Growth of the Cotton Industry
Before the American Revolution three crops
dominated southern agriculture
After the Revolution prices for those crops
fell, in an effort to protect their incomes
farmers had to find a different crop to
Cotton had been growing in the New
World for centuries but it was never
o Before cotton could be spun into cloth the
seeds had to be removed from the fibers.
o Removing seeds from cotton was
painstakingly difficult; it would take a worker
an entire day to remove seeds from one
pound of cotton.
Demand for cotton began to grow when the
new textile factories need for raw cotton
o It got to the point that the American cotton
producers couldn’t keep up with the high
demand from the factories
o They needed a machine that could remove the
seeds from the cotton quickly.
Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin
A northern name Eli Whitney patented
such a machine in 1793.
Whitney’s machine was called “cotton gin”
o A machine that removes seeds from short-
o “Gin” is short for engine
o The machine used a hand-cranked cylinder with
wire teeth to pull cotton fibers from the seeds
o Whitney tried to keep the machine a secret but it
worked so well that others started to copy it.
o The Cotton Gin revolutionized the cotton industry
Planters- large scale farmers who held 20 or more slaves,
built cotton gins that could process tons of cotton much
faster than hand processing.
Soon Cotton was the
new cash crop and other
farmers would abandon
their old crops and would
start growing cotton, the
“cotton belt” or the area
of high cotton production
developed in the south.
o 1791- 2 million pounds
o 1860- 1 billion pounds
Advantages as a cash crop
o Cost little to market
o Could be stored for a longer period of time
o Cost less to transport (since it didn’t weight
oCotton rapidly used up the nutrients in
After a few years the soil would be useless
Farmers started to rotate the crops grown on
o Scientist started to try and improve the crops by
cross breeding with other types of cotton. This
resulted in a stronger type of cotton that helped
the cotton industry expand.
Increase of slave labor, though it was illegal
to import slaves after 1808, the slave trade
within the United States continued to grow.
“Cotton is King!” – James Henry
Hammond: U.S. Senator
o He believed that the south’s cotton was one of
the most valuable resources in the world
o The Cotton boom made the south a major
player in the world trade.
Great Britain became the South’s most valued
foreign trading partner.
This growing trade led to the growth of such major
cites as Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA and New
In the cities crop brokers called factors
managed the cotton trade.
o Farmers would sell their cotton to merchants;
merchants would then make deals with the
factors who would arrange for the
transportation aboard the trading ships.
o Roads were poor in the south however and
many farmers had to turn to the rivers to ship
their cotton to the ports by using steamboats.
Other Crops and Industries
Corn- Primary southern food crop
o Other food crops included: rice, sweet potatoes,
wheat and sugarcane.
Tobacco- The south’s first major cash crop
o Very times consuming
Leaves had to be cured and dried before they could be
shipped to market.
o In 1839 a slave discovered a way to improve the
drying process by using heat from burning
• Hemp and Flax- Fibers were used to make
ropes and sack cloth.
o Most of the first factories
in the south were built to
serve farmers needs,
such as processing
o The first steamed power
sawmill was built in
o Cotton mills started
popping up in the 1840s
oTredeger Iron Works in Richmond,
One of the most productive iron works in
Only factory to produce bridge materials,
cannons, stream engines and other
During the first half of the 1800s only about 1/3
of white southern families had slaves. Even
fewer had plantations.
o However the plantation owners had a powerful
influence over the South
Many served as political leaders
Planters: Wealthiest members
o Many lived in mansions;
others would save all their
money to buy more land.
o Men would run the farm and
the women would run the
o Marriages would be ranged
according to business
Yeomen and Poor Whites: Most
o Yeomen- owned small
farms, and a few slaves
or none at all.
Took pride in their farms,
worked long days
o Poorest of the white
southern lived on the
land, hunting, fishing,
raising small gardens
and doing odd jobs for
The Slave System
Most plantation owners used the gang-labor
o All field hands worked on the same take at the
Sunup to sundown
Men, women and children over 10
Sickness and poor health rarely stopped the work
Some slaves worked in the Planters homes
as butlers, cooks or nurses.
o Tended to be treated slightly better in terms of
food, clothing and shelter.
Worked longer hours…. Aka 24 hours a day
o Some African Americans worked at skilled jobs such
as blacksmithing or carpentry.
Planters would often let these slaves sell their services to
other people, they would take a portion of what earned as
o Housed in dirt floor cabins with few furnishing
and leaky roofs
o Clothing was simpler and make of cheap
o Some slaves were allowed to keep their own
gardens for veggies and chickens for eggs to
help improve on the poor food rations that they
oPlanters would often
punish one slave in front of
the others as warnings
Many states passed strict
laws called slave codes.
Prohibited states from
traveling far from their
Literacy laws: prohibited the
education of slaves, like
reading and writing.
o Many enslaved Africans found comfort in their
community and culture.
o Family was the most important aspect of the
Many feared separation more than they feared
Folktales: stories with morals
To teach lessons about how to survive under
Many would have clever animal characters called a
By the 1800s many slaves
They viewed themselves
much like the Hebrews in
the Old Testament, hoping
that they too would find
freedom one day.
Some slaves sang spirituals
or emotional Christian
songs that blended African
and European music
Seeds of Rebellion
o In some way slaves would resist on a daily
basis… working slowly.
o Some would run away
Nat Turners Rebellion:
The most violent slave
revolt in the country
occurred in 1831.
Nat Turner a slave from
Turner led a group of slaves
in a plan to kill all of the
slaveholders and their
families in the county.
oThey killed about 60 white
people in the community.
oMore than 100 INNOCENT
slaves were killed in an
attempt to stop the
oTurner himself led
authorities on a chase
around the countryside for
oTurner was executed on
November 11, 1831
• After the rebellion many states
strengthened their slave codes.