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The Fabric of Civilization

A Short Survey
of the Cotton Industry in the
United States

Guaranty Trust Company of New York
140 Broadway

Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street Madison Avenue and 60th Street

32 Lombard Street, E. C. 27 Cotton Exchange Buildings
5 Lower Grosvenor Pl., S. W.

1 and 3 Rue des Italiens 122 Boulevard Strasbourg 158 Rue Royale



The cotton industry touches the lives of
the vast majority of the peoples of the
earth. The ensuing survey does not pretend
to cover the field in all its diversity. It
aims to give, in brief compass, such
general facts concerning the industry in
the United States as may enable the reader
quickly to familiarize himself with its
broader outlines.


I The Importance and Power of Cotton 5
II Where Cotton is Grown and Spun and Why 10
III The Raw Cotton Market 17
IV The Cloth Market 27
V Financing Cotton and Cotton Cloth 33
VI American Cloth in Foreign Markets 38
VII Some of the Grower's Problems 41
VIII In the Cotton Mill 45
IX The Finishing Operations 57

The Fabric of Civilization


The Importance and Power of Cotton

Cotton is the fabric of civilization. It has built up peoples, and has
riven them apart. It has brought to the world vast and permanent wealth.
It has enlisted the vision of statesmen, the genius of inventors, the
courage of pioneers, the forcefulness of manufacturers, the initiative of
merchants and shipbuilders, and the patient toil of many millions.

A whole library could be written on the economic aspects of cotton alone.
It could be told in detail, how and why the domination of the field of
its manufacture passed from India to Spain, to Holland, and finally to
England, which now shares it chiefly with the United States. The
interdependence of nations which it has brought about has been the
subject of numerous books and articles.

Genius that Served
The World's Need

Nor is the history of the inventions which have made possible to-day's
great production of cotton fabrics less impressive. From the unnamed
Hindu genius of pre-Alexandrian days, through Arkwright and Eli Whitney,
down to Jacquard and Northrop, the tale of cotton manufacture is a series
of romances and tragedies, any one of which would be a story worth
telling in detail. Yet, here is a work that is by no means finished.
Great inventors who will apply their genius to the improvement of cotton
growing and manufacture are still to be born.

The present purpose, however, is to explain, as briefly as may be, the
growth of the cotton industry of the United States, in its more important
branches, and to endeavor, on the basis of recognized authority, to
indicate its position in relation to the cotton industries of the
remainder of the world.

America the Chief
Source of Raw Material

For the present, and for the future, as far as that may be seen, the
United States will have to continue to supply the greater part of the
world's raw cotton. Staples of unusual length and strength have been
grown in some foreign regions, and short and inferior fibers have come
from still others. But the cotton belt of the Southern States, producing
millions of bales, is the chief source of supply for all the world.

The following table, taken from "The World's Cotton Crops, 1915," by J.
A. Todd, gives the comparative production of the great cotton-growing
areas, for the 1914-1915 season:

America 16,500,000 bales of 500 pounds
India 5,000,000 " " 500 "
Egypt 1,300,000 " " 500 "
Russia 1,300,000 " " 500 "
China 4,000,000 " " 500 "
Others 1,300,000 " " 500 "
- - - - - -
Total 29,400,000 " " 500 "

The American crop is thus approximately fifty-six per cent. of the
world's total. The other producing countries have shown since the
beginning of the century an interesting, if not a remarkable growth, that
of China being the largest in quantity, and that of Russia, the largest
in proportion. The American increase has been larger, absolutely, than
that of any other region, and there is little indication that it will not
continue to hold first position.

