By the early twentieth century the Florida turpentine industry was at its zenith. Hundreds of thousands of pines were boxed for turpentine, and thousands of men in scores of isolated camps tended the trees for their employers. The operators of the camps in turn sold their products to naval stores marketing firms in Jacksonville, Savannah, or Tampa. These large factors then disposed of the turpentine and resin according to price quotations usually established by the Savannah market and followed by those of other cities. It was big business and heavily influenced by the harshest competitive practices of the day. Fierce competition between the large marketing firms often brough ruin to one while giving temporary advantage to the victor. With no alternative but to sell through the large factors, turpentine farmers were obliged to trim their costs to bare minimums. As was often the case, those at the lowest level of the industry bore the brunt of the sharp competition. The workers in the forests labored long and hard for bare subsistence wages, and in many camps it appears that they realized no gain at all. This was certainly true where state and county convicts were leased to turpentine operators when the practice was still legal. It was also the case for many others who were trapped by ignorance, abject want, and lack of alternatives. Workers often found themselves in perpetual debt and peonage. Employers who perpetuated this labor system felt that their well-being depended upon it, that it was a reasonable way to deal with black workers, and that anyone who criticized the system was an enemy to be dealt with swiftly and severely. When Mary Grace Quackenbos of New York City began trying to expose the system, turpentine farmers and their powerful allies and supporters in and out of goverment used all the methods at their disposal to quiet her.
Shofner, Jerrell H.
"Mary Grace Quackenbos, A Visitor Florida Did Not Want,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 58:
3, Article 4.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol58/iss3/4