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This chapter traces the expansion of Baltimore’s sex trade and the rise of brothel prostitution over the course of the antebellum period. Although prostitution is often called “the world’s oldest profession,” it resembled a “profession” in urban America only after the 1820s, when rapid changes to the structures of labor and increased mobility created both a supply and a demand for sexual labor beyond the structures of maritime neighborhoods. The sex trade’s geographies shifted toward new centers of business and trade, and labor patterns in the trade changed. In keeping with a broader trend of business specialization and capitalist labor practices, Baltimore’s sex trade came increasingly to revolve around brothels where madams dictated aspects of sex workers’ behavior, extracted surplus value from their labor, and commercialized both sex and intimacy to a much greater degree than before. Women involved in the sex trade adapted their ventures to cater to dominant cultural preferences, from the domestication of courting to the embrace of racially exclusionary labor practices.
This chapter traces how the rise of brothel prostitution embedded commercial sex into the world of urban real estate and urban commercial networks. As a portion of the sex trade moved out of the streets and taverns and into houses, the sex trade became a source of profit for urban real estate investors and speculators. Meanwhile, the conspicuous consumption required to sustain a high-end brothel and the costs associated with maintaining one ensured that money generated by sex work circulated throughout the city and extended its reach far beyond those directly involved in prostitution. Taking up calls by historians to examine the ways that women’s labor contributed to the capitalist economy, this chapter explores the networks of real estate investors, entrepreneurs, laborers, medicine dealers, and proprietors of entertainment establishments who profited from women’s entrepreneurship and sexual labor. Although women were increasingly defined in nineteenth-century America as nonproducing dependents, their labor as sex workers and the commercialized fantasies they created around prostitution contributed in important ways to the urban economy.
Chapter 6 documents inland cultivation strategies during the final two decades of the antebellum period. Using as a model the Biggin Basin, located at the headwaters of the Cooper River, this chapter discusses how a community of former inland rice planters revitalized the practice to supplement cotton production as a way to counter the fluctuating market. Revival of inland rice was a consequence of agricultural reform that took hold in select planter circles in the mid-nineteenth century. Lowcountry planters were part of this larger population having received the message through agricultural journals and societies, and scientific books. Promoters of agricultural reform called for a modern and scientific practice of agriculture to maintain soil fertility and crop output, halt westward migration, and curb the loss of status and political power by the South Atlantic states.
This essay explores the vast range of treatments that black corpses received in the antebellum South, arguing that death and the dead bodies of the enslaved were important sites for expressing and challenging social claims in others. The treatment of the dead in the slave South reflected, in magnified terms, how planters and bondspeople thought of themselves and each other. Death and the dead body are important sites for historians' analyses, precisely because Southerners used them to stake claims of kinship and respectability. The bodies of enslaved people were valuable to slaveholders in two distinct ways: as sources of labor and as sources of ideological power. For masters seeking to control their slaves through violence and terror, the black corpse was disposable. The dead body of a slave could no longer produce material wealth, but the ideological profit was still there for the stealing.
Yellow fever was a regular visitor to the Old South, and Charleston had the displeasure of bearing the brunt of yellow fever mortalities, rivaled only by New Orleans and Savannah in death rates. European immigrants who settled in Charleston died at higher rates than native white Southerners for a variety of reasons, mostly related to lack of resistance to the disease but also indicative of social class and gender. Yellow fever also threatened people legally defined as property. Charleston was an urban slave society, and when slaves died of yellow fever, the monetary losses inspired slaveholding elite to support public health measures. Relations between Irish and African Americans were generally more hostile than those between Germans and black Southerners. Many immigrants had not been socialized to racism, and they were slow to react to the norms of southern society, especially as racial lines hardened in the late antebellum era.
Children's poetry is barely studied and barely taught, except as an instrumental teaching tool in colleges of education. American children's poetry, like American literature more generally, took on distinctive characteristics after about 1820, as more work was written and published by Americans. The practice of addressing adults and children together in volumes of poetry spanned the whole nineteenth century, although it was slightly more common during the antebellum period. Most scholarly work on the child like qualities of women authors stresses that, although the voice seems innocent, it is really an adult voice making an adult point. The few poems that Emily Dickinson published in her lifetime appeared mostly in intergenerational venues, like the Springfield Republican, that routinely published poems for a child/adult mixed readership. After the Civil War, children's poetry became relatively less concerned with useful lessons and more concerned with sales.
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