RSS Feed

Practical Reading

On Agriculture and Southern Nationalism

“List of Unbound Agric. + Papers,” ca. 1867.
Thomas Affleck Papers, Mss. 3, 4, 1263, 1264
Thomas Affleck, Affleck’s Southern Rural Almanac and Plantation Garden Calendar. Washington, Miss.: Thomas Affleck, 1851.
Available in the LOUISiana Digital Library
AY81 .F3 A23 1851 LLMVC
Thomas Affleck, “Horticulture for the South,” DeBow’s Review 19:4 (February 1856), 717-719.

Affleck List of Unbound Agric. and PapersAffleck List of Unbound Agric. and Papers

Thomas Affleck was born in Dumfries, Scotland, in 1812.  He studied agriculture at the University of Edinburgh before coming to the United States in 1832, where he worked as a clerk, merchant, and in small nurseries in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio.  In 1840, he moved to Cincinnati and became junior editor of the Western Farmer and Gardener; in 1841, he took over as sole editor.  During a tour of Mississippi and Louisiana in 1842, Affleck met and married the widow Anna Dunbar Smith of Washington, Mississippi, near Natchez.  She had inherited Ingleside Plantation and held interests in additional cotton plantations.  Affleck saw the chance to put his ideas about agriculture to work.   However, debts from the estate of Anna’s first husband required the selling of all lands but Ingleside, where the couple resided.  Affleck turned to the nursery business and established Southern Nurseries, one of the earliest commercial nurseries in the South.

Affleck's Southern Rural AlmanacAffleck's Southern Rural Almanac

It is clear from Affleck’s correspondence that he considered his work a science.  He sought to spread his gospel of crop diversification and scientific agriculture through his many writings and publications.  A frequent contributor to and editor of agricultural journals and columns, he is most noted for the Southern Rural Almanac and Plantation and Garden Calendar, which began publication in 1851.  The illustrated almanac detailed planting instructions for the plantation cash crops, the fodder crops, the kitchen garden, and ornamental gardens, and included planting dates for both Natchez and New Orleans.  It enjoyed a wide circulation through 1861. In an 1854 letter to a correspondent in South Carolina, Affleck boasted “The S.R.A. [Southern Rural Almanac] is now wanted by planters & farmers & their wives, all thro’ the South, & is kept & referred to thro’ the year.”

Affleck DeBow's Review page 719Affleck DeBow's Review page 718Affleck DeBow's Review page 717

Affleck kept his finger on the pulse of developments in agriculture across the country with his library of agricultural journals, a list of which is shown above. In addition to editing the agriculture column for the New Orleans Times Picayune, he frequently contributed pieces to several periodicals, including this one from the widely read and influential DeBow’s Review.

Edited by economist and statistician James D.B. DeBow and published in the antebellum era in New Orleans, the Review offered statistics and articles on agriculture, economics, literature, and politics, including works that defended slavery and promoted southern nationalism.   DeBow sought to fill the need he and other advocates of the South saw for southern-produced and southern-oriented publications and literature.  Affleck shared that focus, writing DeBow in 1851, “The fact is, we [the South] must have a monthly journal of agriculture.”

next section


Every Man His Own Doctor

James Ewell, The Planter’s and Mariner’s Medical Companion. Philadelphia: John Bioren, 1807.
LLMVC RC81 .E916 1807 Rosedown

Ewell The Planter's and Mariner’s Medical CompanionEwell, a Savannah doctor, felt that European medical books were of little use to Americans because they did not take into account the American climate. His book was specifically designed for Southerners and provided herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions ranging from fever, rheumatism, pleurisy, and toothache to dysentery, rashes, mosquito bites, whooping cough, and “wind.” It also gives advice on women’s conditions.

This copy of Ewell’s guide was owned by Martha Turnbull of St. Francisville, Louisiana, and contains many handwritten notes about remedies she employed. Well known as a gardener—The Garden Diary of Martha Turnbull, Mistress of Rosedown Plantation was published by the LSU Press in 2012—these annotations reveal that her garden was valued not just for aesthetic enjoyment and food, but also for medicinal purposes. Some of the notes may refer to treatment given to the Turnbulls’ more than 400 slaves.

next section


Popular Science for Ladies

Jane Marcet, Conversations on Chemistry. Hartford: Oliver D. Cooke and Sons, 1824.
LLMVC QD28 .M37 1824 Rosedown

