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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Textile Fibers
Historical Sketch Of The Textiles
Mechanical Devices For Preparation Of Textiles
Cotton Production
Cotton Marketing
Cotton Manufacturing
Geography Of The Cotton Trade
Prices Of Cotton Goods
Classes Of Wool
Production Of Wool
Wool Marketing
Manufacture Of Wool
Geography Of Wool Production
Mohair, Its Nature And Uses
Raw Silk Porduction
Silk Manufacturing
Silk Waste
Imitations Of Silk
Construction, Color, And Finish Of Cloth
Dyeing And Printing
Cloth Finishing
Care Of Textiles
Textile Tests

Cotton Production

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The cotton fiber.-The cotton fiber comes from the seeds of the cotton plant. It varies in length from one-half inch up to two and one-half or even three inches, according to the variety and to the conditions under which it is raised. The great volume of cotton in the world's markets averages about an inch in length. When examined under a powerful microscope, a single fiber appears to be flat like a ribbon with a ridge at each side, but instead of lying flat like a ribbon the fiber is twisted many times so that it looks like a spiral. This twist in the fiber, together with the ridges at the edges, helps materially in spinning the fibers into a thread, for the fibers are entangled in each other's spirals, and this makes the thread hard to pull apart without breaking.

Composition of cotton.-Chemists tell us that the cotton fiber is composed of a substance called cellulose. This substance is found in all plants. All vegetable fibers such as linen, hemp, jute, and so on are principally composed of cellulose. It is the most important part of wood and straw and, therefore, of paper. The pulp of cornstalks and the fibrous parts of leaves are mainly cellulose. In this substance a chemist can point out a number of well-defined qualities found in neither wool nor silk; therefore from the science of chemistry we can learn tests to determine whether or not a fabric has cellulose in its construction, and distinguish it definitely from wool and silk. But to tell whether the cellulose in the fibers under examination comes from the cotton plant or from some other plant requires an entirely different test.

Cotton belongs to mallow family.-The cotton plant is a member of a big family, the mallows. It is related to the garden hollyhock. The cotton blossom closely resembles that of the hollyhock. The technical name of cotton is gossypium.

Numbers of species.-There are several species of cotton plants. Some authorities claim there are as many as twentyeight; others distinguish only four distinct species, each showing slight variations. There are in all about two hundred varieties of cotton grown for the fiber, but it seems fairly certain that they are all members of one or another of the four great species of cotton.

Names of cotton species.-These four kinds of cotton are: herb cotton, called by botanists gossypium herbaceum; shrub cotton, called gossypium hirsuturn; tree cotton, gossypium arboreum; and lintless cotton, called gossypium barbadense.

The names of the cotton plants suggest their varying heights. The gossypium herbaceum or herb cotton grows to a height of from two to four feet. The gossypium hirsutum grows to a height of about six feet, and is the commonest species, comprising most of the so-called upland cottons raised in the United States. The gossypium arboreum grows to a height of from fifteen to twenty feet. The gossypium barbadense differs from the other cottons in that its seeds are not covered with the little hairs or lint found on other cotton seeds, especially upland varieties. Its fibers are longer than those of the other species, and are therefore more valuable. The sea-island cottons of the United States are the best examples of this species.

Conditions favoring growth.-The cotton plant can be grown only in a warm climate. It takes at least a six-month summer for the seed to become a plant and for the plant to produce a crop of cotton. The cotton plant is a perennial; that is, it continues to live for several years like most shrubs and trees; but it is easily killed by even the lightest frosts. In every cold cotton country, therefore, new seed must be planted every year. Even in tropical regions, a better crop is produced by such annual replanting than by allowing the old plants to grow and produce crops year after year.

Where produced.-The principal cotton-producing countries in the world are the United States, India, and Egypt. The United States alone produces about six-tenths of all the cotton in the world. India produces about two-tenths, and Egypt, one-tenth. Several other countries, such as Peru, Brazil, China, Japan, Arabia, Persia, Russia, West Africa, Algiers, West Indies, and Mexico, produce a small amount each, making up the remaining tenth of the world's supply.

