In the 1900 US census, what is the difference between a commercial cotton bale and a 500-pound bale?

I’m not sure if they are simply different units of the same measurement, or if they represent different products. For example, in order to get total cotton production in a county, would I have to add the 500-pound bale measurement to the commercial bale measurement, or are they different units and I would just choose which one I wanted to use?

I am assuming you are looking at a couple different tables available via IPUMS NHGIS. If this assumption is incorrect, please correct me.

It looks like these two measures may be two different ways of measuring the same product or type of product. The 500-bale measures all refer to different types of cotton produced by cotton ginners. The commercial cotton bale is a different measure of the amount of cotton produced. I cannot provide much additional guidance on which measure you should use for your purposes. Both measures seem to capture the amount of production of cotton.

Ok, they came from the same source table I believe (the 1900 census, cAG I think) but they are both included in the table, so I wasn’t sure if they measured different outputs and I would need to find some way to aggregate them to get the total cotton production in a county, but from what you are saying it sounds like I just need to pick one of them (correct me if I am wrong, though). Thank you for your help!

Commercial bales come in three different types - square bales, round bales, and bales of sea-island cotton. The Census then converts these different types of bales in to 500-lb bale equivalents. Thus, commercial bale vs. 500-lb bale are really just different units, and you can choose the one you want.

I found this information at…

Page 413 describes different cotton bales, and footnote 2 on Table 2 (page 423) indicates what “commercial bales” were.