A major interpretive site, the South Carolina Cotton Museum located near Bishopville, SC, preserves the legacy of cotton and the rural life associated with the crop. After Eli Whitney’s invention of his cotton gin, which was uniquely capable of ginning short-stapled cotton, cotton became the major cash crop in our state. Today the cotton crop still brings in $109 million annually to South Carolina and ranks #6 in SC agricultural commodities.
At the South Carolina Cotton Museum, exhibits of farm and manufacturing equipment span two centuries. They allow visitors to experience the “cotton culture” from farm to factory and a way of life that was common in South Carolina. When South Carolina was first settled, only planters along the coast grew cotton. Their Sea Island variety did not grow well inland, and the cotton that did grow inland, a short-staple variety, was very difficult to separate from its fuzzy seeds. Once Eli Whitney came up with a solution for this in 1794, cotton took off as the crop that could put fairly easy cash into the pockets of upland or backcountry farmers. By 1801, cotton had risen to 20 million pounds produced, and by 1811, that number rose to 40 million pounds. By the 1830s, the state’s economy was heavily dependent on cotton.
The museum includes wagons that were used to transport cotton to market, before railroads or trucks. Guests can see examples of farm implements including hand tools, baskets, a spike gin, a mule-drawn cultivator, and a Cessna Ag Wagon crop-duster. Hand cards, spinning wheels, and early looms are on display, as well as modern spinning and weaving equipment. Additionally, the reconstruction of the interior of a tenement farmhouse is featured.
The larger-than-life 3′ tall boll weevil on display helps visitors understand the insect and its invasion into South Carolina, where between 1920 and 1922, the insect destroyed 70% of the cotton crop. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the boll weevil was finally eradicated. Today, South Carolina is, thank God, weevil-free.
The Company Store offers South Carolina specialty gift items for all ages and occasions. Don’t forget to get your South Carolina Agritourism Passport stamped here! (if you don’t have one, pick one up at the museum – they’re free)
South Carolina Cotton Museum
121 West Cedar Lane | Bishopville, SC 29010 | 803-484-4497 Hours: Open Year-Round Mon – Sat 10am – 4pm (Closed on holidays) Admission: $6 adults; $4 seniors; $3 students; children under 5 free.
South Carolina Cotton Museum Website
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