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Cotton Production at The Hermitage:
The Hermitage was a plantation -- an industrialized farm that depended on one cash crop -- not a self-sustaining family farm that fed and clothed its occupants but produced little cash. By 1860, scholars classify only twelve percent of Southern farms as plantations, and most of those were much smaller than The Hermitage, having only 20 to 30 slaves. Jackson ran The Hermitage as a profit-making venture with a distinct division between labor and management. He grew cotton as his cash crop. All of the other crops grown at The Hermitage supported the cotton crop, by either feeding the work force and animals or providing raw materials for rope and other shipping needs. Jackson kept some of the cotton for use at The Hermitage, but he sold the majority of the crop for cash or credit in New Orleans. Although Andrew Jackson and his son chose cotton farming as their main profit making enterprise, they also invested in land and other businesses in much the same way a modern corporation looks for multiple money-making opportunities.
After ginning and bailing, Jackson shipped his cotton to market by steamboat. Steamboats were a vast improvement over flatboats, but dry fall weather and low water levels sometimes delayed cotton shipping until late winter. Once Jackson's cotton reached New Orleans, his agent took care of selling the cotton and credited Jackson's account. Everything affected Jackson's profit: the amount of cotton harvested, the price, the weight of the bales, the shipping, and commission. In May 1834, Jackson to his son "I have calculated the crop of cotton at 37875 lbs... This at 12 cents [per pound] will produce $454; will net after freight and commissions about $4000."
At the peak of operation, Jackson had more than 100 slaves working in the fields. Since Jackson based the amount of cotton he planted on how much the available labor force could pick, he planted only a portion of The Hermitage's approximately 1000 acres in cotton. Slaves picked the cotton by hand in Jackson's day, with each slave picking between 200 and 300 pounds each day.
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