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Cotton CapitalistsAmerican Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era$
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Michael R. Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479879700

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479879700.001.0001

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The Antebellum Cotton Economy

The Antebellum Cotton Economy

Chapter:
(p.24) 1 The Antebellum Cotton Economy
Source:
Cotton Capitalists
Author(s):

Michael R. Cohen

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479879700.003.0002

The first chapter begins in the decade prior to the Civil War and argues that, while Jews did not play a major role in the antebellum cotton industry, three particular developments in these years set the stage for postbellum mercantile success. First, Jewish merchants, who often began by peddling throughout the countryside, began to open general and dry goods stores in the interior towns of the Gulf South. When general stores became the primary creditors of the region, Jewish merchants were in the right place at the right time and found themselves at the center of global capitalism. Second, many of these antebellum firms accumulated capital, and their proprietors invested wisely to grow their businesses and were poised to become major players in the postbellum economy. But a third antebellum factor that set the stage for postbellum success was the development of family and ethnic networks that linked partners within firms, brought global capital and credit to Southern Jewish firms, and then allowed those firms to offer credit to other Jewish firms throughout the Gulf South. While these networks did not lead to widespread success for Jewish cotton merchants in the antebellum years, they facilitated a postbellum niche economy.

Keywords:   antebellum, cotton, general stores, credit, peddling, networks

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