Friday, May 23, 2014

The Indigo Guy of South Carolina

The fact that the constitution of the colony of Carolina (later North Carolina and South Carolina), which was authored by the philosopher John Locke, included a call for the freedom of worship for “Jews, Heathens and other Dissenters from the purity of Christian religion,” makes it unsurprising that South Carolina has a long and rich Jewish history that predates the entrance of South Carolina into the Union on May 23, 1788. In fact, as early as 1697, four Jews were made citizens of the colony.

As was the case in other Colonial towns, such as New York, NY, Newport, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first Jews of Carolina were Sephardim. Many of them became successful merchants.  In fact, some credit London-born Moses Lindo for making Charleston (then Charle's Town) a center of the indigo trade. The plant, which is the source of a very specific dye, grows well in South Carolina.

While still in London, he noticed the high quality of the Carolina indigo. In 1756, he crossed the ocean, became an indigo planter and built up a significant supply of indigo. In 1762, Lindo was appointed “Surveyor and Inspector General of Indigo, Drugs and Dye.” In this position, he established a quality grading system for indigo and made it a major export of Charleston, South Carolina. A highly respected businessman, Lindo remained in office until he resigned in 1772. He died two years later.

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