The Great Guano Rush: Entrepreneurs and American Overseas Expansion

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How did some of the most savage and desolate islands in the world, scattered across the Pacific and Caribbean, become U.S. territories? The Great Guano Rush describes the fascinating and little-known history of this earliest example of American overseas expansion. "Guano" (bird droppings) was the 19th century's most important fertilizer and in 1856 Congress, believing that American farmers were being gouged on guano sales by foreign monopolists, authorized U.S. citizens to claim and exploit unowned guano-rich ...
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Overview

How did some of the most savage and desolate islands in the world, scattered across the Pacific and Caribbean, become U.S. territories? The Great Guano Rush describes the fascinating and little-known history of this earliest example of American overseas expansion. "Guano" (bird droppings) was the 19th century's most important fertilizer and in 1856 Congress, believing that American farmers were being gouged on guano sales by foreign monopolists, authorized U.S. citizens to claim and exploit unowned guano-rich islands around the world. The legacy of this decision is a strange group of American "appurtenances," ranging from Haiti to the central Pacific and with a highly diverse subsequent history, from the notorious near-slavery on Navassa Island to the contemporary issue of the Johnston Atoll chemical weapon destruction plant. The Great Guano Rush is an important book for its insights on both 19th century America and the history of a key commodity. But it is also important in establishing that, contrary to the American free enterprise myth, the success of this country has always been based on a close cooperation between business and government.

The little-known history of an early government intervention in business. In 1856, Congress, believing that American farmers were being gouged on sales of guano (bird droppings used as fertilizer), authorized citizens to claim unowned guano-rich islands around the world. The legacy of this decision is a collection of American territories from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Maps.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Examines how US hustlers found and exploited sources of guano, then the world's best fertilizer, after Congress authorized such activity in 1856 to bring down the price. The legacy is the string of US island possessions and dependencies ranging from Haiti to the central Pacific. Especially describes the labor conditions, which at most sites resembled slavery. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312123390
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.49 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Maps
1 Supply, Demand, Price, and Politics 1
2 The Entrepreneur and Daniel Webster 17
3 Turtles and Birds: Cases of Mistaken Identities 35
4 Seward's Outhouse 51
5 Pacific Appurtenances, 1856-1865 67
6 Caribbean Appurtenances, 1856-1865 91
7 Shrinking Empire, 1866-1902 115
8 Peddling It: The Aroma of Profit 139
9 Shoveling It: Life and Labor on Guano Islands 159
10 Navassa Island 171
11 Guano Happens 199
App. Guano Island Act(s) 227
App. Revisions 228
App. Places Claimed and/or Acquired under the U.S. Guano Islands Act 230
Notes 237
Bibliography 281
Index 317
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