Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Funny thing about time is you never seem to have enough of it in your day, or week. It is also ironic, since I often research blogs, and write them WAY before I post them. Like with every blog I wrote in 2012.

Regardless, cotton is one topic I added to my list, because it is a commodity that has a very interesting past. If you think about it, cotton was one major factor of the Civil War – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Cotton remains have been found in the Americas from Arizona to Peru, ranging from 4500 BCE to 3600 BCE. There is also literary evidence from Herodotus that Alexander the Great found cotton when he invaded India. This fact is interesting to me – rarely has one commodity stretched across both the Americas and the Euro-Asian continents. Sure, once the areas were colonized it was a free for all – potatoes and tobacco are just two examples.

It was during the Middle Ages that cotton rose to dominance. Later in 1664 the East India Company was importing a quarter of a million pieces into Britain. As the citizens demanded lightweight easily cleaned garments, cotton began to be introduced in 1690. Cotton was much more versatile than other materials; it could be imprinted more easier than wool, it was easily combined with linen to make velvet and it was cheaper than velvet.

With the introduction of the industrial revolution, cotton only increased its prominence. This was coupled with the colonies production of cotton, and the introduction of the spinning jenny and cotton gin in the late 1700’s, which helped solidify the dominance of the fabric.

Enter the Civil War. The South was the perfect area to grow large cash crops: sugar, tobacco and cotton were the three largest. Cotton was huge for the Southern economy, and England was where the crop was exported at the highest rate. When the South seceded, they expected that relationship to continue. A less well-known fact was that England had understood they were reliant on the South, and had begun to experiment with growing the crop in other areas of their empire, mainly Egypt and India. Already the amount of cotton England needed had decreased significantly. Unfortunately, the South could not survive on cotton alone.

Today, cotton remains a highly profitable commodity and cotton accounts for 40% of the worlds fiber production. So, you see cotton has a rich history itself. Cheap, durable, this fabric remains hugely important through today.

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