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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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ARKANSAS , one of the South Central states of the United States of America, situated between 89° 40' N. and 94° 42' W., bounded N. by Missouri, E. by the Mississippi river, separating it from Tennessee and Mississippi, and W. by Texas and Oklahoma. Its area is 53,335 sq. m., of which 810 are water surface.

Arkansas lies in the drainage basin of the lower Mississippi, and has a remarkable river system. The Arkansas bisects the state from W. to E.; along its valley lie the oldest and largest settlements of the state. Nine other considerable streams drain the state; of these, the Red, the Ouachita, the White and the St Francis are the most important. There are a number of swamps and bayous in the eastern part.

1 Physical Features

2 Climate

3 Soil

4 Agriculture

5 Manufactures

6 Minerals

7 Communications

8 Population

9 Government

10 Education

11 History

12 Bibliography

Physical Features

The surface of Arkansas is the most diversified of that of any state in the central Mississippi valley. It rises, sloping upward toward the N.W., from an average elevation of less than 300 ft. in the south-east to heights of 2000 ft. and more in the north-western quarter. There are four physiographic regions: two of highlands; one of river valley plain separating the two highland areas; while the fourth is a region of hills, lowlands and scanty prairie. The last covers the E. half of the state, and is part of the Gulf or coastal plain province of the United States. If a line be drawn from the point where the Red river cuts the western boundary to where the Black cuts the northern, E. of it is the Gulf plain and W. of it are the highlands (over Soo ft.) and the mineral regions of the state. They are divided by the valley of the Arkansas river into two regions, which are also structurally different. South of the river are the Ouachita Mountains, and north of it are the Boston Mountains. The Ouachita Mountains are characterized by close folding and faulting. Their southern edge is covered with cretaceous deposits, and their eastern edge is covered as well with the tertiary deposits of the Gulf plains. The Arkansas valley is marked by wide and open folding. The Boston Mountains are substantially a continuation of the Ozark dome of Missouri. Their northern border is marked by an escarpment of Soo to 700 ft. in height. The trend is from E. to W. between Batesville and Wagoner, Oklahoma. In structure they are monoclinical, their rocks - sandstones and shales - being laid southward and blending on that side with the Arkansas valley region. The entire region is very much dissected by streams, and the topography is characteristically of a terrace and escarpment type. In the highlands N. of the Arkansas the country is very irregularly broken; S. of the river the hills lie less capriciously in short, high ranges, with low, fertile valleys between them. The Ouachitas extend 200 m., from within Oklahoma (near Atoka) to central Arkansas, near Little Rock. They are characterized by long, low ridges bearing generally W. - E., with wide, flat valleys. Near the western boundary of the state they attain a maximum altitude of 2900 ft. above the sea, and 2000 ft. above the valleys of the Arkansas and Red river; falling in elevation eastward (as westward) to 500-700 ft. at their eastern end. Five peaks rise above 2000 ft. Magazine Mountain, 2833 ft. above the sea-level and 2350 ft. above the surrounding country, is the highest point between the Alleghenies and the Rockies. Altitudes of 2250 ft. are attained in the Boston Mountains, which are the highest portion of the Ozark uplift, and the most picturesque. The streams are vigorous, and in their lower courses flow in deep-cut gorges, Soo to 1000 ft. deep, almost deserving the name of canyons. The main streams are tortuous, and their dendritic tributaries have cut the region into ridges. The mountains do not fill the N.W. quarter of the state, and are separated from a lower, greatly eroded highland region on their N. by a bold escarpment 500 to 1000 ft. in height. Along the upper course of the White river in the Bostons and in the country about Hot Springs in the Ouachitas is found the most beautiful scenery of the highlands; few regions are more beautiful. The valley region embraces the bottom-lands along the Mississippi, and up the Arkansas as far as Pine Bluff, and the cypress swamp country of the St Francis.


