Cotton and the Spinner

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Cotton and the Spinner coverCotton and the Spinner

Submitter: I work in a small, bilingual K-12 private school in the Persian Gulf. By upper school, English is the primary language of study, but it is not the students’ first language, so the kids don’t have the same understanding of what words (and attitudes!) are thankfully no longer considered acceptable in most of the Anglophone world.

This magnified my distress at the following submission, which should have been weeded long, LONG ago on the basis of almost every conceivable weeding criterion: age, condition, age, offensiveness, age and inaccuracy. I am only sending a few of many illustrations of steam-operated textile and farm equipment, to say nothing of what the book terms “our Indian fellow-subjects” or “Indian natives.”

Most disturbing of all is the fact that I found a relatively recent weeding note in the book’s back pocket: “KEEP: “objectionable (pp.19, 24) but good for historiography, +detailed technically.”
If she opted to keep this, I would dearly love to see the items she opted to weed! Yes, it is detailed technically–for 100 years ago!

It is hard to cut my ranting short on this one. Read the samples for yourselves.

The frontispiece is entitled “NEGROES PICKING COTTON in the Southern United States.”

Holly: Historiography? When was the last time you had a historiography reference question in the children’s department? And I mean a real historiography project that would even begin to use a book like this.  I can’t imagine any circumstance that would have me putting this book in a child’s hands. Or an adult’s hands, for that matter.

Steam plough at work

The cotton industry in India

two forms of cotton balls

cotton ball


  1. Objectionable content on pages 19 & 24, what about 26 & 27?? If this is just a taste, I can’t imagine what else is in there.

  2. By “Blackie and Son…?” Really? Strangely enough, that was really the publishers name, but on this book it just looks so, so wrong. Like a bad joke.

  3. I grew up on a farm within 50 miles of the Dust Bowl’s epicenter, and the section on plowing gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies and the shakes. Deep-furrow plowing on the plains is a great way to meet new and exciting rocks, but otherwise that chapter might as well be titled “Winning the War on Topsoil.”

  4. The only historiographical use for this would be in a doctoral thesis. I am really glad a sane person has taken over the library in this Persian Gulf place…..1913!!!

  5. Note to the weeder: check for the companion boys’ Horatio Alger fiction novel called “Pine Ridge plantation, or, The trials and successes of a young cotton planter”, which is about the same vintage, accuracy and offensiveness.

    1. I love how “the Negroes” are fond of them, and also jokes. I’d love to know how liking songs or jokes would make you different to every other human being on the planet.

      1. Theoretically, it made them specially good at being enslaved. See, the Negroes are actually happy to be deprived of personal responsibility! No sense bothering them with all that ‘intellectual’ higher-caste stuff, they just want to laugh and sing all day!

  6. Oh, yes, I’d LOVE to work on a plantation, with all the happy children! Look how happy the children are! And aren’t those ‘coons’ nice?

  7. Google image search “cotton boll.” See those sharp, pointy husks? Anyone who grabbed those things bare-handed all day would have so many callouses they probably wouldn’t be able to feel anything.

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