English Spinners
Dominate World Market

In the manufacture of cotton, Great Britain's supremacy, while not so
great proportionately as that of America in growing it, is for the
present not likely to be challenged. The following table of the number of
spindles in the chief manufacturing countries is based on English figures
compiled shortly before the outbreak of the World War. The number of
spindles is the usual basis upon which the size of the industry is
judged. It is not a perfect method, but it has fewer objections than any

Great Britain 55,576,108
United States 30,579,000
Germany 10,920,426
Russia 8,950,000
France 7,400,000
India 6,400,000
Austria 4,864,453
Italy 4,580,000
Latin America 3,100,000
Japan 2,250,000
Spain 2,200,000
Belgium 1,468,838
Switzerland 1,398,062
Scattering 2,499,421
- - - - - -
Total Spindles 142,186,308

Such figures can be only approximate. The war has brought growth in the
United States and in Japan, but has certainly reduced the numbers of
spindles in Germany, Austria, and Russia. It is doubtful, moreover, how
well the French industry has been able to maintain itself. But the
tabulation is accurate enough to show the relative standing of the
various countries. There are, as has been indicated, other standards than
the number of spindles. The United States, through the fact that it
specializes, generally speaking, on the coarser fabrics, uses about
5,000,000 bales of cotton annually, as compared with Great Britain's
4,000,000. The British product, however, sells for much more. Thus the
value of the spindle standard is affirmed. England, then, produces well
in excess of one-third of the cotton cloth of the world; the United
States considerably more than one-fifth of it, with the other countries
trailing far behind, but prospering nevertheless.

The Individuality
of the Cotton Fiber

[Illustration: _The cotton fiber - a highly magnified view, showing the

It is a curious ruling of fate which makes the spinning of cotton fiber
possible. There are many other short vegetable fibers, but cotton is the
only one which can profitably be spun into thread. Hemp and flax, its
chief vegetable competitors, are both long fibered. The individuality of
the cotton fiber lies in its shape. Viewed through the microscope, the
fiber is seen to be, not a hollow cylinder, but rather a flattened
cylinder, shaped in cross-section something like the figure eight. But
the chief and valuable characteristic is that the flattened cylinder is
not straight, but twisted. It is this twist which gives its peculiar and
overwhelming importance to cotton, for without this apparently fortuitous
characteristic, the spinning of cotton, if possible at all, would result
in a much weaker and less durable thread. The twist makes the threads
"kink" together when they are spun, and it is this kink which makes for
strength and durability.

Though the cotton plant seems to be native to South America, Southern
Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, its cultivation, was largely confined
at first to India, and later to India and the British West Indies. At the
beginning of the eighteenth century, the West Indies, because of their
especial fitness for growing the longer staples were supplying about
seventy per cent. of the food of the Lancashire spindles. The United
States having made unsuccessful attempts to produce cotton in the early
days of the colonies, first became an important producing country toward
the end of the eighteenth century. American Upland cotton, by reason of
its comparatively short staple, and the unevenness of the fibers, as well
as the difficulty of detaching it from the seed, was decidedly inferior
to some other accessible species. The Southern planters who grew it,
moreover, found it next to impossible to gin it properly, the primitive
roller gin of the time being unsuited to the task, and the work of
pulling off the fibers by hand being both tedious and expensive. In 1792,
the amount exported from the United States was equivalent to only 275

[Illustration: _Eli Whitney, the schoolmaster inventor of the cotton

The next year, 1793, is the most important in the history of cotton
growing in the United States. In the autumn of 1792, Eli Whitney, a young
Massachusetts man who had just been graduated from Yale College, sailed
from New York to South Carolina where he intended to teach school. On
shipboard he met the widow of Nathaniel Greene, the Revolutionary
general. Mrs. Greene invited the youth to begin his residence in the
South on her plantation at Mulberry Grove, Georgia. Here one evening,
some officers, late of General Greene's command, were discussing the
great wealth which might come to the South were there a suitable machine
for removing stubborn Upland fiber from its green seed. The story goes
that while the discussion was at its height, Mrs. Greene said:

"Gentlemen, apply to my young friend, Mr. Whitney. He can make

Whitney commenced work on the problem. A room was set aside as his
workshop, and it was not long before he had produced the beginnings of
the gin. He fixed wire teeth in a board, and found that by pulling the
fibers through with his fingers he could leave the tenacious seed behind.
He carried this basic idea further by putting the teeth on a cylinder and
by providing a rotating brush to clean the fiber from the teeth.

