Indigo Culture

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INDIGO CULTURE came to South Carolina at the inception of that colony, but it was not until 1744 that Eliza Lucas, married in that same year to Charles Pinckney, demonstrated on her father's plantation near Charleston that indigo production was practical with slave labor. Neighboring planters promptly adopted her idea as a supplement to the cultivation of rice. The industry stabilized first in 1748, when the British government granted a bounty of sixpence a pound on indigo shipped to Great Britain, and then in 1756, when Moses Lindo, an experienced indigo sorter, came to South Carolina. For some thirty years indigo was second only to rice in the colony's agricultural economy. On the eve of the American Revolution, growers annually exported more than a million pounds. In the closing decades of the eighteenth century, however, the production declined rapidly. The causes were the withdrawal of the bounty, the tedium and health dangers of indigo curing, and the development of cotton production. Nonetheless, agriculturalists, mostly in the Orangeburg area, continued to cultivate the dyestuff for local consumption until the end of the Civil War.


Olwell, Robert. Masters, Slaves, and Subjects: The Culture of Power in the South Carolina Low Country, 1740–1790. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Young, Jeffrey Robert. Domesticating Slavery: The Master Class in Georgia and South Carolina, 1670–1837. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Francis B.Simkins/a. e.

See alsoAgriculture ; Bounties, Commercial ; Colonial Commerce ; Enumerated Commodities ; Navigation Acts ; Plantation System of the South ; Slavery ; South, the: Antebellum ; South Carolina .