India, China, and other Asiatic countries produce the: herb species of cotton, gossypium herbaceum. The shrub species, gossypium hirsutum, is, as has already been stated, the common American cotton. It is also grown in the West Indies and Mexico. The tree cotton, gossypium arboreum, grows in India, China, Arabia, and some other Asiatic countries. Very little cotton enters into the world's commerce from this species. The gossypium barbadense is raised in the West Indies and an the islands and lowlands near the coast of the South Atlantic and Gulf states. This species, ordinarily called sea-island cotton, has been transplanted to various parts of the world, as, for example, Egypt, Australia, and the Fiji Islands; its cultivation has also been tried with some success on the uplands of the southern states and in the irrigated regions of the Southwest.

The South American cottons, generally called Brazilian and Peruvian cottons, are considered to be varieties of the gossypium hirsutum. The fibers differ widely in the many varieties of this species, and serve quite different uses in textile manufacture. Peruvian cotton is, in general, harsher and stronger than Brazilian cotton. It is so much like wool that it is often used to mix with wool.

General qualities of the principal ldnds of cotton.-The principal qualities that make cotton fiber valuable are its length, strength, fineness, and color. Other qualities are considered in the market, such as pliability, regularity, smoothness, and cleanliness, but those first named are most. important.

Sea-island cotton.-Sea-island cotton is by far the best. Its fibers average from one and one-half to two and onehalf inches long. It is silky in appearance and of fine color. This fiber is, therefore, used in making the finest cotton goods, such as sewing thread, lace, gauze, fine muslins, silk mixtures, and silk imitations.

Egyptian cotton.-Egyptian cotton, especially of the transplanted sea-island variety, comes next in these qualities. Its fiber averages from one and one-fourth to one and one-half inches in length, and its color ranges from white and glossy light to yellow. It also is used in making spool cotton, silk imitations, and the finer fabrics. Great quantities are imported into this country every year, and are combed and spun into yarns for fancy cotton knit goods, such as the better grades of underwear and hosiery.

Peruvian cotton.-Peruvian and Brazilian cottons have a fiber almost as long as Egyptian cotton, but they differ in several other qualities. Peruvian cotton has a harsh and wiry fiber. It looks and feels more like wool than any other cotton; hence it is used very generally in the manufacture of wool mixtures, especially where it is desired to preserve an "all wool" appearance. Brazilian cotton is similar, although rather less harsh and woolly.

Upland cotton.-The American upland cottons come next in the scale. The fibers run from three-fourths to one and one-fourth inches in length, depending upon the variety, the kind of soil upon which the plant is raised, and the care given to production by the cotton farmer. Poor soil and poor cultivation produce a short fiber. The upland cottons furnish most of the supply for the great staple lines of cotton goods, such as ginghams, calicoes, sheetings, shirtings, and so on.

India cotton.-The India cottons rank somewhat lower than the American upland in length, strength, and other qualities. They are therefore used in making still coarser cloth yarns than the American cottons, as, for example, coarse sheetings, shirtings, denims, and drills.

Variations in grade.-It should be understood that there are several varieties of cotton produced in all of the cottonraising countries, and that there are great differences in soil, climate, and methods of cultivation that make differences in the fiber. Although we have spoken of sea-island cotton as the best, a certain part of even this kind of cotton that comes to the great cotton markets of the world sells for less than good American upland cotton, when, as sometimes happens, the former is of poor quality, or in damaged condition. Egyptian cotton is, next to sea-island, the finest cotton in the world, but some cotton from Egypt, especially from the upper part of the Nile Valley, is no better than the India cottons. The fancy Egyptian cottons come from the lower 'Nile where the soil is very rich, because the annual overflow of the river and the irrigating systems keep the soil in the best possible condition. Outside of this wellwatered region, Egypt raises some cotton, but not of the best grades. India produces more than a score of varieties of cotton, some of which are very poor. Most of them, however, average just a little below that of the American uplands, while a few are as good as the Egyptian. American cottons vary greatly. What are known as the Peeler, Allanseed, Georgia, and Orleans cotton varieties rank considerably higher than Texas or Mobile cotton.

