Transforming the Economy

pouring molten
Men pouring molten iron, probably at Wheland Foundry. Chattanooga History Center. Full Record.

As Tennesseans gained new opportunities in the aftermath of the Civil War they also sought out new ways to nurture their families and serve their communities. Historical accounts vary but all agree that the state faced daunting economic challenges after four years of war and three years of military occupation. Tennesseans responded to these challenges in different, often creative ways.

Scholarly Essay

New Economies, New Communities: 1865-1915 by Carroll Van West

Lesson Plan

TVA Opportunities for African Americans


Many European immigrants and those from rural communities in the British Isles had settled in Tennessee on familiar terrain so they could practice known agricultural methods. English and Scots-Irish settlers grew corn and wheat and practiced the art of distilling grains for liquor. Swiss and German immigrants developed some of Tennessee’s earliest dairies and planted early vineyards of grapes and hops. ...More

Knoxville College Agricultural BuildingLoose floor workers stripping tobacco Agricultural and geological map of Tennessee, showing also topographical features, as well as railroads, county boundaries, county town etc. A preliminary agricultural map of Tennessee based on the distribution of geological formations Photograph of J. B. KillebrewAgricultural Special, operated by the Department of Agriculture from July 1 to Aug. 23, 1912mule dayTennessee Home Food Supply Program Certificate of Recognition, 1941James M. SaffordElephant Tobacco WarehouseTeaching pruning to GI Bill group Sloan wagon Apprenticeship of Sidney McClellan to John Q. A. McClellan Tobacco on the McDaniel farmWheat threshing at the McDaniel Farm Log rolling Completion of the round barn on Hillcrest Farm, Belvidere Ham judging at the Montgomery County Fair Tobacco field at the Tennessee Centennial Simmons Tobacco Factory Tobacco Workers Andy Warren and his family picking peanuts, Cane Creek Picking string beans in Knox Co. garden Mt. Zeno Fair, Nolensville, Tennessee Better Home and Garden Club Dairy Center of the South Tennessee Home Food, Pegram Farm Tobacco barnPetition for apprenticeship of Ely Forbs First Community Fair at Haynes Jr. High School


From the earliest days, Tennessee’s inhabitants drew upon its natural resources, using hand labor to craft tools and necessities. The wealth of timber, stone, and running water made good farm sites. Veins of red iron ore in East Tennessee and brown iron ore on the Western Highland Rim meant early forges and furnaces. ...More


Carbsil pigment minersCarbsil gang, 1932 Henry Fleming at the Carbisil Plant Burkart-Schier Chemical Company Manufacturing Department workersFoundry workers with core partly raised for placing in the flask, United States Pipe & Foundry CompanyIron Foundry Workers, United States Pipe & Foundry CompanyEmployees standing on the ovensBluff FurnaceZinc Company Negro Baseball LeagueAmerican Brake Shoe Factory WorkersAdvertisement for Sam Leftwick's quarry in McMinnville, Tennessee Hop House of the William Gerst Brewing Company Gerst Brewing Company buildingGerst Brewing Co. exhibit at the Tennessee Centennial Gerst Brewing Co. receiptJames M. Safford Bath house at Hoover Mason Phosphate Company Elephant Tobacco Warehouse Ferry and House Letterhead, Hillman Land & Iron CompanyView of Godfrey's Gray Knox QuarryBarn submerged in flood waters Arthur Pitt house Silver Dollar SaloonSpringfield Woolen Mills deliverySpringfield Woolen Mills workersWoolen Mills: Photograph of employees in front of company building Nashville Coffee & Manufacturing Co.Operations at Hoover Mason Phosphate Company. Bemis Omaha Bag Company's Cotton Mill at Bemis, Tenn. Alonzo Pitt Sassafras distillery in Hickory Valley Pitt Saloon Bearden's Mill Speech at Woolen Mills Nelson Distillery Stamp Simmons Tobacco Factory Charles Nelson and the rest of the Green Brier Distillery family, circa 1865 Haselrig dairy milk deliverymenHaselrig Dairy Processing PlantHarriman, TennesseeChattanooga, county seat of Hamilton County, Tennessee 1886 Knoxville, county seat of Knox County, Tennessee 1886



