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★ Cotton

Cotton: see Industry & Manufacturing & Clothes & Factory & Textiles & Wool & Canal & Slavery & South & Agriculture & Plants & Fashion

America: The Story of the US TV - Jacob Bronowski TV - The British TV - Jeremy Paxman TV - Mark Williams TV - Ronald Top TV - David Christy - Muddy Waters - Phil Gramm - Alex Shoumatoff - A N Wilson - Louis Hughes - Pete Daniel - Richard Barbrook - Niall Ferguson TV - The Genius of Invention TV - Reginald D Hunter TV - David Olusoga TV - Michael Buerk TV - Stacey Dooley TV -         

 

 

 

The US is gaining ground.  Spreading out across North America.  The economy is booming.  In the south there’s cotton.  In the north industry.  But the new nation is divided.  In a land where all men are created equal four million black Americans live as slaves.  And it’s tearing the nation apart.  America: The Story of the US: Division, History 2010

 

Cotton: but its rapid spread will plant the seeds of war.  Tropical cotton flourishes in American southern states.  Its valuable soft fibres are easy to grow.  But processing cotton is labour intensive.  By hand separating seeds from fibre in a couple of kilos of raw cotton could take a whole day.  A simple patent filed on the 4th March 1794 changes that: the cotton gin.  By automating the process it deeply divides the country.  ibid.  

 

By 1830 America is producing half the world’s cotton; by 1850 it’s nearly three-quarters.  Cold white gold, cotton supports a new lavish life- style in the south.  ibid.

 

With the cotton explosion, slavery becomes critical to the economy of the south.  Slaves are now up to five times more valuable than before the invention of the cotton gin.  ibid.

 

But over-production is destroying the land.  So cotton heads west in search of fertile soil, bringing slavery with it.  ibid. 

 

The boom is powered on a new machine: the power loom.  Raw cotton comes in; finished cloth goes out.  All under one roof.  The modern factory is born ... 85% are single women between fifteen and twenty-five.  Harriett Robinson is ten.  ibid.

 

The mills also revolutionised how Americans dressed.  ibid.

 

And together they begin to make their voices heard.  In October 1836 women from the Lowell Mills gather after work and organise.  Their protest against wage cuts is one of the first strikes in US history.  And they will win.  The mill bosses backed down.  A generation of young women go on to become teachers, writers and college graduates.  Harriet Robinson would become a leading suffragette.  ibid.

 

 

Cotton underwear and soap could work a transformation in the lives of the poor.  Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man 8/13: The Drive For Power, BBC 1973    

 

 

Lancaster 1768 ... They are trying to build a machine to stretch and spin cotton perfectly.  The British V: Superpower, Sky Atlantic 2012

 

The Luddites are now doomed: they cannot resist the power of the state or the advance of the machine.  ibid.

 

Lancashire’s cotton mills will employ 120,000 people.  ibid.

 

 

By the 1920s Lancashire’s cotton mills dominated the world market.  Jeremy Paxman, Empire IV: Making a Fortune, BBC 2012

 

Gandhi was coming to Britain and would visit Lancashire.  ibid.

 

 

By the middle of the eighteenth century Manchester is a boom town ... The cotton industry is booming.  It’s not mechanised yet.  But it’s attracting lots of workers.  Mark Williams, Industrial Revelations s1e1: Boom Time, Discovery 2002

 

Cotton was the first industry to be revolutionised.  ibid.  

 

 

One of the glories of the industrial revolution for which we should all get down on our knees and give thanks was that people went from wearing this to this: in the nineteenth century we will be mostly wearing cotton undergarments.  Cotton wasn’t just more comfortable, it was more healthy too.  Mark Williams, Industrial Revelations s1e2: Pants for Everyone

 

All of a sudden cotton was cheap.  And that was a revolution.  ibid.

 

Cotton – much more difficult to spin than wool.  Has a short staple length ... The Spinning Jenny worked on the same principle as the Spinning Wheel ... The Jenny took cotton out of the home and into the workshops, sounding the death-knell for spinning as a cottage industry.  ibid.

 

They smashed the new machines and rioted and people died.  So if you wanted to make a profit from this new technology you had to protect your investment.  ibid.

 

Cromford was to become Britain’s spin-city.  ibid.

 

Beautiful patterned cotton from India was all the rage.  ibid.

 

Cotton could now be spun in mills on Arkwright’s frames using cheap unskilled labour and the latest water-powered technology.  ibid.

