HistoryWired About the Program Help Comments Smithsonian Institution
Back to Map

Enlarge
Audio

"Pick a Bale of Cotton"
From Get on Board: Negro Folksongs by the Folkmasters
© Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin
1790s

Beginning the cotton boom
This model was used to demonstrate Eli Whitney's cotton gin. The hand crank moved the cotton to the sawtooth wheels, which pulled the fiber through wire slots, separating it from the seeds that fell into the bottom of the gin. Brushes moved the cotton and cleaned it off the sawteeth. There had been gins before Whitney's, but, unlike his, none could handle the short staple cotton that many of the southern states raised most easily. Whitney's offered major labor savings over the costs of separating the seeds from the cotton fiber by hand. Indeed, his device has been credited with turning cotton production into a prosperous business and with fastening slavery upon the South.

Notes
Patented March 14, 1797
Eli Whitney, born December 8, 1765, Westboro, MA.; died January 8, 1825, New Haven, CT.
Web display only

Learn more!
· Eli Whitney's Patent Failure
· American Cotton Culture
· "Pick a Bale of Cotton"

What do you think?
Would you like to see more objects like this on the site? Tell others by casting your vote.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Fewer More


Start HistoryWired | About the Program | Help | Comments

Smithsonian Institution | Terms of Use | Privacy