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accepted have been delayed or overlooked altogether.

[Illustration: _Compress bales awaiting export on a Savannah wharf_]

The foreign market remained for the American manufacturer a prize so
distant and of such questionable value that he was simply not willing to
make the effort and spend the money that would be necessary to compete
with British, German, French, and other sellers. He would have had to
know local customs and tastes, and all the details that he had so
arduously acquired a knowledge of for the home market. The time was not

U. S. Export Trade
As Affected By War

The war served to disarrange the system of cotton cloth distribution of
the whole world. It is now a commonplace to say that the United States,
by the cutting off of the usual sources of supply, succeeded for the
first time in entering in force markets which hitherto had been closed.
It would probably be truer to say that foreign buyers, finding it
impossible to secure their customary supply from their regular sources,
came to the United States and asked American manufacturers to supply
their imperative wants.

Just what this meant is found in the statement that while in 1913 our
total exports of cotton goods amounted to about 445,000,000 yards, in
1917 the figure was about 690,000,000 yards, an increase of fifty-five
per cent. The increase, moreover, has been in the colored cottons, the
uncolored cloths showing an actual decrease.

The United Kingdom, during 1917, exported nearly 5,000,000,000 yards of
cloth, so there is no immediate prospect that the United States will be a
dangerous competitor for that country, except in a few limited lines and
in a few markets. The chief gain to the American cotton industry brought
by the war was the opportunity it gave merchants to introduce their goods
abroad at a time when loss was next to impossible. Operating at an
assured profit they were able to learn the markets without the long and
discouraging fight which would have been necessary had the competitive
power of the other nations been at full force. If, as seems likely, the
economic forces which projected the United States so suddenly and
dramatically into the world's markets shall continue to operate, then the
future will see a further development of our sales.

Future of Foreign Sales
And Probable Markets

Our best and most permanent markets are probably to be found in such
countries as Cuba, Mexico, the Philippines, Central and South America,
and, to a certain extent, Canada and Australia, and parts of Asia and
Africa. To be sure, competition will have to be met both from European
countries and from Japan, whose development in the cotton industry in
recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal. She has practically
doubled the number of her spindles in the last ten years, and her
competition has already been felt, for instance, in China, where American
gray goods have been practically eliminated from the market. Other
growing markets for Japanese cotton goods are South Africa, Australia,
India, and the west coast of South America.

In Cuba and the Philippine Islands, the United States has the advantage
of a preferential tariff agreement and excellent shipping facilities. In
Canada and Australia our cotton goods are popular but the tariff duties
are in favor of Great Britain. In the Dutch East Indies there is at
present a good opportunity for getting a foothold in the white goods
trade. Argentina has lately been our best market for cotton goods, and as
the imports of cotton products into that country amounted to $65,000,000
in 1916, this trade is worth the intensive efforts which are now being
made to clinch it.

Future Development
Up to Merchants

On the west coast of South America, as in the Manila market, there are
established American trading firms that are doing extensive development
work and their efforts have produced favorable results. In the other
Latin-American markets there are practically no local American firms and
in none of them have the possibilities of the trade been more than

The general opinion seems to be that if the United States is to keep what
she has gained by the war in the cotton goods trade the same care and
aggressiveness will have to be shown in the foreign as in the domestic
trade. England's position today as the foremost exporter of cotton
manufactures is the result of careful study of foreign markets and their
requirements, of catering to the tastes of the people, of aggressive
advertising, of competent foreign salesmen, of reliability in filling
orders, of good packing, and of more or less liberal credit terms.
Manufacturers in the United States will have to follow the same procedure
if this country is to keep her present position in international trade.


