Cotton was king of Texas agriculture. The invention of barbed wire and the building of the railroads stimulated production. Production doubled in the 1880s, and by 1890 over four million acres were devoted to cultivating a cotton crop of 1.5 million bales. By 1900 production had more than doubled again, to over 7 million acres and 3.5 million bales. Technological advances and the use of the sharecropper system made cotton profitable for landowners if not for those actually doing the planting, tending, and back-breaking picking of the crop.
Cotton Season -- A Busy Day in Belton, Texas. Undated, early 20th Century. Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1963/127-1.