Indigo promoter, entrepreneur. Lindo was a major force in turning South Carolina’s fledgling indigo trade into the region’s second leading agricultural industry in the middle years of the eighteenth century. From field to market he promoted the planting, cultivation, processing, and merchandising of the deep blue dye made from the leaves of the indigo plant.
Born to a family of Sephardic Jews in London, Lindo became an authority on dyes at the Royal Exchange, the city’s center of commerce. Impressed by the fine grade of indigo imported from South Carolina, Lindo sailed to Charleston in 1756. There, he secured the position of surveyor and inspector general of indigo and made a small fortune buying and selling indigo and other commodities coveted by Europeans, particularly coffee from the West Indies. Shortly after arriving in America, he bought a ship, which he named Lindo Packet, and placed an ad in the city’s weekly newspaper offering to pay cash for “a Plantation of 500 acres, with 60 or 70 Negroes.” There is no record that a deal was ever consummated, but it is known that Lindo engaged in the slave trade. He imported at least one shipload of slaves from Barbados, and he also owned slaves. In a letter published in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions for 1763, Lindo announced the invention of “a superior crimson dye” derived from pokeberries. He also claimed to have used a concoction of pokeberries, tobacco, and Roman vitriol to cure yaws, an infectious skin disease common in the crowded slave quarters.
After ten years, Lindo quit his post as indigo surveyor and was appointed appraiser of all dyes and drugs produced in North America. From the time of his arrival in South Carolina until his death in April 1774, indigo production increased fivefold, to more than one million pounds annually. He did not die wealthy, however, as over the years adverse judgments in a string of lawsuits apparently consumed his earnings.
Elzas, Barnett A. The Jews of South Carolina, from the Earliest Times to the Pre- sent Day. 1905. Reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1972.
Hagy, James William. This Happy Land: The Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.