Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 8 >> Civil List to County Government In The >> Cotton_P1


sea, species, island, upland, plants, varieties, lint and fibre

Page: 1 2

COTTON. This important vegetable fibre is readily distinguished from all other commer cial fibres by its spiral twist, a character that renders it especially valuable for spinning. The wide-spread distribution of the plant, its adapt ability to a great variety of soils and climates, and its comparative cheapness, all tend to make it one of the great staples of agricultural pro duction, and it is probably used by more people and for a wider range of purposes than any other fibre. The country in which cotton was first used has not been definitely determined. It had long been known in India before the con quest of that country by Alexander. The writ ings of Herodotus and Pliny tell us that the excellence of its fibre was known to the Greeks and Romans. Columbus found it in use by the natives of the New World and in the conquests of Mexico and Peru cotton cloth was found to he in use. Ancient Peruvian tombs have yielded mummy cloths of cotton but those obtained from Egyptian tombs appear to be linen, although it is probable that cotton was known in that country from quite early times. While the principal commericial value attaches to the beautiful fibre that surrounds the seeds, the seeds themselves have important uses aside from that of producing a new crop. The stems and roots are also of value and the so-called by-products now utilized add fully 20 per cent to the value of the commercial cotton crop.

Botany, Commercial Classification, etc.— The cotton of commerce is a product of plants of the genus Gossypium, a member of the Mal vacece or Mallow family of plants. There have been many attempts to classify and limit the species of Gossypium, but no two authorities agree. In a recent widely known catalogue of plants, about 50 species are recognized, and probably four or five times as many names combined or rejected. While this list of names is quite large there are only five or six species whose product enters into commerce and the bulk of the production is the product of two species, G. herbaceum, which furnishes the Upland cottons, and G. barbadense, the source of the Sea Island cotton. All the species are of tropical origin. They are small trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants, enduring for one, two or more years, dependent upon the species. There has been much discussion re garding the origin of the many varieties of cotton grown in this country, but by almost common consent they are all attributed to the two species mentioned above or to some of their numerous hybrids. The Sea Island cotton is undoubtedly indigenous to America and was the type observed by Columbus, but the evidence for the American origin of the species to which the Upland cottons are referred is less conclu sive. These two classes of cotton differ mate

rially in their seed characteristics. The Sea Island has a small black seed from which the lint separates readily, while the Upland cottons have large seeds which are greenish in color and surrounded by a short dense fuzz beneath the longer and more valuable lint. Both of the species are perennial in climates without frost, but in cultivation they are treated as an nuals. The plants are shrubby, 3 to 10 feet high, more or less branched and bear large, alternate 3- to 5-lobed leaves which when held to the light show numerous pellucid dots. The flowers, which resemble to a degree those of the hollyhock, mallow and hibiscus, are white when newly open in the varieties of Upland cotton, turning red with age, and a creamy yel low in the Sea Island, with a purplish spot at the base of the petals. The flowers are usually single in the axils of the leaves except in those varieties designated °cluster types" in which a number are produced together. Surrounding this conspicuous flower are three or more heart shaped, fringed or deeply cut bracts which con stitute the so-called "squares.° The indenta tions of the squares are deeper and more numer ous in the Sea Island varieties than in the Upland forms. The capsules within the squares are the °bolls.° They are 3- to 5-celled and contain the seed covered with the white or slightly tawny lint. The bolls of Sea Island cottons are uniformly smaller and more sharply pointed, contain fewer and smaller seeds and longer lint than the Upland bolls. The lint of the Sea Island cotton is from one and one half to two and a half inches in length, while the Upland cotton of the G. herbaceum type seldom exceeds one and a half inches in length and much of it is shorter. There are numer ous hybrids between these two types as is shown by the character of the seed and lint. The Sea Island cotton flourishes along the coast region of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and also in Egypt, the famous Egyptian cotton being a development from American Sea Is land cotton seed sent to Egypt a number of years ago. The varieties of Sea Island cotton furnish the finest and most valuable fibre, but their production is restricted by the soil and climatic requirements of the plants. The Up land varieties, while not furnishing so fine a quality of fibre, are grown over a much wider territory and the total production far exceeds that of the Sea Island. In India there is a perennial species to which the name G.

Page: 1 2