Being close to the United States of America has had its benefits and fall backs in and to the Bahamas. The Bahamas experienced many changes between 1870 and 1940. Such changes were the migration period, the Prohibition period and the exportation of various products to the United States. The migration period started in the 1840’s when Bahamians were migrating to the United States of America. In 1865 the first phase in the migration period took place in Key West in Florida and lasted until the 1900’s. In 1905, second phase in the migration period took place in Miami and lasted until 1924.
Prohibition came into the picture in the 1920’s which brought a great economic boom to The Bahamas. But like all things, this too came to an end in 1933.
After The Bahamas got itself together after the prohibition, exportation of fruits and other products were taking place and being shipped to the United States of America. Such items were sisal, tomatoes, pineapple, salt, sponges, and citrus fruits. With the Bahamas being so close to the United States of America, the items also had their benefits and drawbacks.
After 1865, many black Bahamians moved to Key West from Cat Island, Long Island, Ragged Island and Eleuthera to Key West Florida. Between 1905 and 1924, many Bahamians moved to Miami. By 1892, one third of the Key West population was Bahamian. Many of the Bahamians left the Out Islands to find a better way of living in Key West. With the States being so close, they had easier means of getting there and they realized that they had more and better opportunities in Key West, as they wanted to be paid in cash instead of a labour system back at home. By 1920, Bahamians made up 52 percent of the Miami blacks. The Bahamians heard some news about some job openings in Miami and went over as soon as possible. The railroad was bringing in the Bahamians in by the thousands, all who were anxious of getting jobs. Many Bahamians left the Out Islands to go to Nassau to find a way to go to Florida (Albury, 1975). Many factors played in the role of the Bahamians moving to the United States such as poverty, lack of job opportunities in The Bahamas, racial prejudice towards the blacks and lack of cash coming in. Many Bahamians saw an opportunity in the United States of America where jobs were concerned.
With the American men away to war, they needed some able bodied men to help build the railroads and to work the farms. The Bahamians who stayed in Miami during the craze opened small business and settled down in small communities in Miami along the railroad. Others got skilled and professional jobs and developed a sense of community by introducing Bahamian customs such as churches, friendly societies and lodges, music and dance, ring-play, housing plans and Junkanoo. Those who came back to the Bahamas saw a different way of life and some were able to send some money back home for them. Others spent it all, many of the men did not want to come back and work on the farms for a small paycheck and many of them belittled their fellow Bahamians. The positive aspect of the migration period was that while the men were away, money was saved and sent home to the families to help bring up the Bahamian economy and it helped prevent any social and economic protest by both groups. While the men and some women were working, the Out Islands were suffering. With the men gone, no one was able to look after their own farms, young children and the older generation was left behind to care for themselves.
The young boys had no father figure to look up to and idolize, affairs were committed because the men were never there and diseases were spread.
While the United States is close to the Bahamas, it brought negative affects to it. The Bahamians that went to the United States looking for jobs thought it was close because they could always return to the Bahamas in short time; but at the same it was far enough for infidelity to take place and “running away” to find a better way of living to also take place. Prohibition
In 1919, a constitution was passed in the United States of America to stop the consumption of alcohol. In 1920 the constitution was put into action and the prohibition era ended in 1933. The American Government wanted to make the United States of America a “dry” country. The law stated that liquor must not be manufactured, sold, given away or abused. And that it could not be transported by means of air or sea (Cash, 1991).
Many men tried to get alcohol from within the States by making it themselves, stealing it from other people, or by bootlegging. They got it from outside the States by bootlegging with the help from outside countries such as Canada, England and The Bahamas. The effects of the Volstead Act lifted the gloom for Nassau, because most Bahamians were able to benefit from the Americans’ desire to avoid Prohibition (Craton, 1998).
The Bahamas came into the bootlegging industry because it was close to the United States, and it was under British rule, which meant that having alcohol was not illegal in the Bahamas. The role the Bahamas played was a very important one. Like the American Civil War, Nassau and other places were used as the “home base” for rum running. The merchants in Nassau brought the liquor in, paid the duty fees on it, bottled and boxed the liquor and exported it to the United States. Both Americans, like William McCoy, and Bahamians came to Nassau to buy the liquor and smuggled it in to the United States of America on fast boats and small planes. The liquor was brought in from Britain, stored in Nassau, and then sent to Rum Row where American bootleggers would smuggle them into the States by motor boats (cash 1991). The Bahamas was affected in many ways because of the rum running business. There were major opportunities to make a huge fortune for some Bahamians. Those that were white or near white got most of the profits made from the industry. The number of merchants increased between 1900 and 1930, which included people like Roland T. Symonette, who later became the Premier
for the Bahamas, George Murphy and Allan H. Kelly. Jobs were provided for many of the unemployed Bahamians. They were used to load and unload the ships at the harbor. The women sewed some of the bottled liquor into sacks so the men could carry it more easily (Cash 1991). And some rented out cellars from other people to store the liquor until shipping. Nassau had the greatest amount of change done during the rum-running era.
The government used some of the money to improve Nassau by putting in a water and sewage system, and extension of electricity was made and the Nassau harbor was deepened and a new dock was built. Roads were improved and hotels were built to accommodate the tourists. While there were a lot of positive things coming out of the prohibition, negative effects were also coming out of it. Segregation amongst the blacks continued and was more prevalent because some blacks were doing well in the rum-running business. The new benefits that Nassau was experiencing was not extended to Over-The-Hill, medical facilities were not up-to-par with the times, the crime rate increased and the Out Islands were neglected because Nassau became the “hot-spot”. The crimes were increasing because of how easily guns were accessed, and prostitution was becoming the “norm” with all the American tourists and gang members coming into Nassau to get and smuggle liquor. During prohibition, the proximity to the United States had a positive impact on the Bahamas. It gave the Bahamian people a boost of economy and self-assurance so now they could look forward to a better way of living.
Export of Various Products
During the 18th and 19th centuries, various products were introduced to the Bahamas. Such products were pineapples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, sisal and sponges. Pineapples were first introduced by the Palatinates and were first exported in 1832. Citrus fruits were introduced in the early 18th century by George Phenney. Tomatoes were introduced to the Bahamas after the decline in the sisal industry and were introduced in 1875 and were first exported in 1876. When the sisal industry started in 1845by C.R. Nesbitt, it wasn’t exported in large quantities until the 1880’s by Sir Ambrose Shea. Even though sponges where native to the Bahamas, they were not exported until 1841 by Gustave Renouard.
Eleuthera, Harbor Island, Cat Island, Andros, Abaco, Bimini, and Exuma were used to grow these products. The islands were used because they had the ample land to use to grow them, there were enough men to work the lands and it was close enough to the United States that they could always be shipped over by boats for consumption. The Bahamas saw a great rise in the economy during the late 19th and early 20th century due to the many factors that led to the rise and fall of the products during the depression years.
The location of the Bahamas to the United States proved to be beneficial because the products were exported to the United States in a small amount of time with little spoilage. The natural factors the helped with the rise in the various products was the soil, sea, climate, location and also the nature of the plant. The fruits and vegetables grown needed little to no attention when planted in the ground; the Bahamas had a good climate with shallow and sandy for the sponges, and the red and black soil needed for the pineapples and citrus fruits. While the climate and soil and sea were good to the plants, it also brought bad news. The Bahamian weather was not always dependable; hurricanes, droughts, fires rain and diseases destroyed the crops, and animals such as rats and crabs and the blue gray fly attacked and ate the crops. And the soil’s nutrition was used up too fast by the over-farming and wasting of the unused soil. The sponges declined due to over fishing.
The demand for these crops were great and with the little competition they had from other countries, made the prices for the crops more acceptable for the buyers. While the demand was decreasing, the merchants shipped too many pineapples and other products at a time, which caused the price to decrease dramatically. Competition was also increasing because other countries were starting to grow their own variety of crops for much cheaper prices than the Bahamas and the distance was the biggest downfall for the crops. While the Bahamas was close to the United States, it was also further from them than Hawaii. The distance proved to be a downfall because during the shipping to the United States, some of the crops were destroyed due to bruising, rotting and fungal growth on the sponges.
While the United States was suffering during the depression years, the Bahamas saw some good from it. And like many of its previous attempts of growing economically, it was crushed as fast as it was brought up. References
Albury, Paul (1975) – The Story of The Bahamas. London: Macamillion
Cash, P., Gordon, S., & Saunders, G. (1991) – Sources of Bahamian
History. London and Oxford: Macamillion Education
Michael Craton, Saunders, G. (1998) – Islanders in the Stream: A History
of the Bahamain People (Vols. Two: from the Ending of Slavery to the
Twenty-First Century). Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia