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Eliza Lucas Pinckney

A Blue Fortune – Eliza Lucas Pinckney – colonial developer of indigo dye

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) played a critical role in developing South Carolina’s second most profitable colonial export, indigo dye. The daughter of an Antigua planter, as a teenager she was left to manage her father’s plantations in South Carolina. At that time Britain was at war and rice was less profitable than it had been, so Pinckney and others experimented with new crops. Working with neighbor Andrew Deveaux, Pinckney began planting indigo seeds sent by her father from the West Indies.

The processing of the dye was as complex as the cultivation of the plants, but ultimately Pinckney and others refined the process so that their dye could compete with that produced in the West Indies. It is possible that Pinckney drew on the experience of slaves who had learned to grow and process the blue dye elsewhere in the Atlantic. By 1775, South Carolina exported over one million pounds of the dye to supply Britain’s expanding cloth industry.

Eliza Lucas married widower Charles Pinckney in 1744. Their sons Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney would become leaders in the American Revolution, vice presidential candidates, and ambassadors to France and Great Britain. Daughter Harriott Pinckney Horry would continue her mother’s agricultural experiments, attempting to develop a South Carolina silk industry.


Coon, David L. “Eliza Lucas Pinckney and the Reintroduction of Indigo Culture in South Carolina.” Journal of Southern History 42 no. 1 (1976): 61-76.

Pinckney, Elise. “Eliza Lucas Pinckney.” In The South Carolina Encyclopedia, edited by Walter Edgar, 728-29. University of South Carolina Press, 2006.

Schulz, Constance B. “Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry: A South Carolina Revolutionary-Era Mother and Daughter.” In South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, vol. 1, edited by Marjorie Julian Spruill, Valinda W. Littlefield, and Joan Marie Johnson, 79-108. University of Georgia Press, 2009.

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