Friday, April 29, 2016

A Cog in the Slave Economy Wheel

Just how much was slavery a part of Southern society? Often the extent of its influence depended on geographical location. However, the institution's tentacles reached far and wide in each and every state where slavery was legal--and way beyond those states' borders. Individuals who did not own slaves could rent them. And people who owned and rented them needed to feed them, shelter them, and clothe them. While much of the material resources for enslaved people's food, shelter, and clothing came from their own labor on rural plantations, town workshops, and urban factories, owners had other options as well.

The above advertisements ran in the Petersburg Daily Express on December 15, 1860. It was probably not a coincidence that ads like this ran in anticipation of slave hiring season. Merchants Emanuel and Davis offered apparel items for slaves. They sold blankets, socks, and clothing. From what I was able to find in census records, neither retailer owned slaves. But, not owning slaves did not preclude someone from benefiting from the system. Emanuel and Davis obviously attempted to fill a need in the commercial system and tried to earn revenue from the sale of goods specifically marketed to owners for their slaves.

Did Emanuel and Davis have a stake in the institution of slavery? Would they lose a potentially significant stake in the market economy if slavery ended? I would say yes to both questions, without a doubt.

No comments:

Post a Comment