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´╗┐Title: Cotton, Its Progress from the Field to the Needle - Being a brief sketch of the culture of the plant, its - picking, cleaning, packing, shipment, and manufacture
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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COTTON,
ITS PROGRESS FROM THE
FIELD TO THE NEEDLE:

BEING A BRIEF SKETCH OF
THE CULTURE OF THE PLANT,
ITS PICKING, CLEANING, PACKING, SHIPMENT,
AND MANUFACTURE.

[Illustration]

NEW YORK:
PUBLISHED BY ROBERT LOGAN & CO.,
51 DEY-STREET.

1855.


OLIVER & BROTHER, STEAM PRINTERS,
No. 32 Beckman-Street, New-York.



PREFACE.


Among the utilitarian gifts of nature and art we know of none in more
general use, or of greater practical value, than sewing-cotton. The
taste which turns into graceful shapes the products of the loom, the
executive skill which converts them into convenient and elegant apparel,
would be powerless without this simple accessory. It is the food of the
needle, and might almost be called the thread of life to thousands of
the gentler sex. Yet as it passes through the delicate fingers of
mothers, wives, and daughters, ministering to so many wants, and
creating so many beautiful superfluities, little thought is bestowed
upon the labor, the care, the dexterity, and the scientific ability
required in producing the article. The cultivation of the raw material,
the processes of picking, ginning, packing, shipping, combing, spinning,
and twisting, are among the most interesting operations in the whole
range of agriculture and manufactures; and we think the ladies, for
whose especial convenience such a vast amount of industry, skill, and
talent is employed, will not be unwilling to trace with us in a familiar
way the progress of this great domestic staple from the field to the
needle.

We therefore claim their attention to the following short treatise, from
which, without being fatigued by dry details, they may derive a
tolerably accurate idea of what capital, labor, and science have done to
bring to its present perfection the simple article of sewing-cotton.



CULTIVATION OF THE COTTON PLANT.


The cotton-planting season in all the Southern States commences in
April. The seed is sown in drills, a negro girl following the light
plough which makes the furrow, and throwing the seed into the shallow
trench as she moves along. A harrow follows to cover up the deposits,
and the work of "planting" is completed. About two and a half bushels of
seed are required for an acre of ground.

[Illustration]

In a week or ten days the cotton is "up," when a small plough is run
along the drills, throwing the earth _from_ the tender plants. The next
process is "scraping;" in other words, thinning out and earthing up the
plants, so as to leave each in the centre of a little hill, some two
feet distant from its nearest neighbors. The dexterity and accuracy with
which this feat is accomplished are wonderful; and there are few
spectacles more animated and picturesque than that of a hundred active
field-hands flourishing their bright hoes among the young vegetation,
each striving to outstrip the others in "hoeing out his row." Several
ploughings and hoeings intervene between the first of May and the last
of June.

In July the cotton fields burst into bloom, _creaming_ the landscape
with a sea of blossoms, the flower being very nearly of the same tint as
the ultimate product in its unbleached state. The new beauty thus
imparted to the scenery is, however, ephemeral. The blossoms unfold in
the night, are in their full glory in the morning, and by noon have
begun to fade. On the following day their cream-color has changed to a
dull red, and before sunset the petals have fallen, leaving inclosed in
the calyx the germ or "form" of the filamental fruit.

The cotton plant, in its progress towards maturity, is liable to the
assaults of as many enemies as the young crocodile on the banks of the
Nile; but among them all, the "army-worm" is the most destructive. This
worm is produced from the eggs of a chocolate-colored moth of
particularly harmless and demure appearance; but its name is legion, its
ravages terrific. No one who has beheld an invasion of these
caterpillars can ever forget it. Deep trenches are dug to arrest their
progress, but these are soon filled up by the accumulating myriads; and
onward move the living destroyers over the bodies of the buried masses.
Huge logs are drawn through the trenches by yokes of oxen, and the
multitudinous swarms crushed to a paste, of which the effluvium taints
the air for miles; but still the incursion, if checked, is not arrested.
When the planter sees the army-worm in his fields, he is ready to give
up his crop in despair.

