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Cottonseed Oil Industry

cotton, seed, patent, yield, machine, practical and hulling

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COTTONSEED OIL INDUSTRY. More than 2,000 years ago the Hindus mas tered the uses of the cotton fibre, demonstrat ing its remarkable adaptability for spinning into fabrics to cover the nakedness of the savage or adorn the dress of the nobleman. But it remained for the practical genius of America to discover many other wonderful properties of the cotton plant; that its seed furnished an invaluable food for man and beast, and, when combined with other chemical ingredients, a most excellent fertilizer; that its stalks may be ground into pulp for making the finest kind of writing paper; that the ashes from the hulls of the seed yield a good grade of potash, and that even the root itself may be utilized for dye stuffs.

History of Cotton Oil.—To Dr. Otto, a Moravian, of Bethlehem, Pa., belongs the honor of making the first cotton oil ever produced in the United States. He began experimenting in oil from cotton seed and other vegetable seed about the year 1768. Samples of the oils ob tained were sent to his friend Dr. Bond, of Philadelphia, and on 20 Sept. 1768 they were presented to the American Philosophical So ciety with the statement from Dr. Otto that one bushel and a half of cotton seed would yield nine pints of oil. Some 15 years later, 1783, it is said that the London Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce called attention to the possible value of this oil.

It is of record in the United States Patent Office that on 2 March 1799, one C. Whiting obtained a patent for a "process for extracting oil from cotton seed." All of the records relat ing to this patent are supposed to have been destroyed by fire. Sir William Dunbar, an extensive cotton planter of Natchez, Miss., when the Mississippi territory was under Brit ish dominion, had some knowledge of cotton oil, for in ordering a cotton screw press from Philadelphia in 1801, he wrote his correspond ant: "I shall endeavor to indemnify myself for the cost by making cotton-seed oil. It will probably be of a grade between drying and fat oils, resembling that made from linseed in color and tenacity, but less drying. Where' he asked, °can a market be found for such an oil?' Whatever kowledge Sir William may have had of cotton oil he made no practical use of it, but it is an interesting coincidence that 32 years later Natchez was one of the first places to attempt the manufacture of cotton oil.

The very first machine for hulling cotton seed was invented by J. Lineback, of Salem, N. C., and patented 31 March 1814. The records relating to this patent were also de stroyed by fire, the only reference to it being contained in the index volumes, where it is referred to as °a cotton hulling machine.' Meanwhile, it appears that Egyptian cotton seed was introduced into Europe and the manu facture and refining of cotton oil was begun and carried on to some extent in England and France.

So far as the United States is concerned, the first step in a practical direction to manufac ture of cotton oil was made by Francis Follet of Petersburg, Va., to whom belongs the distinc tion of having constructed the first cotton oil mill in this country. On 21 Jan. 1829, he ob tained a patent for a "machine for hulling and husking cotton seeds and separating the hulls from the kernels,' and the same year con structed and put into operation a mill that was propounced by competent judges from different parts of the Union as "second in importance, to the South, to the cotton gin only.' In Decem ber 1829 Mr. Follet obtained a patent for im provements in his machine, meanwhile having formed a partnership with Mr. Smith, also of Petersburg. In an advertisement (1829) Messrs. Follet and Smith claimed that one of their two- or three-horse-power machines would hull and clean at one and the same operation from 20 to 25 bushels of seed per hour, which would yield one-third its measure, or '55 per cent of its weight in kernel from seed of fairly good quality; that one bushel of kernel would yield two gallons of oil, and perhaps one or two quarts more, equal to flaxseed oil if well expressed, and leaving 35 pounds of oil cake. It was claimed that because of its cheapness and aptitude for almost every purpose the oil would supersede all others in use, while the oil cake was a highly nutritious food for cattle, and these products would become important articles of export.

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