Some of the Grower's Problems

Early in the spring, the farm hands begin the work of getting the seed
beds ready. Upland fields have to be terraced, ditched, and drained by an
elaborate process before the work is well begun. Plowing and sub-soiling
are the least of the planter's worries. He must often chop last year's
stalks with a disc harrow or with a stalk cutter. The spike tooth or the
disc harrow must work again after the plowing is finished. It is
customary to plant cotton in a slightly raised bed, in order that
thinning may be more easily done, and that the soil may be more quickly
warmed. Much planting is still done by hand, one man dropping the seeds
in the long straight furrow and another following close behind him with a
hoe, covering them up; but of late years the one-horse planter and the
two-horse combined lister and planter have come into vogue, and, now that
the tractor is both cheap and serviceable, it is possible to plant two or
more rows at a time.

The Long Season of
Intensive Cultivation

When the tiny seedlings first appear above the fragrant mellow soil, the
planter's work is well begun, but it is only begun, for then comes the
season of cultivating and thinning out. As soon as there are two or three
inches of growth, the first cultivation takes place. How many times the
field is cultivated depends on the planter, the nature of the soil, the
availability of labor and other factors. But the general rule is, the
more cultivations, the more cotton. The first cultivation scrapes away
the soil from the plants, leaving them on a small ridge, where the
thinning-out process can easily be done with a hoe. The stalks are left
from fifteen to twenty inches apart in the hill, the rows being usually
about three and a half feet apart. The next cultivation, usually with a
sweep, pushes the soil back against the plants. Then begins the farmer's
fight against the weeds, each of which seems sturdier and harder to
eradicate than its predecessor. Usually cultivation must take place about
every three weeks.

In June, on the average, the bell-shaped blossoms appear. On the first
day they are cream colored or white; on the second day, they change to a
beautiful wild-rose pink, deepening toward evening to a deeper magenta or
carnation. On the third day they fade completely, and the development of
the boll begins.

The Many Enemies
of the Growing Boll

Of the plants upon which humanity depends, the various species of the
genus Gossypium have probably more enemies, and more relentless enemies,
than any other. Besides army worms, cut worms, locusts, green flies, leaf
bugs, blister mites, and several others, nature has produced and rendered
extremely prolific and hardy, these two particular pests, the boll weevil
and the boll worm. It is said that the collective attacks of all the
insects which feed upon cotton cost the country in the neighborhood of
$60,000,000 every year at pre-war prices. The little gray beetle that the
world knows as the cotton boll weevil is responsible for most of this.
The mother weevil lays her eggs in the bud. As the grubs from the eggs
develop, the bud drops. If a weevil arrives on the scene after the bolls
have begun to form, she lays her eggs in those with a fine indifference.
These bolls will not drop, but the grubs ruin the cotton they contain.
There have been numerous investigations and experiments made to develop a
variety of cotton impervious to the weevil's attacks, as well as to find
another insect willing to meet him in combat and overcome him. Guatamalan
cotton is said to be immune and efforts are being made to transplant it
to the United States. A small ant-like creature called a "kelep" has also
been found, which attacks, kills and devours the weevil, but,
unfortunately, the kelep prefers a warmer clime, and pines away and dies
in even the mild winters of the cotton belt. The boll worm is very
similar to the corn worm with which all housewives are familiar, and
indeed corn is its favorite diet. But cotton will do in a pinch, and,
next to the weevil, he ruins more cotton than any other pest. The boll
weevil cost the country about $25,000,000 yearly, pre-war prices, and the
boll worm about $12,500,000 yearly, enough to justify an even greater
expenditure for investigation and eradication than has yet been made.

Despite the ravage of insects and diseases, when a well-tended field of
cotton is ripening, one would think from the number of bolls per plant,
that the owner's fortune was surely made. Unfortunately, the plants shed
bolls as well as buds and flowers, in great numbers. It has frequently
been noted that even well-fertilized plants upon good, carefully
cultivated soil, will mature only fifteen to twenty per cent. of the
bolls produced.

