The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

This book is nicely divided into two parts. The first three chapters
describe the production and marketing of rice along the coasts of South
Carolina and Georgia from 1685 until after the Civil War; the last eight
deal with the rice industry from the 189os to the present. The culture
of rice began in the coastal regions of Louisiana and Texas around
1900 and then moved into Arkansas and after 1914 into California.
The first section of the book is the less valuable part of the study,
most probably because, as the author admits, "this book has been long
in the making" (p. xi). There is for example no mention of the Papers of
Henry Laurens (published since 1968 in eleven volumes), which provide
the most complete set of documents on the marketing of the rice crop
overseas during the eighteenth century. The remainder of the book
has been superbly done.
Rice is the most widely consumed of all foods, yet little of the rice
production of this country has ever been used at home. The story of
rice is therefore largely the story of marketing. After 1966 the United
States became the greatest rice-exporting nation in the world. Ironically
the United States produces rice more cheaply than Japan, but Japan in
1989 still closes her market to American rice.
Why did rice move west? How did the West produce such mammoth
crops? Eastern rice culture was tied to black slave labor and to lands
that would not support heavy agricultural machines. "The thing that
finally ended the rice culture of Carolina and Georgia was not war, or
the politics and corruption of the Reconstruction era, but a new com-
bination of technology and agriculture" (p. 6o). "Pumps, harvesters,
threshers, selective plant breeding, improved roller mills, railroads,
and cheap land brought an end to the old order, and a new beginning"
(p. 62). Rice mills in New Orleans owed more to the wheat and flour
mills of the northwest than to the rice mills of South Carolina and
Georgia. Railroads opened the cheap lands of the unsettled prairies.
Steam dredges dug canals. In 19o9 the Southern Rice Growers' Asso-
ciation was formed to improve marketing. The Agricultural Extension
System organized under the Smith-Lever Act of 1913 taught the farm-
ers how to improve their crops. Ultimately it was the "cooperative man-
agement" (p. 89) provided by Texas A&M and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture that sustained the later achievements. This second story,
now the important one, has never been more succinctly presented.
University of South Carolina GEORGE C. ROGERS, JR.
Texas High Sheriffs. By Thad Sitton. (Austin: Texas Monthly Press,
1988. Pp. xiv+279. Preface, introduction, photographs, notes, bio-
graphical notes. $17-95.)

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed December 27, 2014.