The Round Bale Cotton Controversy
L. TUFFLY ELLIS
N THE POST-CIVIL WAR PERIOD AN INTENSE COMPETITIVENESS
developed between port and interior cotton interests, as well as
between railroad carriers, for control of the South's principal staple.
In ante-bellum days most of the crop passed through the hands of
factors and merchants located at the Gulf and South Atlantic ports.
Technological changes, perceptible to few before the war, became
clearly visible afterwards, and interior cotton markets rose to challenge
the position of port cotton men.'
Among the most important of the changes were the completion of
a through railroad network, the improvement and erection of cotton
compresses throughout the cotton belt, and the development of tele-
graphic and transatlantic cable systems. The railroads and compresses
made economically feasible the overland movement of cotton, thus
diverting a portion of the staple from southern ports and facilitating
the growth of interior markets to contest port merchants' control. The
communications systems aided the hinterland markets in keeping
abreast of price changes as readily as the ports and facilitated business
with northern and European brokers."
Other changes accompanied the transformation taking place in the
Joseph Nimmo, Jr., First Annual Report on the Internal Commerce of the United
States (1877), House Executive Documents, 44th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Serial No. 1761),
Document No. 46, Part 2, pp. 142, 146; Appendix No. 14, pp. 175-177, ibid.; Joseph
Nimmo, Jr., Report on the Internal Commerce of the United States (1881), House
Executive Documents, 46th Cong., 3rd Sess. (Serial No. 1966), Document No. 7, Part
2, pp. 188, 189-19o; M. B,. Hammond, The Cotton Industry (New York, 1897), 288-299;
"The American Cotton Trade," The Merchants' Magazine and Commercial Review, IV
(March, 1841), 224.
2Nimmo, First Annual Report, loo, 129-130, 142-143; Appendix No. 14, pp. 175-177,
ibid.; Joseph Nimmo, Jr., Report on the Internal Commerce of the United States
(1879), House Executive Documents, 45th Cong., 3rd Sess. (Serial No. 1857), Document
No. 32, Part 3, pp. 122-124, 127; Hammond, The Cotton Industry, 284-285, 29o, 298.
The cotton compresses constituted a major industry in the cotton ports in ante-bellum
days. Here the gin or flat bale, as it was often called, was compressed to a higher den-
sity, 221/2 pounds per cubic foot was the standard, in order to aid and cheapen trans-
portation. After the Civil War, compresses were built in the interior. By the use of
improved equipment, a better than oo per cent increase in carloadings was achieved,
and, as Nimmo pointed out, "This has greatly reduced the cost of transportation, and
has tended to change the course of cotton movement." Nimmo, First Annual Report,
143; Louis Tuffly Ellis, "The Texas Cotton Compress Industry: A History" (Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Texas, 1964), 29-30, 34, 35, 36-37, 39, 422-425.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed September 18, 2014.