[Illustration: _Cotton blossoms and bolls at various stages of growth_]

The planter will tell you that he would be willing to stand the boll
weevil, the dropped bolls, the extra cultivations, and all the remainder
of it, if he could only be sure that cotton which did mature would be
picked when it should be picked, and picked with rapidity and care.
Picking is the most laborious, as it is the most picturesque operation on
the plantation. Many types of machine pickers have been introduced, but
there are few planters who will admit that any of them suits his
particular needs. Now, as a hundred years ago, the picking is done by
hand. It is a simple operation, so simple that children ten years old can
do it, and women excel in it. But the best pickers rarely average more
than a hundred pounds a day, and most of them pull much less. Careless
work plays its part, too, for cotton is easily dropped from the boll and
soiled or lost altogether. Leaves and twigs as well as the shell of the
boll frequently cling to the fiber, and are picked with it, and all these
things tend to dirty and discolor it, and lessen its marketability. It
requires about three pounds of cotton with the seed in it, as picked, to
produce one pound of ginned or lint cotton.

There were in the United States, in 1917, a total of 24,272 ginneries, of
which 3,921 were idle. Each active gin produced an average of 526 bales
running bales of cotton. The number of gins shows a tendency to decrease
every year, not rapidly, but surely, and this despite the opposite
tendency of the crop. The Whitney gin of the old days has been improved
beyond the dreams of its inventor. He boasted that one man could do as
much with his machine as ten men without it. Today's gin averages about
five bales a day - a quantity which the negro of old would find difficult
to turn out in a year.

To the gin then, which is located either on the plantation or in the
immediate neighborhood, the mule drawn wagons, driven by negroes as a
rule, bring their loads of cotton.

[Illustration: _Gin bale and compress bale showing reduced bulk of

As the downy lint, pulled from the tenacious seeds, rolls into the
receiving bin of the gin, the huge compressors are put to work. The
coarse jute bagging is on hand, and the steel straps spread out. The gin
balers as a rule turn out a bale measuring approximately 28 by 56 by 42
inches, and weighing approximately 500 pounds including twenty pounds of
bagging and straps. The cotton, in being separated from its seeds, has
lost about two-thirds of its weight. But the first process in the long
series that manufacturing entails has been completed, and the cotton is
ready to begin its long journey to the mill. It is usually carted to the
nearest railroad station, and from there shipped to the compressing

The small farmer almost always gets his money for the cotton as it leaves
the gin. His interest in it, therefore, is ended when the buyer there
pays him the current price. The cotton is a market commodity from that
time forth.

The compress is a large and powerful hydraulic press, whose function is
to force the loosely packed gin bale into a density that will make its
handling by the railroads, ships, and warehouses more easy and
economical. The compresses are frequently owned by the railroads.

Gin Bales and
Compress Bales

Before being compressed, the bales are sorted according to grade, and are
then compressed into a smaller sized bale, measuring approximately 28 by
56 by 18 inches, with a density of from twenty-eight to thirty pounds a
square foot. It is this bale which is handled from that time forth,
whether it be for export, for consumption in Northern or Southern mills,
or whether, as sometimes happens, it is shipped from place to place as
market conditions change, and the price offered makes reshipment

Movement for
Improving the Bale

It is encouraging to note that the war brought about, under Government
auspices, a very definite movement for the improvement of the bale. The
proposal demands the installation of high pressure baling machines at the
gin, capable of producing a bale with a density of thirty-five pounds a
cubic foot. The trading unit in cotton is one hundred bales, and such a
compression would mean that one hundred bales could be loaded into a
single freight car, and shipped directly to the export point or
warehouse. The present practice requires three cars to carry the ginnery
bales to the compressor, and two cars to carry the compressed bales to
the port, warehouse, or mill. The saving in freight and handling is
obvious. It needs only a glance at the photograph of the two bales side
by side to see the possible saving in waste and "city crop," or tare. The
obstacles in the way of such an improvement are those which face any
revolutionary change in commercial methods. Established practice,
invested capital, and the natural conservatism of human nature militate
against quick improvement.