Marcet Conversations on ChemistryAs historian Scott Casper has pointed out, “it is inaccurate to assume that women [in the antebellum period] read predominantly for moral lessons or that women’s reading served primarily to confine them in new, domestic roles.” Indeed, some of the editions of the Latin classics owned by planter Daniel Turnbull of St. Francisville, Louisiana, were used by his daughter Sarah. An inscription in his copy of the works of Vergil, for example, indicates that the fourteen-year-old Sarah used it in 1845. Similarly, many of the math, science, and philosophy books in the Turnbulls’ library belonged to Sarah rather than the male members of her family, and at some point prior to her marriage, she signed her name in (and presumably used) her mother’s copy of Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry, a book of instructive dialogues between a woman and two young girls.

next section

A Land of Many Tongues

Abrégé de la grammaire espagnole. New Orleans: L. Fourcand, 1812.
Pierre Cherbonnier, Alphabet; ou, Methode simple & facile de montrer promptement à lire aux enfans ainsi qu’aux étrangers qui veulent appendre le français. New Orleans: Buisson et Boimare, 1829.
B. Granet, Elements of the Latin Grammar. New Orleans: Gaux and L. Sollée, 1833.
LLMVC PA2087 .G73 1833 LARA

Abrege de la grammaire espagnoleAlphabetElements of the Latin GrammarThe ability to speak more than one language was a useful and, for some, essential skill in Louisiana in the early nineteenth century. Although some French and Spanish Creoles resisted learning English after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Louisianans of all linguistic backgrounds needed to be able to communicate with each other, either for business or personal reasons.

Newspapers from this period frequently contained advertisements for language tutors. Students also would have owned dictionaries and grammars, such as those shown here. The French-Spanish grammar was originally designed for use at the College of Orleans, Louisiana’s first institution of higher learning, which opened in 1811. Cherbonnier’s French grammar could be used by children or adults. It begins with a lesson on the alphabet and pronunciation of letters, contains a section on how to keep account books and write business letters, and ends with samples of French poetry. Early Louisiana libraries were often well stocked with the Greek and Latin classics; the state’s many Catholic schools also created a market for Latin grammars like the one shown here, printed in New Orleans in 1833.

next section


Wartime Education

Louisiana English Grammar. Shreveport: Office of the South-Western, 1865.
LLMVC PE1111 .S545 1865 LARA
The Confederate Speller. Mount Lebanon, La.: W. F. Wells, 1864.
LLMVC PE1145 .W65 1864 LARA

The Confederate Speller

Louisiana English Grammar

Even though Louisiana was partially occupied by Union troops for most of the Civil War, areas of the state that remained in the Confederacy tried to get on with life as best as they could. The war interrupted the flow of books from the North, where all the major publishing houses were, leaving many Louisiana children without textbooks. Despite shortages of paper, Governor Henry W. Allen authorized the printing of the Louisiana English Grammar in Shreveport, the last Confederate capital of Louisiana, in 1865. Edited by Allen’s secretary, Edmund Halsey, a former newspaper publisher, the work was adapted from Roswell C. Smith’s popular New English Grammar. The paper may have been imported from Mexico.

A similar work is The Confederate Speller, published in nearby Mount Lebanon. Commenced by William W. Womack, a professor of English at the short-lived Mt. Lebanon University, the work was based on Noah Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book. Like the Louisiana English Grammar, it is largely free of Confederate themes but was intended as the first in a series of books “by which it is proposed to supplant an unwholesome supply from alien and inimical sources.” Two penciled notes record that it was used by members of the Upton family in Homer and Arcadia, Louisiana, in 1864-65.

next section


Huey P. Long’s Bible

The Precious Promise Holy Bible. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Co., 1915.
Don Devol Papers, Mss. 3653

Huey P. Long's Precious Promise BibleHuey P. Long's Precious Promise Bible

In a part of the country known for its religious fervor, the Bible has often been used for political purposes. In the 1920s and ‘30s, Louisiana’s most famous politician, Governor Huey P. Long, filled his speeches with quotes from scripture to make it seem as if he were a “Bible thumper,” knowing this would increase his appeal to voters, especially in rural areas. Together with his folksy style of speaking, the Bible helped him connect to the people of the state, black as well as white, and became the foundation of his argument for the redistribution of wealth (“Every Man a King”). Almost every inch of the front and rear endpapers of his copy of the Bible is covered with notes and references to verses that he wanted to quote.

As is often the case, practicing what you preach can prove difficult. Although raised a Baptist, Long was not a regular churchgoer as an adult, and in his personal life, he often strayed from the Bible’s teachings. A number of the passages that he quotes refer to gluttony and drunkenness—ironic, since Long once boasted to a friend, “I’ve been under the influence of liquor more nights of my adult life than I’ve been sober, and out of this have come some of the most brilliant ideas of my career.”