Cotton industry - Business in United States of America

Cotton industry: The Invention

Cotton industry: Modern Issues

Definition: Farmers and businesses responsible for growing, processing, and selling cotton

Significance: The cotton industry, aided by the invention of the cotton gin, enriched the American South before the Civil War. Although it suffered setbacks during the war, the industry recovered to provide a significant source of American exports.

The early history of the cotton industry revolves around the introduction of African slaves to the American South in an effort to provide inexpensive labor for the cotton fields. Despite the use of the slaves, cotton farming was not highly noted or profitable before the late eighteenth century.

Theresa L. Stowell

Further Reading

  • Broadus, Mitchell. The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001. Looks at the history, the laborers, and the economic functions of cotton mills in America’s southern states. 
  • Jeremy, David J. Technology and Power in the Early American Cotton Industry: James Montgomery, the Second Edition of His “Cotton Manufacture” (1840), and the Justitia Controversy About Relative Power Costs. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1990. Provides historical information about eighteenth century writer James Montgomery and the conclusions he drew about American cotton manufacturing. 
  • Lakwete, Angela. Inventing the Cotton Gin: Machine and Myth in Antebellum America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Argues that Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was not the first model introduced to the South and, thus, not as responsible for Southern cotton production increases during the late 1700’s as history books suggest. 
  • Lichtenstein, Jack. Field to Fabric: The Story of American Cotton Growers. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1990. An account of the cotton industry, from the farmers to the finished product. 
  • Yafa, Stephen. Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary. New York: Viking, 2005. Provides a general overview of the cotton industry in the United States from the seventeenth through the twenty first centuries. 

See also: agriculture; U.S. Civil War; commodity markets; Panic of 1819; Panic of 1837; Plantation agriculture; Slave era; Tariff of Abominations; tariffs.

Cotton industry: Modern Issues

Cotton industry: The Invention

U.S. Civil War: Strategic Objectives

Agriculture: The Industrial Revolution

Plantation agriculture

Cotton gin

George Washington Carver

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