Sea Island cotton, a long staple cotton, was famous for its silky texture and commanded the highest prices.
Loyalist families that fled to the Bahamas after the American Revolution began growing long-staple cotton with seeds from the island of Anguilla. By the 1790s the Bahamas’ sandy soils were depleted. Families returned to Georgia and South Carolina with their precious black seeds. They converted their old indigo plantations to grow cotton and sold it to booming factories in Great Britain.
In 1790 William Elliott grew the first commercial crop of Sea Island cotton in South Carolina on Hilton Head Island. In the District, cotton production spread quickly. Sea Island cotton was grown in South Carolina until the boll weevil destroyed crops in 1920.