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American LucifersThe Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750-1865$
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Jeremy Zallen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653327

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653327.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Dungeons and Dragons and Gaslights

Dungeons and Dragons and Gaslights

Chapter:
(p.94) Chapter Three Dungeons and Dragons and Gaslights
Source:
American Lucifers
Author(s):

Jeremy Zallen

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653327.003.0004

Antebellum ruling classes debated the role and relationships of states, commerce, industry, and slavery surrounding gaslight. For boosters in New Orleans and other Southern cities industrial slavery was the sine qua non of their gaslit modernity. For Northern industrial heralds, it was the automation and absence (or invisibility) of labor that made gaslight systems at once so attractive and so contentious. But it was in the spaces of production that slavery, freedom, and industry were most violently configured. Frontiers of bituminous (gas) coal accumulation multiplied deep underground, and in the eastern seaboard, that meant Richmond mines. There, planters and industrial slaveholders used slave life insurance policies and safety lamps to recruit and compel mixed armies of slaves and wage laborers to work ever-more dangerous coal mines, while all struggled to assert some control over this antebellum empire of light and energy. When it came to light, the arrow of change in the antebellum United States seemed to point towards an increasing role for slavery within processes of industrial capitalism rather than its displacement by free labor regimes. Looking at the production and consumption of gas coals changes how we must think of the making of the “modern” or “liberal” city.

Keywords:   coal gas and capitalism, industrial slavery, gaslight in New Orleans, gaslight in Boston, gaslight in Philadelphia, gaslight in New York City, enslaved and free coal miners in Richmond, coal mine explosions, slave life insurance, modernity

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