It’s been a challenge finding time to post during the first week of classes, and I’m sure this post’s lateness will not detract from its less-than-greatness.
I’m part of the pecha kucha roundtable on “the Spatial Turn” at least in
part because I attended an Arc-GIS course with Ryan Cordell at DHSI in
2011. My goal in that course was to learn enough about Arc-GIS to try
out using it to work with documents associated with a set of European
itineraries from 1862. Previously, I had worked with a technical liaison
from our campus’s Library and Information Services to map some
information associated with a woman’s journal from the 1870s. I
presented preliminary results from that work at Harvard a few years ago,
and I’ll be talking about that project again as part of a series on
Digital Humanities for the undergraduate honors program at the University of Kansas in spring 2013.
My interest in mapping the sources of raw cotton in the U.S. South and
their destinations for processing in New England in 1840 and 1850 arises
from efforts to further contextualize one of those itineraries. My
presentation at NEASA will focus on work in progress as I explore
effects of the U.S. Civil War on the cotton industry in New England for a
paper I will present at a conference sponsored by the Massachusetts
Historical Society in spring 2013.
One of the account books among the primary sources we are researching in
the Wheaton College Digital History Project documents the operation of a
mill that produced cotton batting in Norton, Massachusetts, in the late
1840s. This account book documents the geographical sources of the raw
cotton used in the mill, including Apalachicola, Florida, as well as New
Orleans. It also refers to the broker from whom the raw cotton was
purchased, William J. King of Providence, Rhode Island, who traded on
the New York exchange.
The cotton industry shifted in Norton in the 1840s as the wealth of the
Wheaton family was transferred from one generation to the next. I am
interested in exploring ways in which this microhistorical set of events
at the level of family and town might open up questions at the state
and national level during a significant period in the economic and
political development of the nation.
At the most basic level, mapping of the cotton production has shown
correlations with the expansion of slavery for the decades preceding the
U.S. Civil War. And last year, Frederick Law Olmstead’s 1861 map of
“The Cotton Kingdom” was featured in historian Susan Schulten’s
contribution to the “Disunion” blog in the New York Times. Might there
be scholarly benefit in examining geospatial information about the
sources and destinations of raw and processed cotton at a more granular