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Chattanooga, 1865-1900

A City Set Down in Dixie

Tim Ezzell

Publication Year: 2014

After the Civil War, the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, forged a different path than most southern urban centers. Long a portal to the Deep South, Chattanooga was largely rebuilt by northern men, using northern capital, and imbued with northern industrial values. As such, the city served as a cultural and economic nexus between North and South, and its northern elite stood out distinctively from the rest of the region’s booster class. In Chattanooga, 1865–1900, Tim Ezzell explores Chattanooga’s political and economic development from the close of the Civil War through the end of the nineteenth century, revealing how this unique business class adapted, prospered, and governed in the postwar South.
    After reviewing Chattanooga’s wartime experience, Ezzell chronicles political and economic developments in the city over the next two generations. White Republicans, who dominated municipal government thanks to the support of Chattanooga’s large African American population, clashed repeatedly with Democrats, who worked to “redeem” the city from Republican rule and restore “responsible,” “efficient” government. Ezzell shows that, despite the efforts by white Democrats to undermine black influence, black Chattanoogans continued to wield considerable political leverage into the 1890s.
     On the economic front, an extensive influx of northern entrepreneurs and northern capital into postwar Chattanooga led to dynamic if unstable growth. Ezzell details the city’s efforts to compete with Birmingham as the center of southern iron and steel production.  At times, this vision was within reach, but these hopes faded by the 1890s, and Chattanooga grew into something altogether different: not northern, not southern, but something peculiar “set down in Dixie.”
    Although Chattanooga never reached its Yankee boosters’ ideal of “a northern industrial city at home in the southern hills,” Ezzell demonstrates that it forged a legacy of resilience and resourcefulness that continues to serve the community to the present day.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I am indebted to a number of people and organizations who assisted me in the completion of this volume. Ned Irwin, Clara Swann, and the staff of the Chattanooga Public Library provided invaluable aid in accessing their trove of local archival resources. The staff of the Birmingham Public Library also rendered...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xviii

In March 1988, Time magazine ran an article titled “In Chattanooga: How Not to Talk Like a Southerner.” The story detailed a local therapist’s efforts at “speech perfection” and relayed the attempts of local residents to shed their southern accents—an accent some associated with Hee Haw and The Dukes of...

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Chapter 1. The Spoils of War: Chattanooga to 1870

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pp. 1-14

On December 25, 1918, a trio of Chattanooga’s oldest and most respected citizens came together and, for the last time, drank a toast to their collective past. John B. Nicklin, Zeboim C. Patten, and T. H. Payne were all veterans of the Union army, and as they met on that holiday, as they had every Christmas since...

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Chapter 2. “This Embryo City”: Chattanooga’s Postwar Economy and Society

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pp. 15-30

On March 26, 1873, the Chattanooga Daily Times published a letter titled “How we are to build a city.” Its author, a northern emigrant named J. S. Wiltse, had recently traveled throughout the country and visited many booming cities. Based on his observations, he now advised Chattanoogans on the proper way to...

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Chapter 3. “Fireworks and Flapdoodle”: Municipal Government in the 1870s

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pp. 31-48

During the 1870s, as northern entrepreneurs transformed Chattanooga into a viable industrial city, they also faced the challenge of creating an effective yet cooperative city government. Maintaining political hegemony was very important to these industrialists. They had not risked their youth and capital building...

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Chapter 4. “An Honest, Fearless Press”: Adolph S. Ochs and the Rise of the Chattanooga Times

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pp. 49-70

At a 1923 dinner held in honor of Adolph S. Ochs, one of the speakers, with considerable hyperbole, compared Ochs’s arrival in Chattanooga many years earlier with that of Moses in the promised land. “I have no doubt,” the orator proclaimed, “that as Mr. Ochs looked out over that valley he saw in it his vision...

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Chapter 5. Bummers, Blacks, and Bourbons: Municipal Politics, 1880–1885

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pp. 71-92

During the early 1880s, divisions among Chattanooga’s Democrats grew, leading one observer to remark that “there seems to be two Democratic parties here.”1 Always a diverse group, the party was an amalgamation of northerners and southerners who increasingly polarized into contentious Mugwump and...

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Chapter 6. “Shout for Glory”: The Boom of the 1880s

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pp. 93-106

In May 1882, an eighteen-year-old William Gibbs McAdoo arrived in Chattanooga to begin an apprenticeship in law as a deputy court clerk. As the future statesman became acquainted with the town, he found himself overcome with “a desolate sinking loneliness.” In part, McAdoo’s feelings stemmed from a normal...

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Chapter 7. “A Choice of Evils”: City Politics, 1885–1892

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pp. 107-122

As the 1880s drew to a close, Chattanooga’s Republicans faced growing challenges to their hegemony. Local and state Democrats increased both in number and in power and mounted a series of political attacks against the town’s Republican regime. At the same time, racial and ideological divisions among...

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Chapter 8. “Desperate Times” and “Desperate Remedies”: The Bust of the 1890s

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pp. 123-140

In December, 1892, Adolph S. Ochs treated Chattanooga to a grand celebration. The occasion was the dedication of the impressive new home of the Chattanooga Times. As citizens paraded through the imposing edifice and gawked at its extravagance, accolades poured in from across the nation praising the paper...

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Epilogue

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pp. 141-144

The departure of the U.S. Army in 1898 marked the end of an era in Chattanooga’s history. Having survived the bust of the 1890s, the city was once again a thriving, prosperous community. Chattanooga, however, would have to enter the coming century with a new set of leaders. The city’s northern Republican...

Appendix: Local Election Results, 1880–1895

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pp. 145-154

Notes

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pp. 155-184

Index

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pp. 185-188


E-ISBN-13: 9781621900184
E-ISBN-10: 1621900185
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621900030
Print-ISBN-10: 1621900037

Page Count: 206
Illustrations: 16
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: First edition.
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth

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Subject Headings

  • Chattanooga (Tenn.) -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Chattanooga (Tenn.) -- History -- 19th century.
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