Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Yankee peddlers were ubiquitous in the countryside and in the imagination of the Old South. Social and economic forces pushed young men off the farms of rural New England and pulled them into an expanding, national market. The shortage of land for a burgeoning population spurred the exodus from the countryside, while the lure of profits from a vocation with low entry costs attracted many young men who preferred seeking the main chance in the commercial marketplace to a state of protracted dependency as a farm hand, a factory operative, or an outwork producer. Hired by firms to peddle clocks, tinware, and other "notions," their experiences in the marketplace transmogrified these deracinated New England farm boys into sharp, itinerant traders. In the course of this transformation, these migrant workers from New England were indelibly marked by the culture in which they were raised, even as they moved away from familiar values to embrace an emerging market creed.;The thousands of young men from New England who peddled in the South between 1800 and 1860 provided rural southern households direct access to consumer goods. They joined native southern petty merchandisers---hucksters, cake bakers, watermen and groggery keepers---in an interracial, face-to-face economy whose actions threatened the fixed ranks and organic hierarchy of slave society. The Yankee peddler gradually became a more threatening figure to southern planters. Antebellum southern sensibilities towards northern society and market institutions evolved from Southerners' real and fictionalized encounters with Yankee peddlers. Virginia planters hated debt, even as they continued to consume goods they could not afford, and rather than fault themselves for high living, they blamed the agents of consumer desire---Yankee peddlers---for conspiring with women and enslaved dependents to undermine their authority and worsen their economic plight. Southern caricatures of the Yankee peddler put a face on the impersonal forces of the national marketplace that intruded into traditional exchange networks. The fictive Yankee peddler's violation of the southern home elucidates the apprehensions antebellum southern society experienced as it was integrated into the national market and edged towards secession.
© The Author
Rainer, Joseph T., "The honorable fraternity of moving merchants: Yankee peddlers in the Old South, 1800--1860" (2000). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1539623976.