In the Cotton Mill

The manufacture of cotton cloth may be divided into five departments:

1. Preparatory processes: Opening, carding,
combing, and drawing.

2. Spinning.

3. Spooling, warping, sizing, slashing, entering
or drawing-in.

4. Weaving.

5. Converting and finishing, including bleaching,
mercerizing, dying, printing, and finishing.

Before the cotton fiber can be spun into the yarn from which the cloth is
woven, the bales must be broken open, the impurities removed, and the
fibers arranged so that they are parallel and contain no bunches or
tangles. Care in these processes has become more and more necessary and
important as the demand for a higher quality of cloth, possessing greater
strength and evenness, has been developed. Hence, some of the most
elaborate, complex, and admirable machinery in the mill is that devoted
to these preparatory processes. The principle involved is always that of
thoroughly cleaning the material, then opening it so that every fiber
shall be thoroughly separated from its fellows, and then straightening
out the fibers, no matter what types of machines may be used.

Conveying Fiber
By Air Blast

The heavy laps of cotton are first thrown directly from the bale into the
breaker, and the cotton is then usually blown through large pipes from
the room in which the bales are broken to the room in which the openers
are located.

The functions of the opener are two. The first is to clean from the
cotton the dirt and bits of leaf, pod, and foreign substances, which may
have clung to the fiber as it passed through the gin back on the
plantation. The second is to roll the cotton into a more or less regular
"lap," as it is called.

The Energetic
Opener At Work

As the cotton goes into the opener (see diagram on following page), dusty
and dirty, it is seized by strong teeth fastened upon a large cylinder
(A), revolving rapidly, and is flung by centrifugal force against an iron
grid (B) time after time. Sometimes there is a strong current of air
blowing through the tangled mass, helping to loosen the particles. The
dirt comes out through the grid and is carried away, while the lint
itself, after being carried around an indefinite number of times,
gradually works its way along a channel, and finally out between two
large rollers (C), which compress it once more, so that it is, in effect,
a sheet of batting. This sheet, or lap, is rolled up in a large roll (G),
which may be two or three feet in diameter, and is then ready for the
first doubling or blending process. In mills where strength and evenness
of yarn are at a premium, the sheets from three or four laps may be fed
through another opener, usually called a "scutcher," which breaks them
all apart again, mixes up the fibers, cleans out more of the dirt, and
produces a more even lap.

The cotton, as it comes from the opener and the scutcher, is much cleaner
and more attractive. It begins to look like the riches it contains.

[Illustration: _Cross-section diagram of opener_]

To convey the heavy opener-lap from the opener to the carding room, the
more modern mills are doing away rapidly with hand-power, and carry the
lap on a sort of travelling mono-rail conveyor.

The fibers of the lap which comes from the opening room are by no means
parallel, but lie in all directions just as they happened to come from
the grid of the opener. The function of the card is to straighten them,
and at the same time to remove those which are knotted or immature and of
a length below that required for the yarn to be spun, and to take out
practically all of the impurities which may have escaped in the opening

The principle of carding is one of the oldest of textile mechanical
principles, and all the improvements that have been made have been in
developments rather than in basic ideas. Hargreaves, inventor of the
jenny, and Sir Richard Arkwright both expended their ingenuity upon it,
the latter seeming to have been the first to provide a carding machine
operated by other than hand-power. The basic principle involved is the
straightening out of the fibers by combing or brushing them with wire
brushes or cards.

[Illustration: _"Scutchers" at work_]

In the revolving flat card, which dominates the field today, there are,
as a rule, three principal cylinders. The lap passes first under the
smallest of the three, called the taker-in, which is covered with very
fine saw-teeth all in one long strip of steel, wound and fixed spirally
in the surface of the cylinder. The taker-in receives the cotton from a
feed-roller (C) that turns above a smooth iron plate (D) called the feed
plate. The saw-teeth comb the fibers which are imbedded, so to speak, in
the lap, and deliver the loose ones to the second cylinder, which is the
largest of the group. This main cylinder is covered with wire teeth all
bent at exactly the same angle. The cotton clings to them, and is carried
around to the top of the cylinder, where it is engaged by teeth on the
revolving-flat card which are bent in the opposite direction. This
"card-clothing" arranged in strip, crosswise on a travelling lattice,
moves in the same direction as the cylinder but moves very slowly, and so
the fibers are carded between the two sets of wire points, the short and
immature fibers remaining on the card wires of the lattice and the
perfect and now almost entirely parallel ones being carried over from the
main cylinder to the doffer cylinder, the third of the trio. From this
they are removed by an oscillating comb (F), coming off in a light,
fleecy lap, which is condensed through a funnel into a soft untwisted
roping, or sliver, about the diameter of a man's thumb, and is then
coiled into a can, usually about 45 inches high by 8 inches diameter.