The climate of the state is " southern," owing to the influence of the Gulf of Mexico. The mean temperatures for the different seasons are normally about 41.6°, 61.1°, 78.8° and 61.9° F. for winter, spring, summer and autumn respectively. The normal mean precipitations are about 11.7, 14.5, 10.5 and 10.2 in. for the same seasons. The extreme range of the monthly isotherms crossing the state is from about 35° in winter to 81° F.

in summer, and the range of annual isotherms from about S4° to 60° F. That is, the variation of mean annual temperatures for different parts of the state is only 6° F. The variation of the mean annual temperature for the entire state is only 4° (from 59° to 63° F.). The variation of precipitation is as great as 30 in. (from 34 to 64 in.) according to locality. There is little snow, no severe winter cold, and no summer drought. Sheltered valleys in the interior produce spring crops three or four weeks earlier than is usual in Kansas. The climate is generally healthy.


Arkansas lies in the humid, or Austroriparian, area of the Lower Austral life-zone, except the highlands of the Ozark uplift and Ouachita Mountains, which belong to the humid, or Carolinian, area of the Upper Austral. The state possesses a rich fauna and flora. From an economic standpoint its forests deserve special mention. The forest lands of the state include four-fifths of its area, and three-fourths are actually covered by standing timber. Valuable trees are of great variety: cottonwood, poplar, catalpa, red cedar, sweet-gum, birch-eye, sassafras, persimmon, ash, elm, sycamore, maple, a variety of pines, pecan, locust, dogwood, hickory, various oaks, beech, walnut and cypress are all abundant. There are one hundred and twentynine native species of trees. The yellow pine, the white oak and the cypress are the most valuable growths. The northern woods are mainly hard; the yellow pine is most characteristic of the heavy woods of the south central counties; and magnificent cypress abounds in the north-east. Hard woods grow even on the alluvial lands. " The hard-wood forests of the state are hardly surpassed in variety and richness, and contain inestimable bodies of the finest oak, walnut, hickory and ash timber " (U.S. Census, 1870 and 1900). The growth on the alluvial bottoms and the lower uplands in the E. is extraordinarily vigorous. The leading species of the Appalachian woodland maintain their full vigour of growth nearer to the margin of forest growth in this part of the Mississippi valley than in any other part of the United States; and some species, such as the holly, the osage orange and the pecan, attain their fullest growth in Arkansas (Shaler).


The soils of Arkansas are of peculiar variety. That of the highlands is mostly but a thin covering, and their larger portion is relatively poorly fitted for agriculture. The uplands are generally fertile. Their poor soils are distinctively sandy, those of the lowlands clayey; but these elements are usually found combined in rich loams characterized by the predominance of one or the other constituent. Finally the alluvial bottoms are of wonderful richness.


This variety of soils, a considerable range of moderate altitudes and favourable factors of heat and moisture promote a rich diversity in agriculture. Arkansas is predominantly an agricultural state. The farm area of 1860 was only 28. 2% of the whole area of the state, that of 1900 (16,636,719 acres) was 49 70; and while only a fifth of this farm area was actually improved in 1860, two-fifths were improved in 1900; thus, the part of the state's area actually cultivated approximately quadrupled in four decades. The value of products in 1900 ($79.6 millions) was 44% of the total farm values ($181.4 millions). The rise in average value of farm lands since 1870 has not been a fifth of the increase of the aggregate value of all farm property.

