Sunshine Thomas
Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, College Station.
Publication year: 2016

Small farmers in the 1930s South, particularly those who were not land-owners, are commonly perceived as an impoverished group. Economic, agricultural, and social conditions in the late 19th and early 20th century all played a role in creating this poverty, outside perceptions of regional life and residents, as well as the resulting change in demography of rural areas after the 1930s. In this research, the smallholder framework and multiple scales of analysis provide a general health context for the people of the region and focus on active efforts of small farmers to obtain and store food resources. I juxtapose estimated stature of individuals excavated from southern cemeteries, born between 1770 and 1880, with statures in the United States during that same period. Individuals that comprise the assemblage gathered here are examined by sex, race, and through time to better understand potential differences in group experience. At a smaller scale, food storage materials from 8 archaeological farm sites in the Georgia Piedmont are examined for changes in occurrence prior to 1930. Both data sets are discussed and reflect that southern smallholders carried existing food storage strategies into the early 20th century and general regional health, at least into 1900, likely remained stable because of robust smallholder strategies to maximize opportunities at many levels of economy. Regional stature, and likely general health, by the end of the 19th century does not substantially depart from stature earlier in the century nor are stature patterns notably different from national stature. Likewise, the continued presence of food storageware on farms and the addition of glass containers support the notion that even among Georgia’s poorest residents, farm family foodways continued to encourage food management, storage, and likely home gardening well into the 20th century.