Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 Cotton patch planted April 2012

Today we visited the Plantation Agriculture Museum.  The first building you entered was originally constructed in 1912 as a general store.  Then it was converted into a museum in 1960 to tell the story of cotton. 

 The exhibits tell about cotton "from the field to the gin".  It started with the plowing of the field to planting the seed and so on.  They had examples of all the farm implements from the beginning to modern day tractors. 

 Emphasis is also place on mules and their important role as draft animals.   The largest plantations had up to 200 mules and the farmer had one or two.  They were as necessary as the sun and water. They were suited for the cotton farmer because they ate a 1/3 less food than a horse. They did not require an expensive grain diet and could work the hot summer days.  They were also more disease resistant than a horse.  Obeyed spoken commands.They lived 20 to 30 years and were bigger and stronger than a horse. A mule is a hybrid it is a cross between a female horse and a male donkey and can be either male or female.
The cotton plant 
 Here you see  the creamy white flower, when the flower is pollinated it turns red,  and you can also see the start of the cotton boll.
cotton boll
This is just the boll
This is the cloth bag the pickers would sling over their shoulders and drag behind them in the fields filling them with the cotton bolls.  They would bring them in to be weighed like above.
Before the cotton gin people had to pull the lint (white fibers, cotton) away from the seed.  They showed us how and let us do it for ourselves.  This is very labor intense. 
This shows the lint in the cotton boll, the lint out of the boll (the easiest part), the seed. and the boll empty.  We were told the nickname for this cotton is fuzzy seed because the lint never comes completely off the seed as you can see. We were told they grow it here in Arkansas because it grows the best.
Roger operating the small scale cotton gin.  This machine was very important in the processing of the cotton.
It is so simple really.  Saw blades lined up in a row.
And the brushes that will come down and fit next to the blades.  The lint sections from the cotton boll are placed in the gin and the blade - brush action takes the lint away from the seed. 

After ginning the cotton they would bale it and ship it out to be made into cloth, thread, yarn, what ever.  It required 1,500 pounds of raw cotton (seeds and other plant parts) to make a 500 pound bale.  The bales of cotton head off to the textile mills.
Then the lint is carted to make all the fibers go in one direction.
They call this batting.  If the farmer's wife kept some for herself she would cart it.   Back in the day they would do longer and wide patches of this and sew (quilt) then in the blankets. Or she could....
... also pull it and twist it and make thread or yarn.  She would do this on a spinning wheel. 
This large dude is a boll weevil.  He is a bit bigger here than in real life, He is the worst insect in the history of American crops.  He destroyed the cotton corps for years.  In fact it wasn't until 2009 when we could finally say the boll weevil is 98% gone. 
This is called a cotton pin.  It is a small building used to store cotton in the field out of the elements until it could be taken to the cotton gin.  A pen could hold 1,500 pounds of cotton enough for one bale.  They could be pulled around on their skids. 
Rog looking at very old tractors.
This is the gin.  During the height of the growing season this gin would operate 24/7.  It would need two crews.  Crews consisted of 5 to 8 men. The ginner and assistant would over see the operation and scales. Outside at the suck tube the suck man was either an employee of the gin or the driver of the wagon full of cotton.  The oiler was busy keeping all the parts oiled and the engine running.   The baler was operated by two men.  And the others would load the bales onto wagons, rail cars or trucks.  This gin produces one to two bales per hour.  Modern gins produce a bales every two minutes. 
The farmer brings his load of seed cotton to the gin.  You will notice the tube in the wagon this is vacuuming the seed cotton out of the wagon and now the ginning process begins. There will be a long line of wagons.  Once the wagon gets to the front he pulls up onto the wooden scales, is weighed and the seed cotton is sucked into the gin.  Each wagon of cotton usually weighs 1,500 pounds which will gin out to be one 500 pound bale of cotton.

The inner workings of the Gin. The gin itself is in the foreground and the tubing coming out, down and across is going to the bale press.  Here it is pressed, burlaped, strapped, and marked for delivery.  
This is the bale press.  The cotton lint is blown over from the gin into a wood crate.  The press is worked from he bottom compacting the cotton lint into a 500 pound bale.  This is done so large amounts of cotton can be shipped to the textile mills.  Here it is also graded and marked for shipping. 

What happens to the seed?  The seed is sent to a seed warehouse where a special gin removes any extra lint that may have remained.  Then they are sent to be processed into oil or seed for the new crop of cotton in the spring.  
  This is the actual seed warehouse and rail spur.  This is the neatest exhibit.  You walk through the rail car into the seed warehouse for more great exhibits.  The building is shaped so the seed can be piled high with the windows on the top for optimum ventilation. 
 Inside the seed warehouse. 
They found this was the best way to store the seeds and then process them.  This is where they re-gin the seed to clean them and bag them for shipment.  

We had a great time and learned so much about cotton. 
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