By the middle of July the "bolls" or "forms" begin to open; and the
cotton fields, when viewed from a short distance, present the appearance
of being covered with ridges of white surf. Toward the close of the
month the _picking_ season commences, and is continued without
intermission until the Christmas holidays. Each field-hand is supplied
with a basket and a bag. The basket is placed at the end of the cotton
row, and the bag, as fast as filled, is emptied into it. It is a
pleasant sight, on "the old plantation," to see the pickers returning at
nightfall from their work, with their well-filled baskets picturesquely
poised upon their woolly heads. Falling into line with the stoutest in
the van, they move along through the twilight, too tired to talk or
sing, anxious only to deposit their store in the packing-house, and
retire to their "quarters" to rest. A first-rate hand will pick from
three hundred to three hundred and fifty pounds of cotton per day.

[Illustration]

The next process is the "ginning," or separation of the cotton from the
seeds. The invention of the cotton-gin by Eli Whitney, a New England
youth, in 1793, marked a new epoch in the cotton trade, and at once more
than quadrupled the value of the article as a national staple. Arkwright
had already introduced the spinning-frame, and through the genial
influence of these two great inventions, a pound of cotton, formerly
spun tediously by hand into a thread of five hundred feet, was
lengthened into a filament of _one hundred and fifty miles_; and the
value of our cotton exports was increased in sixty years from fifty
thousand to one hundred and twelve millions of dollars!

[Illustration: PACKING PRESS.]

After the "ginning" comes the "baling" of the cotton, which ends the
labor bestowed upon it on the plantation. In this process powerful
screw-presses are employed. The cotton is inclosed in Kentucky bagging,
and the contents of each bale are compressed by the screw almost to the
solidity of stone. The cotton is now ready for market.

[Illustration]

Toward the close of the packing season there are jolly times on the
plantation. Fox-hunting and racing are the order of the day. The
Southern planter, like the "fine old English gentleman," opens house to
all, and all goes "merry as a marriage bell." Sambo rubs up his old
musket, and is out after the ducks, while Dinah's shining face wears an
extra gloss in anticipation of the holidays. Throughout the holidays
there is high festival in the negro quarters. "The shovel and the hoe"
are laid down, and the fiddle is continually going. So ends the cotton
season.



Shipment on the Mississippi.


The cotton, being packed, is to be sent to market. For this purpose it
is "hauled," generally by oxen, to the nearest landing on the river,
where the bales are rolled down the banks and stowed on board freight
boats bound to New Orleans or Mobile. This process is technically called
"bumping." There are certain plantations famous for the tenacious and
beautiful quality of their cotton, from which the supplies for DICK &
SONS' celebrated sewing-cotton mills at Glasgow are principally derived.

[Illustration]



Delivery and Re-shipment at New Orleans.


[Illustration]

It would be difficult to describe the scene of bustle and seeming
confusion presented by the levee at New Orleans when the bulk of the new
crop begins to come in. The songs and clamor of the negro stevedores, at
work in the holds and on the decks of the vessels; the sharp
authoritative expletives of the overseers and masters; the eager
conversations of the merchants, and the preternatural activity into
which the occasion seems to have spurred all the energies of Southern
life, are to Northern ears and eyes at once amusing and confounding. But
order reigns amidst this seeming chaos. The Mississippi boats are
rapidly relieved of their bulky cargoes, and the cotton is warehoused or
re-shipped, as the case may be, with marvellous celerity. Generally the
shipments for the Clyde Mills, Glasgow, are among the first of the
season; and the primest article in the market is always selected for
DICK & SONS by the New Orleans agents of the firm.

[Illustration: DICK & SONS' CLYDE THREAD-MILLS.]



Arrival at Glasgow.


The view of the CLYDE THREAD-MILLS, furnished by our engraver from
accurate drawings taken on the spot, affords a very good idea of the
extensive manufactory of DICK & SONS, from which this country is now
supplied with the most perfect, even, and tenacious sewing-cotton made
in the world. The cotton for the mills, after having been unloaded and
inspected by the revenue officers, is conveyed at once to the mills,
where there is an immense amount of warehouse room for the raw material,
independent of the space devoted to machinery and the storage of the
manufactured article. Of the latter, however, there is never a large
accumulation, the active and ever-increasing demand taxing to the utmost
the facilities of production, great as they are.



