20th Cotton & Rural History Conference

Kristen Streater Paul Sturdevant Leland Turner Jim Conrad
Joe Asbury Joseph McCowan
Chad Pearson Bruce Baker

Mitch Leathers &

Kyle Wilkison


Saturday, April 16, 2016
9:30 AM-1:30 PM
Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, Greenville, Texas

(903) 454-1990 or (903) 450-4502
Teachers employed by schools within the Region 10 Education Service Center service area will earn 4 hours of
Continuing Professional Education credit for this event. Teachers desiring to earn CPE credits should register for the event online here at Region 10 Education Service Center's web page for the conference.


"Boll Weevils, Bulls, and Cotton Futures Trading at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century"

Bruce Baker, Historian, University of Newcastle (UK)


Historians have paid a lot of attention to those who grew cotton and those who spun it, but they have not paid enough attention to those who bought and sold it between the field and the factory.  With the rise of futures trading in cotton in the late nineteenth century, the actions of brokers in New Orleans and New York determined the livelihoods of millions of cotton farmers across the South.  Bear traders in New York pushed prices down to make money for themselves.  Eventually, a group of bull brokers from New Orleans, with help from farmers, boll weevils, and politicians, broke the grip of the New York bears and reshaped the cotton market with the Cotton Futures Act of 1914.  This story is the subject of Bruce E. Baker’s keynote presentation at the twentieth Cotton & Rural History Conference, April 16, 2016.

He has written widely on the history of the South, with books including What Reconstruction Meant: Historical Memory in the American South, This Mob Will Surely Take My Life: Lynchings in the Carolinas, 1871-1947, After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South, and The Cotton Kings: Capitalism and Corruption in Turn-of-the-Century New York and New Orleans.  He is also co-editor of the journal American Nineteenth Century History.  Educated at Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Baker has taught history in England since 2004, first at Royal Holloway, University of London, and more recently at Newcastle University.

As usual, this event will begin with a morning's worth of scholarly papers as well as a panel featuring one-of-a-kind "eyewitness history" followed by barbecue and the keynote talk. Registration begins at 9:30 with the first panel presenting at 10:00 AM. The second panel presents at 11:00 and the keynote talk begins at 12:30 following lunch.

Dr. James Conrad will present the "Eyewitness Oral History" panel of Joe Asbury and Joseph McCowan. The Eyewitness panelists are both long-time Hunt County residents with deep roots in their communities.

The second panel comprised of professional historians will focus on two key aspects of Texas agricultural history.

Prof. Paul Sturdevant will explore the landscape of historical writing on that topic with "The Field of Agriculture in East Texas: A Bibliographic Survey." Sturdevant teaches American History at Paris Junior College and has published scholarly articles on rural Texas history. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the East Texas Historical Association.

Dr. Leland Turner will introduce a fresh angle on rural history with “A Rural Beef Factory:  Murdo Mackenzie and Environmental Transformation at the Matador Ranch, 1891-1900.” Turner is the Texas historian at Midwesten State University in Wichita Falls. He writes on the ranching industry in its economic, cultural and transnational contexts. Turner's scholarly publications include “Grassland Frontiers:  Pastoral Settlement in the Semi Arid Lands of the Australian Outback and American Southwest.” A Fulbright Fellow, Turner has presented numerous papers at professional conferences across the United States and abroad. Before coming to Midwestern he served on the History faculties of the University of Queensland, The Australian National University, and Texas Tech.

Following a barbecue lunch the 2016 keynote talk will be presented by Bruce Baker.


The conference is co-sponsored by Social and Behavioral Sciences of Collin College, Special Collections and Archives of Texas A&M University-Commerce, and the East Texas Historical Association.  

Advance reservations may be made by contacting the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, 600 Interstate 30 East, P.O. Box 347, Greenville, Texas 75403.  The museum can be reached by telephone at (903) 454-1990 or (903) 450-4502. Please call by April 1. There is a $12 registration fee to cover the catered barbecue lunch.               

Past Cotton and Rural History Conferences

For nineteen years this gathering has benefited from the generosity of notable and award-winning scholars who have presented their work in the fields of history, folklore, and the oral narrative.  They have included J. Brett Adams, Jacques D. Bagur, Sven Beckert, Amanda B. Biles, D. Clayton Brown, Walter Buenger, the late Robert A. Calvert, Jr., Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, Adrienne Caughfield, James H. Conrad, Edward Countryman, Light T. Cummins, Pamela Gaiter, Karen Gerhardt, James C. Giesen, Chris Grooms, Eric Gruver, John Hanners, Paul Harvey, Jr., John Jackson, Melissa Johnson, Deborah Kilgore, Susan Lanning, Gwendolyn Lawe, Deborah Liles, John Lundberg, Michelle Mears, Kay Mizell, Lois E. Myers, Nick Nelson, Kristopher Paschal, Deborah Porter, Jeri Reed, Debra Reid, Rebecca Sharpless, Cameron Sinclair, Thad Sitton, the late James M. Smallwood, Paul E. Sturdevant, Susanne Summers, Carol Taylor, Andres Tijerina, Sam Tullock, Stephen A. Townsend, Keith Volanto, Jeannie Whayne, Patricia Wingate, Lee Winniford, Dan K. Utley and Nancy Beck Young.    

Presenters have represented colleges, universities, libraries and museums from across Texas and the nation including Austin College, the University of Arkansas, Baylor University, Burton Cotton Gin Museum, Collin College, the University of Central Oklahoma, Eastern Illinois University, Harvard University, Hill College, the Heritage Farmstead Museum, the University of Houston, the University of Illinois-Chicago, A. C. McMillan African-American Museum, Mississippi State University, New Mexico Junior College, the University of North Texas, Oklahoma State University, Paris Junior College, St. Edward's University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University - College Station, Texas A&M University - Commerce, Texas A&M University Kingsville, Texas Christian University, Texas Woman's University and the Weslaco Bi-Cultural Museum.

Kyle Wilkison and James H. Conrad co-chair the annual event and welcome paper proposals from historians working in the fields of rural, social or agricultural history.  Please submit proposals via email to each address listed below:   

James H. Conrad, Ph.D.
Dr. Conrad is the recently retired University Archivist and Director of the Oral History Program at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

He can be reached at: jimhconrad@gmail.com

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Kyle Wilkison, Ph.D.
Professor of History
Department of History
Collin College
Plano, Texas 75074
(972) 881-5834
FAX: (972) 881-5700

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