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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CUBA: HOLIDAY ISLE OF THE TROPICS

Waxahachie Pickers: 1913

Waxahachie Pickers: 1913

October 1913. "Scene on the farm of S.N. Whiteside, near Waxahachie, Texas. Children come out here from the town to pick cotton, outside of school hours. Ages range from 4 and 6 years (ages of the two youngest boys who pick regularly) up to 15 and more. Two adults." Glass negative by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 

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Parents did this

My parents did this as kids in the early 1940s in the San Joaquin Valley of California. They moved out from Oklahoma. I had an African-American coworker who called my a liar when I said my parents picked cotton. He wouldn't believe a white person did that sort of work (never mind he was raised in Los Angeles and the closest he came to cotton were balls at the drug store). It wasn't until another coworker who's parents were "Okies" and did this too spoke up for me did he believe us.

Your cotton-picken' hands

As stated by commenter Randy the cotton bolls were very sharp and cut ones' tender fingers easily but if a picker got blood on the cotton, the buyers did not want it. Hard to believe that everybody who picked did not wear sturdy gloves, but especially children who had not developed thick calluses to toughen up their skin. I believe it is all done by machinery these days.

Life by the pound

I lived with an uncle in South Carolina for a couple of years back in the mid-fifties. He was a farmer, among other things, and he grew a fair amount of cotton. He contracted with several black families to pick the cotton by hand. Each families total was weighed at the end of the day and they were paid by the pound. There were a number of times that I and my two older cousins were "drafted" to fill in for sick workers. That field work, under the hot summer sun, is pure drudgery. I think my uncle made us do that to teach us what real work was and to inspire us to get an education so we wouldn't have to work that hard.

I made 50 cents

I did that once in my early days. Picked cotton by hand dragging a cotton sack that is. I think it was 4 hours worth of work. ANY work is preferable to hand-picking cotton.

Those ladies are the smart ones. They have their hands wrapped. Those cotton boles are tough and sharp!

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