Improving the cotton.-The introduction of better methods of agriculture in cotton-growing areas is everywhere improving the quality of the fiber as well as the quantity of the yield. There is probably no reason other than the ignorance of the Hindu cotton farmers that prevents them from raising as good cotton as do our American farmers. It is noteworthy, too, that American cotton production is leaping forward rapidly wherever agriculture is being made scientific.

One method of improving the yield of cotton in a given area is the introducing of, and experimenting with, varieties of cotton from other lands. For example, sea-island cotton has been tried on Georgia uplands with considerable success. It has also been introduced into Egypt, Australia, Brazil, and elsewhere. Although sea-island cotton does not produce fiber two inches long on Georgia uplands, it nevertheless produces a better grade of cotton than the common upland cotton. Egyptian cotton, when brought to the United States, has been found satisfactory in certain southern lowland areas, also in irrigated regions in Arizona. The result of all this experimenting will finally be that each kind of cotton will be grown in the parts of the world where it can grow best, and where it will produce the most valuable fiber.

Cotton culture.-The cotton plant likes a good soil, deep, rather loose, medium grades of loam seeming the most satisfactory. It requires much moisture, but the soil must not be wet or mucky; hence it does best only when the land is well drained and has frequent rainfall, especially during the growing season. It rarely flourishes in a very windy section. Warm, balmy breezes, plenty of rainfall, good rich soil-these are the chief requisites.

Soil exploitation.-Cotton is hard on the soil. Several thousands of acres formerly under cultivation in the South have been abandoned because of impoverishment of the soil. Much of this has been due to poor methods of farming and to failure to return to the soil the elements taken out by the cotton. It has been discovered that the cotton fiber takes very little plant food, but the cottonseeds draw heavily from the soil. In view of this fact, cottonseeds, and especially cottonseed hulls, are often used as fertilizers on land used for cotton growing.

Methods of planting.-In the southern states cotton is planted in March or thereabouts. The ground is prepared by plowing and harrowing, and then the seeds are sown in rows four feet apart. When the seeds have sprouted, laborers go down the rows thinning out the young plants so that the remainder stand about eight to fourteen inches apart. After this begins the cultivation, which somewhat resembles that given to corn. In days before the Civil War (1861-1865), and for some time following, all labor about the cotton field, such as planting and cultivating, was done by hand, by negroes. On the larger modern farms everything is done by machine, save thinning out the plants, which is still done with a hoe.

Cotton losses on farms.-Cotton grows most rapidly during the months of June and July. The plants blossom and then begin to grow the bolls that contain the seed and the fiber. Each plant has several of these bolls, in fact many more than ever ripen and can be collected. Only about a quarter or a third actually ripen; hence there is a tremendous waste of nature's energy in producing a cotton crop.

The cotton boll weevil.-There are other great losses to which the cotton crop is subject, such as from plant diseases and destruction by insects. It is estimated that there is an annual loss of more than $40,000,000 per year due to one insect alone, known as the cotton boll weevil. This insect attacks the cotton bolls before they are ripe, destroying the fiber. The ravages of this pest are widespread in the South, and the area affected seems to be growing. The cotton boll weevil originally came from Mexico over the Rio Grande River into Texas. It slowly spread throughout Texas and then into Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, afterward crossing the Mississippi into the eastern cotton states. During the last few years, the agricultural colleges of the South and the United States Department of Agriculture have made every effort to discover some means of killing off the weevil. Poisons have been tried with no success. One of the best plans so far hit upon has been the importation from Mexico of other insects and ants that were found to be enemies of the cotton boll weevil. Birds that eat the pest have been protected. The farmers are being taught to plant their cotton earlier so as to get the cotton bolls along so far as to be beyond the injury of the weevil before the season when the insect does the worst damage. Hardy varieties of cotton have been bred, and the cotton crop has been considerably increased by scientific methods of farming, even in the worst infested districts.