The Civil War wrought a havoc from which a full recovery was hardly reached before 1890. The economic evolution of the state since Reconstruction has been in the main that common to all the old slave states developing from the plantation system of ante-bellum days, somewhat diversified and complicated by the special features of a young and border community. The farms of Arkansas increased in number 357.8%, in area 73.7% and in total true (as distinguished from tax) valuation about 53.8% between 1860 and 1900; the decade of most extraordinary growth being that of 1870-1880. Thus Arkansas has shared that fall in the average size of farms common to all sections of the Union (save the north central) since 1850, but especially marked since the Civil War in the " Cotton States," owing to the subdivision of large holdings with the introduction of the tenant system. The rapidity of the movement has not been exceptional in Arkansas, but the size of its average farm, less in 1850 than that of the other cotton states, was in 1900, 93.1 acres (108.8 for white farmers alone, 49

o for blacks alone), which was even less than that of the North Atlantic states (96.5 acres, the smallest sectional unit of the Union). The percentage of farms worked by owners fell from 69.1% in 1880 to 54.6% in 1900; the difference of the balances or 1 4.5% indicates the increase of tenant holdings, two-thirds of these being for shares.

It is interesting to compare in this matter the whites and the negroes. In actual numbers the white farmers heavily predominate, whether as owners, tenants for cash or tenants on shares; but if we look at the numbers within each race holding by these respective tenures (65. o, 8.7 and 26.3% respectively for whites; 2 5.6, 33.7 and 40.7% for negroes, in 1900), we see the lesser independence of the negro farmer. The cotton counties, which are the counties of densest coloured habitancy, exemplify this fact with great clearness. The few negroes in the white counties of the uplands are much better off than those in the cotton lowlands; more than three times as large a part of them owners; the poorer element is segregated in the cotton region. In Arkansas, as elsewhere in the south, negro tenants, like white tenants, are more efficient than owners working their own lands. The black farmer is in bondage to cotton; for him still " Cotton is King." He gives it four-fifths of his land; while his white rival allows it only a quarter of his, less by half than the area he gives to live-stock, dairying, hay and grains. At Sunnyside, on the west bank of the Mississippi, negro tenant farmers have been practically forced out of business by Italians, who produced in 1899-1904 more than twice as much lint cotton per working hand, and 70% more per acre. The general place of the negro in agriculture is shown also by the fact that more than four-fifths of the farm acreage and farm values of the state are in the hands of the whites. The white farmer gives an outlay in labour and fertilizers on his farm greater by 61.4% than the black, gathers a produce greater by 22.5%, and possesses a farm of a value 53.5% greater (Census, 1900) .

Cotton is the leading product. It absorbs about a third of the area under crops, and its returns ($28,000,000 in 1899) are about a half of the value of all crops. A part of the cotton lands of Arkansas are among the richest in the south. Other distinctively southern products (tobacco, &c.) are of no importance in Arkansas. Cereals are given more than twice as much acreage as cotton, but yield only a third as great aggregate returns, Indian corn being much the most remunerative; about three-fourths of the cereal acreage are given to its cultivation, and it ranks after cotton in value of harvest.' For all the other staple agricultural products of the central states the showing of Arkansas is uniformly good, but not noteworthy. But its rank as a fruitgrowing country is exceptional. Plums, prunes, peaches, pears and grapes are cultivated very generally over the western half of the state (grapes in the east also), but with greatest success in the south-west; apples prosper best in the north-west. Small berries are a very important product. All fruits are of the finest quality. For apples the state makes probably a finer showing than that of any other state except Oregon. About ninety varieties are habitually entered in national competitions. The fruit industry generally has developed with extreme rapidity.


Although Arkansas is rich in minerals and in forests, in 1900 only 2% of its population were engaged in manufacturing. But the development has been rapid; the value of products multiplied seven times, the wages paid nine, and the capital invested twelve, in the years 1880-1900; and the increase in the same categories from 1900-1905 was 35, 42.8 and 82.4% respectively. 2 It must be noted as characteristic of the state that of the total manufactures in 1905, 80

3% were produced in rural districts (83.7 in 1900). About two-thirds of the increase between 1890 and 1900 was in the lumber industry, which was of slight importance before the former year; it represented more than half the total value of the manufactures of the state in 1905 (output, 1905, $28,065,171 and of mill products $3,786, 7 72 additional); in the value of lumber and timber products the state ranked sixth among the states of the United States in 1900, and seventh in 1905. After the lumber and timber industry ranked in 1905 the manufacture of cotton-seed oil and cake ($4,939,919) and flour and grist milling. Cotton ginning increased 739% from 1890 to 1900.


