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'King Cotton,' Mississippi Exhibit, Agricultural Building, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, U.S.A.
King Cotton, Mississippi Exhibit, Agricultural Building, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904

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The Boll Weevil Honored in Alabama
December 11, 1919

The boll weevil is a beetle measuring an average length of six millimeters (shorter than the average length of the nail on your pinky finger). It's called the boll weevil because it destroys the cotton boll, the seed pod that contains the cotton. The parasite entered the United States via Mexico in the 1890s, and reached southeastern Alabama in 1915. Today it is still the most destructive cotton pest in North America.

The boll weevil forced farmers to switch to growing different crops, such as peanuts, which not only returned vital nutrients to soils depleted by cotton cultivation, but also was a successful cash crop for local farmers. Some farmers stubbornly refused to plant anything but cotton and they suffered for it, sometimes losing their farms.

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