The Chesapeake Colonies and Tobacco

Wax Impression Seal of Virginia

Seal on which Virginia is personified by an
Indian presenting the King with tobacco.

Although Virginia, Maryland, and southern Delaware were well into the process of diversifying their crops by 1776, tobacco remained at the heart of the Chesapeake's economic life throughout the colonial period. From 1620, it was British America's most valuable export (sugar from the West Indies, however, dwarfed the value of tobacco as an imperial commodity). By 1770, however, the Chesapeake was split between at least two economic systems: a shrinking Tidewater community that continued to grow sweet-scented tobacco for consignment to London merchants and English smokers, and a growing—in size and indebtedness—Piedmont community focused on growing oronoco tobacco for Scottish merchants and European snuff-takers.

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