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256Southern Cultures From Congregation Town to Industrial City: Culture and Social Change in a Southern Community. By Michael Shirley. New York University Press, 1994. 272 pp. Cloth, $50.00. Reviewed by Tom Hanchett, assistant professor of history at Youngstown State University in Ohio. He was the 1994-1995 Andrew D. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Southern Studies at Emory University. His study ofCharlotte, North Carolina, won the Urban History Association's "Best Dissertation" prize for 1993. In the hundred years since the Industrial Revolution, a market revolution has transformed the American economy and in the process drastically reshaped all aspects of daily life. Once a nation of relatively isolated farmsteads and insular villages where families produced much of what they needed themselves, the United States has developed into an interconnected economy of cash-crop farms and large-scale factories. Many scholars— including Stuart Blumin, Paul Johnson, Mary Ryan, Sean Wilentz, and Jonathan Prude— have shown how these changes began in communities in the urbanized North during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Now Prude's student, Michael Shirley, pushes the analysis into the much later developing South, tracking the economic and social evolution of Salem, North Carolina, from the 1830s through the early 1890s. Salem is an ideal laboratory for study of a market revolution. Founded in 1766 as a religious colony by Moravians from Germany, Salem, along with its sister city of Winston, became by the 1890s a nationally important textile and tobacco manufacturing hub. Fortunately for historians, community leaders painstakingly recorded the early decades of that transformation. The Aufseher Collegium, Salem's religious governing board, oversaw most aspects of town life well into the 1850s, and their detailed deliberations survive in the Moravian Archives. Michael Shirley has effectively mined these records in the book's impressive first half. For the town's first seventy years, Shirley finds, Salem pursued an economy organized around the principle of community self-sufficiency, rather than unrestrained personal gain. The Aufseher Collegium tightly regulated all aspects of commerce. It determined the number of bakers, shoemakers, and other artisans, leased the land where they built their shops, debated what goods they should produce and whether they might hire apprentices, and—most surprisingly in light of today's worship of a free market economy —set the prices that could be charged. The village's needs were supplied without wasteful competition, and each member of the community was guaranteed an opportunity for remunerative work. The regulated economy worked well as long as Salem remained an isolated outpost , but by the 1840s population growth and road building in North Carolina brought an end to the town's isolation. Imported goods from outside the community began to challenge local artisans' products. Shoemaker Henry Leinbach, for example, complained to the Aufseher Collegium that ready-made shoes from Philadelphia were ruining his business of traditional custom-made footwear. Likewise, tanner Charles Brietz felt himself pushed to the wall by cheap leather produced by noncongregation competitors. Such men responded by shifting their mode of business from production to retailing, abandoning their craft skills and trading in products brought from distant big cities. A few of the most ambitious Salem citizens went so far as to initiate factory production themselves, led by Francis Fries, who opened the Salem Manufacturing Cotton Mill just outside the village around 1840. The mill employed 156 workers. Reviews257 Such economic changes wreaked havoc on traditional patterns of community life, as Shirley has shown in evocative detail. Businessmen who had once felt protected by the Aufseher Collegium now rebelled against its attempts at regulation. Battling to best outside competitors, Salem artisans cut their workers' wages, creating tensions between masters and apprentices that were unheard-of under the old economy. Some men experimented with slave labor, among them mill owner Fries. Indeed, the cotton mills may have been the most disruptive element of the new order. The tremendous need for laborers at low pay attracted an influx of newcomers to the community, most of them Methodists and Baptists who had no interest in the Moravian religion and who stood outside the traditional congregational governing structure. By the late 1850s, fractious disputes had stripped away nearly all the governing powers...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 256-257
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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