When traveling, I like to read books that connect to my destinations. I knew little about Palmetto-Leaves except that it was written by the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and was related to Florida to where I was headed. It turned out to be an ideal Florida read, helping to erase the din of condo developments, killer drivers and loud restaurants, letting you remember what once lay beneath the cement.
In 1872, Stowe and her husband, "the Professor," settled in Mandarin, in northern Florida. The chapters are newsy accounts and advice for a northern audience with fine descriptive passages and sketches of daily life, agricultural and climatic realities and economics, and the people she finds there. Get past the opening folly, the metaphor of a stray dog encountered during the move down there, and you have a shrewd but warm modern journalistic voice. It neatly documents the post Civil War era, especially the former slave culture that was finding its way through education and land grants. Stowe proudly considers her vision of the former slave community to be supportive and progressive, especially as she argues the work ethic and contribution to the economy. She'd probably be wounded to hear that her "noble savage" outlook is no longer considered enlightened. But the picture she provides of a new world rising, before Jim Crow washes over the South, is important. Her outlook on the value of education for all children is sanguine and always significant. And her record of Victorian era travel, as yet undisturbed nature and the origins of wealthy winter homes is valuable.
A note about this edition: I gather it is print on demand. It is a photocopy of an original copy--you can see shadows of original markings on the page, and the paper is, well, bright white 20 lb. copy paper. But the important thing is, those of us who love physical books have access to this title.