Everyone who has had American history surely must know that during Civil War days, cotton was the greatest crop in the southern states. You may even know that the phrase, King Cotton, was used by secessionists in their arguments that the cotton crop would allow the south to be financially independent of the industrial north because Great Britain and France needed the southern cotton to drive their textile mills. Well, that was a bad conclusion. What the south hadn’t taken into consideration was the possibility that the Union would blockade shipments from southern ports so effectively that 95% of the exports of cotton were brought to a complete stand-still. Still earlier, in 1861, the south had purposely not shipped cotton to Europe, intentionally holding it back in order to try to create a crisis in demand that would force Great Britain and France to enter the war on the side of the Confederacy just in order to keep their own economies growing. But, again, the southern states failed to recognize the glut of cotton that was already in the hands of the European nations.
What allowed the boom in the cotton business was Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793. By the time that the Civil War started, the south was producing 75% of the world’s supply of cotton. (There are those who argue that a woman actually invented the cotton gin, but feared that no one would take it seriously if it was invented by a woman, so she let Eli take the credit.)
When we were at Stately Oaks Plantation this past Saturday (I mistakenly called it “Shady Oaks” in my earlier post!), they had a basket of cotton sitting on the back porch and I took a picture of it for those who have never seen the stuff. Cotton grows well in the south because of the summer heat and water, but it is a bear to harvest and process. Just looking at it makes me itch!!!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, the US government issued the first ever social security check to Ida Fuller of Brattlesboro, Vermont, in the amount of $22.54. Her check number was 00-000-001. I figure that’s about how much I’ll get out of Social Security by the time our politicians are done stealing what we hard-working Americans have contributed over the years!
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: any building where silence is enforced, such as a library or school room, is technically called a “silentium”.