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Thread: "Cow Cotton"

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Michigan
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    233

    Question "Cow Cotton"

    While perusing the weekly period articles at the USNLP website I ran across this clipping from the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (MA).

    Cow-Cotton.”—A friend in Tennessee has sent us a specimen of “cow-cotton,” a novelty among manufacturers, uniting in its fabric both the animal and the vegetable kingdoms, being a mixture, half and half, of cotton and cow hair. It makes a cheaper and stronger fabric than all cotton for common clothing. Its gray color, its coarse grain, its tough fiber, give it a little of the old-time homespun look, when men wore linsey-woolsey. The mode of manufacture is by hand-carding, as practiced by our mothers and grandmothers. If the pure southern stuff that is fed to the Manchester mills should utterly fail, the English aristocracy may be glad to hear that their backs need not go bare, but can be clothed with cow-cotton.—Independent

    Austin State Gazette, April 26, 1862, p. 4, c. 1
    Cow Hair vs. Wool.—The manufacture of cow hair mixed with cotton has recently been introduced with perfect success. It is said to be quite as warm and durable for coarse fabrics as wool and cotton. It is being manufactured in considerable quantities in Tennessee. One whole company has been uniformed with it.—Ex.

    There is another mention of cow-cotton in the Charleston Mercury in 1861.

    Thought maybe you civilians would also find in interesting and could explain the hand-carding technique for this gunboat sailor.

    Geo
    Last edited by navygunner; 12-21-2012 at 01:04 PM. Reason: additional info

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Spring Hill, FL
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    In advance of Mrs. Lawson and others with greater experience in the southern fiber arts, "cow cotton" is one of many types of material experiments utilized during the Late UnPleasantness to stretch out material goods. Many different animal (and plant) fibers were experimented with, and most found wanting in several factors, most of which were comfort. Wool jeancloth was principle among these, though mixtures of wool and cotton had gone on for generations among the lower class and slave class in the south. In the manufacturing of these ersatz yarns, the fibers were hand carded and groomed to go all in the same direction, and then spun into yarn which would then be woven into cloth. Cards, for those that don't know, were paddle-like objects with multiple metal tines, like large, flat brushes, that were used to brush the fibers into managable uni-directed fibers. As I said, I'm sure Mrs. L and others will pipe in, but this is a small primer for now
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Michigan
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    Thanks Ross.

    Here's another mention found;Mobile Register and Advertiser, October 16, 1862, p. 1, c. 5
    A substitute for wool is made into a cloth by a great many persons in Georgia, with the design of using their wool for our soldiers in the field. This substitute is cowhair. The cloth made of it is perhaps not quite so smooth as that made of wool, but it is heavier, and no doubt will be nearly, if not equally, as warm, and will last fully as well. The hair is washed perfectly clean, and pulled or beat so as to have no bunches. After it is well dried, it is ready for useŚLike wool for ordinary cloth, it is used only for "filling," and mixed with about one third cotton. The common and easier way of mixing is by ginning it with the cotton, although it could be, we suppose, mixed fully as well by "carding." If the same quantity in weight of seed cotton and hair are thoroughly mixed and placed in the gin after the seed are separated, the cotton lint will be about one third of the hair. The breast of the gin should be a little raised, or the hair will make the saws to choke. Cowhair, thus mixed with cotton, may be carded, spun and made into cloth with no more trouble than is required for wool or cotton. The hair can be purchased at the tanneries

    geo.

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