s dominant economy. With the creation of these more sophisticated operations, the New River economy took a step forward from the purely extractive industrial work that has led historians to label the South a colony of the North, but highly...

  8. Chapter 5 Left Behind
    (pp. 130-158)

    For the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the lives of workers in the New River valley show through to us only in flashes, secondhand snippets here and there. During the twentieth century, however, workers witnessed major changes in industrial life, and better corporate record keeping, the onset of mass media, and working people’s own attention to their past mean that we can trace recent history in greater detail. Beginning around 1900, some of the companies in the valley, operating on a larger scale than ever before, funded amenities that helped ameliorate workers’ tough conditions, and state legislation finally hindered the use...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 159-160)
  11. Appendixes on Technology
    (pp. 161-182)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 183-272)
  13. Index
    (pp. 273-288)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 289-290)