Scott Nelson is the GAA Professor of History at the University of Georgia and the author of Iron Confederacies (1999); Steel Drivin' Man (2006), which won the OAH Merle Curti Prize; and A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters (2012). A children's book entitled Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry (2007) is based on his research. He is a coauthor of A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War (2007) and is currently working on a history of the international wheat trade, the Panic of 1873, and the Russian Revolution.
This lecture is about the emergence of the American branded foods industry behind the lines in the Union. Armour, Swift, Van Camp, Pillsbury and Borden all created the small, tinned can (sealed with lead) with food inside. Union soldiers consumed, sometimes bought from sutlers, sometimes from the quartermasters' corps. I show how the "manufactured food" was possible by the consolidation of railroads between Chicago and New York, and how they emerged after the war as the nation's biggest industries.