The progress of coal-mining has been a striking feature of the state's economy since 1880. The field extends from Oklahoma eastward to central Arkansas, along both sides of the Arkansas river. A production of 5000 tons (short) in 1882 became 542,000 tons in 1891 and 2,229,172 tons in 1903a maximum for the state up to 1905; in 1907 the yield was 2,670,438 tons, valued at $4,473,693; the value of the product increased more than eight-fold in 1886-1900. The United States Geological Survey estimates that three-fourths of the coal area (over 1700 sq. m.) can made commercially productive. Apart from coal the great and varied mineral wealth of the state has been only slightly utilized. The great zinc and lead area along the northern border in the plateau portion of the Ozark region has proved a disappointment in development; the iron areas have hardly been touched, and the product of the exceptionally promising deposits of manganese lost ground after 1890 before ' For 1906 the Y earbook of the U. S. Department of Agriculture reported the following statistics for Arkansas: - Indian corn, 52,802,659 bu., valued at $24,817,207; oats 3,783,706 bu., valued at $1,589,157; wheat, 1,915,250 bu., valued at $1,436,438; rice, 131,440 bu., valued at $111,724; rye, 23,652 bu., valued at $29,632; potatoes, 1,666,960 bu., valued at $1,116,863; hay, 113,491 tons, valued at $1,123,561.

2 The special census of the manufacturing industry for 1905 was concerned only with the establishment conducted under the socalled " factory system "; for purposes of comparison the figures for 1900 have been reduced to the same standard, and this fact should be borne in mind with regard to the percentages of increase given above.



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the output of Virginia and Georgia. Among the products of the rich stone quarries of the state, only that of abrasive stones is important in the markets of the Union; the novaculites of Arkansas are among the finest whetstones in the world. Deposits of true chalk are utilized in the manufacture of Portland cement for local markets. The chalk region lies in the S. E. part of the state, S. of the Ouachita Mountains. Bauxite was discovered in the state in 1887, and the product increased from 5045 long tons in 1899 to 50,267 long tons in 1906, the production for the whole country in 1899 being 35,280 long tons and in 1906 7 5,33 2 long tons. The only other states in which bauxite was produced during the period were Alabama and Georgia, which in this respect have greatly declined in importance relatively to Arkansas. Extremely valuable and varied marls, kaolins and clays, fuller's earth, asphaltum and mineral waters show special promise in the state's industry. In 1906 diamonds were found in a peridotite dike in Pike county 22 m. S. E. of Murfreesboro; this is the first place in North America where diamonds have been found in situ, and not in glacial deposit or in river gravel.


The rivers afford for light craft (of not over 3 ft. draft) about 3000 m. of navigable waters, a river system unequalled in extent by that of any other state. The labours of the United States government have much extended and very greatly improved this navigation, materially lessening also the frequency and havoc of floods along the rich bottom-lands through which the rivers plough a tortuous way in the eastern and southern portions of the state. As a result of these improvements land and timber values have markedly risen, and great impetus has been given to traffic on the rivers, which carry a large part of the cotton, lumber, coal, stone, hay and miscellaneous freights of the state. The greatest of these internal improvements is the St Francis levee, from New Madrid, Missouri, to the mouth of the St Francis, 212 m. along the Mississippi; an area of 3500 sq. m., of exceptional fertility, is here reclaimed at a cost of about $1500 per sq. m. (as compared with $10,000 per sq. m. for the 2500 sq. m. reclaimed by the Nile works at Assuan and Assiut). Whether with regard to area or population, Arkansas is also relatively well supplied with railways (4,47 2.8 m. at the end of 1907). A state railway commission controls transportation rates, which are also somewhat checked by the competition of river freights. There is also a considerable passenger traffic on the Arkansas.

