Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cotton Press, Tarboro, North Carolina

I didn't do a very good job photographing this very interesting structure in Tarboro. I read about it in Catherine Bishir's volume on Eastern North Carolina historic architecture and so set out to find it and take some snapshots. This is a cotton press and one of only three still remaining in the United States (the other two are in South Carolina and Louisiana).

However I was lucky enough to find photos that were taken by the National Park Service in the 1940's which shows the cotton press as it sat on The Commons in Tarboro without this shed sheltering it.

It was originally built in the late 18th century on a plantation outside of Tarboro to press fruit for wine and apples for cider, but by 1840 it was turned into a press for cotton after it was ginned so that it could be assembled into bales. Four mules or oxen were hitched to the two long booms to provide the turning power.

You can see clearly the two booms at the top of the press and the large screw in the middle that compacted the cotton into bales. The whole structure stands almost 25 feet tall.

This is also the time of year that cotton is picked in the fields in eastern North Carolina by huge harvesters. You won't see field labor picking cotton anymore. The sides of the roads we drove on this past weekend was full of cotton bolls that had fallen out of the trucks (known as boll buggies) that follow behind these harvesters. I should have had the presence of mind to photograph  them but didn't think of it until too late.


dinahmow said...

I glean all sorts of interesting snippets here! Yes, I knew about fruit presses being converted for cotton. I knew about the numbers (slaves) involved in production. I knew about the boll weevil.
But boll buggies is new to me! Thanks, Karen.
(How did I know so much? School project, 50+ years ago.)

Anyes said...

So much information on something I know nothing about, i would have loved to see the cotton bolls you mentioned Karen :-)

Chantal said...

I like the B&W best

Karen said...

Di: And I learned something interesting too! I didn't have a clue about cotton presses not having grown up in this area. I'm amazed you knew all about their history so many years ago.

Anyes: I love the history of North Carolina and like to share it with you all.

Chantal: I'm glad the US Parks Service digitized these old photos and put them on the Internet so that I could see how this old press worked.