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History of Cotton by Natura

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Currently, cotton is grown in countries with warm climates such as China, India, southern part of the United States, Uzbekistan and Egypt. Cotton – soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in boll around the seeds of the cotton plant of the genus Gossypium - has a huge number of applications. Most of us buy cotton products and clothing often. Thus, in our modest opinion we think it is worth knowing where and how cotton appeared in our homes and businesses, and what were the key milestones in cotton history.

In the old days, before the mechanisation of the industry, cotton was mainly harvested by hand. Today, we have come back to basics in a way - high-quality cotton which is used for the premium fabrics, is still harvested this way, as mechanical picking would damage the fibers and make them coarse. But let’s go back in time to see how it all has started.

Map of indus Valley Civilisation
Map of indus Valley Civilisation

The origins of the cultivation and use of cotton date back to ancient times. The first evidence of the use of cotton was found in India and Pakistan, and dates back to around 6,000 B.C. Scientists believe than cotton was first grown in the Indus River Delta, where the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation once prospered. This civilisation encompassed most of today’s Pakistan, most of India, and part of Afghanistan, and was the largest when compared to the four-ancient civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. The types of cotton that were grown in ancient South Asia were Gossypium Harbaceum (Indian cotton) and Gossypium Arboretum (African cotton). Later cotton growing spread to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Nubia region of the Nile River between southern Egypt and central Sudan.

Gossypium Harbaceum
Gossypium Harbaceum

Cotton cloth found its way to Europe in the first centuries of our era, when Arab merchants began delivering and selling it to the countries of the Mediterranean basin.

Gossypium Arboretum
Gossypium Arboretum

At the end of the 16th century, cotton was grown in warmer regions of Asia and America. The new species discovered were introduced to Africa in the 18th century and then spread to India, Pakistan and China, where they replaced traditional varieties.

The industrial revolution led to the invention of the spinning machine (1738) and the ginning machine (1793) - a machine used in the initial processing of cotton to separate seeds from fiber. These inventions ensured a significant increase in cotton production, especially in England. Manchester earned the nickname 'Cottonopolis' due to the ubiquitous cotton industry in the city.

Behrens Group- Manchester’s oldest textile company.

Until the mid-19th century, India was the main supplier of cotton to the European cotton industry. Also by that time, cotton had become the backbone of the South American economy based largely on slave labour. Due to the higher quality of American cotton (longer and stronger fibers), and its lower price, European textile producers began to buy cotton from American plantations.

In Poland, cotton yarn gained importance in the 19th century, partially displacing linen. Andrychów and Łódź were one of the centers of cotton weaving in the 19th century.

In 1820, Łódź was established on the basis of today's economic zone, thanks to the decision of the state authorities to create a textile settlement. The incoming foreign settlers received numerous privileges to encourage the development of industry in the Duchy of Warsaw like exemption from tax and public charges, exemption from military service and duty exemption for bringing equipment and livestock to the territory of the Duchy. In 1839 in the so-called The White Geyer Factory was installed the first steam engine in the Kingdom of Poland, which initiated the mechanisation of industry in Poland. In the 50-70s of the 19th century, production plants and workers' housing estates began to develop, such as the famous Księży Młyn built by Karol Scheibler.

In 1872, the first mechanical weaving mill was opened by the third of the greatest creators of the city of Łódź - Izrael Poznański.

Księży Młyn in Łódź
Księży Młyn in Łódź

In our modest opinion, another milestone in the history of cotton was establishment of the Natura in 1998, the first company in Poland to start producing ecological cotton bags as an alternative to plastic ones. Natural cotton is a renewable and sustainable natural resource of our planet, and all of us can easily have an impact on the minimasing plastic production and consumption by choosing fabric tote bags and produce drawstring bags while we go shopping or store products at home. As a company we are glad that the awareness and knowledge among consumers is increasing to choose natural materials to care for our home and for ourselves.

Sewing cotton drawstrings at Natura


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