Seth Rockman will spoke at the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation Seminar in New York and American Material Culture on Wednesday, October 19, 2011. His talk was entitled “‘Implements Correspondingly Peculiar’: Slavery, Plantation Goods, and the Politics of Design in Antebellum America.”

Nineteenth-century Americans were profoundly aware of the inter-regional trade in plantation provisions and its attendant controversies: Could a Yankee produce a shoe strong enough for a slave but cheap enough for a slaveholder? Did the South risk its independence by dressing its slaves in New England plaids? Was it moral for a Rhode Island textile firm to initiate a credit suit against a bankrupt Alabama customer if the result would be a slave sale?

Professor Rockman’s talk brings together the histories of production and consumption of plantation goods, looking particularly at the vexed relationship of planters and slaves as dual consumers of northern-made provisions. Issues of design appeared frequently in agricultural improvement journals, Congressional speeches on the tariff, and the voluminous correspondence of planters to their suppliers. These discussions vividly connect the simultaneous expansion of manufacturing and slaveholding in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, while situating northern mill-hands and southern field-hands on the same pages of American history.

Seth Rockman is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Brown University, where he has been teaching since 2002. He received his B.A. in History from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Rockman has published extensively, and his most recent book, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), has been the recipient of the Merle Curti Prize of the Organization of American Historians, the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award, and the H.L. Mitchell Prize from the Southern Historical Association. Currently he is working on two book projects; Plantation Goods and the National Economy of Slavery in Antebellum America (University of Chicago Press) and Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development (with Sven Beckert, University of Pennsylvania Press).