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The growth of population is shown by the following table: - In 1900 the rank of the state in total population was twenty-fifth, and in negro population tenth. The proportion of the coloured element steadily rose from 11% in 1820 to 28% in 1900, at which time there were more than a dozen counties along the border of the Mississippi and lower Arkansas in which the negroes numbered 50 to 89% of the total. They have never been a large element in the highland counties; it was these counties which were most strongly Unionist at the time of the Civil War, and which to-day are the region of diversified industry. About a ninth of the state's population is gathered into towns of more than 2000 inhabitants. Fort Smith (pop. 11,587 in 1900), Little Rock, the state capital (38,307), and Pine Bluff (11,496) lie in the valley of the Arkansas. In 1900 a dozen other towns had a population exceeding 2500, the most important being Hot Springs (9973), Helena (5550), Texarkana (4914), Jonesboro (4508), Fayetteville (4061), Eureka Springs (3572), Mena (3423) and Paragould (3324). Foreign blood has only very slightly permeated the state; negroes and native whites of native parents make up more than 95% of its population. Immigration is almost entirely from other southern states. The strongest religious sects are the Methodists and Baptists.


The present constitution of the state dates from 1874 (with amendments). Few features mark it off from the usual type of such documents. The governor holds office for two years; he has the pardoning and veto power, but his veto may be overridden by a simple majority in each house of the whole number elected to that house (a provision unusual among the state constitutions of the Union). There is no lieutenantgovernor. The legislature is bicameral, senators holding office for four years, representatives (about thrice as numerous) for two. The length of the regular biennial legislative sessions is limited to sixty days, but by a vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house the length of any session may be extended. Special sessions may be called by the governor. A majority of the members elected to each of the two houses suffices to propose a constitutional amendment, which the people may then accept by a mere majority of all votes cast at an election for the legislature (an unusually democratic provision); no more than three amendments, however, can be proposed or submitted at the same time. The supreme court has five members, elected by the people for eight years; they are re-eligible. The population of the state entitles it to seven representatives in the national House of Representatives, and to nine votes in the Electoral College (census of 1900). Elections of members of the state legislature and of Congress are not held at the same time - a very unusual provision. Elections are by Australian ballot; the constitution prescribes that no law shall " be enacted whereby the right to vote at any election shall be made to depend upon any previous registration of the elector's name " (extremely unusual). The qualifications for suffrage include one year's residence in the state, six months in the county, and one month in the voting district, next before election; idiots, insane persons, convicts, Indians not taxed, minors and women are disqualified; aliens who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States vote on the same terms as actual citizens. An amendment of 1893 requires the exhibition of a poll-tax receipt by every voter (except those " who make satisfactory proof that they have attained the age of twenty-one years since the time of assessing taxes next preceding " the election). There is nothing in the constitution or laws of Arkansas with any apparent tendency to disfranchise the negroes; there are statutory provisions (1866-1867) against intermarriage of the races and constitutional and statutory (1886-1887) provisions for separate schools, a " Jim Crow " law (1891) requires railways to provide separate cars for negroes, and a law (1893) provides for separate railway waiting-rooms for negroes. Giving or accepting a challenge to a duel bars from office, but this survival of the ante-bellum social life is to-day only reminiscent. Declared atheists are similarly disqualified. There is no constitutional provisioli for a census. Marriage is pronounced a civil contract.

A law for compulsory education was passed in 1909.