One constant feature of Tennessee’s transportation network over the past 125 years has been the Frisco Bridge in Memphis. When it opened on March 12, 1892, the bridge was one of the longest railroad bridges in the world. ...More

The Mississippi River Scenic HighwayThe Memphis Bridge:North Casting Pier IThe Memphis Bridge: Group portraitThe Memphis Bridge: General view, January 27, 1891The Memphis Bridge: East Portal, May 23, 1894The Memphis Bridge, May 24, 1894Nashville Bridge Co. advertisement Little David Riveter and holder on driving 5/8 hot rivets on bulkhead of coal barge at Nashville Bridge Co., Nashville, Tenn. Erecting Anchorage Span, April 3, 1891Wood's FerryRoad construction crewFirst Through Train from Louisville, KY, to Knoxville, TN Map showing lines owned and operated by the Nashville Railway and Light Co. Waverly Place and Glendale Park streetcar. Map of the Dixie Highway Tennessee Centennial Transportation Building Nashville FloodWooden water pipe Horse ferry is relic of by-gone days Agricultural Special, operated by the Department of Agriculture from July 1 to Aug. 23, 1912 Chimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains

Jim Crow Train, performed by Josh White in 1941. Full item record.


Professional Services

The Freedmen’s Savings Bank and Trust Company was established in 1865 to give newly freed slaves the opportunity to save and gain financial stability. Thirty-three branches were spread across the South, with branches opening in Nashville and Memphis in 1865, followed by Chattanooga (1868) and Columbia (1870). The bank was closed in 1874 due to mismanagement and the financial panic of 1873-74. ...More

Ad for George W. McKissackLetter from Calvin McKissack to Thomas Elsa Jones, President of Fisk UniversityAdolphus HeimanGroup photo in front of Robert Reed Church, Jr.'s office at 392 Beale AvenueOver a million dollar record: The One-Cent Savings Bank of Nashville, Tennessee shows splendid gains through conservative managementSolvent Savings Bank & Trust Company Tri-State BankPeople's Savings Bank and Trust CompanySara Johnson Church, Annette Elaine Church, and, (seated), Mary Church Terrell in mourning following the death of Robert Reed Church, Sr. Boyd Browder self portraitMaud Brooks CottonYoung woman in white hatWoman in bolero jacketGraduation PhotoBook Lovers Club Young Men's Social Club J. P. Newton, Memphis, Tenn., One of the Finest Photographers in the South Church family mausoleumTruss photo boothBelmont Water Tower and Greenhouse In West Tennessee--A victim of a Memphis fireGraf, R.F. & SonsEvery picture tells a story

Government & Military

At the close of the American Civil War, the “Reconstruction” of the rebellious former states included federal troops who stayed in place to enforce federal laws, keep order, protect the citizenry and assist with post-War economic recovery ....More

Cement booster cup & final inspectionVolunteer Army Ammunition Plant wood shop workersTVA or "Lazy Man" QuiltUncle Sam's Helping Hand quiltNorris DamFort Campbell HeadquartersSurveyor in Corn FieldDesigners working in a former tobacco warehouse David Chapman and group of hikersFerry and House Kentucky Dam Letterhead, Hillman Land & Iron Company Teaching pruning to GI Bill group Agriculture Commissioner Buford Ellington at school lunch, March 20, 1953, Martha Vaught Elementary School Barn submerged in flood watersChimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains Mexican workers employed at plant German POWs working on a farmAerial view of Camp Forrest Parker Town, One of Six Small Communities Displaced by Fort Campbell Mrs. Roosevelt addressing group at Cumberland Homesteads. Crossville, Tennessee Austin Peay YMCA building at the Old Hickory Powder PlantCamp Forrest mapNashville Flood