Clifton Paisley


The demand for cotton with a silky fiber, great tensile strength, and a staple at least one and five-eighths inches in length created a boom in the growing of Sea Island cotton in North Florida and South Georgia during the last third of the nineteenth century. Although Sea Island never comprised more than one per cent of the cotton grown in the United States, the use of its long-staple fibers for fine fabrics, laces, thread, and eventually for automobile tires enabled “long cotton,” as it was called, to command a price that was double and sometimes triple that paid for Upland short-staple cotton. The price lured an increasing number of farmers into production of Sea Island, while special facilities for ginning provided by such communities as Madison, Florida, both encouraged production and resulted in moderate prosperity for these towns. Madison at one time claimed it had “the largest Sea Island cotton gin in the world,” and during the fall long lines of wagons waited to unload seed cotton at the Florida Manufacturing Company. This prosperity continued into the twentieth century but was halted by the arrival of the boll weevil in 1916. While this pest only curtailed the growing of Upland short-staple cotton, it completely wiped out the more slowly maturing Sea Island.