Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Southern Confederacy Arithmetic

Here is an interesting piece of mathematical Americana: The Southern Confederacy Arithmetic by the Reverend Charles E. Leverett, published by J. T. Patterson & Co., Augusta, Georgia, 1864.

Probably not too many Northern mathematics texts had questions about bales of cotton (p. 140):

Example 1. — A factor sells 25 bales of cotton at $100 per bale : what is his commission at 2½ per cent. ?

Similarly, a Northern text would probably not have an example of an order from Jefferson Davis (p. 209), or helpful explanations such as "In some States there is no capitation tax, and the sum to be raised for the expenses of the Government is collected from each individual, in proportion to his property. In South Carolina, this is on land and negroes, and is called the general tax." (p. 142)

You can also find questions such as (p. 13)

(19.) From the creation of the world to the flood was 1656 years ; from that time to the building of Solomon's Temple, 1336 years; thence to the birth of our Saviour, 1003 years : in what year of the world was our Lord born ?

I suppose it's not as bad as it could be. There are no questions like "Nathan Bedford whipped 3 slaves every day of the week except the Lord's day. How many slaves did he whip in total?"


Anonymous said...

Try this from another book of practical mathematics, from a bit later but republished until the 1960's at least:


1524. 1. A sea captain on a voyage, had a crew of 30 men, half of whom

were blacks. Being becalmed on the passage for a long time, their provisions began

to fail, and the captain became satisfied, that unless the number of men was greatly

diminished, all would perish of hunger before they could reach any friendly port.

lie therefore proposed to the sailors that they should stand in a row on deck, and

that every ninth man should be thrown overboard until one-half of the crew were

thus destroyed. To this they all agreed. How should they stand so as to save the

whites ?

Anonymous said...

Talking of amusing (though thankfully not racist) word problems, here is one from Bhāskarāchārya's Lilavati (lit. "The playful woman"), which was for centuries the canonical algebra and arithmetic textbook in India:

Whilst making love a necklace broke.
A row of pearls mislaid.
One sixth fell to the floor.
One fifth upon the bed.
The young woman saved one third of them.
One tenth were caught by her lover.
If six pearls remained upon the string
How many pearls were there altogether?