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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: South Georgia leads cotton production
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Roger Allen - photo by Special

    (Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the history and evolution of agriculture in Georgia and Bulloch County.)

    The post-war “Cotton Famine,” as it was known in Georgia, ruined many farmers. First, there was an over-abundance of cotton stocks in England, Georgia’s biggest client. Secondly, the production of cotton garments in New England factories was now meeting the North’s needs.
    Further muddying the economic forecasts, there were now competing cotton growers and producers elsewhere around the world, particularly in both Egypt and India. Those regions were more than happy to supply many of America’s cotton clients with their cotton needs.
    Cotton prices at market dropped an average of between 70 and 90 percent between the years of 1874 and 1894. That meant the price of one 450-pound bale of cotton dropped to only $51 per bale.
    Up until now, most cotton mills had been established in the Northeastern United States. Curiously enough, the Georgia Cotton Company built a plant outside of Providence, Rhode Island, in a community they then named Georgiaville.
    Out of necessity, Georgia once again soon took the lead in cotton manufactury in the South. By 1889, there were 442,000 cotton spindles in operation in Georgia out of the nation’s 1.6 million spindles.
    The cotton products produced primarily in Georgia mills consisted of sheetings, shirtings, drills, cottonades, Osnaburgs, cotton duck, yarns and twines. These coarse cotton fabrics sold well in local markets and were not exported.
    Of the 1895–96 through 1900–01 cotton harvests, Georgia led for 5 of the 6 years in the nation, only falling behind Mississippi’s production in 1897–8 by some 100,000 bales.
    In the United States in 1878, Professor C. V. Riley was appointed as chief entomologist of the United States’ Department of Agriculture. He immediately began studying the effects of certain insects on cotton crops.
    At the same time, scientist J. H. Comstock published the Department of Agriculture’s first official cotton research report entitled “Report on Cotton Insects.”
    At least partly as a result of his findings, the U.S. Entomological Commission was established in 1880 under the direction of the U.S. Department of the Interior and led by C. V. Riley.
    When the U.S. Congress passed the Hatch Act on March 2, 1887, the sum of $15,000 was granted to each state for the purpose of establishing and operating an agricultural experiment station.
    In Georgia, the Agricultural Experiment Station at Rock College was created Feb. 18, 1888 by the Trustees of the University of Georgia. It was attached to the State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts.
    This experimental station, and the State College, are now what we know as the University of Georgia and their College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

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