The Manufacturing, &c.


A full description of the processes of scutching, carding, spinning,
twisting, bleaching, and spooling, through all of which the cotton
passes before it is packed for exportation in the form of thread, would
require more space than we can devote to them in this treatise, and,
moreover, would be rather dry reading for the ladies, for whose
information and amusement this little publication is intended. It is
sufficient to say, that all the latest improvements in machinery, in
each of the above branches, have been introduced at the Clyde Works; and
that as regards the perfection of their mechanical facilities, as well
as in point of capacity, they have no rivals in the United Kingdom.



Manufactured Article in New York.


The consignments of DICK & SONS' spool-cotton to this city are on a
scale of magnitude which those who have never reflected upon the immense
and universal consumption of the article would scarcely believe. The
bulk of the importations is received by the Collins' line of steamers,
and delivered at the Collins' wharf, whence it is conveyed to the New
York agency of the firm, 51 DEY-STREET. To the trade it is unnecessary
to say, that DICK & SONS' _six-cord spool-cotton_ is the best in the
market; and ladies generally are aware that in strength, uniformity of
thickness, and closeness of fibre, it is superior to any other
sewing-thread in use.

[Illustration]

Mr. Dick, senior, has probably had more experience as a manufacturer of
the article than any other man living. Prior to commencing business on
his own account he had been for nearly thirty years the manager of a
factory celebrated for producing a superior description of
sewing-cotton, also well known in the United States. Hence the cotton of
DICK & SONS came into the market with a ready-made popularity. The name
of Mr. DICK was a guarantee of its excellence, and a large demand for
it spontaneously sprang up in the United States, Canada, the West
Indies, and the British possessions in India, and throughout the world.

[Illustration]

Infinite pains are taken to retain for the article the celebrity it has
acquired. Every spool is inspected before it leaves the factory at
Glasgow, so that no defective specimens can possibly reach the hands of
consumers.



CONCLUSION.


The history of the culture of cotton, and of its application to the uses
of man, forms an almost romantic episode in the annals of agriculture,
commerce, and manufactures. We have already mentioned the extraordinary
impetus given to its production, sale, and use by the introduction of
Whitney's saw-gin, for separating the seeds from the wool, in the years
1793 and 1794. Since that time the progress of the demand and
consumption has been no less wonderful.

In 1794 the export rose from 187,000 lbs., the sum total for the
previous year, to 1,601,760 lbs. The next year it was over 6,000,000
lbs. In 1800 it had advanced to about 18,000,000 lbs., and in 1810 to
upwards of 93,000,000 lbs. The last returns before us are for 1852, when
the export of the short staple variety alone exceeded one thousand one
hundred millions of pounds! To this aggregate we suppose about one
hundred millions of pounds may be added for the sea-island and other
long-fibred cottons.

It may well be doubted whether among all the fabrics into which this
enormous amount of raw material is converted there is one more valuable
than sewing-cotton. We think if the question were put to the ladies
to-morrow, whether the textile fabrics produced from cotton, or cotton
sewing-thread, were the most indispensable to their comfort and
convenience, every thimbled hand would be held up in favor of the
latter. Sewing-silk is too expensive for ordinary exigencies, and linen
thread cannot be spun of the same smooth and even fibre as cotton
thread; and besides, being liable to knot and twist, is apt to cut the
lighter and more fragile products of the loom. Abolish sewing-cotton,
and you abolish muslin embroidery and innumerable delicate and
fairy-like embellishments of female loveliness, which taste and fashion
have endorsed.

Every lady is by habit a connoisseur in the article. She examines the
spools with a critical eye; she tries the strength of the thread; she
passes it through her fingers to test its evenness and compactness, and
when seated at her work, detects in a moment any defects which may have
been overlooked by the manufacturer.

To this ordeal the six-cord cotton-thread of DICK & SONS is cheerfully
submitted. It challenges inspection and comparison. There is little
necessity, however, for an appeal to the ladies in relation to its good
qualities, for they have them already at their fingers' ends.





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