Most of us go through life not knowing the details of the essentials we depend upon. As a result, a common axiom has made its way into the lexicon of our existence, which is “we do not want to know how the sausage is made”. However, some things are more interesting than sausage and therefore; if we were to hear just a hint of the process we would realize it was worth learning. For instance, who, which did not have previous knowledge; ever looked at a large rubber tire and thought that cotton would be involved in its making. The fact that the rubber was not purely synthetic is mind boggling enough but this process first utilized by the Mesoamericans over 3000 years ago, as well as the Vulcanization of rubber by Charles Goodyear, is for another time. Nevertheless, the Textile Mill, Martha Mills, operated under the focus of making Tire Cord utilized in rubber tires out of Cotton. Try as I might, this writer would fail to reach the top of the mountain of explanation of this process, leaving us all down in the valley of ignorance. Although, this process went through many changes, Archivist Bonnie Smith found an explanation of the early process at Martha Mills from 1934. This explanation was found in a Business and Professional Women’s Club handout from July 1934 written by a Mrs. Flora Ozburn of the State Commission of the Georgia Century of Progress, after a tour of Martha Mills. Therefore, the below information, although not taken in exact quotes, was derived from Mrs. Ozburn’s stellar explanation of this process.
Upon Mrs. Ozburn’s arrival at Martha Mills in 1934 for her tour given by Mr. Sam Black, the Mill produced nothing but fabric for tire cords in Goodrich Silvertown Tires. As the largest facility of that time producing primarily tire fabric, there were 137,000 spindles in operation with a capacity to utilize 15,000 bales of cotton with 5,000 as the average. As Mrs. Ozburn and the other ladies made their way through the Mill, they learned terms such as twisters, picking and carding, ropers, speeders and slubbers. Their first official introduction was to the Raw Cotton complete with the dust, motes and waste which come with it. There was even a Waste Division. At that time, the waste cost the Mill thousands of dollars but could be partially made up by the sale of the waste to make such things as low-grade hose. Also in this area, they learned about the grades and colors of Cotton and how both determined its worth. During this process, the cotton was stapled to determine the length and hardness of the fiber as Martha Mills only used long staple Cotton. The grading had to be done in a special type of room, which was arranged where there were no shadows and was kept at 60 degrees.
The ginning of this cotton, which consisted of separating the seed and lint from the cotton, was done by placing three bales together and putting the cotton through a series of mixing chambers, as it was combed by a steel “picker”. Due to this process, the cotton became clearer as the waste dropped below like ashes “from the firegrate of a furnace”. Mrs. Ozburn also comments on the fact that in a matter of minutes the loss could have been extraordinary in these chambers, as fire due to the combustible material was common.
Once this process took place the cotton tended to come out in strings which were pressed into a sheet like manner at which point they were blown into pieces yet again through a cylinder. After which, the cotton came out looking like batting as Mrs. Ozburn explains “such as what most of us have seen our mothers and grandmothers use in making old fashioned quilts.”
The material which resulted, which was called laps, was rolled onto a large beam and taken to the “card room” where it was separated by “ropers”. After passing through the steel combs the “rope” exited in a mist-like thread. However, this was not the end process as this thread was still destined to travel miles throughout Martha Mills as Mrs. Ozburn states” from carding machines to drawing machines, from speeder to spinning room” as it became more twisted and drawn out. During this process, the thread moved through the “traveler”, which was a device that turned at 18,000 revolutions a minute in order to wind a single thread on a spool. All the while blowers were utilized to keep the yarn free from dirt and lint.
Mrs. Ozburn also spoke of a machine, which in 1934, had an automated light that would signal when the thread broke. This was undesirable as broken threads resulted in a reduction in the ply of the cord. Furthermore, Mrs. Ozburn stated that the ladies operating these machines had “automatic know-tyers on their hands”. Nevertheless, the thread was wound on a bobbin, which weighed 500 pounds. After which, the thread made its way to workers called “warpers” which operated a machine that automatically stopped if a single thread broke, she then had to make adjustments and restart the machine which, like all of the jobs, must have been very fast paced and stressful.
The end result of this process consisted of the thread becoming three or five ply cord which was placed on a paper bobbin, inspected and then shipped to Akron, Ohio to be placed in the rubber material which would be known as B.F. Goodrich Silvertown Tires. Due to the high standards of Silvertown and B.F. Goodrich Tires, testing was constantly performed to ensure no knots were present, lest they create air holes in the tires and could cause blowouts.
Although paraphrased by the writer, this was a fascinating insight from Mrs. Flora Ozburn who explained the journey of Georgia Cotton; from farm, to Martha Mills, into the tires, which would keep the cars of the early 20th century rolling toward progress.