Thursday, April 6, 2017

History Through Post Cards: Picking Cotton in The Old South

Although I love this prologue from the movie Gone With the Wind, we can only claim a few brief years between the 1920s-40s of any resemblance to the beautiful Old Southern Plantations, and then there were few. It never fails to surprise people when we tour them through the Historic District that cotton farms and plantations here in our part of Northeast Arkansas did not exist before the Civil War--or right after. We were late-comers to the Cotton industry. There were a few family run farms as early as the 1880s but they only farmed a few acres each. Until the early 20th century, it was swampland. No one wanted to move to land that flooded at least two to three times a year.

So, our history slightly differs from that of other Southern states. Yet, we love to speak of the Old Plantations as if they were our own. And anytime a person talks of the Cotton Belt in the South, I'd be willing to bet that there are visions of bent over people in the fields, hand-picking that 'White Gold.'

Large Baskets Were Used in the Fields before the 20th Century

Weaving the Cotton Basket--Before 1910

Cotton Baskets Before 1910

Pick Sacks Were Used During the Early 20th Century


ca. 1910

 All day long it was back-breaking, bent over,  pulling a heavy sack laden 
with Cotton work. . .A quick nap was a luxury. . .

It Took 500 LB of Cotton to Make a Bale

This same scene could be found throughout the South--Weighing Cotton




And. . .after a long, hard day's work. . .it was back to the house. . .
until the Sun came up the next morning and a day of picking Cotton began again.

Coming Soon: History Through Post Cards: Steamboats