Home  |  Site Map
INPEX - The Invention New Product Exposition

Eli Whitney

Inventor of the Cotton Gin

Eli Whitney

If some people are born with the natural ability to invent, Eli Whitney certainly was one of them. From a young age, Whitney had an innate understanding of machinery. The Yale graduate would later use this talent to invent the Cotton Gin, a mechanical device that transformed the economy of the pre-civil-war South.

When inventor Eli Whitney arrived in the South in 1793, only green seed cotton could be grown inland. Problem was: the process of removing seeds from the cotton was extremely laborious. So Whitney devised a machine that automatically separated the seeds from cotton much faster than people could with their hands (in only one hour, Whitney's invention de-seeded a day's worth of cotton). When word got out about the Cotton Gin, plantation owners began planting as much green seed cotton as the land would allow.

Though Whitney received a patent for his cotton gin invention in 1794, by that time the invention was being pirated and used all over the country. Ultimately, Whitney left the South with very little to show for the invention that had made croppers millions. However, upon his return to the North, he re-invented American manufacturing with the idea of mass production.

***Despite the important invention of the Cotton Gin, a couple of dark clouds still shroud this innovation. First, some people claim Catherine Littlefield Green actually invented the Cotton Gin or at least conceived the idea. Second, many historians believe that this invention allowed for the slavery system in the Southern U.S. to become more sustainable.

For more information on Eli Whitney and the invention of the Cotton Gin, please visit:

Eli Whitney Museum & Workshop

Inventor of the Week: Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney's Patent for the Cotton Gin