Eliza Lucas, Indigo Queen

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Eliza Pinckney (Lucas)

Birthplace: Antigua and Barbuda
Death: Died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Georges Lucas and Anne Lucas
Wife of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Mother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Signer of the U.S. Constitution; George Lucas Pinckney; Henrietta Lucas Horry and Thomas Pinckney, US Congress

Managed by: Private User
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About Eliza Lucas, Indigo Queen

Eliza Lucas Pinckney was the daughter of Lieut.-Colonel George Lucas of the British Army. About 1738 Eliza migrated with her father from Antigua to South Carolina, where he bought several plantations. He was almost immediately recalled to Antigua.

Eliza Lucas undertook management of the plantations and achieved conspicuous success. She was the first planter to introduce the cultivation and manufacture of indigo into South Carolina (and into continental North America). She also imported silkworms in an effort to establish silk manufacturing in the colony.

The fermentation and processing of the indigo in plastered pits was complex. While Eliza Lucas had only a general idea of the process from what she had observed in the Caribbean, she directed her slaves to experiment to develop productive methods for South Carolina conditions. She likely relied heavily on her African slaves' own knowledge of indigo processing which they had learned in Africa. Imported slaves brought techniques for both indigo and rice cultivation and processing to the American and Caribbean colonies.

Her shipment of six pounds of "Carolina Indigo" to England caused quite a sensation in London. To encourage other colonial planters to grow and produce indigo, the British government immediately offered a "bounty," or bonus of six pence per pound on their indigo exports. As a result, exports soared from 6 pounds in 1744 to 5,000 pounds the following year. By 1755 the Carolina colony alone was exporting around 200,000 pounds of indigo annually; Georgia was just beginning to export indigo, with 4,500 pounds exported that year. Georgia's indigo exportation reached its peak in 1770, with more than 22,000 pounds.

In 1744 Eliza Lucas married Charles Pinckney. She bore sons Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney, and a daughter Harriott Pinckney Horry. Contemporary historians often cited Eliza Pinckney as an example of republican motherhood. In fact she was less enthusiastic about American independence than were her two sons, who both became prominent Federalist politicians.

For her contributions to South Carolina, Eliza Lucas Pinckney was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. In 1753 she presented the Princess of Wales with a dress made of silk from Lucas plantations. Fourteen years after her marriage, Eliza became a widow when Charles Pinckney died in 1758.

She was buried in St. Peter's churchyard in Philadelphia, May 27, 1793. General George Washington, at his own request, was a pallbearer at her funeral.

Eliza Lucas Pinckney


Eliza Lucas Pinckney, probably the first important agriculturalist of the United States, was born in Antigua in the West Indies in 1722. She attended a finishing school in England where French, music and other traditionally feminine subjects were stressed, but Eliza's favorite subject was botany. When she was still quite young, her family moved to a farming area near Charleston, South Carolina, where her mother died soon after. By age sixteen, Eliza was left to take care of her siblings and run three plantations when her father, a British military officer, had to return to the Caribbean.

She realized that the growing textile industry was creating world markets for new dyes, so starting in 1739, she began cultivating and creating improved strains of the indigo plant from which a blue dye can be obtained. In 1745-1746, only about 5,000 pounds of indigo were exported from the Charleston area, but due to Eliza Pinckney's successes, that volume grew to 130,000 pounds within two years. Indigo became second only to rice as cash crop, since cotton did not gain importance until later. Eliza also experimented with other crops. She planted a large fig orchard, with the intention of drying figs for export and experimented with flax, hemp and silk.

At age twenty-two she married Charles Pinckney, a politician who was supportive of her efforts but traveled frequently, so she continued to be in charge of the household and the plantations. Within five years she gave birth to four children. Continuing her scientific bent, she experimented with progressive early childhood education, subscribing to the "tabula rasa" theories of John Locke, where a person's mind at birth is thought to be like a blank slate upon which personal experiences create an impression. The progressive education she gave her sons enabled them to play major roles in the American Revolution and in the government of the newly-formed United States of America. Later in life, British raids destroyed her property during the American War of Independence leaving her ruined financially.

Eliza Pinckney died in 1793. She was so well regarded by her contemporaries, that President George Washington served as one of the pallbearers at her funeral. Her headstone in St. Peter's Churchyard in Philadelphia reads "Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1722-1793, lies buried in unmarked grave. Mother of Two S.C. signers of Declaration of Independence." Actually, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and his cousin Charles Pinckney signed the U.S. Constitution and neither signed the Declaration of Independence. The Journal and Letters of Eliza Lucas was published in 1850.

Notes on the life of Eliza Lucas Pinckney:

born Elizabeth "Eliza" Lucas to an officer in the British army and his wife on the British-ruled island of Antigua in the West Indies in 1722

returned to England for education...few children, boys or girls, wre as well educated

fifteen when moved to South Carolina with family for mother's health

lived on plantation called Wappoo, near Charleston

father owned three plantations

father recalled to Antigua to be royal governor

at sixteen was placed in charge of father's plantations and business dealings as he recognized Eliza was more mature and capable than others twice her age

began each day at 5 A.M. to manage the business affairs

elderly woman friend worried, according to Eiza, getting up so early would "'spoil my marriage, for she says it will make me look old long before I am so.'"(Jaher)

