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

106Southern Cultures Bond of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge. By Charles B. Dew. W. W. Norton and Co., 1994. 429 pp. Cloth, $27.50. Reviewed by Winthrop D. Jordan, who was formerly at the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley, and is now at the University ofMississippi. He L· the author of Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy. Having previously written a fine study of the Tredegar Iron Works, Charles Dew now takes up a topic that is both narrower and broader. Bond ofIron deals with a group of slaves and masters involved in a successful and long-term enterprise in the iron industry in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The story begins early in the nineteenth century, continues through the Civil War, and reverberates through the 1880s. "Industrial slavery" has usually been treated by historians as a peripheral subset of the topic of "slavery" in the United States, chiefly because such a small percentage of slaves and slaveowners were engaged in such enterprises. As a whole, this book supports that traditional view. Yet it also opens up another way of looking at distinctions among different kinds of labor in the slave South. It uncovers vital intenelationships between "agricultural " and "industrial" labor that greatly complicate the rigid distinctions that have usually been made, retrospectively, between two purportedly separate spheres. The author has a marvelous story. He has unearthed from a variety of archives an astonishing collection of documents about these particular iron works and their black and white participants, both owners and owned, over several generations. His tracing out the details reveals an enterprise that was integrated, in economic terms, both vertically and horizontally. He shows how much time and work at this manufacturing operation went into growing food and also into felling trees for the dual purposes of clearing land and producing charcoal. By the eve of the Civil War it was a very large operation, occupying more than 20,000 acres in three counties and using more than one hundred slave laborers. The story begins with William Weaver, who was born in 1781 into a Dunker family in Pennsylvania and became active in various business ventures in and around Germantown . Shortly before the War of 1812, Weaver scented profit in ironmaking ventures in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After initial difficulties with a partner that resulted in years of litigation, Weaver established himself as one of the most prosperous ironmakers in the region. Over the years, he bought several furnaces and forges and had them rebuilt by laborers he both bought and hired. He also purchased a great deal of land, both arable for crops and forests for making charcoal. Eventually he presided over an extensive system that produced a wide variety of iron products, and after many ups and downs, became a wealthy man. Eventually he passed both the management and ownership of these operations on to his younger relatives, especially, because he had no children, to Daniel Brady, his nephew-in-law. He died in 1863. Like so many men bom in the North who had moved to the South, he had become a staunch supporter of the Confederacy. In these long years of initially oscillating failure and eventual success, Weaver worried about the fluctuating market for iron products, his supply of iron, the construction and operation of his furnaces, forges, roads, dams, his labor force, and of course, the weather, including droughts and floods. Legally, his labor force consisted of four sorts of people, apart from age and gender. Initially he bought some slaves and eventually relied on their children growing into the skilled work; but as his enterprise grew, he hired many slaves on an annual basis at Christmas time. He also employed whites and a few free blacks. Reviews107 Weaver found his white laborers the least satisfactory, since they tended to take off without notice. He was as deeply callous about them as he was about the slaves he owned, but with the latter he had the power to give to his niece and also to a friend "breeding" women and their "future increase." Yet he seems not to have separated black families by sale. He...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 106-108
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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.