The Cotton Gin


The Cotton Gin Essay, Research Paper

The Cotton Gin Dustin KersteinSection F1Cotton Gin In the late 1700 s the slave population in the United States had decreased. Before the invention of the cotton gin the South, which could only make money by farming, was loosing money because it didn t have a major crop to export to England and the North besides tobacco and rice. However, these crops could be grown elsewhere. Cotton was the key because it couldn t be grown in large amounts in other places, but only one type of cotton that could be cleaned easily. This was long-staple cotton. Another problem arose; long-staple cotton only could be grown along the coast. There was another strain of cotton that until then could not be cleaned easily so it wasn t worth growing. The cotton gin was the solution to this problem. With the invention of the cotton gin short stemmed cotton could be cleaned easily making cotton a valued export and it could be grown anywhere in the south. The era of the Cotton Kingdom began with this invention leading into an explosion in the necessity of slaves. The cotton gin was a machine that cleaned cotton, especially short-stemmed cotton. The cotton gin consisted of spiked teeth on a boxed revolving cylinder. When it was turned by a crank, the cotton fiber was pulled through small slotted openings to separate the seeds from the lint. While that was happening a rotating brush, operated by belts and pulleys, removed the ropy lint from the spikes. A machine had been invented before to clean long-staple cotton called a Charka. It was invented in Ancient India. Eli Whitney had no idea that a machine existed while he made his machine. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. Eli Whitney was an inventor and a mechanical engineer. He was born in Westboro, Mass. He went to Yale and graduated in 1792. He heard that a machine that could clean short-staple would help the south immensely. Also, he heard that it would make the inventor very wealthy. He liked that idea. On his way to Georgia he met Phineas Miller, Mrs. Greene and her children in New York. He took a ship with them from New Haven to Savannah, Georgia. On the way he got very seasick. To add to that the ship ran aground below Hell s Gate. Since he already used most of his money to take the boat he couldn t afford to take another. A few days later he joined several other passengers and took a wagon into the city. Once more he got sick but this time he came down with the small pox, a mild case though. Phineas Miller and Mrs. Greene took him to the doctor. After some rest he got better and was lucky enough to get some money from a friend. When he arrived in Mulberry Grove, Georgia he started thinking about plans for a machine to clean cotton. In only ten days he produced a small working model. The rest of the time was spent on perfecting it. There was one problem with the machine. When the cotton passed through the machine it got stuck at the end. One day he was sitting somewhere fiddling with the machine when he saw Mrs. Greene pull out a birdcage. This gave Eli Whitney the idea of metal wire to clean the cotton off the rollers.

Once he perfected the cotton gin he showed it to his friends and they were amazed. One gin with one man and one horse working it could easily produce 50 times one man could do by hand. As you could imagine it didn t take long for someone to tell other people. The word got out and some one broke into his lab and saw the machine. But no one could reproduce it. The reason why people couldn t produce it was that the people who did see it didn t have an enough to make a good replicate of it. Once he unveiled it, some one for $10,000 immediately bought it. Ten thousand dollars was a lot of money back then. It allowed him to pay off his debt and start to produce more gins. Bigger and better gins were made. Some were powered by man, some steam engines, and some were powered by water. Now all gins are powered by electricity. Eli Whitney made so much money he didn t have to work anymore but he chose to. In total he made about $90,000 on the cotton gin. He went on to create interchangeable parts and an assembly line. Once people knew about the cotton gin people started to move to the South and West. People came in flocks to start growing short-staple cotton. This was called the Cotton Kingdom. Eli Whitney made a major contribution to the United States by helping start the Industrial Revolution. People thought the cotton gin would create less of a demand for slavery since there were not as many people needed to clean the cotton. But that was wrong. Because short-stem cotton could be cleaned so easily there wasn t enough cotton to gin. So more slaves were bought to pick the cotton. The South was really happy since they were making more and more money. The North wanted more people to start buying goods from America not from Britain so they created a tariff on British goods so people would almost be forced to buy American made goods. Since there was less demand for British s goods, it would seem logical that Britain didn t need as much cotton from the south. The problem was that the South only had two markets that bought cotton from them, the North and Britain. Since Britain didn t need that much cotton at all, the South s only buyer was the North. So they were depending on the North to buy their goods. The North took advantage of this, since the South had no other way of making a substantial amount of money besides cotton farming. The North decided that they could haggle the price of cotton down low. This made the south very very mad. This and combined with the slave issue eventually led to the Civil War. The invention of the cotton gin helped speed up the growth of the United States, of course with the help of Eli Whitney who helped the United States in many other ways. As a result, cotton became the cheapest and most widely used textile fabric in the world.

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