How much would you pay to kill a pest?
On this day in 1909, the Georgia General Assembly formally asked the U.S. Congress for a $5 million prize to the first person to eliminate the boll weevil. This was six years before the cotton–consuming pest even appeared in Georgia.
Cotton had been Georgia’s premier staple crop since the late 18th century. Its worldwide economic impact had made it "King Cotton" in the antebellum South, and it continued to be the backbone of the Southern economy.
The boll weevil changed that. The six–legged scourge crossed the Rio Grande into Texas in 1892 and began moving east, infesting the entire Cotton Belt by 1919. The first boll weevil appeared in Georgia in 1915 in Thomasville.
Cotton production declined steadily for another 60 years, and only rebounded when the boll weevil was finally chemically eradicated in Georgia in 1990.
Congress ignored Georgia's plea, but the boll weevil was one of the most insidious—and smallest—foes the state ever faced, fully justifying the legislature's cry for help on August 12, 1909, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.