[Illustration: _View of Modern Motor-Driven Opener Picker_]

The conveying of the sliver (pronounced with a long or short i) into the
can is in itself an exceedingly ingenious operation, although a very
simple one. The device is attached directly to the card, and is called a
coiler. The sliver passes into it from the funnel. The hole from which
the sliver emerges is off the center of a steel plate which revolves
slowly, so that the sliver, as it comes out, has an eccentric motion
which causes it to fall into the can in regular coils. Tangling is thus
prevented, and ease of handling secured.

Combing Necessary in
Spinning Fine "Counts"

Combing is necessary in the preparation of cotton for the spinning of
fine "counts" or coarser yarns where great smoothness and regularity are
desired. They are now quite extensively used in the United States, and it
is significant of the trend of the industry here that the number is
rapidly growing. The first cotton comber was invented by a Frenchman of
Alsace named Heilmann. The patent was issued in 1845. Now there are on
the market other machines, both English and American, similar in
principle but improved in many ways.

[Illustration: _Revolving flat cards_]

The first of these preliminary processes is that which is done by the
sliver-lapper. The slivers from 14 to 20 cans are drawn along
side-by-side, passing between three pairs of drawing rollers which will
be described later. From the drawing rollers the slivers now reduced in
size, pass between two pairs of calendar rollers from which they emerge,
not as a sliver, of course, but once more as a lap about a foot wide.
These laps are usually passed to a ribbon lapper, where six of them are
placed end-to-end, and unrolled simultaneously, passed between four pairs
of drawing rollers, and then superimposed, one upon the other, and,
calendered once more, issued as a lap a little less than a foot wide.
This process may be repeated as many times as the quality of the yarn
desired may require, for each drawing process served to straighten the
fibers and so to render the thread more even and capable of finer

Combing is exactly what its name implies. The lap is actually raked by a
fine-tooth comb with needle-like teeth of steel ranging from 16 to 90 per
inch. This involves breaking the lap again and the intricacy of the
comber rests in the mechanism which it employs for joining the separated

[Illustration: _Cross-section diagram of revolving flat card_]

Six or eight laps go through the machine at once, and the product is
combined, condensed, formed into a continuous sliver, and deposited once
more into cans. The process is not a fast one at best, and the chief
contribution of American inventors is in the direction of speed. Each nip
combs only 4/16 to 4/10 of an inch of fiber. The Heilman machine made
about 85 or 90 nips per minute. The American improvement makes 130 to
135. The width of the lap in the American machine is likewise increased,
and the saving in labor, therefore, is considerable. English improvements
have been in the same direction, the resultant saving being almost as

[Illustration: _Ribbon lappers_]

Though many of the processes already described might be called drawing,
in a sense, insomuch as they involve a continual lengthening and
straightening of the lap or sliver, yet drawing in the strictest sense
has not yet begun. It may be done only once, for coarse and cheap yarn,
or it may be repeated a half dozen or more times to produce the finer and
more expensive products. The frame for each repetition is slightly
different, but several types may be isolated. They are, in the order of
their use, the drawing frame, the fly frame, or slubber, the intermediate
frame, and the roving and jack frames.

For fine counts the slivers from the comber, and for other grades that
which comes directly from the card, are taken, then to the drawing frame.
The slivers from the cans, six or eight in number, are fed through one
aperture, and pass, thus combined, between several (usually four) pairs
of rollers, so arranged that each succeeding pair revolves at a more
rapid rate than that which preceded it. The last pair in the series

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Online LibraryGuaranty Trust Company of New YorkThe Fabric of Civilization → online text (page 5 of 7)