Cotton was planted on a large scale which was labor intensive - the cotton plantations were reliant on slave labor
The economy of Cotton Plantations was based on agricultural mass production requiring a large labor force and the ability to produce large quantities of cotton as a cash crop
Plantations in the south. The Southern colonies who established Cotton Plantations were the Maryland Colony, Virginia Colony, North Carolina Colony, South Carolina Colony and the Georgia Colony
The fertile soil of the Southern colonies was highly suited to the growth of the plants on the Plantations
One of the reasons that the system of Cotton Plantations sprang up in the South was due to the climate of the regions. The Plantations required a tropical or subtropical climate. Mild winters and hot, humid summers made it possible to grow cotton plants throughout the year which was ideally suited for these Plantations
Typical Plantations ranged from 500 to 1,000 acres. Each acre produced about 5,000 plants
Slaves on cotton plantations. Cheap labor was essential for the plantations to become profitable. The use of slaves in the plantations in the Southern colonies was extensive. After the initial cost of purchasing a slave little expenditure was required to support the slaves. The successive generations of slaves born on the slave plantations ensured that their masters gained new workers at no cost
The use of slaves kept the costs down on the Cotton Plantations - slaves were not well fed, well housed or well treated. Slaves were sometimes expected to work 18 hours a day. Paid workers would have significantly reduced the profits made from the Plantations
Cotton plantation homes: The slaves lived in basic, crude wooden cabins consisting of one or two rooms, often with a dirt floor, in the slave quarters. The owners lived in Georgian style mansions often featuring frontages with Grecian style columns and large verandas.
Agriculture and the plantation system: Cotton is a shrub plant with cream-colored fluffy fibers surrounding small cottonseeds called a boll. The bolls contain seeds with many long hairy fibers. The cotton fibers need to be separated from the seeds - a slow, time consuming process if done by hand.
Vast areas of land had to be cleared for planting and crops had to be sewn and harvested by hand - this was only made possible with a large labor force
Two developments spurred the cultivation of cotton via the plantation system: the cotton spinners and the cotton gin
The invention of the cotton gin: Cotton was not grown on the Southern plantations until 1793 when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin - refer to the Eli Whitney Cotton Gin
Cotton Plantations were not established until the 1800's. The growing number of slaves over time allowed plantation farming to expand to farm different plantation crops.
The invention of the cotton gin: The cotton gin was a machine that separated the cotton fibers from the seed ten times faster that the slaves could do by hand
The invention of the cotton gin had a huge impact on slavery in the Southern colonies. It meant that another highly profitable cash crop could be introduced, using the slave plantation system of farming
The cotton was put through the cotton gins, then pressed and finally baled before being shipped for market and export.
The cotton spinners: In the late 1700s water-powered spinning machinery was introduced which was a massive improvement over hand-spinning
Samuel Slater set up Slater Mill, the first American textile mill, to utilize machine spinners which maximized the profitability of the cotton industry
De-seeded cotton is cleaned, carded (fibers aligned), spun, and woven into a fabric that is also referred to as cotton
Cotton was shipped from the Southern Colonies to New England mills in huge quantities. As a result of machine spinning, weaving, and printing. Colonists could cheaply purchase calico which became universally worn
The mass production of cotton required a suitable transport system to transport the cotton to market. The waterways of the South provided an efficient, natural transport system
Life on a cotton plantation. The sheer size of the land covered made the cotton plantations to large degree, self-sufficient and similar to a small village with the main house, slave quarters, a dairy, blacksmith's shop, laundry, smokehouse and barns
Plantations required minimum input from the owners - overseers were hired to manage the slaves and cotton production. The overseers were under considerable pressure from the plantation owners to maximize profits.
Environment: Cotton Plantations involved the deliberate introduction and cultivation of this economically desirable specie of tropical plant and resulted in the widespread replacement of the original native and natural flora.
The labour-intensive system of the Southern Cotton Plantations declined abruptly in the United States with the abolition of slavery