The Inman family is representative of those members of the planter class who lost much of their wealth during the Civil War (1861-65) but recouped their fortunes in a postwar urban environment. They contradict C. Vann Woodward's theory that the New South was run by new men, meaning nonplantation elites. Instead, the Inmans better fit the theory of those historians who argue that members of the planter class evolved into the South's political and economic leaders, roles which were not new to them, after the Civil War.
The dry-goods stores of the time served as places to barter goods, particularly for farmers growing cotton, but were later discontinued in favor of direct dealings in cotton. The Inmans worked as factors, purchasing cotton from farmers and reselling it when the market turned more favorable. From their interest in cotton they expanded into such related areas as fertilizers, cotton presses, steel hoops to hold compressed cotton, and railroads for the shipping of cotton.
In order to influence shipping rates, the Inmans obtained positions on the boards of various railroads and as voting stockholders. As a result of serving in these capacities, John H. Inman became president of the Richmond and Danville Railroad in 1890. As president, Inman was accused of charging the Richmond and Danville too much money for the stock of the Central of Georgia Railway, of which he was one of the largest stockholders. Due to this conflict of interest, Inman was forced to resign in 1892, and investigations followed. He never recovered from this incident and died on November 5, 1896, with his once wealthy estate in bankruptcy.
Samuel and Hugh, on the other hand, found their interest in various businesses growing along with the city of Atlanta.
The Inmans were soon able to venture beyond the world of business and into the politics of the city. Samuel and Hugh served as aldermen and as members of various civic organizations, all the while pushing the physical development of Atlanta and improving the value of their real estate investments. As civic leaders they were also involved with city boosterism in the form of expositions, including the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895.
Through the money they made on cotton and railroads, the Inmans were able to participate in philanthropic
Don H. Doyle, New Men, New Cities, New South: Atlanta, Nashville, Charleston, Mobile, 1860-1910 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990).
Tammy Harden Galloway, The Inman Family: An Atlanta Family from Reconstruction to World War I (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2002).
James Michael Russell, Atlanta, 1847-1890: City Building in the Old South and the New (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988).
Tammy H. Galloway, Smyrna
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.