Page numbers in issues:1847.1.1-32; January • 1847.1.33-64; February • 1847.1.65-96; March • 1847.1.97-128; April • 1847.1.129-160; May • 1847.1.161-192; June • 1847.2.1-32; July • 1847.2.33-64; August • 1847.2.65-96; September • 1847.2.97-128; October • 1847.2.129-160; November • 1847.2.161-192; December
[Transcriber’s note: published separately as “Letter from Riceboro’, Georgia”:]
Riceboro’, Ga., 1846.
Mr. Merry: It has been a long time since you have heard from me, but I hope that you will not think I have either forgotten you or your Museum. I have, for the last two years, been a most interested reader of it; and I think that this little Monthly Magazine is the means of conveying and spreading a great deal of useful information and knowledge through this our own beloved and highly-favored land. You recollect that I promised to give you a description of cotton, and I will now try to fulfil my promise.
Cotton, which is derived from the Arabic word koton, is a spontaneous production of all the intertropic countries. Spain was the first nation in Europe that cultivated the cotton plant, and made clothing from its produce. The green seed, or short staple, is derived from the herbaceum, or herbaceous cotton; and the long staple, or black seed, is derived from the arboreum, or tree cotton. The green seed was cultivated in Virginia, in small quantities, at least a hundred and thirty years before the revolution. Between 1786 and 1795, cotton was introduced into the Southern States, from various parts of the world. Sea Island or black seed cotton began to be cultivated in Georgia in 1786. The first bag exported from this state was raised by Mr. Alexander Bissel, of St. Simon’s Island.
The Sea Island cotton, of which I am now writing, is generally planted from the 20th of March to the 10th of April. The sooner it is planted the better. It is planted either in drills or in holes made in beds, which are formed by the hoe. These beds are five feet apart, and run the whole length of the field, except that they are cut, at ever 105 feet, by the task-paths. When it is from four to eight inches high, it is thinned to one or two stalks to the hill. The hills are from one foot to four feet apart, according to the strength of the land. It begins to blossom at the height of two feet. The blossom is some two inches in diameter, and, when it first opens, its color is a bright yellow, with a red or purple centre. In two days, this yellow blossom becomes a pinkish red, declines, and then drops off. As soon as the blossom falls the pod appears, as large as a buckshot.
This continues to grow until it is an inch in diameter. The middle of July, or first of August, the pods begin to burst, and the snow-white cotton appears, which is then picked, carried to the cotton house, and sunned on board scaffolds for some hours, and then packed away until the picking season is over, which runs through November, and even into December, according to the mildness or severity of the season. When taken out of the bulk, to be prepared for market, it passes through a machine called the whipper, which frees it in good part from sand and dirt.
It is then gone over by the hand, culled, that is, all the dried leaves and defective and stained cotton are separated, and the cotton, thus cleaned, goes to the gin. It is ginned with the roller foot gin, the old Whitney gin, or with the roller-horse gin, which is superseding the foot gin. When it comes from the gin, it is whipped again, and then is moted by the hand; that is, all the remaining specks and defective cotton [p. 31] is taken out. It finally passes to the packer, who, with a heavy iron or wooden pestle, puts from 300 to 400 pounds in a bag made of cotton bagging, from two or two and a half yards long, after being packed.
The process of packing Sea Island cotton is as follows: The bag is suspended through a hole from the upper story of the house. A man then gets into the bag, and, with an iron bar,—the iron axle of an old gig is very good,—packs it very tight. The bag, which is called a bale, is then marked with the name of the owner, or the name of his place, and then sent to market, where the Sea Island cotton brings from 15 to 50 cents per pound, according to the demand for it, and the green seed from 6 to 12.
This, Mr. Merry, is a very brief sketch of such a valuable plant as cotton; yet I hope that it will give your readers some idea of the manner in which this plant is cultivated and prepared for market. That you may have a better idea of the plant, I have sent you a rough painting of the flower, and of the cup of the flower, and of the pod, and an outline of the leaf about full grown. The great enemy of the cotton plant is the cotton caterpillar. I am sorry to say it has made its appearance this season, and having come so early, it may sweep away the crop of the whole seaboard.—You must allow me to correct you a little in your geography. You recollect I said that I lived where the cool and refreshing sea-breezes blow. Now, you dated my letter from Augusta; I think that it would take a pretty hard puff of old Neptune to reach that place, as it is 134 miles from the sea. But this is of no consequence. I may send you accounts of some other matters and things in our country.
Your young Friend,
Copyright 2000-2016, Pat Pflieger