f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Cotton-pickin' kids

Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013, at 12:00 AM

These children pose for G.D. Fronabarger in a cotton field somewhere in Southeast Missouri in this undated photo.

A story in the Southeast Missourian's annual Achievement Edition of Jan. 31, 1948 included a photograph of cotton pickers. Here is an excerpt:

Not way down in Dixie, but in Scott County where cotton is a major crop. In the lower counties of southeast Missouri--Scott, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Dunklin--cotton provides the major source of farm income, although in recent years being closely approached by the soybean. Cape County lies on the northern boundary of the cotton country, the crop being found in the south part of the county but not in the north section.

C.M. Barnes, a cotton farming authority at Marston, Mo., explained the problem with harvesting the cotton crop mechanically:

Mechanical cotton harvesters are available which under favorable conditions will retrieve from 70 to 90 percent of the crop, but so mixed with leaf and trash that it will not gin to a grade that compares with hand-picked cotton. These machines are heavy and complicated; they are yet too expensive to be relied upon to harvest any major portion of the crop. For some years, therefore, the cotton acreage must be limited to the supply of labor to harvest the crop satisfactorily.

Previous blog:

Cotton Picking


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  • My bride who I married in 1949 lived in Marston when this photo was taken and she was quite a cotton picker but she didn't recognize these boy's. I tried picking 1 day and picked 24# and quit. This old Cape Girardeau boy couldn't hack it! I took my wife to cape where she became a shoe factory worker, had 3 girls and moved to Florida in 1961.That was the end of her cotton picking career.

    Joe Whitright - Blenny man

    -- Posted by Blenny man on Wed, Sep 25, 2013, at 7:26 PM
  • Picked many a sack full. The cotton dries all the oils from your hands and causes painful cracking. But, that's only half of it; the bolls have needle-like ends which invariably find their way under the cuticles. That causes bleeding and more pain. Then, there was the morning dew, which soaked your clothes. Finally, your back hurt...a lot. If people, in this day, had to pick cotton, we would be wearing polyester Levis.

    -- Posted by JungleJim on Wed, Sep 25, 2013, at 8:12 PM
  • I remember 'cotton picking' holidays from school in Cape in the 50s and maybe early 60s. We started school after Labor Day, then had a half day off Thursday of fair week, then cotton picking days.

    -- Posted by Vwwvwv on Thu, Sep 26, 2013, at 6:22 AM