Smithsonian Magazine: The Blue That Enchanted the World
Indigo is growing again in South Carolina, revived by artisans and farmers with a modern take on a forgotten historyWith support from the Pulitzer Center
Text was written by Latria Graham
This crumbling vat, with squares aligned back to back, was built to process the plant when the demand for indigo dye was at its height. For 50 years, starting in the late 1740s, indigo was a major South Carolina cash crop, second only to rice. At one time, the extracted pigment, dried and shaped into circular cakes, was so prized that it was sometimes called blue gold, and used as currency—even as barter for slaves. After the Revolutionary War, indigo processing fell into obscurity, relegated to the fringes of the agricultural conversation (if it was ever mentioned at all) as a historical oddity.
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The Blue That Enchanted the World
Indigo is growing again in South Carolina, revived by artisans and farmers with a modern take on a forgotten history