Ducktown Smoke

The Fight over One of the South's Greatest Environmental Disasters

By Duncan Maysilles

344 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 illus., 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2987-2
    Published: August 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7793-7
    Published: May 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8515-9
    Published: May 2011

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It is hard to make a desert in a place that receives sixty inches of rain each year. But after decades of copper mining, all that remained of the old hardwood forests in the Ducktown Mining District of the Southern Appalachian Mountains was a fifty-square mile barren expanse of heavily gullied red hills--a landscape created by sulfur dioxide smoke from copper smelting and destructive logging practices. In Ducktown Smoke, Duncan Maysilles examines this environmental disaster, one of the worst the South has experienced, and its impact on environmental law and Appalachian conservation.

Beginning in 1896, the widening destruction wrought in Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina by Ducktown copper mining spawned hundreds of private lawsuits, culminating in Georgia v. Tennessee Copper Co., the U.S. Supreme Court's first air pollution case. In its 1907 decision, the Court recognized for the first time the sovereign right of individual states to protect their natural resources from transborder pollution, a foundational opinion in the formation of American environmental law. Maysilles reveals how the Supreme Court case brought together the disparate forces of agrarian populism, industrial logging, and the forest conservation movement to set a legal precedent that remains relevant in environmental law today.

About the Author

Duncan Maysilles is a lawyer and a historian. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina, his law degree at Duke University, and his doctorate in history at the University of Georgia.
For more information about Duncan Maysilles, visit the Author Page.


"A powerful and enlightening addition to literature on environmental abuse."--McCormick Messenger

"With degrees in English, history, and law, Maysilles discusses the topic with a high degree of elegance, knowledge and thoughtful consideration." --H-Net Reviews

“[A] well-researched book . . . . Recommended.”--Choice

“Readers and researches can certainly celebrate that this vitally important subject is now illuminated by a thorough book-length study.”--Appalachian Heritage

“Maysilles’s book on the Copper Basin successfully assesses the importance of the Ducktown lawsuits of the early twentieth century to today’s environmental challenges. . . . This book has appeal for students and academics studying national and regional legal history, as well as historians studying the New South period.”--Journal of East Tennessee History

“Maysilles provides a vibrant look at Ducktown, its smoke, and what would emerge as its deserted landscape.”--North Carolina Historical Review