Why was cotton so important in north west England?

Stereoscope card, Cotton is King

Published by Strohmeyer and Wyman, New York, about 1895
Card and paper

Object number INV:5004
Unknown donor

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Stereoscope card, Cotton is King

This stereoscope card depicts black cotton pickers working in the fields of a southern American plantation. In the background a white overseer sits on horseback. The card is titled ‘Cotton is King, Plantation Scene, Georgia, U.S.A.’ and was published by a New York company in 1895. It is part of a collection of stereoscope cards that show scenes of everyday life in the USA.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) brought about the end of slavery in the USA. However, this picture was published well after the Civil War had ended and shows that many remained working in occupations and conditions that were little different to those of the slavery period.

A stereoscope is a kind of optical device that uses two identical images to create a three-dimensional effect. They were popular in Britain from the 1850s, before photographs were routinely published in newspapers and magazines. As such, they were one of the few ways in which the general public could see pictures of the world, with the added novelty of having the image appear to 'jump out' at the viewer. By the late 1800s, stereoscopes were possibly aimed more at children and many of the cards in this collection feature images of children.

This information was provided by curators at Bolton Museum and Archive Service.