International Harvester Mechanical Cotton Picking Machine

Built in 1943, Old Red was one of the first commercial spindle cotton picking machines. International Harvester developed the machine at the H. H. Hopson Plantation near Clarksdale, Miss., in the early 1940s and began manufacturing machines. According to date code numbers, Old Red was the 25th of 30 picking machines manufactured in 1943, and was sold to Producers Cotton Oil Company in Fresno, Calif. After further development there, the machine, usually operated at 2 mph, picked 8,000 bales of cotton before being retired in 1959. In 1970 Producers donated Old Red to the National Museum of American History. In 1978, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers awarded Old Red landmark status in agricultural engineering.
Mechanical cotton harvesters transformed work routines on cotton farms. Using tractors to prepare the land and cultivate, herbicides to clean the fields of weeds, and mechanical harvesters to pick the cotton, the crop changed from one that required large amounts of labor to a capital-intensive operation. Millions of field hands in the South were thus unemployed and migrated to towns and cities across the country.
Currently not on view
Date made
Producers Cotton Oil Company
International Harvester
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Agriculture
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Producers Cotton Oil Company

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