Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Soldier's Quilt  from Washington Street Studio due in shops late Oct '18

Document color, authentic scale

King Cotton                   At the beginning of the 19th century, rice, tobacco and sugar were the most important US exports.  The dramatic growth of the British textile industry fueled the demand for cotton. Sea Island cotton, grown along the Eastern coast of the United States, had always been considered the highest quality. A long stapled cotton with seeds that separated easily from the fiber and a sensitivity to heat, it grew only with 40 miles of the ocean. Upland cotton could be grown inland but it was a short staple variety and required a field hand one full day of cleaning to produce one pound of seed free cotton. Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793 increased the output of seed free cotton dramatically.  A gin could clean 12 pounds of cotton/day. Grow more cotton!

In the 1820s the South became the world’s largest producer of cotton. From 1815 until the 1860 this agricultural product represented more than half of all American exports. There were 461,000 bales of cotton produced in 1817, 1.35 million by 1840. Production peaked at 408 million bales in 1860. This dramatic increase in production was spurred in part by increasing demand, especially from English textile mills. The generally strong economic conditions of the mid 1840s plus a booming textile trade at home and abroad meant more fabrics were available to many middle-class American women and at a better price.