Early Cotton Production
Early cotton gins were very labor
intensive ; requiring up to 20 men to do the work that 6 - 8 do now.
Some pulled the waiting wagons to the unloading area,
others were unloaders, either
by hand or through earlier suction systems. Still others worked at
the gin stands where the seed is removed. At no other point in the
ginning process is the danger of "cotton stoppage" more likely to occur.
If a gin plant operated with five stands then five men were needed
to assure a steady flow through these machines. Modern machinery
design has solved this problem, with one or two men monitoring the operation
of up to five
stands at tremendous volume.
One or two men usually handled the overflow bin, where excess volume of
raw seed cotton spilled on the floor and had to be thrown or sucked back
into the system. At the press, five or six people were sometimes
needed to compress and strap the ginned cotton lint.
Very early gins had holes in the
floor of lofts where lint was hand stomped into sacks hanging through the
holes. This formed a sack or bale of cotton. This
method was quickly replaced by
screw type presses that involved a large screw looking device being
slowly turned by hand or mules. The downward movement of the screw
head provided pressure to compress cotton into bales. All of this was later
replaced by hydraulics.
Baled cotton was weighed and hand
loaded onto wagons for shipment to mills for spinning into yarn.
When the cotton seed went to oil mills it still had usable
fibers attached. Oil mills have traditionally reginned, with fast
saws, the seed to make a low quality cotton known as "linters". Sometimes
they employ a second step called flame delinting where
remaining lint is flash burned
from the seed. If not to be sold for planting seed,* (see note)
the cleaned seed is then crushed to capture cottonseed oil
and the remaining "cake" is ground
for use as cottonseed meal, a high protein human and animal additive.
* If the intended use of the cotton
seed is for planting seed the acid delinting is often used.