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Fall Line

FALL LINE

FALL LINE, a line running approximately parallel to the Atlantic coast and dividing the eastern Atlantic coastal plain, or tidewater, from the western Appalachian foothill region, or Piedmont. This natural boundary was created by the difference in elevation and geologic structure of the two areas. As streams flow from the slightly higher, erosion-resistant rock of the Piedmont onto the more easily eroded strata of the coastal plain, they create waterfalls or rapids—thus the name "fall line." The line, close to the sea in the North, gradually retreats inland until it is a hundred miles or more from the ocean in southern Virginia and the Carolinas. In Georgia it turns westward into central Alabama.

The falls were the head of navigation for river traffic and also provided water power. This attracted development of towns along the fall line, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Columbia, and Augusta. Roads ran along the inland edge of the plain to connect these cities. The fall line also became associated with sectionalism, especially in the South during the colonial period. The comparatively flat tidewater area, dominated by large plantations and wealthy, influential slave owners, contrasted starkly with the backcountry districts beyond the fall line, characterized by a small farm economy. In

the colonial period, western antagonism toward the tidewater over such issues as taxation, frontier defense, ownership of land, and representation in the legislature occasionally led to mob violence. During the American Revolution some Piedmont farmers even joined the Tory side, in part because of their hostility to the tidewater planters who were opposing England. These sectional differences continued in some states until the Civil War.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davis, Joseph L. Sectionalism in American Politics, 1774–1787. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977.

Rand McNally. Atlas of American History. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1993.

Robert W.Twyman/c. w.

See alsoPiedmont Region ; Tidewater .

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fall line

fall line, boundary between an upland region and a coastal plain across which rivers from the upland region drop to the plain as falls or rapids. A fall line is formed in an area where the rivers have eroded away the soft rocks of a coastal plain more quickly than the older harder rocks of an upland region. Such erosion follows a crooked line along a coast. River vessels usually cannot travel beyond a fall line and their cargoes must be unloaded there. The falls (see waterfall) also supply water power for the development of industry such as textile and grist mills. For these reasons a fall line often marks a string of developed areas, such as the break between the Appalachian rise and the coastal plain of the eastern United States, where a band of commercial and industrial cities quickly developed in the 19th cent., paralleling the line of port cities along the coasts. Typical fall-line cities on the Atlantic coast of the United States are Lowell, Mass.; Pawtucket, R.I.; Troy, N.Y.; Trenton, N.J.; Georgetown, now part of Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; and Augusta, Ga. Among the fall-line cities of the Mississippi valley are Louisville, Ky., and Minneapolis, Minn.

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