Forty-Saw Cotton Gin, Wooden Gearing


This 40-saw cotton gin and the wooden gearing came from a farm formerly owned by the Augustus C. Smith family in Monroe County, G. The gin shed was built around 1840 and operated until approximately 1900. The gin stand was probably built in the decade following the Civil War; it bears no manufacturer's name or other identification.

Augustus Card Smith, born on March 5, 1830, owned and managed the farm and gin until his death in 1907. His wife, Sara Jane Phinazee Smith, bore eleven children. James Milton Smith took over the farm when his father died. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, the farm had 180 acres, and the family owned one horse, four cows, and three mules. Smith marketed 11 bales of cotton that year. During the Civil War, A. C. Smith joined the Monroe County Cavalry and fought for the Confederacy. By 1880 the Smith farm had grown to 350 acres and raised 23 bales of cotton. A. C. Smith personified the yeoman farmer who owned his land and produced enough to provide for his family and to market the surplus. His life spanned the ante bellum years of increasing sectional tensions, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the establishment of segregation in the 1890s.

The Smith cotton ginning operation typified 19th-century ginning technology. The large open space on the lower level allowed mules to circle the bull gear, setting in motion the pinion gear that transferred power to the gin on the second floor. The precisely fitted wooden blocks joined by pegs and cleverly fitted supports demanded skilled workmanship.

Ginwrights both manufactured and serviced gins. The number of gins and the precise work needed to construct and maintain them necessitated a large number of skilled workmen. African Americans manufactured, maintained, and operated gins along with whites. A. C. Smith's ledgers show that he ginned for toll; that is, he took a percentage of the cotton in payment.

Date Made: ca 1880Ginstand: ca 1880Wooden Gearing: 1840-1910

Maker: unknown

Place Made: United States: Georgia, Monroe

See more items in: Work and Industry: Agriculture, Agriculture


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: A.C. Smith

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1984.0852.001Accession Number: 1984.0852Catalog Number: 1984.0852.001

Object Name: cotton ginOther Terms: cotton gin; Wooden Gearing

Physical Description: wood (overall material)iron (part material)steel (part material)


Record Id: nmah_872995

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