Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Digital Collection

In its new digital collection, American Turpentine Farmers Association Minute Books, 1936-1999, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies offers a glimpse into the pine gum turpentine and rosin farming industry.

Prior to the 1960s, pine gum was processed into rosin and turpentine, along with a variety of other by-products, making it vital to the economy of the Southeast, particularly Georgia. At one time, the United States produced 53% of rosin and turpentine worldwide. Today, only two working turpentine stills exist in the U.S., both in Georgia, one located in Hoboken and the other in Tifton at the Georgia Agrirama, State Museum of Agriculture. Many people do not realize that the turpentine business was a major influence not only on the national economy but on the way of life in the South's turpentine belt (Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas). This industry’s slow demise, which began in the 1930s, spurred a group of passionate and dedicated turpentine workers to create a cooperative, the American Turpentine Farmers Association (ATFA), which lobbied for the revival of the gum naval stores industry.

This project developed out of a request by current ATFA President James L. Gillis, Jr., who was interested in duplicating and preserving the organization's four surviving minute books. Subsequently, ATFA and the Russell Library agreed to the creation of a web site that would ensure public access to the books. The Russell Library collaborated with the Digital Library of Georgia to develop a digital collection that provides online access to over eight hundred pages of the organization’s board of directors meeting minutes, which document over sixty years of ATFA history.

The American Turpentine Farmers Association Minute Books, 1936-1999 digital collection is available online at The site is full-text, keyword searchable and is browsable by year.
Post by Abby Griner, Access and Electronic Records Archivist, Russell Library

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