Banning, bales of cotton from surrounding farms were first delivered to
the picker room, see map, where a handful
of underpaid workers would break open the bales and remove the remaining
seeds and foreign debris. As the bales were open, the room would fill
with bits of cotton dust which was highly flammable. Because fire was
a mill’s most dangerous adversary, the men in the picker room had
to sort the cotton without the aid of kerosene lamps. The picker room
was originally lit by enclosed lamps hung on the outside of the windows.
A thankless job, picking was done by hand until the invention of the lap-frame
which brushed the cotton through sets of rotating teeth. It is unclear
when Banning received its first lap-frame, but Sanborn maps show the process
done by hand up to 1911.
the business increased, the picker room was the first place to employee
African American men.