Southern Appalachia's Nineteenth-Century Bright Tobacco Boom: Industrialization, Urbanization, and the Culture of Tobacco

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Over the past three decades, scholars have delved deeply into the post-Civil War industrialization of Appalachia. Although often they have identified agricultural conditions in the mountains as a major factor shaping the emergence of industry in the region, they have paid less attention to the agricultural history of the area. As a result, much about agricultural choices and rural life in the region remains unexplored, and our understanding remains incomplete. The story of bright tobacco in southern Appalachia serves as a reminder that some Appalachian farmers, rather than merely subsistence-oriented mountain folk, participated in agricultural trends and a network of market connections common to the South and the nation in the late nineteenth century. Tobacco culture bound them to the capital resources, marketing operations, and consumer goods of urban centers, even as the profits reaped from tobacco fueled local, urban-led campaigns for industrial development and resource extraction that accompanied the creation of an Appalachian stereotype mocking rural mountain people.