How lamps lit up the naval stores industry

“In the 1840s North Carolina planters transformed a marginal backwoods industry worked by small, poor, mostly white producers into a booming, slave-based engine of light.

“Not particularity profitable in colonial America, the ‘naval stores’ industry, which consisted mainly of tar, pitch,  turpentine and other products made from the wood of resinous pines — products sold mostly to the British navy — had centered early on in the piney woods of North Carolina, where the sandy and swampy soil supported little agriculture….

“It was the discovery in the 1830s that spirits of turpentine could be mixed with alcohol to produce a bright, cheap illuminant that catapulted naval stores to prominence….”

— From “American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750–1865” by Jeremy Zallen (2019)

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