Naval Stores

What are naval stores? It is an unusual term and one not heard as much today as in Georgia’s past. It is not a place to buy a boat, although it sounds like it. Naval stores are byproducts from pine trees like pitch and tar, and they were used to seal wooden ships and keep them afloat. South Georgia had a ready source of pine trees and could provide tar in large enough quantities to be listed for sale in a Savannah newspaper in 1763. Kirk Johnston, a Charles Town Landing State Park reenactor, shows off the Adventure, a replica of a 17th century sailing vessel and describes how saltwater, wind, and sun took a toll on wooden ships. In the late 1800s, the naval stores industry grew to become a major Georgia export. Why? New technology allowed greater production. John Johnson of the Agrirama explains that the Scots brought copper whiskey stills to Georgia, and they could be used to cook pine resin to produce two products: turpentine and rosin. Small distilleries sprung up in the pine forests of south Georgia and African Americans traveled from the worn out forests of Virginia and the Carolinas to work the pine industry. James Gainer, a naval stores worker for more than 30 years, demonstrates how pine resin is collected. Today, turpentine production has moved overseas, but at one time barrels of naval stores lined Georgia ports as far as the eye could see. A demonstration of the uses of rosin today by dancers, musicians, and even baseball players concludes the video.

Teacher tip: Georgia was a leader in the production of naval stores, but that is no longer the case. After viewing the video, list reasons why not.