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Compiled by and Laurie Kay Sommers and Timothy C. Prizer


American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. 

1937-1942. American Memory: Florida Folklife from the WPA Collection, 1937-1942.  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/flwpabibquery.html  (search turpentine)

This excellent website makes accessible much of the pioneering work in the occupational folklife of turpentiners done by Stetson Kennedy and Zora Neale Hurston during the WPA.  The most extensive work in the collection was gathered during fieldwork in Cross City, Florida.  This includes interviews and music, especially blues, from African American turpentine workers.   Items from this collection are also housed in the Florida State Archives, Tallahassee.


Bordelon, Pamela, ed.

1999       Go Gator and Muddy the Water: Writings by Zora Neale Hurston from the Federal Writers’ Project. New York: W. W. Norton. 

This collection of previously unreleased writings by Zora Neale Hurston highlight some of the famous folklorist’s best work during her years spent collecting for the Federal Writers’ Project.  The book includes articles about numerous forms of folklife in Florida, and turpentine makes up only a small portion of the entire edited volume.  Hurston was fascinated by Florida turpentine camps upon discovering them and made numerous visits there over the years.  The most intriguing part of Hurston’s work with turpentiners is her discovery of dreamlands the workers created to divert their chronic worries and troubles.  Most of these places, much like the “Rock Candy Mountain” well-known in hobo lore, are places in which turpentiners are painless and trouble-free.  The one complete work Hurston ever wrote about turpentine, simply called “Turpentine”, is featured in this collection. 


Bureau of Florida Folklife

1987  “Forest Industries” Florida Folk Festival Program.  Florida Department of State.

This brief explanation of forest industries’ place in Florida folklife is surprisingly thorough considering its length and scope.  Everything is covered here, from the dangers of wildlife and wildfire to the occupational hollers and recreational worm grunting in the woods.  Most of the section focused specifically on turpentining is largely historical.  But in the concluding overview of all the various forest-based professions, folk customs, beliefs, crafts, games and gatherings place turpentining in the larger context of forest industries and their lore.         


Butler, Carroll B.

1998  Treasures of the Longleaf Pines: Naval Stores. Shalimar, FL: Tarkel. 

The book is simultaneously a history of the naval stores industry and a thorough explanation of life in the camp.  Butler covers everything from procedures, tools and gum processing to farm transportation and the marketing of naval stores products.  The pages are replete with photographs and illustrations (by John Christian), which assist tremendously in providing visuals to accompany Butler’s text.  Of the most assistance to the folklorist are Butler’s discussions of coopers’ work songs, camp cemeteries, living quarters and children’s entertainment.  The book is neatly organized so that the researcher can easily neglect the more technical and historical sections if so desired. Butler grew up in Bickley (Ware County) Georgia and experienced woods work as a boy, then went on to a career in aerospace engineering. 


Devine, Jerry

Ca. early 1980s. General History of the Turpentine Industry.  Unpublished manuscript for National Endowment for the Humanities grant, Georgia Agrirama Archives, Tifton, Georgia.

This manuscript provides a good historical overview of nineteenth century naval stores in South Georgia. The 122-page monograph includes three chapters:  General History of the Turpentine Industry, Tools and Processes of Turpentine in 19th Century South Georgia, and Insights into the Economic and Social Realities of Turpentining.  The author is a historian and uses as his sources mostly published works, including newspapers, county histories, government and industry publications, and some correspondence.  Additional sources include a few oral interviews from the Georgia Agrirama Archive.


Gerrell, Pete

1997  The Illustrated History of the Naval Stores (Turpentine) Industry. Crawfordville, FL: Southern Yellow Pine.

 An informal account of the folklore and folklife found in the lives of turpentiners throughout the Southeast, Gerrell’s book is a wonderful source for the folklorist.  As its cover states, the book is complete with hundreds of illustrations, home remedies, recipes, jokes and even a turpentine artifact value guide.  Gerrell’s conversational use of language makes this an enjoyable read.    http://www.syppublishing.com/navalstores.htm 


Georgia Forestry Magazine.