The changes which followed immediately upon the introduction of the
cotton gin were tremendous in scope and almost innumerable. There was a
time, before cotton became a staple, when the South led New England in
manufacturing. That time passed almost immediately. Iron works and coal
mines were abandoned, and men turned their energies from the culture of
corn, rice, and indigo largely to the raising of the cotton.

Expansion in

The following figures, giving production in the equivalent of 500 pound
bales for the year at the close of each ten-year period, give some idea
of the tremendous expansion which ensued.

_500 Pound
_Year_ Bales_
1790 3,138
1800 73,222
1810 177,824
1820 334,728
1830 732,218
1840 1,347,640
1850 2,136,083
1860 3,841,416
1870 4,024,527
1880 6,356,998
1890 8,562,089
1900 10,123,027
1910 11,608,616
1917 11,302,375

By this table it will be seen that the Civil War and the freeing of the
slaves held up production only temporarily. In 1914, the banner year, the
crop reached the tremendous total of 16,134,930 bales of five hundred
pounds each.

Some little spinning had been done in the seventeenth century, but in
1787-88 the first permanent factory, built of brick, and located in
Beverly, Massachusetts, on the Bass river, was put into operation by a
group headed by John Cabot and Joshua Fisher. This factory failed to
justify itself economically, chiefly because of the crudeness of its
machinery. But Samuel Slater, newly come from England with models of the
Arkwright machinery in his brain, set up a factory in Pawtucket in 1790.
From that time forth the growth was steady and sure, if not always
extremely rapid.

The following table,[A] which covers the whole country, relates
particularly to New England in the years before 1880, because the cotton
manufacturing industry until then was largely concentrated there. It
shows how the manufacturing interests of the country profited by the
discovery that brought wealth to the agricultural South:

|_Number| |_Cotton | |
| of | _Number | Used | _Number | _Value of
_Year_ | Estab-| of | in | of | Product in
| lish- | Spindles_ | Million | Employes_ | Dollars_
| ments_| | Pounds_ | |
- - - -+ - - - -+ - - - - - - + - - - - -+ - - - - - - -+ - - - - - - -
1810 | | 87,000 | | |
1820 | | 220,000 | | |
1830 | 795 | 1,200,000 | 77.8 | 62,177 | $32,000,000
1840 | 1240 | 2,300,000 | 113.1 | 72,119 | 46,400,000
1850 | 1094 | 3,600,000 | 276.1 | 92,286 | 61,700,000
1860 | 1091 | 5,200,000 | 422.7 | 122,028 | 115,700,000
1870 | 956 | 7,100,000 | 398.3 | 135,369 | 177,500,000
1880 | 756 | 10,700,000 | 750.3 | 174,659 | 192,100,000
1890 | 905 | 14,200,000 | 1,118.0 | 218,876 | 268,000,000
1900 | 973 | 19,000,000 | 1,814.0 | 297,929 | 332,800,000
1910 | 1208 | 27,400,000 | 2,332.2 | 371,120 | 616,500,000
1918 | | 34,940,830 | 3,278.2 | |

[A] This tabulation includes spinning and weaving
establishments only.

The North, having this growing interest in an industry struggling against
the experience and ability of the more firmly established English market,
sought naturally for the protection given by a high tariff. The South,
having definitely dropped manufacturing, pleaded with Congress always for
a low tariff, and the right to deal in human chattels.

There is little need to go further into the rift which began to develop
almost immediately. In 1861 the split occurred. The war between the
States caused hardly more suffering than the blockade which cut off the
spinners of Manchester from the vegetable wool which supplied them the
means of living. Cotton proved its power and its domination. It was a
beneficent monarch, but it brooked no denial of its overlordship.

