The Fall of the Cotton Kings
Savannah marched its way into the Twentieth Century with its head held high. In addition to cotton, Savannah became the leading producer of naval stores, which included pine lumber, railroad ties, rosin, and turpentine. Exports from the Savannah seaport were said to be greater than all other Atlantic seaports’ combined. But, as the 1920’s roared in, so did the boll weevils which had been ravaging their way up through the Cotton Belt.
Georgia’s cotton industry was devastated, losing well over half of their 5.2 million acres in just ten years. As always, though, Savannah persevered, rising again to become a leader in both the paper-pulp and food-processing industries. The 1930’s welcomed the rise of large-scale operations like the Union Bag and Paper Company (now International Paper Company) and the Savannah Sugar Refinery (now Dixie Crystals), still in operation today.
The Military Style
As World War II pressed down on the nation, so did Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, which targeted the Southern states. Military training facilities were springing up at a consistent rate. Savannah answered the call of duty in its own fashion, by building thirty-six Liberty Ships in the Savannah River. These ships helped to transport troops and goods to both the European and Pacific theaters of war.
Near the close of the war, the Georgia Ports Authority had established operations on Savannah’s waterfront, steadily expanding trade with foreign nations. Meanwhile, Hunter Army Airfield was in development alongside the nearby Fort Stewart. These bases would become crucial to the magnitude of U.S. military power available during the Persian Gulf War.
Savannah’s Civil Rights Campaign
By 1950, Savannah’s African-American citizens comprised nearly fifty percent of the entire population, yet there was an unsettling divide between them and their white counterparts. The following decades saw numerous nonviolent protests headed by Mark Gilbert, the “father of the Savannah civil rights campaign” and leader of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His and his followers actions led way to the early-on integration of local law enforcement in Savannah, one of the first agencies to hire African-American officers in the South.
Savannah is one of the few cities in the United States in which citizens can proudly view their history right before their very own eyes. Regardless of the turbulent past, Savannah managed to remain relatively untouched. Little growth took place outside the historic and Victorian districts before the 1920’s, with much of present Savannah developed by the mid-1960’s.
Savannah remains, to this day, a bustling port city ranked among the top five busiest container shipping ports in the United States. The paper industry still prevails, while Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation has risen to be a world leader in the manufacturing of corporate aircraft.
Where shipping had previously succeeded, though, tourism now dominates in Savannah industry. When a city is so in-tune with its history as Savannah is, it isn’t hard to see why. The ever-growing efforts to research and preserve this American treasure has earned it a ranking among both the top ten of American and World City lists, truly fitting titles for the Hostess City of the South.
Experience the history of Savannah, book your stay at the Dresser Palmer House!