Cotton (Gossypium barbadense)



The Touch, The Feel, of Cotton

The existence of cotton was said to be made known be over 10,000 years ago in South America. Europeans did not know of cotton until Arab merchants brought the luxurious cloth
The Cotton Plant
The Cotton Plant
to them around the year 800 AD. In the New World, cotton was first planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607. Cotton was eventually grown up and down the James River. Cotton has been on a long journey; from the Middle East and Mexico to the New World, through the industrial revolution and into the age of technology and into the hands of just about every person around the globe. (Cotton Counts).

Cotton Genus, Family, and Parts:
Cotton is a member of the genus Gossypium of the family Malvaceae. This family is more commonly known as the Mallow family. Usually the cotton plant and Mallow family are found in tropical and temperate distribution. (infoplease.com) The Malvaceae family is comprised of herbs, shrubs, or trees. There are over 1,500 species and around 75 genera in the Malvaceae. Members of the Malvaceae family often have stellate hairs and mucilaginous sap. The flowers are mostly bisexual. Usually this family
Parts of a Cotton Plant
Parts of a Cotton Plant
has connate sepals and five distinct
Patterns of the Mallow Family
Patterns of the Mallow Family
petals. The filaments have one-celled anthers, and members of this family bear a superior ovary. The fruit is usually a capsule, berry or samara. The leaves of this family are alternate, simple and sometimes veined. Cotton is a shrubby plant having broad three-lobed leaves and having seeds in capsules. These capsules are often called bolls. Each seed is surrounded by fluffy fibers in a white or creamy color. (infoplease.com) Cotton also takes on the name Gossypium barbadense.


Cotton Domestication:

Harvesting and the Invention of the Cotton Gin


To pick cotton was very easy. The fibers would easily separate from the seed, however it was a painstakingly long process -- so much so that, at the time, harvesting cotton was not very profitable. In enters Eli Whitney. Eli Whitney was a Massachusetts native who had just graduated
Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney
from Yale. He left Massachusetts to become a tutor in Georgia. While in Georgia, he learned of the complaints of farmers who wanted to make cotton harvesting profitable. Thinking and then acting on this matter, Whitney created the cotton gin in 1793. (Bellis, Mary). The cotton gin revolutionized the way cotton was harvested, as it quickly separated the fibers
Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin
from the seed much faster than any one person could. Unfortunately for Whitney, he was not able to profit from his invention because farmers (who did not want to have to pay tax to buy Whitney’s gin) would build their own from Whitney's design. Due to a loophole in patent law at the time, the farmers were able to get away with it. The cotton gin had many important effects on the political, economic, and agricultural atmosphere of the young United States: cotton became a major product in the US, notably in the South; slavery quickly expanded because farmers needed cheap (or in this case, free) labor to turn a bigger profit; and the food supply shrunk as
The Modern Cotton Picker
The Modern Cotton Picker
farmers switched to growing only cotton because it was easier to grow and harvest than other products at the time. (Bellis, Mary). This was just the start of the industrial revolution. Through the course of the industrial revolution greater advances were made to the Modern Cotton Picker cotton industry. In today's world cotton is produced in fantastic quantities. Eli Whitney's cotton gin has run it's course. The modern cotton picker is a giant machine that picks far more cotton than the gin did. Most cotton pickers can separate the cotton from the boll without harming the cotton. These great industrial advances make cotton one of the most available fabrics in the world. As for the United States there are fourteen major cotton producing states.
Map of Cotton Distribution
Map of Cotton Distribution
They are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Kansas, Florida, and Virginia also produce some cotton. Cotton grows in primarily warm climates which is why it grows so well in the Southern parts of the United States. (Cotton's Journey). There is shockingly many uses of cotton. However, the varying types of uses are found with the seed of cotton not in the fibers. The fibers are only used to make textiles. These textiles are found in every part of clothing; socks, underwear, shirts, sweaters, can all be made from cotton. Other textiles that are made out of cotton fibers are cotton swabs, filter paper, paper, candle wicks, automotive upholstery, and even has some medical applications. Cotton fibers has really come to be the fabric of our lives. The seed on the other hand can be turned into quite a few things. They can be made in to other fibers, meal, hulls, or even oil. Cotton has many uses in the modern world, and is produced at an amazing scale to keep up with our various needs and expanding uses. (Cotton Uses)


Wild Card: Cotton and the Civil War



Cotton has played a vital role in American history. As cotton production evolved and expanded it became one of the world's most sought-after resources. France and England relied heavily on the cotton that was produced in the
The American Civil War
The American Civil War
American South. Three fourths of the cotton that was in England and France came from there, and about a tenth of England's revenue was in the cotton trading industry. During the Civil War the North put up an blockade in order to shut off all imports and exports to and from the South. This blockade played a major role in the North winning the war. The key to possible Southern victory was through foreign alliances with France and especially England. The Confederates were hoping that the need for cotton would draw Great Britain into the war and that the English wo
Cotton, England's God
Cotton, England's God
uld break through the blockade to open the Southern ports. This was extremely important for the South because they had no revenue entering their "country" in order to pay for the war they were waging. To ensure that somerevenue entered the South, the Confederate Treasury obtained loans from England that was backed up with the promise of cotton. Cotton was made available for England for six pence a pound. This use of the cotton trade allowed the Confederacy to obtain almost $8 million to fund their war against the North. (King Cotton). Cotton has played a tremendous role in the history of America since then, and it continues to today. Without cotton there may not have been a Civil War. Farmers would not have needed slaves in order to produce such a fast money-making crop, and all would have been right in the world. Who knows where we would be now. However, we would be without some of our most needed textiles. Our tee shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters and underwear would all be made of something far less comfortable than cotton. And we would not be able to say, "We've got our Hanes on you."



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References:


Bellis, Mary. "Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin." About.com: Inventors. About.com, Web. 1 Dec 2009. <http://inventors.about.com/cs/inventorsalphabet/a/eli_whitney_2.htm>.

"Cotton." Infoplease.com. Web. 1 Dec 2009. <www.infoplease.com>.

"Cotton Uses." Info Comm. UNCTAD, Web.
1 Dec 2009. <http://r0.unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/cotton/uses.htm>.



"King Cotton." Civil War Potpourri. 02/16/02. Web.

1 Dec 2009. <http://www.civilwarhome.com/kingcotton.htm>.

Santhanam, Narasimhan. "the Fiber Resource." The WWW Database. 2005.
Web. 7 Dec 2009. <http://www.tex.in/fiber/fiber.html>.



"Story of Cotton." Cotton's Journey. Alaca's Company, Web.

1 Dec 2009. <http://www.cottonsjourney.com>.


"The Story of Cotton." Cotton Counts. Web.

7 Dec 2009. <http://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncounts/resources.cfm>.

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