Early Exports
to England Heavy

The invention of the Whitney Gin, as we have just said, found the United
States able to use but a small part of the cotton grown. What became of
the remainder? Obviously, it was exported to provide the means for
operating the English mills. Here is a table which shows how American
cotton left the Southern ports for England and the Continent in the
alternate decennial years beginning in 1790, three years before the
invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney. The figures are exclusive of

_Exports in
Equivalent of 500
_Year_ Pound Bales_

1790 379
1810 124,116
1830 553,960
1850 1,854,474
1870 2,922,757
1890 5,850,219
1910 8,025,991
1917 4,587,000

In 1910 American cotton made up almost exactly three-quarters of the
whole amount imported into Great Britain. The other countries of Europe
have developed a spinning industry by no means inconsiderable. American
cotton is sent to almost all those European countries which spin and

Such a movement had of course a profound effect upon the currents of
world trade. The cotton crop is the second in value of all the crops
produced in the United States, and such a large part of it is exported
that the credit it gives to its sellers enables them to buy in return
some of the most valuable of the products manufactured in Europe.

The following table gives the amount of cotton, expressed in the
equivalent of 500 pound bales, exported to the various countries named in
the decennial years:

|_United | | | | |_Nether-|
_Year_| Kingdom_|_Germany_|_France_|_Italy_|_Russia_| lands_ |_Belgium_
- - - + - - - - -+ - - - - -+ - - - - + - - - -+ - - - - + - - - - + - - - - -
1821 | 175,438| 1,496| 54,878| 1,796| 609 | 8,372|
1830 | 419,661| 2,246| 150,212| 471| 223 | 17,135|
1840 | 989,830| 18,317| 358,180| 7,805| 4,406 | 21,698| 25,780
1850 | 863,062| 10,090| 251,668| 18,707| 8,677 | 8,590| 25,492
1860 |2,528,274| 132,145| 567,935| 54,037| 43,396 | 25,515| 29,601
1870 |1,298,332| 173,552| 306,293| 14,549| 30,341 | 17,050| 3,452
1880 |2,433,255| 308,045| 359,693| 59,126|204,500 | 65,325| 17,896
1890 |2,905,152| 837,641| 484,759|129,751|193,163 | 17,438| 93,588
1900 |2,302,128|1,619,173| 736,092|443,951| 54,950 | 74,635| 148,319
1910 |2,444,558|1,887,657| 968,422|393,327| 67,203 | 18,823| 102,346
1917 |2,387,101| | 658,553|369,213| 15,945 | 10,098|


Where Cotton is Grown and Spun and Why

We have seen (page 5) that the world's cotton crop is produced chiefly by
the United States, with 56%; India, with 17%; China, with 13-1/2%; Egypt
and Russia with 4-1/2%, the remaining 4-1/2% being made up by Brazil,
Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Persia, Japan, and several other countries.

Primitive Methods of
Growing in India

India is the first country wherein, so far as we have record, the growing
of cotton reached the stage of an industry. There conditions are almost
ideal, apparently, for the production of a great crop; yet, for many
years the crop was a small one, and was utilized locally in the domestic
manufacture of the light clothing worn by the people. Nothing remotely
resembling the present modern factory system developed during all the
thousands of years that the Indians had the field practically to
themselves. The plant grown in India for a long time produced a short,
uncertain staple, difficult to gin and still more difficult to spin. The
greater part of the cotton growing districts are still given over to the
short staple varieties (about 3/4 inch) but in recent years certain
varieties of Egyptian and American cotton have been produced with some
success. About 20,000,000 acres are given over to the culture of the
plant, but the methods used are to a great extent primitive in the
extreme. Most of the crop, being unsuited to the needs of the British
spinners, is either manufactured in Indian mills, of which the number is
constantly growing, or exported to Japan. Before the war, Germany was a
large consumer of Indian cotton.

