No one knows exactly where cotton was first cultivated; however, some of the earliest evidence of cotton use has been found at the Mehrgarh archaeological site in Balochistan, Pakistan, from approximately 7,000 years ago. Early cultivation of cotton from approximately 5000 to 3000 B.C. has also been discovered in Tehuacán, Mexico.
Cotton is sourced from soft, fluffy balls that grow around the seeds of cotton plants. The plant is classified as a shrub and thrives in warm climates, including in the Americas, Africa and India. The cotton balls are spun into thread or yarn and used to make fabric. The greatest diversity of wild cotton can be found in Mexico.
Cotton seeds are believed to have been brought to Florida in 1556 and to Virginia in 1607. The first production of cotton fabric by machines happened in England in 1730, while the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in the United States in 1783 led to cotton's widespread use and commercialization.
The leading worldwide producers of cotton include the United States, China, India, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Pakistan and Turkey. In the United States, the major cotton-producing states include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.