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Sketches in Charleston, South Carolina

The Illustrated London News, vol. 38, no. 1072, p. 94.

February 2, 1861

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The Charleston Palmetto.

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Selling Sweet Potatoes in Charleston.


South Carolina, like the other States of America, has a well-known distinctive name, that of the "Palmetto State," a designation arising from the prolific growth of this species of fan palm in its marshy districts. The specimen represented in our Engraving grows in the slave market of Charleston, within a stone's throw of the Exchange and Post Office. Thus a good deal of Southern life centres round it. An iron railing preserves it in the midst of the jostling dealers, bidding eagerly for gangs of "likely negroes," whose brawny arms seem just now more likely to be tasked in raising defensive earthworks than in cultivating either cotton plantations or rice fields. Women and children are being sold; but, as shown in our Engraving below, not always to unkind masters. Many hands are purchased, and become a profitable investment to their owners by being allowed to keep shops or to vend wares in the streets, a certain percentage of the profits going to the slaves' masters.

If one may judge of the briskness of the trade by the broad grin on Daphne's face as either Affy or Dinah is seen bargaining for her sweet potatoes or her bananas, assuredly here will be found successful speculation.

But lounging from the street towards the Hotel you are struck with interest of quite another kind. The heart of the town seems to beat always at its highest in the entrance-hall of the hotel, which is always crowded, as indicated in our Engraving on the first page. You notice porters heaving endless baggage coming from opposite points of the compass, whether from New York or Havannah, strewing the centre of the hall. Here you can't help overhearing the latest intelligence from Washington, the last speech of the President, or the chances of future secessions. A gentleman at the bar takes down your name and indicates the number of your bedroom. Once in that abode of rest, you notice defensive apparatus again [sic] the mosquitoes. Looking outside the windows, you notice turkey buzzards perched on the roof-ledge: these are the town scavengers. Your attention is suddenly distracted from these operations by the sound of the gong which announces dinner, and a really sumptuous repast restores you to a sense of Southern luxury and Carolinian hospitality.

Our Engravings are from sketches recently taken by Mr. Eyre Crowe, jun.

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