Frequently Asked
Questions

Legacy Brick Program

Cotton... From Seed to Open Boll

Burton Farmers Gin

The Lady "B"

Wehring Shoe & Leather Shop

Cotton Warehouse

History Slide Show

Historical Archives

  Frequently Asked Questions
 


Cotton Blossom

The following questions have been compiled from those asked during tours at our visitor center and museum. If you would like further information on any of the questions listed below – or if you would like to ask a question of your own….please contact us at our e-mail address and we will be glad to get an answer back to you.

Send inquiries to: burtoncottongin@earthlink.net

When do you plant cotton?

In the Burton area cotton was planted during the full moon of Easter (Good Friday) or usually around the first of April. The farther north you go – the later you plant. Cotton growth is dependent on the right amount of sun and rain.

How long does it take for cotton to grow?

Usually about 3 months. Cotton in our area is ready to pick in July. The ginning season is July, August, September and October….the hottest time of the year! Cotton must be replanted every year.

Is there really a bug called a “boll weevil” or is that just made up in a song?

Cotton boll weevil

 

Unfortunately – YES. The boll weevil is credited with the destruction of many an acre of cotton. The boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis Boheman), is not native to the United States. It was first introduced into the US near Brownsville, Texas, in about 1892. By 1922, the pest had spread into cotton growing areas of the US from the eastern two-thirds of Texas and Oklahoma to the Atlantic Ocean.This tiny beetle – less than 1/16 inch long – has a long pointed snout that “stings” the young cotton plant when the bolls are just beginning to form….and yes…like the song says…the boll weevil migrated from Mexico! (The Burton Cotton Gin & Museum has real boll weevil specimens for visitors to view.)

Was the Burton Farmers Gin the 1st gin built in Texas?

No …..By 1912 there were over 4,000 gins in Texas! The Burton Farmers Gin was built in 1914. It is the last surviving turn-of-the-century air system gin, on the original site with the original equipment and still operates - in the United States of America!

Why do they call it a cotton “gin”?

Eli Whitney’s invention in 1793 that removed the seed from the cotton fiber was called the “Little Cotton Engine”…. this name was quickly dubbed cotton “gin” – short for engine. After the Civil War – and the end of the cotton plantations – community gins began to spring up all over the country. The name “gin” became a household word. Ginning simply means separating or removing the seed from the fiber.

 

Is the Burton Farmers Gin made of wood or metal?

Actually …both! The Burton Farmers Gin was designed by the Lummus Gin Co. The framework is made of cypress wood- the roof and sides of tin. It took 8 months to build. The first bale was ginned in August, 1914.

Was the gin always powered by the 125 horse power Bessemer Type IV oil engine?

No…. originally powered by steam engine 1914 – 1925 (11 years)
125 HP Bessemer Type IV oil engine 1925 – 1963 (28 years)
125 HP Allis Chalmers Electric Motor 1963 – 1974 (11 years)
(gin closed – not working) 1974 – 1992 (18 years)
125 HP Bessemer Type IV oil engine 1992 – present (13 + years)

How many men worked at the Burton Farmers Gin?

Five to six men worked inside the gin – 1 in the engine room, 1 in the office, 2 at the gin stands and 2 at the press boxes. Of course, there were several yard men - working the suction, moving the wagons, taking the finished bales to the warehouse, etc.

Why did the Burton Farmers Gin close down in 1974?

It was costing more to keep the gin open and operating than they were making. During the height of ginning there were 60 bales produced per day….in 1974 there were only seven bales ginned the whole 4 months of ginning season. The small farmer could not compete financially with larger farms that now claimed fancy mechanical cotton pickers – sons were moving away….going to college…dairy farms and ranches were the new way of life ….cattle had replaced king cotton.

How many bales can be made from one wagon load of cotton?

Surprisingly, only one! A wagon full of cotton weighs approximately 1500 pounds. It takes approximately one acre of cotton to fill a wagon. The cotton is weighed at the field – when the weight totals 1500 pounds it is time to go to the gin.

How much does a bale of cotton weigh?

Approximately 500 pounds.

If a wagon load of cotton is 1500 pounds and only makes one 500 pound bale of cotton – what happened to the other 1000 pounds?

Cotton seed ! Over 60 % of the weight of a cotton boll is in the seed.

What did they do with the 1000 pounds of seed left from the ginning of the wagon?

 


 

Prior to the 1930’s the farmer would take his wagon full of cotton seed back to the farm – save what he needed to plant next year’s crop, and then “dump” the remainder in the creek bed. It was sometime during the 1930’s that farmers began to “mix” cotton seed with their cattle feed….this was excellent supplement for the animals….plus it made the cattle’s coats healthy and shiny ! The farmer discovered he could mix cotton seed with the soil and found it to be very good for the crops he would grow. Ultimately it was discovered that oil could be pressed from the cotton seed and hundreds of uses were developed. Cotton gins all over the country began building “seed houses” to store this now very valuable by-product of the cotton boll.

I know you make thread, yarn and fabric from cotton fiber but what are some things made with cotton seed and cotton seed oil?

Ivory soap, Crisco, mayonnaise, margarine, lotions, lipstick, shampoos and conditioners, hairspray, toothpaste, colognes…to name a few! Cotton seed oil is known for not “tainting” the natural flavor of the food that is cooked.

Is it true that American currency is made of cotton?