2003. “End of an Era, Georgia Turpentine Industry Fades into History.”  Spring: 4-7. http://www.gfc.state.ga.us/Publications/Educational/Magazines/Spring2003.pdf  

A useful article for background information on Jim Gillis, Jr. of Soperton Naval Stores (Treutlen County), whose company dipped the last bucket of commercial turpentine in Georgia on August 9, 2001. The article includes photos of Gillis’ long-time employee, Major Phillips, doing the work in the woods. Gillis’ family has been involved in turpentining for over a century, and Jim Gillis has been one of the most influential figures in the state in terms of forestry and naval stores.


Georgia Forestry Magazine.

 2003. “Georgia’s Oldest-Registered-Active Forester!  Still Going Strong at 89.” Fall/Winter: 6-9. 
A useful article for background on Harley Langdale, Jr., chairman of The Langdale Company in Valdosta since 1937.  Both the man and the company have been key players in Georgia turpentining.  Beginning in the 1940s The Langdale Company had the largest turpentine stilling facility in the world; it ceased production of naval stores in 1974. 


Hopkins Jr.,  Milton N. 

2001. In One Place, A Natural History of a Georgia Farmer.  St. Simons, GA: 2001. Saltmarsh Press.

This collection of beautifully written personal experience narratives focuses on the writer’s experiences in Ben Hill and Irwin Counties. The short section on turpentining (pp. 114-125) includes memories of turpentiners around Osierfield in the early 1950s.


Hurston, Zora Neale

1990[1935]  Mules and Men. New York: Harper Perennial. 

One of Hurston’s most famous works, this book is a classic in the field of African American folklore.  This book includes folklife forms that Hurston witnessed firsthand while working in her home state of Florida.  The novel focuses on the songs, sermons, jokes, and stories (“lies” as the bearers call them) of early twentieth century African Americans in Florida.  Though the book’s focus is not on turpentine exclusively, Hurston describes various forms of turpentine camp life – jooking, gambling, dancing, courting and drinking – in fascinating detail.  The work includes poems and songs, complete with full musical notation.  


Ike, Albert F. and Melvin, Ernest E., directors. 

   1978  Spirits of the Pines. 29:15 min. Kuona Ltd. Atlanta.

Created largely by Albert F. Ike of the Institute of Community and Area Development and by UGA graduate student Gay Goodman Wright, this documentary provides rare video footage of Georgia turpentining from the Lloyd Powell Camp in Homerville, Clinch County, Georgia, in the 1970s when turpentining was still active.  The film is not of the highest quality, as it was produced on little funding in 1978, but this is of little significance.  The sights (families in their camp shacks, mules pulling wagons, workers gambling in the jook) and the sounds (hollers to the tallyman, cups being tacked, trees being chipped) make this a significant record of Georgia turpentining from the period when many producers were closing down operations.


Kennedy, Stetson.

1953. “Forced Labour in the United States,” WFTU Publications, Ltd. Reprint of article published in World Trade Union /Movement, No. 2, pp. 3-10. 

Article based on Kennedy’s presentation on forced labor to the United Nations Commission on Forced Labor, includes discussion of turpentine camps and company-owned commissaries which keep laborers in permanent debt. This piece grew out of Kennedy’s work on the folklore of turpentine workers during folklore fieldwork in Florida  for the  Federal Writer’s Project unit on folklore and oral history for the WPA during the 1939.


Kennedy, Stetson.

1989 [1942] Palmetto Country. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

This classic work by folklorist Kennedy includes a chapter on turpentining lore (pp. 260-267)  based on his WPA fieldwork in Florida.


Lancaster, John. 

2002. Judge Harley and his Boys, The Langdale Story. Macon: Mercer University Press. 

This work was commissioned as a history of the Langdale family, but given the prominence of turpentining in the early years of the family business, first with John Wesley Langdale based in Council, GA in the late 1800s and then with J.W. Langdale Company in Valdosta, there is useful oral history here on turpentining in South Georgia, much of it based on interviews with family members.


Lange, Dorothea

1937.  Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, “Turpentine, Georgia.” Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/fsaSubjects14.html

Photographer Dorothea Lange’s 40 black and white images of South Georgia turpentine workers, camps, and stilling operations in 1937 are available on the web.


