The Southern Common People: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Social History

By Edward Magdol; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview

The Antebellum Southern Herdsman: A Reinterpretation

Forrest McDonald and Grady McWhiney

In 1860 hogs and other southern livestock were worth half a billion dollars-- more than twice the value of that year's cotton crop. Not all of the Old South's animals were sold each year, of course, but in 1850 the Patent Office (the statistics-gathering predecessor of the Department of Agriculture) reported that one relatively small area of the South--some two hundred miles square of piney woods in southern Mississippi, eastern Louisiana, and western Alabama--had "raised, . . . for 20 years past, one million head of cattle yearly" and sold them for "from $10 to $12 per head." Two-thirds of the nation's hogs were grown in the South. In 1860 ten southern states--Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia--could boast of a hog population of more than a million; only four northern states--Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania--could claim so many. Nor were these southern animals merely valueless "razorbacks," so often described as bone and gristle. In 1860 the hogs and other livestock slaughtered in the South were worth some $106,555,000; this was $327,000 more than all the livestock slaughtered in the North. 1

Despite their numbers and value, southern animals--as well as the people who raised them--have received far less attention than their importance in the economy warranted. 2 Hogs especially have been neglected. This neglect of livestock in works on the South seems to be the result of a strong historiographical tradition. Part of the problem is that historians, especially those who synthesize, usually write about what other historians have written about. This is necessary, of course, because no individual can become an expert on all

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Source: Journal of Southern History 41 ( May 1975): 147-66. Copyright 1975 by the Southern Historical Association. Reprinted by permission of the Managing Editor.

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