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History of the United States
Colonial America
South Carolina
Farm Crops

Whats the major cash crop of South Carolina?

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March 15, 2016 5:33AM

Previous answer said: Indigo

Rice, too.

Improved answer from Scarlet Ribbons:

Indigo had a very brief lifespan as a cash crop in South Carolina. It was introduced to the colony in 1744 and was done and dusted by 1798. Its demise was due to three things - the 1793 invention of the cotton gin that made cotton crops the better investment for lowcountry planters; the latter 18th-century influx of a far superior quality of indigo from India to the world market; and the loss of protective British tariffs and bounties, due to the American Revolution, which lost South Carolina its reliable market for indigo in the dye houses of Great Britain's textile mills and forced the state into an open market competition that it quickly lost. Indigo was no longer a risk-free and valuable crop to produce in and export from the nascent United States after its independence from Great Britain. It was only a moneymaker for South Carolina in its Colonial era heyday, so it's not really correct to call it a major cash crop when it was more of a flash in the pan.

Rice, however, was introduced to the colony in 1685, and its production didn't decline until after the Civil War, so that could be called a major cash crop. It enjoyed a huge expansion after the American Revolution as one of the replacement crops for indigo and brought planters high income from its sale.

Cotton was called 'King Cotton' for a reason - the invention of the cotton gin made it an extremely profitable crop for South Carolina. The plantation economy was of course ruined by the Civil War, but cotton was still a major crop in South Carolina into the second half of the 20th century, going under only when its post-Civil War textile factories began to shut down to be moved 'offshore' in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tobacco use steadily rose in the 1700s, initially through the popularity of taking snuff in Europe. That was also a major cash crop for both North and South Carolina. It wasn't until smoking was declared anathema less than 20 years ago that tobacco as a big moneymaker began to go into decline. Tobacco therefore could be called the longest-lasting and most lucrative of all of South Carolina's major cash crops.