This section is from the book "Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting", by Antoinette Van Hoesen Wakeman. Also available from Amazon: Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting: For Use In Schools And In The Home.
There was once a small black seed, which, with many others quite like it, was put into the ground one day in March on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, at the mouth of the Savannah River.
If this little black seed could have looked forth from its resting-place in the dark, moist ground, it would have seen a broad stretch of water with low-lying islands all about, and close at hand the coast of Georgia. But though it had not eyes, it had other wonderful natural gifts, for it could draw different kinds of nourishment from the earth, the air, and the sun; and these things enabled it to become something so fine and so useful that it is not easy to believe the beginning was only a little black seed.
First, it put slender fibers down deep into the ground in all directions. These little fibers had tiny mouths at their ends, which drank in water and other food. After this a green shoot went straight up above the top of the ground, and this put out small leaves and branches. All the while the roots held the upper part firm, and gave it all that it needed for nourishment. It was not long before green buds began to show themselves, and soon pure yellow flowers, with reddish-purple spots in the center, unfolded.
Little by little the seed became a shrub-like plant between three and four feet high. When the pretty yellow flowers withered and fell, green pods took their place. As time went on, these pods grew until they were about as large as a small peach. When the pods turned from green to brown they were ripe and burst open, and in each one was a beautiful white ball of fine, soft fiber. This was the cotton.
The cotton family is a large one. No other kind of cotton is so valuable as that which grows where the little black seed was planted. It is called Sea Island cotton, and it is the very best in the world. This is because the fiber, which is called the staple, is longer, finer, and stronger than any other.
Another member of the cotton family is called New Orleans or Upland cotton. Some of this has a green seed, and some a seed that is gray-white. The blossom of this cotton is either pale yellow or white; and the white fiber, or staple, about the seeds is shorter than the Sea Island cotton. There are many other varieties. One, which is called the Cuba Vine, has yellow fiber, out of which nankeen is made.
To return to the story of the little black cotton seed. When the pod which held the fiber burst open, it was picked and taken to a machine called a cotton-gin. This occurred late in August, and you should have seen the field where this cotton plant grew. It was like a great silvery-white sea, and was one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
Besides the fiber in the cotton pod, there were a great many little black seeds - many more than it was necessary to keep for planting. These seeds must be taken out, and for this reason the fiber was all made to pass through the cotton gin. It was Eli Whitney of Massachusetts who invented the cotton gin. It can take the seeds out of three hundred pounds of cotton quicker than a man can pick them out of one pound.
The Cotton Gin.
The seeds were put into bags, taken to a mill, and made into a fine and useful oil. What was left after the oil was pressed out was put on the ground to enrich it, so that what was planted in it would grow well. Part of the strong-fibered stalk of the cotton plant was used for making a basket, and the rest for making a coarse sack. So every part of the plant was made useful, but the fine white liber was by far the most valuable.
The cotton staple, which came from the plant of which the little black seed was the beginning, crossed the ocean, and went to Scotland, where it was made into thread, and then it came back to America and was sold.