The constitution makes 1% on the assessed valuation of property a maximum limit of state taxation for ordinary expenses, but by an amendment of 1906 the legislature may levy three mills on the dollar per annum for common schools; and may " authorize school districts to levy by a vote of the qualified electors of such district a tax not to exceed seven mills on the dollar in any year for school purposes." The state debt in 1874 was $12,108,247, of which about $9,370,000 was incurred after the Civil War for internal improvement schemes. This new debt was practically repudiated in 1875 by a decision of the supreme court, and completely set aside in 1884 by constitutional amendment. Until 1900, when an adjustment of the matter was reached, there was also another disputed debt to the national government, owing to the collapse in 1839 of a so-called Real Estate Bank of Arkansas, in which the state had invested more than $500,000 paid to it by the United States in exchange for Arkansas bonds to be held as an investment for the Smithsonian Institution, on which bonds the state defaulted after 1839. If the unacknowledged debt be included (as it often is; and hence the necessity of reference to it), very few states - and those all western or southern - have a heavier burden per capita. But the acknowledged debt was in 1907 only $1,250,500, and this is. 11.18 a not a true debt, being a permanent school fund that is not to be paid off; of this total in 3% bonds, $1,134,500 is held by the common schools and $116,000 by the state university. In net combined state and local debt, Arkansas ranks very low among the states of the Union. The hired labourer suffers from the " truck " system, taking his pay in board and living, in goods, in trade on his employer's credit at the village store; the independent farmer suffers in his turn from unlimited credit at the same store, where he secures everything on the credit of his future crops; and if he is reduced to borrow money, he secures it by vesting the title to his property temporarily in his creditor. His legal protections under such " title bonds " are much slighter than under mortgages. Homesteads belonging to the head of a family and containing 80 to 160 acres (according to value) if in the country, or a lot of ¢ to one acre (according to value), if in town, village or city, are exempt from liability for debts, excepting liens for purchase money, improvements or taxes. A married man may not sell or mortgage a homestead without his wife's consent.


The legal beginnings of a public school system date from 1843; in 1867 the first tax was imposed for its support. Only white children were regarded by the laws before Reconstruction days. There are now separate race schools, with terms of equal length, and offering like facilities; the number of white and coloured teachers employed is approximately in the same proportion to the number of attending children of the respective races; in negro districts two out of three school directors are usually negroes. " The coloured race as a whole go to the schools as regularly and as numerously in proportion as do the whites " (Shinn). Of the current expenses of the common schools about three-fourths is borne by the localities; the state distributes its contribution annually among the counties. There is also a permanent school fund derived wholly from land grants from the national government. The total expenditure for the schools is creditable to the state; but before 1909 hardly half the school population attended; and in general the rural conditions of the state, the shortness of the school terms and the dependence of the schools primarily upon local funds and local supervision, make the schools of inadequate and quite varying excellence. The average expenditure in 1906 for tuition per child enrolled was $4.93, and the average length of the school term was only eighty-one days. In June 1906 there were 110 2 school houses in the state valued at $100 or less. In 1905-1906 the Peabody Board gave $2000 to aid rural schools, and in general it has done much for the improvement of country public schools throughout the state. In 1906 an amendment to the state constitution, greatly increasing the tax resources available for educational work, was passed by a large popular vote. The University of Arkansas was opened at Fayetteville in 187 2. The law and medical faculties are at Little Rock. A branch 'normal school, established 1873-1875 at Pine Bluff, provides for coloured students, who enjoy the same opportunities for work, and are accorded the same degrees, as the students at Fayetteville; they are about a fourth as numerous. In 1905-1906 there were 497 students in the college of liberal arts, sciences and engineering, 548 in the preparatory school and 26 in the conservatory of music and arts, all in Fayetteville; 171 in the medical school and 46 in the law school in Little Rock; and 240 in the branch normal college at Pine Bluff. The university and the normal school are supported by the Morrill Fund and by state appropriations. The state still suffered in 1906 from the lack of a separate and special training school for teachers; but in 1907 the legislature voted to establish a state normal school. Of the Morrill Fund (see Morrill, Justin Smith), three-elevenths goes to the normal school. The agricultural experiment station of the university dates from 1887. The financial support of the university has been light, about three-fifths coming from the United States government. Besides the university there are about a score of denominational colleges or academies, of which hal

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Arkansas'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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