National Geographic : 1941 Feb
Cotton: Foremost Fiber of the World 1'notograph by \Villard it. Culver One Mule, One Plow, on a One-family Farm One acre near Clarksdale, Mississippi, has 70 rows, each about 210 feet long, and by ginning time the grower must go over his 14 acres at least 22 times. If he were to travel that far in a straight line northeast, he would knock down stalks, plow, drag, chop, pick, and cultivate his way across Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia to the friendly front door of the Department of Agriculture at Washington, D. C . A resourceful teacher in a remote mill town of Georgia had her pupils study transportation by bringing in pictures showing ways the cloth their fathers weave reaches ultimate buyers. Their neat scrapbooks pictured pack trains of llamas in the Andes, dog teams under the midnight sun, awkward yaks of Tibet and ungainly camel caravans in Egypt, godowns and junks of China's cluttered rivers, lumber ing elephants of India, and sleek airplanes landing in an African mining camp. "Bright girl, that teacher," grumbled a loom tender. "But she certainly has ruined my file of GEOGRAPHICS, what with the kids cutting out pictures and pasting them up." Raw-cotton prices are quoted on exchanges from New York and New Orleans to Liverpool, Calcutta, Alexandria (Egypt), and Shanghai, because, like wheat, cotton can be classified so the buyer knows exactly what he is getting. You read in a Government bulletin-which documents are not given to humor-that "the cotton textile industry hangs by a single thread," and that "the fundamental unit of that thread is the single fiber." You learn that these hollow-cell fibers are 4,000 times as long as they are wide. This means that if the fiber's width is magnified 100 times for microscopic study, the magnified length of the fiber is 100 feet! You consider that a pound of raw cotton contains some 90 million fibers, and calculate that if the fibers of a 500-pound bale were distributed among the population of the United States each man, woman, and child would re ceive 342 cellulose souvenirs.