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King Cotton
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Jun 18, 2019 08:58:27   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
The cotton plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt and India. Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. Cotton was independently domesticated in the Old and New Worlds.

"King Cotton" is the slogan that summarizes the strategy by pro-secessionists in the southern states (the future Confederate States of America) to claim the feasibility of secession and to prove there was no need to fear a war with the northern states.

Arizona Cotton by Paul Sager, on Flickr


China is the world's largest producer of cotton, but most of their crop is used domestically. The United States has been the largest exporter for many years. Current estimates for world production are about 25 million tonnes or 110 million bales annually, accounting for 2.5% of the world's arable land.

The slogan, King Cotton, was widely believed throughout the American South, helping to mobilizing support for secession. By February 1861, the seven states whose economies were based on cotton plantations had all seceded and formed the Confederacy. Meanwhile, the other eight slave states, with little or no cotton production, remained in the Union.

Arizona Cotton


Successful cultivation of cotton requires a long frost-free period, plenty of sunshine, and a moderate rainfall, usually from 25- to 50-inches.

The American South is known for its long, hot summers, and rich soils in river valleys, making it an ideal location for growing cotton. The many southern seaports and riverside docks allowed shipping cotton to remote destinations. By 1860, Southern plantations supplied 75% of the world's cotton, with shipments from ports in Houston, New Orleans, Charleston, Mobile, Savannah, and others.

Georgia Cotton


Production of the cotton crop for a given year usually starts soon after harvesting the preceding autumn. Cotton is naturally a perennial but is grown as an annual to help control pests.

Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina boasted in 1858, "Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us, we could bring the whole world to our feet ... What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? ... England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her save the South. No, you dare not to make war on cotton. No power on the earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king."

Georgia Cotton


In the United States, Texas leads in total production, it is the state's leading cash crop. The California cotton industry generates revenues in excess of $3.5 billion annually, and provides more than 20,000 jobs.

Immediately after fighting started, the Union Navy blockaded every major Confederate port and shut down over 95% of exports. Since the British mills had large stockpiles of cotton, they suffered no immediate injury from the embargo. About one-fourth of Britain's food supplies also came from the United States, of much more importance than cotton. None of the European Powers intervened on behalf of the Confederacy during the war.

Arizona Cotton


As Union armies moved into cotton regions of the South in 1862, the U.S. acquired all the cotton available, and sent it to Northern textile mills or sold it to Europe. Meanwhile, the cotton production increased in India by 70% and also increased in Egypt. Between 1860 and 1870, Brazilian annual cotton exports rose 400%, from 12,000 to 60,000 tonnes. In the end, "King Cotton" proved to be a delusion that misled the Confederacy into a hopeless war that it ended up losing.

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Jun 18, 2019 09:01:55   #
PaulBrit Loc: Merlin, Southern Oregon
 
Fascinating, and great photos!

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Jun 18, 2019 09:03:13   #
Longshadow Loc: Audubon, PA
 
That's interesting!

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Jun 18, 2019 09:03:35   #
rmalarz Loc: Tempe, Arizona
 
Very nice treatise on cotton along with very nice illustrations. Good work, Paul.
--Bob

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Jun 18, 2019 09:12:08   #
charlienow Loc: Hershey, PA
 
Thanks for the article and supporting photographs

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Jun 18, 2019 13:42:30   #
UTMike Loc: South Jordan, UT
 
It amazes me how your photography and narration can create such an interesting set, Paul!

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Jun 18, 2019 16:57:28   #
kpmac Loc: Ragley, La
 
Different but nice.

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Jun 19, 2019 06:40:19   #
nimbushopper Loc: Tampa, FL
 
Great history lesson, and fantastic photos!

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Jun 19, 2019 07:25:52   #
jaymatt Loc: Alexandria, Indiana
 
Great shots of the cotton bolls; you did well with them.

I’ll have to fact-check your narrative with my brother-in-law in Phoenix who spent his entire career in cotton research developing new strains, particularly the Supima variety. (just kidding--sounds about right )

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Jun 19, 2019 07:33:16   #
nikonbug Loc: Nashville
 
Fascinating narrative. They didn't teach all that in school when I was a kid, and I was born only 75 years after the war.

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Jun 19, 2019 08:00:52   #
trackmag
 
Great shots and a great history lesson.

In 1949 when I was six years old and starting in the first grade in a little town in North Central Texas,
my Dad insisted the his three sons age 6, 8 and 10 learn how to pick cotton.

My Dad was 16 when the Great Despression hit and he knew it could happen again and wanted to make
sure that his boys knew how to make a living.

None of the three of us ever had to pick cotton after we learned how that fall. But after the picking lessons, all three of us knew how to work. And we are still working (all 3) 70 years after that.

Lots of good lessons on the farm. Several time each year I drive through West Texas where the cotton fields stretch for miles and miles. Some dryland. Some irrigated. It is interesting to see the different
stages of production from the plowing under of the old cotton plants to grooming the land and then watching the new plants come forth.

Thanks for rattling the memories of this 76-year-old son of a former sharecropper.

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Jun 19, 2019 08:30:34   #
fbeaston Loc: Vermont
 
Another great post & discussion. Thanks for sharing.

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Jun 19, 2019 09:53:15   #
Blair Shaw Jr
 
Once gain .........well done Paul. The South is always special place for me and I'll be moving to Florida in the fall.....can't wait.

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Jun 19, 2019 10:14:34   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
Blair Shaw Jr wrote:
Once gain .........well done Paul. The South is always special place for me and I'll be moving to Florida in the fall.....can't wait.


Thank you Blair. The film images are from driving the backroads of S Carolina and Georgia last fall. Congratulations on the move.

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Jun 19, 2019 10:16:04   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
jaymatt wrote:
Great shots of the cotton bolls; you did well with them.

I’ll have to fact-check your narrative with my brother-in-law in Phoenix who spent his entire career in cotton research developing new strains, particularly the Supima variety. (just kidding--sounds about right )


Thank you John! I think the first time I saw cotton 'in the wild' was down around Tucson, where we eventually pulled off the interstate for a closer view and some images.

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