Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Cotton

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COTTON, a vegetable hair or filament constituting the wing of the seed of the different species of Gossypium, a plant belonging to the order of Malvaceæ, growing both in the temperate and tropical climates, indigenous in Asia, Africa, and South America. Both fiber and seed are produced in pods not unlike the outer shell of the walnut. When the seed approaches maturity the fiber in which it is enveloped, which had previously been in a cylindrical form filled with watery sap, becomes dry. The sap is then deposited upon the walls of the outer cell, which then collapses longitudinally and takes on a spiral form slightly blunt at the point where it is attached to the seed, and pointed at the end. In the green-seed variety, the one chiefly cultivated, it is of a white or yellowish hue, soft, flexible, and a non-conductor of heat. The fiber consists chiefly of carbonaceous material drawn from the atmosphere, and is one of the purest forms of cellulose. Although cotton-seed, which is produced at the ratio in weight of two and a half to three parts of seed to each one of fiber, has long been the source of valuable oils and food for cattle in Egypt and India, the cotton-seed of the United States was in former days mostly wasted. It has now become a secondary product of very great value. Tree cotton (G. arboreum) is found in India, China, Egypt, on the W. coast of Africa, and in some parts of America, especially in the West Indies. It only attains the height of from 12 to 20 feet; but another cotton-bearing tree (bombax ceiba), seen in the West Indies and elsewhere, familiarly called the umbrella tree, attains the height of 100 feet. The produce of the latter, however, is of a short and brittle fiber. Being unfit for spinning, it is only useful for stuffing pillows and beds. Shrub cotton (G. religiosum) occurs in one or other of its varieties throughout the tropical parts of Asia, Africa, and America. In appearance it resembles a currant-bush. Its duration varies according to the climate; in the hottest countries it is perennial, while in cooler places it becomes an annual. The Guiana, Brazil, and most of the West India cotton, is of this kind, the whole being long-stapled.

Herbaceous cotton (G. herbaceum), commonly called the green-seed variety, is far the most useful and important of the three kinds noticed. It is an annual plant cultivated in the United States, India, China, and many other countries. It attains the height of 18 or 24 inches. The seed is usually planted in rows in March, April, and May; the cotton is gathered by hand within a few days of the opening of the pods, in August, September, and October; in the United States often through November and December, or even till it becomes necessary to prepare the land for a new crop. It is to this kind that planters mainly confine their attention in the United States. In places where cotton is more extensively cultivated the following varieties are commonly distinguished: (1) Nankeen cotton, abundant in produce, the seed covered with down, the wool of a dirty yellow color, and usually low-priced. (2) Green-seeded cotton, which, as well as the former, is grown in upland and middle districts, whence the latter is called upland, also short-staple, and, from the mode in which it was formerly cleaned, “bowed Georgia cotton.” This kind was at first chiefly raised in Georgia and South Carolina, but in later years its cultivation has been very greatly extended throughout the Southern States. (3) Sea-island, or long-stapled cotton, the finest of all, is distinguished by the black color of its seed, and the fine yellowish-white, strong and silky long staple by which it is surrounded; it is grown in the lower parts of Georgia and South Carolina, near the sea, between Charleston and Savannah, and on small islands adjoining the shore and in Florida.

Collier's 1921 Cotton - gin.jpg
 A. Wagon with raw cotton C. Gin
 B. Vacuum pipe to draw cotton into gin D. Press
E. Cotton bale

All the varieties of the plant require a dry and sandy soil. Marshy ground is wholly unfit for it, and a wet season is destructive to the crops, which are besides precarious from the disease to which the plant is subject, particularly blight. In general it flourishes most luxuriantly and yields produce of the best quality on the coast, as is proved by the growth of the sea-island cotton, which is mostly exposed to the action of the ocean's spray; and a manure of soft mud is known to impart a healthful action to the plant and to produce a staple at once strong and silky. To this rule, however, the fine Pernambuco cotton is an exception; also the Egyptian, the growth of the upper provinces being greatly superior to that of the Nile Delta. In the United States by special cultivation two, three, and even four bales of 500 pounds each can be made on a single acre.

The cotton production of the United States in 1920 was 12,987,000 bales, compared with 11,421,000 bales in 1919. The total acreage was 36,383,000 in 1920, compared with 33,566,000 in 1919. The total farm value of the 1920 production was $914,590,000, compared with a value of the 1919 crop of $2,034,658,000. The increased value of the 1919 crop is due to the unusually high prices received for cotton. Industrial conditions in 1920 produced a lessened demand and consequently lesser price.

The States producing the largest yields in 1920 were as follows: Texas, 4,200,000 bales; South Carolina, 1,530,000 bales; Oklahoma, 1,300,000 bales; Georgia, 1,400,000 bales; North Carolina, 840,000 bales; Mississippi, 885,000 bales; Alabama, 660,000 bales.

There were imported to the United States in 1920 345,314,126 pounds of unmanufactured cotton, valued at $156,918,719. The largest quantity of this was received from Egypt. Other countries from which cotton was imported were Mexico, Peru, China, and British India. There were exported from the United States in 1920 6,915,408 bales, weighing 3,543,743,487 pounds, valued at $1,381,707,502. In 1919 there were exported 5,353,895 bales, valued at $873,579,669. Cotton growing has been greatly developed in recent years in Egypt. In 1919 there were grown about 1,188,000 bales of 500 pounds each. The Brazilian crop in the same year was estimated at 1,600,000 bales; the Mexican crop at 120,000 bales; and the Spanish crop at 11,200 bales. The world's production of cotton in 1918 was approximately 18,000,000 bales of 500 pounds each, and the consumption for the year 1919 was approximately 15,970,000 bales. The total number of spindles in the world was placed at 150,000,000.

Collier's 1921 Cotton - plant.jpg


South Africa is undoubtedly destined to become a large producer of cotton. About 12,000 acres were planted in 1919.

Cotton is affected by a variety of insect pests and stringent measures have been taken in recent years to destroy these. The bollworm and the bollweevil are especially destructive. A World's Cotton Conference was held in New Orleans in 1919 with the purpose of adopting the uniform size of the bale, finding new sources of cotton, and bringing about uniform classification, etc. According to data submitted at this conference there were more than 6,000,000 persons engaged in the cotton industry throughout the world and about $20,000,000 was invested in the growing, sale, and manufacture of cotton.