January 4, 1880
About 1880 cottonseed oil was introduced into hog lard to temper it for use in cold climates, and thus began a story that “is filled with the intrigues of competitive industries.“ The new product, it was estimated in 1888, constituted about half the total of 600,000,000 pounds of lard produced in the country.
The Rise of the American Cottonseed Oil Industry
About 1880 cottonseed oil was introduced into hog lard to temper it for use in cold climates, and thus began a story that “is filled with the intrigues of competitive industries.“ In the spring of 1883 compound lard, so a champion of hogs and grain complained, was an important factor in breaking a corner in lard. The new product, it was estimated in 1888, constituted about half the total of 600,000,000 pounds of lard produced in the country and about two-fifths of 320,000,000 pounds exported, and this compound consisted of mixtures of hog lard, beef stearine, and cottonseed oil, with the oil estimated at 40 per cent. A little later, it was calculated that the compound was making annually a net market displacement of 160,000,000 pounds of hog lard and furnishing consumption for one-third of the output of cottonseed oil. Chicago was at this time the chief center of manufacture of the synthetic product, with Armour and Company and N. K. Fairbank and Company as the leading producers. Southern farmers were receiving millions for cottonseed, but it was asserted, on the other hand, that the new industry reduced considerably the value of 50,000,000 American hogs. The fight was on between industries, between farmers, and between sections, though the hog-raisers were unable to imitate the dairymen’s successful drive for protective legislation.
Vegetable shortening held its own, remaining the chief channel for the consumption of cottonseed oil and even becoming independent of hog lard in both label and content. It was to receive a new impetus in the twentieth century with the development of hydrogenation for the transformation of the oil into shortening.
The American cottonseed oil mills by 1890 numbered 119, were crushing annually a million tons of seed, as compared with 80,000 tons twenty years earlier, and were turning out products of a value of $19,790,000. The seed consumption and the output were to double in the nineties and again in the twentieth century, with nearly three-fourths of the seed crop eventually going to the mills instead of only one-seventh as in 1880. During the eighties the annual export of oil reached over I3,000,000 gallons. The ramifications and integration of the industries based partly or entirely on cottonseed were exemplified by the growth of the American Cotton Oil Trust, which was terminated as a legal “trust” at the end of the eighties. In 1889 this trust owned or included fifty-two crude-oil mills, seven refineries, nineteen ginneries, three compressors, seven fertilizer plants, four soap factories, and four lard manufactories. The capitalization was more than $42,000,000, and the profits for fifteen months were reported as $I,655,784.
The continuation of this story after 1890 would be an expanding statistical account and a listing of the multifarious new uses of cottonseed products. Cottonseed has been a prominent feature in the industrial revolution in the American cotton belt, and the world’s leading region in the production of cotton has become the world’s leading region in the production of cottonseed oil.
H. C. NIXON