Seeking Indigo

 Seeking Indigo for Rainbow Summer School for Mrs. Matlock’s class, led me to return to Charleston, SC~ which we visited several weekends ago.

From South Carolina Indigo Plantations The Forgotten Cash Crop of History:

Indigo, or indigotin, is a dyestuff originally extracted from the varieties of the indigo and woad plants. Indigo was known throughout the ancient world for its ability to color fabrics a deep blue. The dye was highly prized by English textile plants in the 18th Century.

Although rice was actually the first lucrative cash crop of South Carolina, it took approximately one hundred years to perfect the rice-growing techniques used in the New World. By the middle of the 18th Century, indigo became a strong rival of rice in South Carolina. Its culture is said to have begun through the experiments of a planter’s daughter, a young girl named Eliza Lucas, who set out the plants on her father’s farm on Wappoo Creek.

 Eliza Lucas is credited with introducing indigo to South Carolina. In her father’s absence, sixteen-year-old Eliza became responsible for managing the Wappoo Creek farm, plus supervising overseers at two other Lucas plantations, one inland producing tar and timber, and a 3,000 acre rice plantation on the Waccamaw River. With seeds she received from her father from the West Indies, she eventually perfected a method of making blocks of indigo cakes to be turned into dye. The dye, for which England had relied upon from French sources, was in great demand, used in military uniforms and in dress coats of the day. She provided a new, lucrative business for South Carolina planters. Historian Edward McCrady wrote: “Indigo proved more really beneficial to Carolina than the mines of Mexico or Peru were to Spain . . . . The source of this great wealth . . . was a result of an experiment by a mere girl.”

 The indigo production in the American colonies was important and lucrative, due to the monopoly it held on the English market. By the mid 1750’s, indigo was a booming industry. Between 1756 and 1757, indigo exports from South Carolina rose from 232,100 to 894,500 pounds annually. Indigo production, like cotton and rice, were also labor-intensive, setting the stage for a larger slave demand along the South Carolina coast.

As the second half of the 18th Century wore on, South Carolina indigo was increasingly having to compete on the world open market. Given the inferior quality of South Carolina indigo to other varieties in India indigo in the mid-1790s, indigo production in South Carolina was almost completely phased out by the turn of the 19th Century.

I’m Blue since I missed last week’s rainbow assignment, so I thought I’d combine Blue & Indigo for another Charleston tour. . .

In the early 1900s, Dorothy Pocher Legge purchased a section of houses on East Bay Street in Charleston and painted them based on a Colonial Caribbean color scheme. Known as Rainbow Row, this line of 18th century commercial buildings was built to service the bustling wharfs and docks of the port of Charleston.

Rumor has it too, that the houses were painted in the various pastel colors so that intoxicated sailors coming in from the port could remember which houses were their own :-)

Number 95 was once owned by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signer of the U.S. Constitution~ who just so happens to be one of three sons and a daughter, born to Eliza Lucas and her husband, lawyer, Charles Pinckney.

Charleston’s most intriguing iron oddity is the gib plate, a washer and nut assembly attached to building façades typically in the form of discs 12-15 inches in diameter, which anchored internal stabilizer rods. Used to bolster masonry walls, gib plates became such a common sight after the 1886 earthquake that they were soon referred to as “earthquake bolts”.  Stylish homes along East Bay were distinguished by plates made into crosses, stars, and lions’ heads, and recent restorations South of Broad have included unattached “faux” plates to surfaces where originals were removed.

Our room for the weekend~ complete with our own personal earthquake rod. . .only in Charleston are cracked walls considered part of the charm and ambiance, therefore accounting for the premium room rate :-)

 I’m joining  A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday &

 Jenny Matlock’s Aphabe-Thursday for Rainbow Fun~ Indigo

  22 comments for “Seeking Indigo

  1. August 31, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    This is a stunning post…the photographs are glorious and I loved reading about indigo….lots of info I’ve either forgotten or never knew!!!

  2. August 31, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Mary, so happy to see more of your Charleston photos! I’m working on my Indigo post tonight. You are way ahead of me. Imagine that! LOL
    Worried about all of you on the east coast with Earl jarring his way up the coast. Thinking about you! ~ Sarah

  3. August 31, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Delightful post.

  4. August 31, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I’m so drawn to the shots of the street with absolutely no other human being in sight that day… such phenomenal details on & in these buildings, and the COLORS. Gorgeous. A

  5. September 1, 2010 at 1:02 am

    They must have cleared the streets for you! Awesome, stunning photos of Charleston…just beautiful!! I’m worried about you all on the coast as well. Be safe!!

  6. September 1, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Stroll down the streets around 7am if you want to get pics without the throngs of tourists :-) I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Outer Banks and Charleston/Coastal SC with Earl heading their way…

  7. September 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    These are such stunning photographs, I had to check out your profile to see if you are a professional photographer! Did you take these photographs? They look like they belong in a travel brochure or as if they could be sold as art! Thanks for sharing them!

  8. September 1, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I absolutely love Charleston! It is such a gorgeous city full of history and charm. The wrought iron benches outside of the Indigo Inn are awesome. Fabulous photos!

    Thank for sharing!

    ~ Tracy

  9. signed .............bkm
    September 1, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Beautiful and a colour with so much history – fab pictures and I believe it is becoming quickly one of my favourites – this Indigo….blessings..bkm

  10. jo
    September 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    geez, the photos are just stunning … it looks like such a beautiful place … thanks for sharing these wonderful photos!

  11. September 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Mary, I’m back for another peek at your beautiful photos of Charleston! ~ Sarah

  12. Kat
    September 1, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    What a gorgeous tour! I’ve only been to Charleston once, when I was very young. I so want to return, the architecture is just stunning. That coral house with the palms in front – just perfection! Thanks for the interesting tidbits of history too. I really enjoyed this post!

  13. September 1, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    I love these photos! They are just amazing. I am simply blown away by this post. It is so perfect and I have learned more history today. Thank you for sharing. Anne

  14. September 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    lovely shots.
    they stand out elegantly.

  15. September 2, 2010 at 7:03 am

    These are steps you have taken I would not mind retracing. You have posted some lovely photos; I especially appreciate all the iron work images. Nice to get a slice of the indigo history in SC.

  16. September 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Little did I know that indigo had a story all its own!

    And the photos were delightful. I feel like I just took the very best kind of historical tour.


  17. JDaniel4's Mom
    September 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I loved your tour of Charleston and information on indigo. I live in South Carolina and didn’t know it.

  18. September 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I really like your style of photography. The lines and angles and perspective appeal to the mathematical me…

  19. September 2, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Stunning photography and a lesson as well. I so enjoy my visits to Charleston and really appreciate the depth and breadth of your post.

  20. September 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Mary, I loved that you combined blue and indigo. The fact that Eliza features largely in both in SC history is such a great segue from one color to the other. Again, I can’t get over your Charleston photos. In New England, cracked bricks and other flaws are also considered “premier” and force prices up. We are a strange nation of fools.

  21. September 5, 2010 at 5:50 am

    What a fascinating and beautiful link to Rainbow Summer School’s color Indigo. I knew very few of these facts.

    The pictures you shared were so lovely.

    You are making my wanderlust flare up!

    And it wants me to wander down that way.

    Absolutely lovely.

    Thanks for linking.


  22. Paige Canaday Crone
    August 23, 2014 at 8:47 am

    I love this site, so glad I discovered it! Inspiring.

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