Minerals.—The progress of coal-mining has been a striking feature of the state’s economy since 1880. The field extends from Oklahoma eastward to central Arkansas, along both sides of the Arkansas river. A production of 5000 tons (short) in 1882 became 542,000 tons in 1891 and 2,229,172 tons in 1903—a maximum for the state up to 1905; in 1907 the yield was 2,670,438 tons, valued at $4,473,693; the value of the product increased more than eight-fold in 1886-1900. The United States Geological Survey estimates that three-fourths of the coal area (over 1700 sq. m.) can made commercially productive. Apart from coal the great and varied mineral wealth of the state has been only slightly utilized. The great zinc and lead area along the northern border in the plateau portion of the Ozark region has proved a disappointment in development; the iron areas have hardly been touched, and the product of the exceptionally promising deposits of manganese lost ground after 1890 before the output of Virginia and Georgia. Among the products of the rich stone quarries of the state, only that of abrasive stones is important in the markets of the Union; the novaculites of Arkansas are among the finest whetstones in the world. Deposits of true chalk are utilized in the manufacture of Portland cement for local markets. The chalk region lies in the S.E. part of the state, S. of the Ouachita Mountains. Bauxite was discovered in the state in 1887, and the product increased from 5045 long tons in 1899 to 50,267 long tons in 1906, the production for the whole country in 1899 being 35,280 long tons and in 1906 75,332 long tons. The only other states in which bauxite was produced during the period were Alabama and Georgia, which in this respect have greatly declined in importance relatively to Arkansas. Extremely valuable and varied marls, kaolins and clays, fuller’s earth, asphaltum and mineral waters show special promise in the state’s industry. In 1906 diamonds were found in a peridotite dike in Pike county 2½ m. S.E. of Murfreesboro; this is the first place in North America where diamonds have been found in situ, and not in glacial deposit or in river gravel.
Communications.—The rivers afford for light craft (of not over 3 ft. draft) about 3000 m. of navigable waters, a river system unequalled in extent by that of any other state. The labours of the United States government have much extended and very greatly improved this navigation, materially lessening also the frequency and havoc of floods along the rich bottom-lands through which the rivers plough a tortuous way in the eastern and southern portions of the state. As a result of these improvements land and timber values have markedly risen, and great impetus has been given to traffic on the rivers, which carry a large part of the cotton, lumber, coal, stone, hay and miscellaneous freights of the state. The greatest of these internal improvements is the St Francis levee, from New Madrid, Missouri, to the mouth of the St Francis, 212 m. along the Mississippi; an area of 3500 sq. m., of exceptional fertility, is here reclaimed at a cost of about $1500 per sq. m. (as compared with $10,000 per sq. m. for the 2500 sq. m. reclaimed by the Nile works at Assuan and Assiut). Whether with regard to area or population, Arkansas is also relatively well supplied with railways (4,472.8 m. at the end of 1907). A state railway commission controls transportation rates, which are also somewhat checked by the competition of river freights. There is also a considerable passenger traffic on the Arkansas.
Population.—The population in 1910 was 1,574,449. The growth in 1880-1900 is shown by the following table:—
per sq. m.
|% Increase by decades.|
In 1900 the rank of the state in total population was twenty-fifth, and in negro population tenth. The proportion of the coloured element steadily rose from 11% in 1820 to 28% in 1900, at which time there were more than a dozen counties along the border of the Mississippi and lower Arkansas in which the negroes numbered 50 to 89% of the total. They have never been a large element in the highland counties; it was these counties which were most strongly Unionist at the time of the Civil War, and which to-day are the region of diversified industry. About a ninth of the state’s population is gathered into towns of more than 2000 inhabitants. Fort Smith (pop. 11,587 in 1900), Little Rock, the state capital (38,307), and Pine Bluff (11,496) lie in the valley of the Arkansas. In 1900 a dozen other towns had a population exceeding 2500, the most important being Hot Springs (9973), Helena (5550), Texarkana (4914), Jonesboro (4508), Fayetteville (4061), Eureka Springs (3572), Mena (3423) and Paragould (3324). Foreign blood has only very slightly permeated the state; negroes and native whites of native parents make up more than 95% of its population. Immigration is almost entirely from other southern states. The strongest religious sects are the Methodists and Baptists.
Government.—The present constitution of the state dates from 1874 (with amendments). Few features mark it off from the usual type of such documents. The governor holds office for two years; he has the pardoning and veto power, but his veto may be overridden by a simple majority in each house of the whole number elected to that house (a provision unusual among the state constitutions of the Union). There is no lieutenant-governor. The legislature is bicameral, senators holding office for four years, representatives (about thrice as numerous) for two. The length of the regular biennial legislative sessions is limited to sixty days, but by a vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house the length of any session may be extended. Special sessions may be called by the governor. A majority of the members elected to each of the two houses suffices to propose a constitutional amendment, which the people may then accept by a mere majority of all votes cast at an election for the legislature (an unusually democratic provision); no more than three amendments, however, can be proposed or submitted at the same time. The supreme court has five members, elected by the people for eight years; they are re-eligible. The population of the state entitles it to seven representatives in the national House of Representatives, and to nine votes in the Electoral College (census of 1900). Elections of members of the state legislature and of Congress are not held at the same time—a very unusual provision. Elections are by Australian ballot; the constitution prescribes that no law shall “be enacted whereby the right to vote at any election shall be made to depend upon any previous registration of the elector’s name” (extremely unusual). The qualifications for suffrage include one year’s residence in the state, six months in the county, and one month in the voting district, next before election; idiots, insane persons, convicts, Indians not taxed, minors and women are disqualified; aliens who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States vote on the same terms as actual citizens. An amendment of 1893 requires the exhibition of a poll-tax receipt by every voter (except those “who make satisfactory proof that they have attained the age of twenty-one years since the time of assessing taxes next preceding” the election). There is nothing in the constitution or laws of Arkansas with any apparent tendency to disfranchise the negroes; there are statutory provisions (1866-1867) against intermarriage of the races and constitutional and statutory (1886-1887) provisions for separate schools, a “Jim Crow” law (1891) requires railways to provide separate cars for negroes, and a law (1893) provides for separate railway waiting-rooms for negroes. Giving or accepting a challenge to a duel bars from office, but this survival of the ante-bellum social life is to-day only reminiscent. Declared atheists are similarly disqualified. There is no constitutional provision for a census. Marriage is pronounced a civil contract. A law for compulsory education was passed in 1909.
Finance.—The constitution makes 1% on the assessed valuation of property a maximum limit of state taxation for ordinary expenses, but by an amendment of 1906 the legislature may levy three mills on the dollar per annum for common schools; and may “authorize school districts to levy by a vote of the qualified electors of such district a tax not to exceed seven mills on the dollar in any year for school purposes.” The state debt in 1874 was $12,108,247, of which about $9,370,000 was incurred after the Civil War for internal improvement schemes. This new debt was practically repudiated in 1875 by a decision of the supreme court, and completely set aside in 1884 by constitutional amendment. Until 1900, when an adjustment of the matter was reached, there was also another disputed debt to the national government, owing to the collapse in 1839 of a so-called Real Estate Bank of Arkansas, in which the state had invested more than $500,000 paid to it by the United States in exchange for Arkansas bonds to be held as an investment for the Smithsonian Institution, on which bonds the state defaulted after 1839. If the unacknowledged debt be included (as it often is; and hence the necessity of reference to it), very few states—and those all western or southern—have a heavier burden per capita. But the acknowledged debt was in 1907 only $1,250,500, and this is