Livingston Jr.,  Mayo

1996. The Story of Decatur County’s Carpet of Green Gold, Turpentining, 1889-1968.  Reprinted from Post-Searchlight (Bainbridge), pp. 1-15.

This history of turpentining in this area includes some useful drawings and historic photos. The author’s father, Mayo Livingston, Sr.  created the Cyrene Turpentine Co. in 1941.  The article includes some description of foodways and recreation in turpentine camps, nicknames, the cycle of work, tools and supplies.


Olmstead, Frederick Law.

1856 Turpentine and Naval Stores, in A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, With Remarks on Their Economy. New York; London: Dix and Edwards; Sampson Low, Son & Co., pp. 338-351. From Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/olmsted/menu.html.

   One of the earliest accounts of turpentine with descriptions of the process of working in the woods, stilling, and also the brief “Slaves and other people in the turpentine forests” section which describes living conditions of workers. 


Outland, Robert B. 

2004 (December). Tapping the Pines, The Naval Stores Industry in the American South.  Louisiana State University Press.

A study by a historian that weaves together business, environmental, labor, and social history of this sizable though little-understood sector of the southern economy. Outland traces the South’s naval stores industry from its colonial origins to the mid-twentieth century. He describes the primitive harvest and production methods that eventually destroyed the very trees the trade relied upon, forcing operators to relocate every few years. He introduces the many different people involved in the industry and explores the reliance on forced labor—slavery before the Civil War and afterwards debt peonage and convict leasing. He demonstrates how the isolated forest environment created harsh working and living conditions, making the life of a turpentine hand and his family exceedingly difficult. (description taken from the LSU Press website: http://www.lsu.edu/lsupress/catalog/Fall2004/books/Outland_Tapping.html  )



Page, Tony.

1998-2002.  Turpentine Still, Georgia Forestry Commission, Retrieved May 4, 2004. http://www.gaforests.com/LowerCoastalPlain/interesting/turpentinestill2.html.

A good brief overview of the process of a fire turpentine still.


Persico Jr., V. Richard.

2002       Memory, Identity and Class Differences in a Community Festival. Unpublished article, Department of Anthropology, Georgia Southern University. 

The late Dr. Richard Persico, professor of Anthropology at Georgia Southern University, wrote this unpublished article about the annual Catface Country Turpentine Festival held at the Carter Turpentine Still in Portal, GA every fall.  Persico helped start the festival in 1982, and since that time, has noticed many social phenomena regarding race and class at the festival.  As would be expected, whites and blacks remember the working of turpentine much differently.  As most of the hard-laboring hands were African Americans bound to the camps by a rigid peonage system, and the bosses (producers and woodsriders) were free whites, the annual festival highlights the differences in memory, class and race among old turpentiners. 


Persico Jr., V. Richard and Roger G. Branch

1990.      “Catface Country: A Case Study in Cultural Conservation.”  In Cultural Heritage Conservation in the American South,  Benita J. Howell, ed.  Southern Anthropological Society Proceedings, No. 23, Mary W. Helms, Series editor. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, pp. 87-95.

Describes the collaboration between old-timers in the turpentine business and the authors to preserve the history and customs of turpentining through development of a community folk festival around turpentining, based at the site of the former Carter Turpentine Still in Portal, Georgia.


Smith, J.A. and Morell, P., playwrights

1935       Turpentine: A Folk Drama of the Florida Pine Woods. Library of Congress Federal Theatre Project Collection at George Mason University. Archived material, Georgia Southern University Special Collections, Statesboro.   

This play is the story of life on an early twentieth century turpentine camp in Florida.  The authors’ futile attempts at recreating life in the camp, complete with indecipherable spellings of workers’ slurred accents, caused former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower to label it one of the worst things he had ever read.  Folklore is present in the play, but the authenticity and legitimacy of it are highly questionable.   


State Library and Archives of Florida.  Florida Memory online classroom. History - Zora Neale Hurston, the WPA, and the Cross City Turpentine Camp. http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/zora_hurston
      A lesson plan linked to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards with important primary documentation, including Hurston’s essay on the Cross City Turpentine Camp from her WPA fieldwork, a biography of Hurston and her role as collector, and a sampling of photos from the state archive’s collection on turpentining.


