|Cotton merchants in Memphis, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Walcott.|
In his chapter, Brown gives us a glimpse of the colorful mule markets that used to be numerous in the city, a part of the city’s history that had been unknown to me. Before tractors became the norm on the cotton farms surrounding Memphis—and they did not until well after World War II—mules were used to pull the plows that would break the land and prepare the soil for planting. As recently as 1946 twenty-two mule yards were in the city; in that year alone Owens Brothers, which was the largest of the mule-trading operations, auctioned forty-five thousand of the plow-pulling animals.
Brown ends his chapter with a look at cotton in today’s Memphis. Memphis has always been a center of cotton marketing, and there are still merchants in the city today. There are a lot fewer, and most of them are located far away from the old Cotton Row (two notable exceptions are the Turley Cotton Company and Lyons Cotton, Inc., which have their offices in the Cotton Exchange Building itself; they were recently joined by Jabbour Cotton, so now there are three), but no doubt a respectable number of cotton bales are still sold through Memphis merchants: Allenberg Cotton and Cargill Cotton, both located in Memphis, are two of the largest cotton merchandisers in the world. Cotton trading has also gone high-tech. In 2000, the Seam, an online cotton-trading site, was launched; formed by an organization of cotton merchants, including three from Memphis, its headquarters is in the Bluff City.