Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


Deerskins formed an important trade in the southern half of British North America. From the last decades of the seventeenth century until the American Revolution, European traders and Indian hunters crossed the Southeast, exchanging European manufactures for American leather. During the same time period, the Indian trade intersected with the rising plantation culture of the southern colonies of South Carolina and Georgia.;Throughout its existence, the traffic in deerskins brought together peoples from Europe, America, and Africa. Although "impermanent" in the centuries-long history of post-contact America, the trade remained a fixture of southeastern life throughout periods of Indian-white hostility and European imperial warfare. Throughout these contests, traders from South Carolina and Georgia served as translators, diplomats, and informants.;Beginning with the establishment of Georgia and the trading town of Augusta in the 1730s, the trade followed the same route until the American Revolution in the 1770s. Enslaved African-American boatmen rowed European imports up the river and deerskin leather down. The town of Augusta stood as a monument to the power, influence, and ideology of the leading trading firms. The horse caravans that linked Augustans to their Indian clients followed a prescribed set of paths that remained open to all travelers and rendered all property personal and changeable. European stores in Indian villages conducted the bulk of the trade and allowed both sides to believe that they alone commanded the direction of cultural contact.;The elaborate process of moving skins and goods required a similarly elaborate code of behavior. The fluid relationships between Indians, Europeans, and Africans provided a remarkable amount of physical and cultural space for these three groups to find opportunities in the southeastern interior. The world they created ran as a powerful countercurrent to the general direction of southeastern history---a course that ran from Indian possession to white settlement to plantation slavery and the eventual rise of the cotton kingdom. Before the last could take hold, however, it had to consciously unmake the geography of the deerskin trade.



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