Early Cotton Gin 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.

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Updated August 2,2000
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