Thomas Jr., Kenneth H.

1976       “McCranie’s Turpentine Still” University of Georgia Institute of Community and Area Development. Archived material, Georgia Southern University Special Collections, Statesboro.   

The title of Thomas’ article is a bit misleading, in that it appears to be an analysis of McCranie’s Turpentine Still in Willacoochie, GA, one of the most intact of the old fire-burning stills remaining in the southeastern United States now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The article does touch on the McCranie family, their land, their role in the industry, and the work done at the still, but the majority of the article is a history of the naval stores industry itself and an explanation of the technicalities associated with the processing of gum into turpentine.  Two pages are devoted to other stills in Georgia and Florida, and the last “chapter” is nearly twenty pages of photographs taken at stills and in the woods.  The valuable appendix features family history charts, tax records of the McCranie brothers, a conversation with the widow of a turpentiner, and fifty uses of turpentine in 1930, among other items.  See also McCranie Turpentine Still. http://www.441heritagehighway.org/Attractions/natural_links/turp_still.htm 


Thomas, Maurice W. 

1991.      Ace of the Piney Woods. Nashville, TN: Winston-Derek Publishers. 

This out-of-print book is a true account of Ace Greene, who worked his way up the ranks became a large turpentine producer living in Sycamore, GA (Turner County) in the 1950s.  It is written in the style of a novel but based on tape recordings and first-hand accounts provided by Greene.


Tomlinson, W. C. “Dub.” 

   2002. A Lad in the Piney Woods. Alma, Georgia: C & D Music Company.

This memoir by Tomlinson is basically the written version of personal experience narratives he has told over the years about his boyhood in the piney woods of South Georgia and North Florida in the 1930s and 1940s.  Tomlinson includes many anecdotes about running free-range livestock and working trees for turpentine.


Waldorf, Gwendolyn B.

1996 The Turpentine Commissary: Sustenance and Servitude in the Pine Woods.  Tallahassee, FL: Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science. Archived material, Georgia Southern University Special Collections, Statesboro.   

Gwendolyn Waldorf’s text focuses on the sometimes harsh characteristics of woodsriders and bosses, and on the workers’ feelings of enslavement from their indebtedness to the commissary.  Waldorf’s text contrasts to other readings in which workers talk about their love of the work and their generous “bossmen”.   She also discusses foods, calls and hollers, items sold at the commissary, etc. which prove helpful to the folklorist. 


Wimster, C.W.

2002 [1939] Life History of C.W. Wimster, Turpentine Man. American Memory website, The Library of Congress Electronic document, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/mdbquery.html  

Despite the discrepancies regarding the name of the informant, the name of the interviewer and the date the interview took place, this Library of Congress life history interview from the WPA Federal Writers Project  (Florida) makes a valuable addition to the occupational folklife of turpentiners.  Though the article traces one man’s life in turpentine, it also features numerous elements of turpentine folklore widespread in other accounts.  The transcription attempts to transcribe the dialect of the speaker, and this makes for a confusing read much of the time. The informant (a white man) commonly refers to his workers as “turpentine niggers” existing in a “class by themselves.” 


Wright, Gay Goodman

1979       Turpentining: An Ethnohistorical Study of a Southern Industry and Way of Life. M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia. 

Gay Goodman Wright’s master’s thesis for her degree in anthropology at the University of Georgia is one of the most extensive works written on the topic of turpentining.  Wright pays equal attention to the history, techniques, hierarchical structures, struggles and folklife of the turpentine industry.  Her 132-page paper discusses turpentine’s role in Colonial America and in slavery, the turpentine camps of the twentieth century, and the memories of turpentiners forced out of the work by foreign production.  This last chapter, “Turpentining: So Well Remembered,” is movingly written and presents the sentimental melancholy felt in a very real way by many old-timers in the turpentine industry.  Her text is abounding with folkloric references, from broomstick weddings in the camps to the distinctive vernacular shared by turpentiners regardless of subregion in the Southeast.





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