Bogs of Death: Slavery, the Brazilian Flour Trade, and the Mystery of the Vanishing Millpond in Antebellum Virginia

    Full details

    Authors & editors

    Rood, Daniel [Author]

    Publisher Journal of American History
    Year of publication 2014 June pp19-43

    Medium Digital
    Note: Copyright restrictions mean the attachment below only contains part of the publication. The full document is available for inspection at the Mills Archive Research and Education Centre.

    People and communities > Slavery
    Cereal processes > Flour milling
    Economics & commerce > Trade, transport and distribution



    Scope & contentIn the decades preceding the secession of the southern states, Brazil became the primary export market for U.S. wheat flour. By the late 1850s, 91 percent of the imported flour that found its way to the tables of residents of Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding coffee estates was made in the United States, and it appears that the millers of Richmond, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, supplied nearly all of it.

    Despite the emergence of midwestern wheat-growing powerhouses such as Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, the flour trade between the U.S. upper South and southeastern Brazil loomed large in U.S. national aggregates: of about 2.6 million barrels of wheat flour exported by the United States annually in the mid-1850s, approximately 400,000 barrels went to South America from Richmond and Baltimore combined.

    This means that more than one in six barrels exported by the United States went from the slave-exploiting zones of the upper South to the slave society of southeastern Brazil. This single export market dominated the balance sheets of Richmond milling firms. For the three-year period of 1858, 1859, and 1860, Richmond sent 87 percent of its flour exports to South America.5

    File attachments