COTTON MACHINERY. Ginning ma chinery is always located at or near a railway station in a cotton-growing territory. The earliest cotton gin probably dates back to the days when the market price of animal skins be came so great that man had to look around for a cheaper substitute for clothes. A primitive machine called the churka is an early gin. It is used to-day by the Hindus and Chinese. It consists of two plain rollers mounted on a frame and revolved in contact. Between these rollers the cotton is drawn and torn from the seed.
In most parts of the cotton belt of the United States the saw-gin which Eli Whitney invented in 1794 is still the machine used to gin cotton. The purpose of the machine is to separate the seeds from the fibres of the cotton. Evolution has done comparatively little to change its three essential elements, the saws, ribs and brush. These have been retained in nearly all modifications intended to meet mod ern ideas, methods, means and material of con struction, and improve the quality and quantity of the staple of the cotton, but thus far no machine has been invented which can excel the saw-gin in capacity. The cotton gin consists principally of a hopper in which the raw cotton is thrown. A blower-case and a rotary brush serve to guide the cotton against a cylinder which has needle-like teeth, or, in later con struction, saw-teeth. These teeth catch the cotton fibre and withdraw it through openings too narrow for the seeds to follow. A seed bar and screen remove the seeds, the dust is blown out and the separated or ginned cotton is ready to be baled. As the fibres of the cotton • were found to be injured by the action of the saws, the McCarthy roller gin was introduced. It consists of a leather-covered roller to which a knife is tightly held tangentially and a moving blade that moves up and down in a plane just behind and parallel to the fixed knife. As the cotton is drawn between the rollers and the knife the seeds are forced loose by the moving blade. It works well, but its limited capacity
has prevented its general introduction.
Until about 1875 the average ginning plant consisted of one gin stand having a gang of 60, 70 or 80 saws, capable of turning out from 8 to 10 500-pound bales of cotton in a day. The isolated cotton plantations did not require a greater capacity than this size of plant, and each planter did his own ginning. But after the development of the Southwest with its large areas capable of raising cotton and the large number of small farms located close together, system gins were erected at railroad stations capable of ginning for the entire neighborhood. The competition of the gins with each other required a perfection of machinery never at tempted in the older portions of the cotton belt. As the development of the Southwest increased its competition with the Southeast, this latter section adopted the methods which had grown up in the former. Small plantation gins were not rebuilt as they wore out or burned, but larger gins owned by a company of planters or 'merchants were built at the railway stations. Thus the entire cotton handling business under went a revolution, until, for economy, speed and efficiency, it ranks with the latest machinery for handling grain crops.
The constant danger of fire which hangs over all cotton gins has caused the separation of the different buildings which go to make a complete establishment. The gin building proper is only large enough for the machinery which does the ginning; no cotton is in the building except that which is undergoing the process of ginning. The seed house in which the seed is stored is usually located on a near-by spur of the railway. Further to avoid the risk of fire and to ensure better running of the machinery, the gins are located on a low plat form three feet high. The floor of the building is brick or cement and the building is made of brick, stone or sheet iron.