This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
The pickers in the field carry big brown bags that will hold many pounds of bolls. When a bag is full it is emptied in a wagon bed. When the wagon is full a man drives away with it to a cotton-ginning factory. (This is generally at a railway station beside the track.) The cotton is weighed and dumped into a big hopper outside the factory. Before you can wink twice, the whole wagon load is sucked down a big pipe and disappears inside the mill, just as if a giant had swallowed it.
Leaves, Flower And Boll Of Kerchi Cotton (Natural Size) From United States Department Of Agriculture.
A Cotton-Picking Machin which does the work of thirty "hands." Revolving cylinders carry steel fingers which pick the cotton fiber, and leave the unripe bolls and the plant unharmed.
Hurry inside and see what happens! What a dreadful noise, like that chugging, clattering threshing machine in the wheat field. The air is full of whirling wheels and flying belts, and a snow storm of cotton flakes. Everything is covered with the fleecy stuff. You are white in a minute. Cotton lint lies in big, soft drifts. It has been torn from the seeds by the rows and rows of little steel fingers on the ginning rolls that turn over and over. Brushes sweep the cotton from the teeth. The seeds have been dropped into tanks below.
The seeds used to be thrown away, or burned in the furnace of the ginning factory. They made such a hot fire that it was found they were as full of oil as nuts. It is a vegetable oil like that in peanuts, too, with a pleasant taste. So now cotton seeds are crushed. The oil is good for making fine toilet soaps. If refined it can be used for salad oil on the table, and for cooking, and to combine with beef and other fats to make patent butters. The seed-meal, pressed into cakes, is good food for cattle. Cotton seed was rather costly fuel, wasn't it?
When cotton lint is torn from the seeds it is as soft and light as swan's down. For its weight it takes up too much room, and it flies away in the least breeze like thistle seed. So it is carried under steam presses that crowd and squeeze it into bales. Five hundred pounds of it are pressed into a bale four feet square and five feet high. Each bale is wrapped in brown bagging and bound with iron hoops. A great deal of baled cotton can be carried in a car. Big river steamboats carry the bales on open decks.
Now it is King Cotton. It is going on a journey, and it will rule the cloth market. Some of it will go to mills in the cotton country; more will go to larger, older mills in the northern states. But a great deal of it takes a long ocean journey to England, France or Germany. Some of the Dixie Land cotton goes to Japan and China.
Away over in England where no cotton grows, but where there are hundreds of cloth mills, lace works, thread mills and stocking-knitting machines, they watch for King Cotton's fleet of ships from America. In the seaport city of Liverpool, England, there is a cotton exchange for buying and selling cotton lint. It is like the Chicago board of trade, where wheat and other grains are bought and sold. The cotton is bought by sample. Little bundles of lint are carried around by boy messengers. There is great excitement when a ship load of very fine cotton comes in.