Strange as it seems, therefore, the cotton boll weevil has had much to do with improving methods of farming and making the farmers more intelligent. Before the trouble with this insect began, cotton raising was carried on in careless fashion. Agricultural education was not thought of. Farmers would not attend the farmers' institutes nor would they read agricultural papers. But when the weevil began to destroy their crops year after year, threatening to starve the people out of the country, there developed a strong interest in what schools and experiment stations had to say about farming.

Cotton picking.-The cotton bolls begin to ripen about the latter part of August and then the picking begins. The bolls do not all ripen at the same time, not even on the same plant. Those on the under sides and nearest the bottom are first ready for picking. Because of the irregularity with which the cotton bolls open, it has been difficult to invent a cotton-picking machine. Although there are several types of machines in experimental stages advocated as offering success, the South still picks the greatest part of the crop by hand. The cotton-picking season lasts from August to December, or about one hundred days. Each field is gone over at least three times. The pickers are for the most part negroes, men, women, and children, many of them coming out of the cities just for the season, thus to earn a better, though brief, wage. Employers of laborfactory hands, day laborers, waiters, waitresses, cooks, kitchen girls, and household help of all kinds-state that when the annual cotton-picking season comes around it is very difficult to keep their help. There is a rush for the cotton fields, followed by a return to the cities at the end of the season.

The pay of the cotton pickers is from forty-five to fifty cents a hundred pounds. Many pick no more than this amount in a day; yet good pickers average about three hundred or even more pounds a day.

The cotton fibers and seeds are pulled out of each boll and dropped into a sack that the picker carries suspended from his shoulder. Whenever the sack is full, the picker empties it into a large basket set apart, and then returns to his row. When the day's work is over, the picker's baskets are weighed and the amount marked down to his credit by the farm manager.

Hauled to the gin.-After the cotton has stood in the baskets or has been laid in the sunshine awhile to allow it to dry out, it is loaded into a wagon and hauled from the field to the cotton ginnery. This is the place where the seeds and fibers are separated and the fibers compressed into bales. If his farm is large, the farmer may own his own gin; the majority, however, haul their cotton to ginneries whose owners charge a certain toll for ginning the cotton and baling it. The latest statistics show that each ginnery in the South serves on the average about thirty. farmers.

The cotton gin.-The cotton gin is a machine that pulls the fibers from the seeds to which they are attached. It was devised in 1792 by an American, Eli Whitney. Previously, the fibers were pulled by hand, and no one could clean more than half a dozen pounds of cotton a week. The modern gin can handle 5,000 pounds a day. The wonderful development of the cotton industry would not have been possible without this invention, nor is it likely that without it America would have become a great cotton-producing country. But the gin made cotton king; by its means Southern slavery became profitable, and Lancashire, England, almost at a bound, took first place in the world's cotton manufacturing. Simple inventions sometimes have tremendous significance in social and economic life; the cotton gin is a most noteworthy instance of this truth.

Cotton lint and seed.-At this point the story of cotton divides, as we trace first the course of the cottonseed and then that of the fiber. Although in this study we are not primarily interested in the utilization of cottonseed, it is of interest to glance at this product and its uses.

Cottonseed products.-It has already been said that the cottonseeds, or parts of them, are used for fertilizing the cotton-growing fields. But only within recent years has this been done. Forty years ago cottonseed was, to the minds of the cotton grower and the ginnery operator, a nuisance that must in some way be got rid of. People used to throw this by-product into the rivers. Unfortunately the seed disagreed with the fish; wherefore the inhabitants farther down the streams began to complain of dead fish and the decaying cottonseed in the water. Thereupon the cotton men tried to burn the "waste product," but it would not burn well. And if they merely left the pile out in the open air, in the course of time decay would set in and cause an unpleasant odor.

