Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin in 1793. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South. Whitney’s invention made upland short cotton into a profitable crop, which strengthened the economic foundation of slavery in the United States.
A cotton gin is a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, allowing for much greater productivity than manual cotton separation. The fibers are then processed into various cotton goods such as linens, while any undamaged cotton is used largely for textiles, including clothing. Seeds may be used to grow more cotton or to produce cottonseed oil.
Although simple handheld roller gins had been used in India and other countries since at least 500 AD, the first modern mechanical cotton gin was patented this date in 1794 by Whitney. However, the Indian worm-gear roller gin, invented sometime around the sixteenth century, has remained virtually unchanged up to the present time. Whitney’s gin used a combination of a wire screen and small wire hooks to pull the cotton through, while brushes continuously removed the loose cotton lint to prevent jams. It revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States, but has been identified as an inadvertent contributing factor to the outbreak of the American Civil War. (from Wikipedia)
PHOTO: A model of a 19th-century cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, Connecticut.