Lonnie Donegan sings Pick a Bale of Cotton
Cotton Gin Museum
Exodus of labor to Chicago and Detroit
Summary: The mechanization of this labor intensive industry facilitated the largest exodus in American history from the South to Chicago, Detroit, and other industrial areas.
Long Story: The real story in the photo above is machines and robots changing an industry and displacing 5 million Black laborers for the largest migration in history.
But first, using the Calculator, I estimate a farm family on 50 acres had an income after expense of today's $36,000; a hired Picker was paid the equivalent of today's minimum wage and a share cropper would pay the land owner an agreed rate.
WW1 and 2 removed large numbers of men from factories while technology developed machinery that could be adapted to civilian use.
The first time machines planted and harvested cotton was in 1944. So, the mules in the photo were replaced by tractors and the wagon by trucks and no need for leather harnesses. The human buyer shown grading the cotton to establish a bid price might be around today but the farmer in back was out of business if he owned less than 1000 acres.
The 500 pound bales were the size required by railroads for transportation and were rolled and flipped by laborers to be replaced by forklifts.
We could move off the photo to others showing the entire labor intensive process of hand planting and harvesting, wagons full of cotton at the Gin, and laborers loading bales on to trains. All replaced in 30 years by machines and robots.
A longer article would include a tread mill where today machines work 24/7 with lights off doing the work of 400 employees formerly living in the company owned Mill Town.
WW1 and WW2 and supporting industries adapted to autos and consumer products and absorbed the labor force but those factories are now closed.
In summary, a picture is worth a thousand words but sometime the words add something interesting to an article.