On 28 October 1793, American inventor Eli Whitney applied for a patent for the first modern cotton gin. The cotton gin–short for “Cotton Engine”–was a machine that pulled the fibers out of picked cotton, leaving just the cotton seeds. Cotton fibers were used to make clothing, flags, et cetera. Whitney’s machine was helpful because, without it, people would have to hand pick the seeds out of the cotton balls which was time consuming. Many people have invented such cotton machines, but none were as efficient and useful as Whitney’s.
This invention would eventually change America for the worse and play a role in the civil war. But before it did that, it boosted America’s slow economy. The cotton gin allowed the creation of many textile factories and shipping points to ship cotton products all over the world and of course across the country.
The negative would slowly build up in the South. The Southern states supplied two-thirds of the world’s cotton; allowing those states to have one cash crop and become richer. Cotton production expanded from 750,000 bales in 1830 to 2.85 million bales in 1850; while slave count rose in the south to 3.3 million by 1850.
All this led to the South rebelling in fear of losing the millions of slaves who were the driving force of their profits and the entire southern economy. That is why this cotton gin was a major cause in the factors that led to the Civil War, and an important part of world history as well as American history.
Photo Caption: Cotton Engine developed by Eli Whitney. (top) “First Cotton Gin” from Harper’s Weekly, 18 December 1869. This is a rolling gin; not the Whitney gin. (bottom)
I am 18 years old and this is my sophomore year at Schoolcraft College. I plan to transfer to Michigan State University by next fall in pursuit of a Bachelors and Masters degree in world politics; possibly even a Ph.D. My interests include politics, history, football, and soccer. I enjoy hanging out with friends and just enjoying life whenever I have time between work, school, and my family.