But modern progress lets few problems of waste products be unsolved; finally it was discovered that cottonseed contains a rich oil that can be utilized in a number of ways. Cottonseed has ceased to be a nuisance; every part has a definite value. The seed is now hauled from the ginnery and sold to the producers of cottonseed oil, who first strip off all the little fine hairs that the gin did not get. These "linters" are used in making cotton batting, wadding, felt, and also coarse yarns. Next the lintless seeds have their outside portions, the hulls, stripped off by machinery especially constructed for that purpose. Much of this material is used in paper making. Some of it is used as fuel in running the engines in the cottonseed oil factories, the ashes being afterwards used as fertilizers. Some of the hulls are ground into cattle food, and are often mixed with wheat bran. A secondary product is thus derivable-manure from cattle fed with this food, which is of high value to the cotton farms. Finally the cottonseeds, stripped of lint and hulls, are put in a heavy compress and all of the oil pressed out. What is left is known as cottonseed oil cake, or "oil cake" for short. Oil cake is ground fine and used both as cattle feed and as a cotton-field fertilizer. As a cattle food it is sought after, especially by farmers who have made farming a science. Great quantities of oil cake are shipped annually to European countries, especially to those noted for dairying, such as Denmark and Holland.

Cottonseed oil.-The oil pressed out of the cottonseeds is purified and made into salad oils. Mixed with beef fat it makes a cooking compound called by various names. Mixed with kerosene it makes miner's lamp oil. It is also combined with various soap alkalies in making toilet and laundry soaps.

Cottonseed oil as food.-Cottonseed oil is rapidly becoming a staple food product. Cooking fats containing cottonseed oil are increasingly used. Before the pure-food law was passed by the United States Congress, cottonseed oil almost supplanted olive oil in this country, boldly assuming the title of "olive oil." Such imitation with intent to deceive is now, of course, illegal. Cottonseed oil is rapidly coming into use upon its own merits as a cheap and nutritious food. It is interesting to note that its use is rapidly spreading in the olive oil producing countries, Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, and Asia Minor. Olive oil, a staple food among the people of these nations from time immemorial, is being replaced among the poorer classes by the cottonseed product. In some of the countries, no laws have yet been passed preventing dealers from calling it olive oil; hence it is often sold and bought, unsuspected, under the false name.

The cotton bale.-We have seen how the cotton fibers are separated from the seeds and baled at the ginnery. A hundred pounds of cotton from the fields yields about sixty-six pounds of seed and only about thirty-four pounds of fibers; or lint. About 500 pounds of lint are compressed into each bale. The amount varies from 300 to 900 pounds, but the average is not far from 500 pounds. The standard American bale measures fifty-four inches high, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches deep. The Egyptians put their cotton up in bales weighing 700 pounds. The East India bale weighs about 400 pounds, while that of South America averages some 250 pounds.

The bale is usually rectangular. There is another kind of bale, known as the Bessonette bale, shaped like a cylinder or barrel; this is said to be rapidly coming into use because of certain advantages it has over the angular bale in shipping and handling. It occupies less room, since it is more tightly compressed, but same cotton spinners object to it because they claim the fiber is damaged by the heavy pressure.

In the baling press the cotton bale is covered with jute or other coarse cloth bagging and then bound with sheetiron bands. This covering keeps the cotton clean while it is handled and shipped.

Poor bales from America.-American growers have been frequently accused of carelessness in baling cotton. Such coarse, poor bagging has been used that it has often been torn to pieces before the cotton reached the manufacturers; consequently the cotton lint has been soiled and spoiled. English spinners have been the loudest complainers, claiming that of all cotton imported, that from America came to them in the worst condition. Very little was done to correct this evil until 1906. During the cotton season of that year, the Lancashire Cotton Manufacturers' Association sent a commission from England to study and report upon the American methods of handling, baling, and shipping. The members of this commission traveled over a large part of the cotton belt in the South, attracting considerable attention among American cotton farmers. They finally made numerous recommendations for improving the handling of the cotton, suggestions which the cotton growers are now beginning to follow with profit. But much of the permanent bettering of cotton production, including the handling of the cotton, is due largely to the constant agitation and education of the farmers by the agricultural colleges, the farmers' institutes, and the publications of the United States Department of Agriculture. These forces have brought such results as the doubling of the cotton crop on a given area, as well as improving the quality.

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