Although was cultivated an in small quantities in the South during the eighteenth century, it was not considered a profitable crop because of the difficulty of separating the seed from the fiber.
In 1793, Eli Whitney, a young man from Massachusetts, accepted a teaching position in Georgia, and while residing as a guest on a friend's plantation, invented a device that would mechanically separate cotton seed from the fibers. Whitney's cotton engine or "gin" transformed the economy of the South.
Cotton became the great crop of the region, and the nation's main export. With every decade, production doubled, and most Southerners agreed with South Carolina Senator James Hammond's exclamation, "Cotton is King!"
As the center of a vast cotton growing empire, Augusta prospered as the second largest inland cotton market in the world, a distinction that it claimed until the mid-twentieth century.
Reynolds Street with its warehouses along the river was known as "Cotton Row." The stacked bales were so numerous during seasons of peak market activity, that a person could walk on top of the bales in every block "from Fifth Street to Thirteenth Street."