The popular idea seems to be that the peanut is marketed chiefly in the roasted form. As a matter of fact, however, these nuts are used principally in making salted peanuts, peanut butter, and confectioners' and bakers' goods, and in the manufacture of oil and meal. The peanut industry was of little commercial prominence until 1870, when it began to grow gradually. By 1900 the quantities of peanuts raised were increasing rapidly, and since 1915, when the crushing of peanuts for oil and meal was undertaken on a commercial scale, the growth of the peanut-crushing industry has been phenomenal. This growth may be attributed to the fact that the peanut can to a large extent take the place of cotton as a cash crop in regions seriously infested with boll weevil. Short cotton crops have placed the planters and oil millers in large cotton-producing areas in an extremely difficult position. The planters suffered from being deprived of a cash crop and the oil millers suffered from having heavy investments in oil mills for which there seemed to be no further use. The utilization of the peanut for making oil and meal gave the planters a new cash crop and enabled the millers to continue their operations.
The Spanish variety is the one grown principally for the production of oil. The meats of this variety have a higher oil content than those of any other, with the possible exception of the Valencia, or Tennessee red. It has a higher proportion of meats to hulls than any other variety and is adapted to a wider range of soil and climatic conditions.