The decline in the production was due to many causes. After the Civil War the large pool of labor needed to make cotton a "cash crop" was gone. Many freedmen continued to cultivate Sea Island cotton with good yields but lacked the skills to market their crop. Many turned to truck farming.
The quality of the Sea Island Cotton deteriorated as less attention was made to seed collection. In the early 1900s South Carolina ceased shipping seed for planting to the Caribbean and other Sea Island plantations to reduce the competition. About this time the demand for the expensive cotton goods was diminishing and upland cotton became the cotton of choice as it was cheaper to produce.
Many products that had used Sea Island cotton switched to shorter staple cottons and retooled their machines. Around 1918 the Boll Weevil reached the eastern coast from the plateaus of Mexico. Because of the long growing season Sea Island cotton was more susceptible to this Weevil. Sea Island cotton had always been affected by the weather, pests, blights, poor soil and drainage problems, but the Boll Weevil removed all profit potential.
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Last updated: April 14, 2015