A brief history of cotton in America
The history of cotton in America began back in 1556 when it was cultivated by American settlers in Florida. Because cotton needed a warm climate, the southern states of America is the ideal place to plant and harvest it. Most of the cotton grown in the very early days of America was kept at home for use around the home for making those homespun cotton clothes.
In the 1730’s England began to spin cotton and developed a textile industry. This industry grew rapidly but was dependant on manual labor for picking cotton and removing the seeds. This all changed when Eli Whitney invented the cotton Gin in 1793. This machine increases the speed of which cotton was separated from the seed by a factor of 10. It made it possible for the cotton industry in America to grow from an annual revenue of $150,000 to $8 million in the early 1800’s.
As the availability of ready to spin cotton grew, so did the textile industry in England which America was happy to supply. By the 1800’s cotton farms across the southern states grew and dominated the cotton industry in the world. As the importance of cotton and the industry that it developed grew, so did the need for workers in the fields.
The southern states after the Civil War were still a one crop industry. The difference is the people in the fields were being paid now. The production of US cotton was reduced. India was then deemed a natural place to grow this crop and today is the second largest exporter of cotton to the world.
The cotton industry was severely affected by the end of the Civil War. In 1892 it then had to deal with the devastating effects of the boll weevils that came up from Mexico. To this day there is still a boll weevil problem but it has been significantly reduced. The eradication of the boll weevil did not begin until the 1950’s. By that time it had already costs the US cotton industry over $22 billion.
With the New Deal introduced by the US Government to help deal with this devastating pest, the south began to diversify its crops. This did help to bring economic growth to the southern states of America, but America would no longer be the largest producer of cotton in the world.
The statistics for the global cotton industry places China as the largest producer of cotton in the world with 33 million bales annually. India is second with 27 million bales. America is now the third largest producer of cotton with a total production in 2013 of 18 million bales. Pakistan places fourth on the list with a production of 10.3 million bales a year.
US cotton is still a major industry in America with over $100 billion dollars in revenue, but we are no longer the largest in the world. Despite that, the US cotton clothing industry is still strong and can supply the domestic and foreign markets with high quality cotton for years to come.