'Machinery Has Completely Taken Over': The Diffusion of the Mechanical Cotton Picker, 1949–1964

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XXXIX: 1, (Summer, 2008), pp. 65–96.

Posted: 30 May 2013

See all articles by Craig Heinicke

Craig Heinicke

Baldwin-Wallace College

Wayne A. Grove

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

An examination of how the mechanical cotton picker spread across the South can illuminate such events as the “collapse” of southern equilibrium, the demise of southern paternalism, and the role of social institutions. The consequences of mechanical cotton harvesting have been widely studied, but the causes of the machine’s diffusion have received less attention. “Institutions” are often blamed for the region’s lagging development, although accounts have not always used a consistent definition of institutions, nor explained how they would have obstructed cotton harvester diffusion. North uses the term institutions to mean, “the humanly devised constraints that structure human interaction — formal constraints, (e.g. rules, laws, constitutions), informal constraints, (e.g. norms of behavior . . .), and their enforcement characteristics". This article, however, calls these phenomena “social institutions"; in the sense of traditions, customs, or mores as embodied in laws and contracts; for the sake of consistency with the historical and political-science literature. The question is, did any of the South’s social institutions have the potential to retard the widespread adoption of the cotton picker?

Keywords: cotton harvest, mechanization, paternalism, push versus pull hypothesis

JEL Classification: N52, N82, J21, J31, J33, J42, D81

Suggested Citation

Heinicke, Craig and Grove, Wayne A., 'Machinery Has Completely Taken Over': The Diffusion of the Mechanical Cotton Picker, 1949–1964 (2008). Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XXXIX: 1, (Summer, 2008), pp. 65–96., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2271705

Craig Heinicke

Baldwin-Wallace College ( email )

275 Eastland Road
Economics Department
Berea, OH 44017
United States

Wayne A. Grove (Contact Author)

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics ( email )

1419 Salt Springs Road
Syraucse, NY 13214

HOME PAGE: http://webserver.lemoyne.edu/grovewa/

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