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Cotton country in pictorial history

Historian, author, and Mississippi Delta native William Bearden brings hundreds of years of cotton cultivation into breathtaking historical context with Cotton: From Southern Fields to the Memphis Market.

In his latest title, Bearden explores the social and economic tapestry that cotton wove for the South and the world. More than 200 vintage images expose the rise of cotton as king and the empires it created in agriculture, transportation, banking, and warehousing.

Bearden explores the story of cotton from the growing process to harvesting and on to the market. The history includes the slave trade, Civil War, sharecropping, child labor in cotton mills, and technological advances such as the cotton gin, the first mechanical harvester, spinning cotton, tractors, the first threshers, and cotton barges. Bearden also devotes several chapters to the famous Memphis Cotton Exchange.

Highlights of the book include:

  • How farm machinery technology has progressed from the mule-drawn plow and the hoe, to $300,000 mechanical cotton pickers in less than 50 years.
  • Vintage photographs of the Memphis Cotton Exchange from the 1930s and 1940s, when Memphis' Front Street was the center of the nation's cotton trading industry.
  • Rarely seen photographs of downtown Memphis from the turn of the century to mid-century.

William Bearden works as a writer and producer of video documentaries. He was born in Rolling Fork, Miss., and resides in Memphis, Tenn.

The book is available at select bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665.

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