Self–reliance versus Self-sufficiency: An ongoing series of meditations
None of us are self-sufficient. We all need somebody! Despite the often nostalgic retro-interpretations (our national idealization of Little House on the Prairie comes to mind!) Americans weren’t self-sufficient in the Colonial past, the Revolutionary Era nor the long 19th century. Few people or families, if any, ever possessed all the varied skills or owned all the necessary tools to produce enough cloth, iron tools, crockery, wagons, harness reins, shoes, or staple provisions such as wheat flour.
Yes, the ‘rugged, intrepid pioneer’ family made what they could, but they purchased or traded for what they couldn’t. And as soon as a general store opened in the neighborhood folks rushed to buy industrially manufactured consumer goods; needles, tea kettles, ribbons, jack knives, rum, sugar, cloth by the yard, paper and ink, to name just a few items that could make life easier or more delightful.
In many cases plantation owners bought barrels of ready made rough clothing and shoes sewn in England or New England and sold particularly for slave garments. All were advertised in urban antebellum newspapers. Ladies (both urban and rural) bought the newest fashions advertised for sale in the same sources. [to be continued]