Although ‘cotton was king’ in South Carolina prior to the Civil War, the cotton industry rose and fell in South Carolina in the late 19th and 20th centuries. During the Civil War, customers for South Carolina cotton found new sources. However, after the war landowners insisted that sharecroppers continue to plant cotton. Low prices for the cotton crop were the result of an increase in supply as too many farmers continued to depend on cotton as a cash crop and production of cotton increased in other parts of the world. Cotton also depleted the soil of its nutrients. Farmers planted more and more acreage to get a bigger and bigger yields in order to make up for the low prices, thus increasing supply even more. Textile mills built in South Carolina temporarily increased the demand for cotton (3-5.1). However, in the late
19th century, the boll weevil invaded the cotton fields and hurt the cotton economy. World War I increased demand for cotton cloth for use in soldier’s uniforms and cotton farmers made money. However, once the war ended, so did the demand; supplies remained high and prices fell. Textile mills also experienced hard times in the 1920s. They could not get high prices for their products and workers wanted more money for the long hours that they worked. The development of synthetic fibers replaced cotton for clothing and decreased demand for the crop and for cotton textiles. The Great Depression hurt the cotton farmer and the textile mills. During World War II there was an increased demand for cotton and once again the farmers and the textile mills were working. When the war ended, demand fell again. Farmers turned to other crops such as peaches and tobacco. Foreign competition because of low wages in other parts of the world eventually led to the closing of many textile mills and decreased the demand for cotton. Some cotton continues to be grown in South Carolina today. However, tobacco, pine trees and soybeans are now the state’s most important crops.
Tourism developed in South Carolina as a result of the promotion of the historic city of Charleston and of South Carolina’s beautiful beaches by both entrepreneurs and the state government. Hotels were opened in Charleston and along the coast. The city of Myrtle Beach was built as a tourist attraction. After World War II, the increasing number of automobiles and improved national highways and state roads helped to make South Carolina tourist attractions accessible to people from other states. Air conditioning has also boosted tourism. Today, tourism is a major industry in South Carolina.
War affected the demand for cotton and also promoted the development of other industries. Starting during World War I, ships were built at the Charleston Navy yard and military bases in South Carolina trained many soldiers from all over the United States. [Camp Jackson in Columbia was started as a training base in WWI]. This continued during World War II and the Cold War. The national government built the Savannah River nuclear plant to make the materials used in bombs during the Cold War. This plant provided more jobs. World War II also increased world trade and once the war ended South Carolina governors worked to get more industries and therefore more jobs to come to South Carolina. Industries come to South Carolina because both taxes and wages are low. Most South Carolina workers are not members of labor unions. As industries grew so did South Carolina’s port facilities and this also increased jobs. More jobs stimulated economic growth by increasing the demand for goods and services, such as grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals etc.
As a result of these economic changes people have moved into the state. Whether they are soldiers training at military bases or tourists or retirees from other states or employees of foreign companies that have invested in South Carolina, these people and their ideas have made the state a more diverse community.