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International Competitiveness of the Antebellum American Cotton Textile Industry

  • C. Knick Harley (a1)

Abstract

Although the American cotton textile industry was heavily protected, most commentators, following Frank Taussig's lead, have concluded that indigenous technological advance made large branches of the industry internationally competitive by the 1830s. The prices of equivalent fabrics in Britain and America in the late 1840s and 1850s challenge that conclusion. “Domestic” fabrics, in which American mills had supposedly become competitive, cost 20 percent more in America. Critical reexamination of other evidence—cost comparisons from the 1830s and American exports—supports the conclusion that an unprotected American industry could not have competed.

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