A NEW SOUTH: ECONOMIC PROGRESS AND SOCIAL TRADITION
THE NEWNESS OF THE NEW SOUTH
The Democratic Party dominated southern politics after 1877, significantly changing the
South’s political system. The result was the emergence by 1900 of the
period of white Democratic Party rule that lasted into the 1950s.
B. An Industrial and Urban South
Steel mills and textiles
By 1889, Birmingham had surpassed the older southern iron center of Chattanooga,
Tennessee, and was preparing to challenge Pittsburgh, the nation’s preeminent
The center of the industry was in the Carolina Piedmont, a region with good railroads,
plentiful labor, and cheap energy. By 1900, the South had surpassed New England to
become the nation’s foremost textile-manufacturing center.
Tobacco and Coca-Cola
Virginia was the dominant producer, and its main product was tobacco. The discovery of
bright-leaf tobacco, a strain suitable for smoking in the form of cigarettes, changed
Americans’ tobacco habits.
In 1884, James B. Duke installed the first cigarette-making machine in his Durham, North
Carolina, plant. By 1900, Duke’s American Tobacco Company controlled 80 percent if
all tobacco manufacturing in the United States.
A soft drink developed by an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John Pemberton, eventually became
the most renowned southern product worldwide. He called his concoction Coca-Cola. He
sold the rights to it to Asa Candler in 1889.
Railroads and growth
In 1886 the southern railroads agreed to conform to a national standard for track width,
firmly linking the region into a national transportation network and ensuring quick and
direct access for southern products to the booming markets of the Northeast.
The railroad increased the prominence of interior cities at the expense of older coastal
cities. Antebellum ports such as New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah declined as
commerce took to the rails. Cities such as Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville, and Charlotte,
astride great railroad truck lines, emerged to lead southern urban growth.
C. The Limits of Industrial and Urban Growth
Rapid as it was, urban and industrial growth in the South barely kept pace with that in the
A weak agricultural economy and a high rural birthrate depressed wages in the South.
Effects of low wages
Poorly paid workers did not buy much, keeping consumer demand low and limiting the
market for southern manufactured goods.