Ginning and Pressing "King Cotton"

Ginning and Pressing "King Cotton" (HM1LUP)

Location: Nashville, TN 37076 Davidson County
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Country: United States of America
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N 36° 13.052', W 86° 36.649'

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Wealth Created by Enslaved Hands

Andrew Jackson built a cotton gin and press at The Hermitage in 1807, both of which stood in the field in front of you. It was a shrewd decision on Jackson's part, not only making his plantation more self-sufficient, but also generating additional income from ginning and baling other planters's cotton. The gin and press, which cleaned the cotton and compressed loose cotton into 300- to 500-pound bales, were expensive machinery operated by skilled and trusted slaves. At The Hermitage, these vital jobs fell to Ben, the ginner, and Squire, the press operator. If the cotton was ginned badly, the bales not packed properly, or if the operator carelessly or wantonly damaged the equipment, it could mean financial ruin for the Jacksons. The gin house, a large barn-like building, housed the gin on the second floor and provided shelter on the first floor for the animals driving the gears. The rest of the building stored cotton ready to be ginned and finished bales waiting to be shipped. The Hermitage gin house was abandoned in the late nineteenth century, when local farmers ceased growing cotton, and was demolished in the 1890s.
The gin must not be trusted to any but Ben. Squire who understands the press will do it without any injury to the screw. - Andrew Jackson to Andrew Jackson Jr., November 12 and 19, 1834
The Cotton Boom
Eli Whitney patented his revolutionary cotton gin in 1794, and set cotton on its course to becoming "King Cotton" in the American South. Essentially, the gin cleans short-fiber cotton of seed and debris, a job previously done by hand. As Whitney's gin made cotton a more profitable crop to grow, technological innovations in textile production and a booming textile industry in Europe and the United States created an insatiable demand for cotton. As Southerners saw their peers profit from cotton, competition began for more land and slaves. Slavery and slave values boomed in unison with cotton production. By the 1850s, cotton comprised over fifty percent of all United States exports.Cotton grew best in a broad swath of land across South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, land largely occupied by Indians. As white settlers pushed west, their hunger for more land led to armed conflict with the Indians. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, which Jackson essentially authored, forcibly removed Indians from their land in the late 1830s.
These photographs from the John Blue House in Laurinburg, North Carolina show a working gin and press. Jackson's gin and press would have been similar. Animal powered gears on the bottom floor of the gin house drove the gin on the second floor. The press depended on a large metal or wood screw that animals turned to compress the cotton into rectangular bales. (Press, Press Screw, Gin, Gin House, Gin House Gears)
Jackson employed Maunsel White, a shipping agent in New Orleans, to warehouse and sell his cotton. This bill-of-lading shows the number and weight of the cotton bales The Hermitage produced in 1825. Along with the textile industry and cotton planters, the cotton boom also enriched those who shipped, warehoused and arranged buyers for cotton.
This is a model and diagram of Eli Whitney's cotton gin.
Cotton is no longer grown commercially in Davidson County, Tennessee. Every year a few historic sites including The Hermitage grow a small crop for educational purposes.
Placed ByThe Hermitage Foundation
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 at 10:03am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 534979 N 4008146
Decimal Degrees36.21753333, -86.61081667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 13.052', W 86° 36.649'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 13' 3.12" N, 86° 36' 38.94" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)615
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 4580 Rachels Ln, Nashville TN 37076, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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