With it's shrewdly alliterative title and popular style, Lincoln's Labels is an interesting introduction to the impact of the Civil War on business entities (and vice versa) directed at a general audience. Applying various preconditions [to include availability of source materials, continued existence, and significance of impact], Mr. Schmidt has chosen his subjects well, although the absence of a firearms manufacturer was a curious omission. Firms include Brooks Brothers (uniforms), Borden (condensed milk), Tiffany (blades and finery), Scientific American magazine, Du Pont (gunpowder), E.R. Squibb (pharmaceuticals), and American Express/Adams Express (express mailing).
Each chapter provides brief background for the company and principle founder(s), along with nice annotated summaries of the enterprise's contribution to the Union war effort. The author also includes one or more colorful anecdotes illustrating the impact of the company's products on life at the front. These associations work well for the most part, and at least are fresh personal stories rather than well worn tales.
The company profiles also serve to illustrate various ancillary points, such as the importance of and struggle to achieve good quality control in the areas of medicine, food, textiles, and powder. Issues of war profiteering and shoddy manufactures are also touched upon.
While written in an informal, storytelling fashion, an examination of Schmidt's bibliography reveals a serious research effort. As stated above, the text is annotated, and source materials consulted include various unpublished manuscripts, newspapers, books, and articles. A helpful essay explaining how these sources were used was also included. It also performs good service in directing interested individuals to related reading. This book marks my first exposure to Minnesota publisher Edinborough Press and I am impressed with their professional presentation and material quality. Small presses like these have always been essential to the breadth and continued health of Civil War publishing. A lively, out of the ordinary work, Lincoln's Labels is a fine introductory survey of the understudied intersection of the business enterprise and military aspects of the Civil War.
You can also catch the author on Civil War Talk Radio this Friday (October 3) at noon PST; or regularly on his blog Civil War Medicine.