The figures given as representing the Chinese crop probably are not any
more accurate than the usual statistical figures concerning China. The
Chinese are still largely in the domestic system of manufacture, and much
of their crop - probably a larger proportion than in India - is spun and
woven in the neighborhood where it is grown, without ever appearing in
statistical tables. The methods of growing are equally primitive. The
fiber is short, and the mills of the country import more raw cotton,
yarn, and textiles than they export.

The Growing Importance
Of Egyptian Staples

The Egyptian crop is one of the most interesting, both in the methods
of culture, and in the product. From the point of view of
statistics - remembering the uncertainty of the size of the Chinese
crop - Egypt is the third cotton growing country of the world. This is
the more interesting because it was not until about 1820 that Egypt was
considered as a source of supply. The present area, under extremely
intensive cultivation, is about 1,800,000 acres, and nine-tenths of this
is in the Nile delta.

Climatic conditions are radically different from those of the United
States. Little rain falls during the growing season, but an elaborate
system of irrigation provides a sufficient and probably more satisfactory
water supply, insomuch as the quantity of water can be regulated, and
there is little danger of either too much or too little moisture. The
regions where the soil is not composed exclusively of the black delta
mud, but is a mixture of sand and mud, produce the best crops. The land,
after being plowed, is thrown up into ridges about three feet apart.
Channels for water are formed at right angles to the ridges. The seeds,
before being sown, in March, are thoroughly soaked, and after the
seedlings appear there is frequent hoeing and watering. The total water
is equivalent to a rainfall of about 35 inches. There is little
cultivation in the American fashion, hand labor being employed almost
exclusively. The result of all this intensive effort is an abundant crop
of long-stapled cotton with an extremely strong fiber, bringing in the
open market a price second only to that of the American Sea Island
variety. Much of the Egyptian cotton is used in the manufacture of
hosiery and other knit goods, sateens, sewing thread, etc., but recently
it has also been found to be exceedingly well fitted for the manufacture
of the fabric used in pneumatic tires, and for the duck or filter cloth
used in such industries as the refining of sugar.

[Illustration: _Pickers in Delta Field_]

Russian cotton, so-called, is really grown largely in Turkestan though a
small amount is produced in the Southern Caucasus. The culture has been
under way since very early times, but had little more than local
significance until about 1875 when the Russian Government took steps to
foster it, distributing American seed of the Upland variety, importing
the necessary equipment, and providing instructors, frequently Americans.
Railroads to handle the crop were built, and, with all this favorable
assistance, progress was rapid. About one-third of the cotton used in the
Russian mills up to the time of the war was grown on Russian soil, the
remainder being brought largely from the United States.

The American Crop
As the World's Basis

But the bulk of the world's supply is the cotton grown in the United
States. The price for American Upland Cotton governs the price of the
other varieties. The acreage devoted to the cultivation of the cotton
crop in the United States is approximately 34,000,000. The increase since
1839, when census figures covering this point were first obtained, has
been about seventeen fold. The 1916 acreage, of the various States,
together with figures giving the value of the crop and the comparative
rank, is here given:

| | _Gross | | _Crop Value
| |Equivalent 500|_Approx-| Including
_States_ | _Acreage_| Pound Bales | imate | Seed
| | Exclusive of |Percent-| and Linters_
| | Linters_ | age_ |
- - - - - - - - + - - - - - + - - - - - - - + - - - - + - - - - - - - -
Alabama | 1,977,000| 517,890 | 4.6 | $86,940,000
Arizona | | 21,737 | 0.1 | 6,300,000
Arkansas | 2,740,000| 973,752 | 8.6 | 164,840,000
California | | 57,826 | 0.5 | 9,410,000
Florida | 183,000| 37,858 | 0.3 | 10,260,000

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