Eliza advised, however: Avoid "'Sloth and Idleness....and be neither luxurious or extravagant.'"(Jaher)

hobbies: music lessons, gardening, reading

she advised herself and her kin, "'Use all your diligence to improve yourself.'"(Jaher)

elderly woman friend also worried, according to Eliza, I would "'read myself mad'"(Jaher)

ran school for family's young slaves while many colonists felt it wrong to educate slaves as it would encourage them to run away

two of closest friends were Charles Pinckney, whose father had moved to SC in 1692, and Elizabeth Lamb Pinckney....Eliza visited with them, borrowed books....Charles supported the cause of "Negro" education and gave money towards building a school for "Negro" children to be taught reading and religion

loved experimenting to see if a crop would grow well in SC

experimented with flax, hemp, and silk culture

about 1740 began to try to grow indigo with seeds sent by her father from the West Indies; indigo is a shrubby legume, growing five feet high, with dainty compound leaves and typical legume pods which is used to make indigo dye...use goes back to Sanskrit records 4000 years old...failed at first...crops hurt by storms and frost

encouraged by friend, Dr. Alexander Garden, whose hobby was collecting samples of plants and animals native to SC but unknown to European scientists....who discovered the mud iguana and who visited fishermen's homes and would snatch fish dinners right off their tables if the fish were interesting specimens....who was one of first to describe use of pinkroot as medicine for killing intestinal worms in humans

successful in growing indigo by 1744

encouraged others to grow indigo and it became leading money maker for SC

friend and neighbor Andrew De Veaux als experimented with and was successful with indigo....others then followed their successful examples

Elizabeth Lamb Pinckney died in 1744 and 4 months later at age 22 Eliza married Charles Pinckney

she and husband had three children: Charles éotesworth born in 1745, Harriott, and Thomas

felt children could learn at young age....made set of carved blocks for letters of alphabet....Charles C. knew letters before age of two and began to spell....had children find sermon text in Bible as soon as returned home from church

religion was important to family...Eliza told Charles C., "you must know the welfair of a whole family depends in a great measure on the progress you make in morral Virtue, Religion and Learning...'" You must fortify yourself "'against those Errors into which you are most easily led...What I most fear for you is heat of temper....'"(Zahnister)

other planters grew indigo

angered when Charels not confirmed by England as interim Chief Justice of SC Supreme Court after appointment by colonial governor

by 1750 two of three Carolinians were slaves and not all were brought from Africa...South arolinians forced Native Americans to give up lands, conquered them in bloody battles, enslaved them more than any other colony..to have enough free labor to grow crops cheaply (Charleston main entry point for slaves...when no farm work, slaves hired out to work as fishermen, carpenters, garbage collectors...money given to masters...little spent on needs of slaves ...mostly lived in small huts a distance from home of masters...often fed meat fat, skimmed milk, moldy bacon...some not even given clothes until age 13)

by 1754 colony was exporting over 216,000 pounds of processed indigo per year (was used for color of uniforms of British sailors and later American sailors as well as other clothes and cloth)

returned to England for 5 years (17531758) to educate the children, husband served as colonial agent

husband died in 1758 shortly after return to SC to manage business affairs...Eliza, age 36, stayed on in SC....sons stayed in England for education

friend Dr. Alexander Garden in 1760 had gardenia named after him though he had not discovered it...discovered by British sea captain, grown in England by his friend Richard Warner...flower given name by Carolus Linnaeus to honor Garden

1760s Charleston richest town in 13 colonies...3/4s of SC white population lived there....social center with theater, America's first music club, horse races....and ethnic clubs (Scottish, English, German) to help immigrants

son Charles C., while still in England, had picture painted showing himself objecting to the Stamp Acti in 1765

sons stayed in England until 1769 but colonials were snubbed or teased by sons of England's elite, even friends, in public schools and sons always thought of selves as Americans, maybe because of this

promoted independence for colonies (SC was successful under British rule yet thousands fought for independence, including the "Swamp Fox"...was where over 100 battles fought)

studied law on own and wrote wills for others

son Charles C. joined Charles-Town Militia Regiment in June 1772 to protect against Indian attacks, slave uprisings, coastal raids by Spanish

son Thomas joined a group of Americans in military drills conducted by a sergeant of the Royal Guards...called "the little rebel" by friends

both sons signed Declaration of Independence and fought with continental army

continued to manage plantations and helped raise grandchildren

need for food during Revolution so people grew rice instead of indigo

after war, competition from Inida ended indigo growth in SC...cotton took over....Thomas Jefferson and Dolly Madison and others tried to encourage farmers to raise dye plants, such as indigo, madder, and woad on a commercial scale but failed...dyers improved their chemical practices, though, over trial and error methods and advanced

son Charles C. delegate to 1787 convention in Philadelphia that drafted U.S. Constitution to replace Articles of Confederation....also Federalist candidate for vice president in 1800...ran for president against Thomas Jefferson in 1804 and James Madison in 1808

died at age 71 in Philadelphia...had gone there for cancer treatment..President George Washington requested to be and served as one of her pallbearers

statue as memorial to her in the Colonial National Historic Park in Virginia


Adrosko, Rita J. Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing. NY: Dover, 1971.

"Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney." World Book Encyclopedia. 1977 ed.

"Charles Cotesworth Pinckney." World Book Encyclopedia. 1977 ed. Fradin, Dennis Brindell. The South Carolina Colony. Chicago: Children's P, 1992.

Jaher, Frederic Cople. The Urban Establishment. Urbana: U of IL P, 1982.

Leckie, Shirley. "Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793)." Women's History. 1995:16.

Zahniser, Marvin R. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Chapel Hill: U of NC P, 1967.

Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Eliza Lucas Pinckney, probably the first important agriculturalist of the United States, was born in Antigua in the West Indies in 1722.

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Eliza Lucas, Indigo Queen's Timeline

December 28, 1722
Antigua and Barbuda
May 27, 1744
Age 21
February 25, 1746
Age 23
Charleston, South Carolina
Age 24
August 7, 1748
Age 25
October 22, 1750
Age 27
Charleston, Dorchester , South Carolina
May 28, 1793
Age 70
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania