Student Research Projects

The Decline of Industry and the Rise of the “Lost Cause” Mythology in Postbellum Richmond

Student John Nash Maravich
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department History
Course HIST 360: Junior Research Seminar


The city of Richmond provides a perfect example of an antebellum industrial Southern city. It had the largest iron manufacturer in the South, Tredegar Iron Works, as part of this industrial base. After the Civil War, Richmond’s industries entered a brief period of expansion as they aided in the reconstruction of Southern infrastructure. But, after the depression in 1873, the city’s industrial base entered a persistent decline. In place of the once strong industries, Richmonders re-imagined their city as a shrine to the Lost Cause constructing such memorials as Monument Avenue in order to compensate for their loss of prestige. Using Tredegar Iron Works as a case study, this paper examines the postbellum decline of Richmond as an industrial center and its changing role as a memorial to the Old South and failure to embrace a New South ideology.