Eli Whitney And The Cotton Gin

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Eli Whitney was born in December 1765 to a wealthy farm family in Massachusetts. As a teenager, he became a well-known handyman in his home town by fixing items, such as violins and watches. Then, he opened his own business that originally manufactured nails, but it soon blossomed into other products, such as canes and hatpins. Hatpins are a device that is used to hold a woman's hat on her head. When he was 24, he decided that he wanted to better himself financially, so he enrolled into law school in 1789. In order to pay for his education at Yale, he accepted a job as a tutor in South Carolina. He met the widow of a Revolutionary War Hero, General Nathanael Greene. Whitney accepted her invitation and visited her plantation. While at…show more content…
The machine was powered by a hand crank that turned two cylinders with teeth on it. One cylinder would separate the seeds from the cotton and the other cylinder would pull the cotton into a separate compartment (Whitney, 2014). It was important to separate the seeds into a different compartment because they also had economic value, but nowhere in comparison to that of cotton. The seeds were used in cottonseed oil that was used in the production of candy, cooking, cattle feed and paper (Woods, 2009).
The cotton gin was an easy concept, but the world, at this time, did not think to have machines and technology solve problems like many individuals do in the 21st century. Eli Whitney's cotton gin was the first technology to do that. Before the cotton gin, individuals, mainly slaves, could only separate a pound of cotton in a span of ten hours. After the invention of the gin, a team of two or three people could produce fifty pounds of cotton within the same time (Woods, 2009). This created a boom in the amount of cotton produced, especially since cotton naturally grows well in the Southeastern United States. Between 1790 and 1850, the production of cotton had increased by 1,000-fold and by 1850, the United States was exporting two-thirds of the world's cotton supply. For the United States, cotton represented three-fifths of all American exports (Woods,
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The largest social problem was the rise of slavery. Slavery was on the decline until the invention of the cotton gin. It was becoming more economical to get rid of slaves and just do the work yourself, but with the increased efficiency of cotton harvesting, there was a larger demand for slaves. Also, the cotton gin made it more economical to have larger plantations, which increased the demand for slaves despite the quicker more efficient process. This is why slavery was so much more common in the South than the North. The South had large plantations that require physical labor compared to the North where machines could aid in the production process, such as the power loom (Woods,
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