In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

362CIVIL WAR HISTORY (6-7). Few important secondary sources are omitted, although one searches in vain for any mention of the work of Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., especially his biography of Henry Varnum Poor (Cambridge, 1956) which focuses on changing railroad management techniques in the nineteenth century. Leonard F. Ralston's unpublished dissertation, "Railroads and the Government of Iowa, 1850-1872" (University of Iowa, 1960) also deserved some attention . In thsir frequent forays into peripheral areas of the narrative (which might have been pruned without loss), the authors fall into occasional pitfalls, especially in the treatment of railroad land disposal policy and private land speculation of the magnates. The concept of "profits" on land dealings is abused by imprecise usage (cf. 125, 151). And railroad propaganda concerning sales to settlers but not speculators is accepted at face value (296). But these shortcomings in no way detract from the significant theoretical contribution of this book to our understanding of railroad entrepreneurship . Hopefully, future scholars will test these hypotheses in case studies of other seaboard commercial centers and in other segments of business enterprise. Robert P. Swierenca Kent State University King Cotton and His Retainers: Financing and Marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800-1925. By Harold D. Woodman. (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1968. Pp. 386. $9.75. ) Although historians have devoted considerable attention to cotton production during the nineteenth century, and its influence—or presumed influence —few have investigated the 'Tang's retainers," the middlemen involved in financing and marketing the crop. Harold Woodman has added substantially to our knowledge of this neglected aspect of the southern economy in a book based on an extensive analysis of primary sources (notably the papers of planters and factors). Woodman set as his purpose to provide more information on three facets of the Southern economy: the marketing of cotton in the antebellum period and the change in method after the Civil War; the effects of the various marketing systems on southern economic life; and, the "political and social changes the marketing systems illustrated and engendered." While all these questions are handled with skill, Woodman's most successful and important contribution, in the reviewer's opinion, is in the first of these tasks—a description and analysis of the marketing systems (in essence, the rise and fall of the cotton factorage system). This is, not surprisingly, the portion of the study based most extensively on work in primary sources. In the antebellum South the cotton factor was the single most important individual in the network that moved cotton from the fields to its ultimate destination in the United States or world markets. He was able to draw capital to the South to finance and move the crop. He was a specialist in cotton and the planter, often far from the market and with insufficient in- ROOK REVIEWS363 formation to direct the sale of his produce, depended substantially on the factor's judgment to get the best price. Additionally, the factor acted as a commission merchant, supplying the planter with necessities and luxuries. Working as adjuncts to the factors were bankers and storekeepers who helped move capital and merchandise into the South and cotton out to the world markets. In his persuasive account of the origins and operations of the factorage system, Woodman has corrected some of the assumptions of Alfred Holt Stone's widely cited article ("The Cotton Factorage System of the Southern States," American Historical Review, XX (Apr., 1915), 557565 .) Principally, Woodman rejects the idea that the factor (and his postwar successor the furnishing merchant) deliberately held the planter in bondage and were the real power behind the throne of King Cotton; they were, instead, "royal retainers, providing important services to the throne." After the Civil War there was a short-lived attempt to revive the factorage system. The attempt failed because improvements in transportation and communication allowed cotton buyers to go directly to the interior of the South and ship cotton to the world markets on "through bills of lading," thus bypassing the factor and making him superfluous. Replacing the factor as the chief retainer of King Cotton (and hastening his departure) was the furnishing merchant. According to Woodman, even before...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 362-363
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.