CHANNING COPE AND THE MAKING OF A MIRACLE VINE*

Authors


  • *

    This research was supported by a Research/Creative Activity Grant funded by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, East Carolina University. I appreciate the helpful comments provided by Tom Bell, John Winberry, Ron Mitchelson, Donna G'Segner Alderman, and the anonymous reviewers. I would also like to thank Velvet Nelson for conducting newspaper research and Patrick Pease for assisting me with the scanning and editing of archival photographs.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. The history of kudzu illustrates the fluidity with which people can redefine their cultural relationship with exotic species. Although much of American society views the fast-growing Asian vine as a pest, this has not always been the case. During the first half of the twentieth century, individual entrepreneurs and government officials touted kudzu as a “miracle vine” and carried out massive planting campaigns across the southeastern United States. This study traces the changing place of kudzu within southern society from its introduction in the late 1800s to the present. Specific attention is devoted to the role that the gentleman farmer, author, and radio personality Channing Cope played in popularizing the cultivation of kudzu. Cope's promotional activities are interpreted as environmental claims making. Analysis focuses on the metaphors he used in persuading the public of kudzu's supposed benefits. Conducting such an examination advances our general understanding of the historical geography of exotics in America and the importance of human agency and cultural representation in the spread of non-native organisms.

Ancillary