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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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Timing Is Everything

Timing Is Everything

Chapter:
(p.82) 3 Timing Is Everything
Source:
Cotton Capitalists
Author(s):

Michael R. Cohen

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479879700.003.0004

Chapter 3 examines the aftermath of the war and the new environment in which merchants operated. It argues that a myriad of structural forces aligned to position interior general store merchants at the forefront of the cotton economy. Of particular importance was the collapse of traditional financing, as interior general store owners became the lifeblood of the Southern economy. But success was not guaranteed, nor was it linear. Rather, three distinct periods shaped mercantile life after the war, and the ebbs and flows of these eras very much dictated both when and how businesses could succeed. Businesses that had saved capital during the war year shad the reserves to draw upon when crop failures hit in 1866 and 1867, but new businesses often did not. The fortunes of the region ticked upward between 1868 and 1873, as crop yields and the economy grew and lien laws passed in response to the downturn greatly benefited merchants. These merchants grew their customer bases by working with freedmen, which made logical business sense. But the Panic of 1873 ushered in a period of uncertainty that lasted until 1879 and was accompanied by violence, political instability, disease outbreaks, and other challenges.

Keywords:   structural forces, crop failures, freedmen, lien laws, Panic of 1873, merchants

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