 

It had made Arkwright an extremely wealthy man and turned spinners into factory employees ... The people who worked in this mill couldn’t stop and start, come and go as they pleased as they used to when they worked from home: they were now factory employees.  And they worked when Arkwright told them.  Just imagine the noise.  Arkwright was the prototype mill owner.  These are his workers’ houses.  He invented most of the oppressive working practices we now associate with the bad old days, making women and children work from six in the morning until seven at night for a pittance.  And once a year he made his workers sing his song: ‘Let us all here join as one, and give him thanks for favours done.  Let’s thank him for all favours still that he hath done beside the mill.  Modestly drink liquor about and see whose health you can find out.  This will I choose above the rest – Sir Richard Arkwright is the best.’  Was he really!  It better have been a good tune.  ibid.

 

They laid rails but they treated the route as if it was a canal.  Long flat sections interspersed with short steep inclines sometimes up to one in seven.  The new railway reinforced Cromford’s importance as an industrial centre.  Cheap cotton could now be sent to the weaving mills of Lancashire.  These original Cromford & High Peak Company rails are cast-iron and one point two metres in length.  They are all straight.  ibid.

 

 

Steam power had finally arrived in the textile industry.  And this is what the boilers are generating steam for: it’s a tandem – because there are two cylinders one in front of the other like a bike – compound – because the steam is used more than once – condensing – because downstairs is James Watts separate condenser - creating a partial vacuum in this the big cylinder – steam engine!  It develops five hundred horsepower.  Mark Williams: Industrial Revelations s1e4: Pennine Passage

 

Because this is what it’s driving – three hundred power looms.  You can get an idea of how loud it is, but you can’t feel the concrete floor vibrating ... Now everything is powered by steam.  ibid.

 

 

By the 1760s they could use a Spinning Jenny: a glorified spinning wheel with several spindles: but even it couldn’t keep up with demand.  Ronald Top, More Industrial Revelations 4/4: Europe – Cotton, Linen and Rope, Discovery 2006

 

Arkwright built a series of mills across the north of England.  This is Cromford: the first.  His appetite for cotton was insatiable.  ibid.

 

The price of cotton plummeted ... Linen was really hit hard.  Although linen came from a home-grown product – flax – unlike cotton which was imported.  The linen industry in France and Belgium had remained unchanged for hundreds of years.  ibid.

 

Mass production had reached the linen industry but perhaps a little too late.  It never truly recovered from cotton’s competition.  ibid.  

 

 

King cotton cares not whether he employs slaves or freemen.  David Christy, author Cotton is King; Or, the Economic Relations of Slavery

 

 

Oh, I started out young.  They handed me a cotton sack when I was about 8 years old.  Give me a little small one, tell me to fill it up.  I never did like the farm but I was out there with my grandmother, didn't want to get away from around her too far.  Muddy Waters

 

 

Half the world does not know the joys of wearing cotton underwear.  Phil Gramm

 

 

The usual way of growing cotton is highly petrochemical-intensive, requiring 110 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre.  Some of the fertilizer is broken down by soil bacteria into nitrate, a toxic and highly soluble chemical that can leach into groundwater or get washed into lakes, creating oxygenless dead zones.  Alex Shoumatoff

 

 

In the 18th century, James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny, and Richard Arkwright pioneered the water-propelled spinning frame which led to the mass production of cotton.  This was truly revolutionary.  The cotton manufacturers created a whole new class of people – the urban proletariat.  The structure of society itself would never be the same.  A N Wilson

 

 

After the selection of the soil most suitable for cotton, the preparation of it was of vital importance.  The land was deeply plowed, long enough before the time of planting to allow the spring rains to settle it.  Then it was thrown into beds or ridges by turning furrows both ways toward a given center ... The plant made its appearance in about ten days after planting ... It required four months, under the most favorable circumstances, for cotton to attain its full growth ... It bloomed about the first of June and the first balls opened about August 15 ... The blooms come out in the morning and are fully developed by noon, when they are a pure white.  Soon after they begin to develop reddish streaks, and the next morning are a clear pink.  They fall off by noon of the second day.  Louis Hughes, Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom, 1897

 

 

For a century and a half cotton farming dominated the southern United States.  Indeed the invention of the cotton gin [1793] followed by only four years the establishment of the government ... The cotton gin was such a simple machine that it was endlessly replicated in each settlement as cotton marched west from county to county.  Pete Daniel, Breaking the Land, 1985

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