Published On: Mon, Mar 14th, 2011

History: Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin, March 14, 1794

One of the most famous American inventors, Eli Whitney, who is renown for inventing one of the most important inventions of the Industrial Revolution. Whitney’s creation turned the short staple cotton into a profitable crop. History has not always been kind to Whitney as the cotton gin also energized the slave industry as demands for cotton skyrocketed.

1822 portrait of Eli Whitney Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Prior to the gin, cotton farming would require hundreds of hours to separate the cottonseed from the raw cotton. Seed removing devices were time consuming and tedious and Whitney’s cotton gin automated the process. The machine could produce fifty pounds of “clean” cotton daily making it profitable.

Whitney struggled to prevent imitations and copies of the cotton gin even after he filed the patent on March 14, 1794. The patent was not validated until 1807, so the cotton gin never brought him fortunes, but did deliver fame.

On the negative side, some historians claim that the cotton industry rejuvenated the slave industry which has been on the decline.

“With the gin (short for engine), raw cotton could be quickly cleaned; Suddenly cotton became a profitable crop, transforming the southern economy and changing the dynamics of slavery. The first federal census of 1790 counted 697,897 slaves; by 1810, there were 1.2 million slaves, a 70 percent increase” states a PBS analysis on the ‘Growth and Entrenchment of Slavery’.

Historian Margaret Washington claims: “Progress has different meanings for different people. And for people of African descent, the cotton gin was not progress. It was a further entrenchment of enslavement. And for African Americans, the Industrial Revolution, those technological advances in the textile industry, did not mean progress. It meant slavery.”

So as we reflect on one of the greatest inventions ever to be produced in the United States, changing the way man makes clothing, we can also identify the negative effects leading to revitalizing the slave industry.


About the author:

Brandon detoured from pursuing a degree in history but never lost his love of knowledge embracing the famous George Santayana quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Brandon currently writes the National Comic Book Examiner, the Tampa Bay Comic Book Examiner as well as the National American history Examiner.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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