Well…75% true! American currency is 75% cotton and 25 % linen – both natural fibers. This is why when you find money in the washing machine it is still in one piece!

Did the cotton pickers really drag a sack along the ground? How did they dress?

Yes! The sack was approx. 12 ft. long for an adult male – a “good” picker could pick 350 pounds a day – four to five sacks full! The filled sacks would be weighed at the wagon – recorded and then shaken out into the wagon. Pickers would wear long sleeve shirts, and a wide brim straw hat or bonnet for protection from the hot summer sun. Sometimes special gloves were worn to protect the hands. Sometimes knee pads were worn as the picker would crawl down the rows to give their back a rest from this grueling task. Picking cotton was very hot, tiring and laborious task.

How long did it take for the farmer to get his wagon load of cotton ginned and baled at the Burton Farmers Gin?

When your wagon got to the front of the line it would take only 12 minutes from the time the cotton was suctioned off the wagon to completed bale and out the door! This was possible due to the “air system” ginning originated by Robert Munger. One bale every 12 minutes, 5 per hour, and 60 per day. (Modern gins bale 90 per hour!)

How big is a 500 pound bale of cotton?

A cotton bale ginned at the Burton Farmers Gin would be 56 inches long – 48 inches tall – and 30 inches wide. The United States government regulated the size of the cotton bales at every gin - to make transporting easier on the railroad, etc. The bale press box at the gin made this possible. The cotton was wrapped in jute – ( heavy burlap fabric) and bound with 6 heavy metal straps. Each bale was given a numbered “bale tag” – if a bale ended up in New York City – they would know where it had been ginned and could even track down the farmer that grew it !

How did they weigh the bale of cotton?

When the cotton bale was rolled out of the press box - it was ready to be weighed. Huge hooks were put on the bale and it was hoisted off the floor by a rope and pulley system. A sixteen pound weight – called a “P” was placed on the “P-scale” at the spot where the bale of cotton would balance – usually around the 500 pound mark. (Today a bale of cotton still weighs 500 pounds but is half the size of the old fashioned bale. All the air is compressed out of the modern bale making it smaller. It is now wrapped in heavy duty plastic rather than burlap.)

Was there ever an accident at the Burton Farmers Gin?

 

There were no major accidents during the 60 years of operation at the Burton Cotton Gin. A gin is a very dangerous place to work and extreme caution was given to preventing accidents. Workers were trained to respect the gin machinery, and they were ever mindful of its many moving parts. The average person will never set foot in a working cotton gin. The 12 minute video presented during a visit to the Burton Cotton Gin & Museum is the closest most people will ever get to “seeing” the real thing.

Is cotton still grown in the Burton area?

No, not for economic purposes. If it is grown it is for educational purposes or just for fun. Some grow it to have for the Burton Cotton Gin Festival each year. Texas A&M University ... located approximately 45 miles northeast of Burton ... grows cotton for continuing research purposes. Texas is still ranks as number one in cotton production in the US.

When did the Burton Farmers Gin get electricity?

Records we have reviewed show that the gin had electricity during the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. After the introduction of electricity the gin would stay open well after midnight during the busiest time of the ginning season.

How was the farmer paid for his cotton?

Cuts were made and cotton was pulled from both ends of the bale and then wrapped in brown paper. This “sample” was taken to a buyer and evaluated and compared to the cotton standards set by the United States government. The cotton in the sample was checked for cleanliness, uniformity of color, and also for the “length of the staple”. The buyer would pull off a piece of the cotton – stretch it out until it came apart. The longer the staple –the better quality of the cotton. Most of the cotton grown in the Burton area was “short stapled” cotton. The farmer would get paid so many cents per pound…..based on the above and the going rate.

What is Egyptian cotton?

This is the name tagged for a good quality long stapled cotton. In comparison…we may say a car drives like a “Cadillac”- meaning it drives really good. Advertisements for towels or sheets made with Egyptian cotton means that it is quality and will wear well.

If you pull large amounts of “lint” from your dryer filter – you probably have towels made with short stapled cotton!

When was the first Burton Cotton Gin Festival?

April, 1990…..The Festival which celebrates cotton and the rich heritage of the Burton community during the era when cotton was king is usually held the 3 rd weekend in April. The 3 day event is filled with parades, folk life demonstrations, contests, tractor pulls, non-stop entertainment, antique tractors, engines and cars – and of course a multi variety of arts and crafts and food vendors! Great family entertainment!

What is the difference between “picked cotton” and “pulled cotton”?

 

Picked cotton is that which has only the white fluff – the fiber – with the seed inside. It was very laborious to hand pick cotton as you had to pick it as clean as possible. Pulled cotton included the white fluff AND the leaves and stems, etc….whatever you grabbed. A good cotton picker might pick as much as six or seven hundred pounds in a day, or pull as much as a thousand pounds. Pulled cotton would be “cleaned” at the gin by the Moss Lint Cleaner which was added to the Burton Farmers Gin in the early 1960’s. Pulled cotton had to be cleaned first ….then it was put through the gin stands.

How can I help support the preservation and continuing education that your gin provides for future generations?

We welcome any one to become a friend of the Texas Cotton Gin Museum. We are a non-profit organization and all gifts are tax deductible. Guests are encouraged to come and visit our museum and experience first hand the last surviving turn of the century gin in America …Thank you for your interest in preserving this treasure of Americana.