HST296A: Reading Notes, 6-April-2005

Tolbert, Lisa. Constructing Townscapes: Space and Society in Antebellum Tennessee. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999)

Part II: Walking the Townscape

"The subtle impact of gender and race on spatial development can be understood not as abstractions but as the lived experience of actual individuals." (p. 119) What impact did individuals have on the social construction of space within the townscape/how did space constrain their experience?

population: women, slave and free: 50% (and 50% of that under 20)
1850s renovation: improve streets for ladies traffic, gardens tended by women to improve town,

men: 1/2 under 20, many living outside family home: boarding, clerks living near store, raoming in evenings

80% of households: slave owners, 40% of population, slaves

Slaves lived dispersed with white families.

4) Ladies and Other Women

A Small-Town Story: Kate Carney's Walk

Kate, 17, prominent family, father store owner and plantation owner, mother from town founders family, brick house, lawns, gardens, orchards 20 acres. Attended Soule Female College, painting, guitar, diary keeping, and walking!

Mid-century focus on gender "Thus when Middle Tennessee reorganized town space at midcentury to create new functional zones--wholesale, retail, and residential districts--their architectural choices also revealed gender as a powerful organizing principle, equally as influential as function, in the design of town space." (p. 127)

biggest shopping season: fall

Female colleges: imrpove the town's aesthetic AND economic atmosphere

Slave women: household work, their older daughters, tending children.
Owners; run household, visit, shop, sew

Space and Society

industrial textile production removes a major industry from town women who no longer make textiles to sell/trade. Farm women still spin/weave.

"No longer a question of economic survival, town building at midcentury was a quest for prosperity, and the reputation of the entire community depended upon the refined accomplishments of its ladies." (p. 137) That is, the culture indicators of a town rested on its ladies, and a town was judged on that culture as much as on the beauty of its townscape or vialbility of its economic enterprises. In their gardens and in their visiting they provided a visible indication of a town's prosperity.

"In the exchange of plants, woomen affirmed their sense of communal closeness and shared responsibility for the maintainance of their families and the improvement of their communities." (p. 140)

And when one visits one needs clean streets!

The Building: Colleges for Women

Female colleges designed to house the women instead of boarding with families: "This decision was significant in the context of the larger townscape for two reasons: first, it indicated a new ambition to extend cultural influence far beyond small-town borders; and second, it produced highly specialized town regions of gender segregation." (p. 148)

Students were drawn from far beyond town, teachers from the north.

"Female colleges occupied a prominent, highly visinle place in the renovated townscape becasue their male designers defined them as integral to larger economic and cultural town goals." (p. 150) They expected a return on their investment in teh form of a cultured town atmosphere."Thus commerce and domesticity converged in the female college, reconciling inherent tensions between town as market center and town as home." (p.151)

5) Store Clerks and Serenaders

Edmund Cooper; lives at store, cares for it, boards out, joins debate club and military club. Girls may own the day streets, but boys own the night streets.

"Architectural choices in the renovated townscape incorporated spatial strategies to harness the energies and refine the behavior of organized town youths. Ultimately, however, town residents sought to keep rowdy young men at a safe distance from the increasingly private domestic spaces they created."

Mechanics (inc. builders) use oratory to aspire to elite: that is, colleges, societies were elite practices emulatted by middling class.

Boys attractive as boarders because more independant - don;t have to give them good space.

Running a business: get a partner both for coverage and for $$

"Idle young men provided visitors with the clearest evidence of town vice." (p. 170) (But wouldn;t they be used to it??

serenaders - a masculine ritual (p. 172-173) noisy, but then domesticated (does she really make the case)

1850s: public areas claimed by Temperance

men's colleges - no dorms,

6) Small-Town Slaves

A Small Town Story: Henry's Weekend

Henry's evidence: testimony at a murder trial - rather a different source than letters and a diary! He has multiple jobs in various areas of town, as well as slave acquaintences with whom he interacts during the day.. He "exerted a certain amount of flexibility and control over his work routine." (p. 191) and often works independantly, employed by those not his owner.

Harriet Jacobs, a more famous small-town slave, rejoiced in the intimacy to be had in a small town. (cf. Philadelphia black community at turn of century and dangers of leaving when one could be sold/resold if caught) flip-side: the danger or limitations of everyone knowing everyone's business

"Interactions between white and black were rarely simple anywhere in the antebellum South. It was the spatial and social proximity of mixed-race households that made small-town servitude distinctive." (p. 193)

"In small towns [in contrast to cities] slaves did not have the opportunity to create physically segregated black communities. Nevertheless, antebellum town space was racially configured, its communities separated by powerful social customs." (p. 194)

The Demographic Context: The Distinctive Racial Configuration of Town Space

Pop: 40-50% of population. (only about 1% free) (larger than in cities, where about 25% tops) No "slaves are here" designations on map: population dispersal more subtle: ex: town kitchens combined residential and work space by serving as slave dwellings." (p. 195)

Town patriarchy-based - single family homes and business known by male owner's name

Slave responsibilities:
men - stable hands, drivers, hired out as skilled or unskilled artisans, laborers
women - cooks, laundresses, servants
boys - dining-room servants, messengers
girls - childcare, ran errands

Space and Society:
From Public Wells to Parlors: Communal Intimacy in the Integrated Townscape

public wells more the norm than private: slaves meet at well to haul water in early morning: "news depot"
1850s: move to more personal home wells
well-dressed drivers part of family's prestige when visiting

Slaves for Hire: Work and Family in the Integrated Townscape

segmentation of white households (more rooms that are used for specific purpose) also chance to emphsize racial dominance: no rooms specifically for slaves. Detached kitchens closest thing to slave quarters

records may not show ownership, but people still had slaves - they were just rented, often as a family, often applying themselves for interviews instead of simply being sent by owner. Earn extra cash, make connections, get known to prevent abuse by master (Harriett Jacobs)

prayer meetings - chance to socialize with other slaves

The murder:
1831 Garrison publishes Liberator, and Nat Turner uprising, anti-abolitionist feeling rises in 30s, repressive legislation follows. curfews, etc. paranoia increases
1850s: "mutual aversion"

The Buildings: African Churches in the Renovated Townscape

"...in general, slaves were prevented from creating the kind of social organizations that defined white experience." (p. 221) No homes, no colleges, no boys clubs
Exception: churches (which also were seen by white eyes as sources of plotting and insurrection)

Epilogue: Remnants of the Antebellum Townscape

"From their modest creation as centers of government to their dramatic growth into railroad towns during the1850s, the history of architectural change in county seats of Middle Tennessee shows that small towns played a dynamic and influential role in shaping the culture of the region."
Post-Civil War - race becomes visible in town records as living space, and as segregation used in businesses. But segregation means blacks acquire space, a threat to Reconstructionists who retaliate with much violence.

Overall: great book, but one of the problems with deriving a narrative from limited evidence is that some of the stretches don't necessarily work. example: (young men)

I wonder how IT will change this: much more evidence should be available--will such stretches be long tolerated, more or less challange-able

Her early argument about towns being distinct from urban or rural is best supported by the information on treatment of slaves; no segregated communities like urban or big plantation, not physically separated like rural (p. 201)

"Architectural choices in the renovated townscape incorporated spatial strategies to harness the energies and refine the behavior of organized town youths. Ultimately, however, town residents sought to keep rowdy young men at a safe distance from the increasingly private domestic spaces they created." How does she prove this??