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Academic & Professional Books  Botany  Economic Botany & Ethnobotany

Flax Americana A History of the Fibre and Oil that Covered a Continent

By: Joshua MacFadyen(Author)
350 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, b/w maps
Flax Americana
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  • Flax Americana ISBN: 9780773553477 Paperback Jun 2018 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
  • Flax Americana ISBN: 9780773553460 Hardback no dustjacket Oct 2018 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Selected version: £90.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Farmers feed cities, but starting in the nineteenth century they painted them too. Flax from Canada and the northern United States produced fibre for textiles and linseed oil for paint – critical commodities in a century when wars were fought over fibre and when increased urbanization demanded expanded paint markets. Flax Americana re-examines the changing relationships between farmers, urban consumers, and the land through a narrative of Canada's first and most important industrial crop.

Initially a specialty crop grown by Mennonites and other communities on contracts for small-town mill complexes, flax became big business in the late nineteenth century as multinational linseed oil companies quickly displaced rural mills. Flax cultivation spread across the northern plains and prairies, particularly along the edges of dryland settlement, and then into similar ecosystems in South America's Pampas. Joshua MacFadyen's detailed examination of archival records reveals the complexity of a global commodity and its impact on the eastern Great Lakes and northern Great Plains. He demonstrates how international networks of scientists, businesses, and regulators attempted to predict and control the crop's frontier geography, how evolving consumer concerns about product quality and safety shaped the market and its regulations, and how the nature of each region encouraged some forms of business and limited others.

The northern flax industry emerged because of border-crossing communities. By following the plant across countries and over time Flax Americana sheds new light on the ways that commodities, frontiers, and industrial capitalism shaped the modern world.


Tables and Figures   vii
Acknowledgments   xiii
Abbreviations   xvii

Introduction   3
Chapter One. The Edge of Industrialization: Finding a Northern Fibre   32
Chapter Two. Everyday Exchanges: Growing and Harvesting Flax in Ontario   65
Chapter Three. Flax Fabrications: Selling the Promoter’s Plant   107
Chapter Four. Covering the Earth: North American Flax and Paint to 1878   139
Chapter Five. Saving the Surface: Flax in the Urban Industrial Complex   162
Chapter Six. Cover Crop: Growing Flax for Linseed Oil and Paint   206
Chapter Seven. Saving Flax: Industry, Science, and the Tariff   244
Conclusion   271

Notes   279
Index   339

Customer Reviews


Joshua MacFadyen in an assistant professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

By: Joshua MacFadyen(Author)
350 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, b/w maps
Media reviews

"This is an impressive study of an important shift in the North American agrarian economy between the mid-nineteenth century and the 1920s. Readers will appreciate the care with which Joshua MacFadyen presents the environmental, economic and labour implications of this transnational agricultural sector and explores issues with novel methodologies."
– Colin Coates, Glendon College, York University

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