During the late part of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Cotton Gin revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States.
The cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney in 1793 and was issued a patent in 1794 just one year later. It was created to speed up the extraction process of cotton seeds from the fiber and was able to replace the labor of about 50 men or women that had originally been needed to complete the tasks at hand.
This invention made the cotton industry much more profitable than it had ever been before, which, in turn, led to an increased number of cotton plantations throughout the southern part of the United States and increased the size of the existing cotton populations throughout the South. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the cotton gin replaced the work of several human beings that would be needed, it actually led to an increase in the number of slaves that were brought over from Africa since there was more labor needed to grow and pick cotton on a more massive scale when it came to the cotton industry.
What Does the Cotton Gin Do and How Does it Work?
Before the cotton Gin was invented, workers had to separate the cotton fibers from the seeds of the cotton plant by hand which meant it was very labor-focused. The cotton gin sported a wooden drum that was flanked by very small hooks that turned behind a mesh type of cloth. As the drum turns, the hooks then pull the cotton through the mesh which is large enough for the cotton to be able to move freely through it but small enough to keep the seeds out.
By the middle of the 19th century, cotton was the number one export for the United States which, in turn, increased the wealth of plantation owners quite considerably.
Read on for some more detailed facts about the cotton gin.
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The cotton gin was given the official patent number of 72-X in 1794. During that period, a patent was only granted for 14 years at a time, while in today’s world, patents are good for two decades before they have to be renewed.
The cotton gin was able to churn out about 50 pounds of lint each day. This was a definite boom to the industry since earlier designs of the cotton gin had to be turned by hand, but the much larger machines were powered by horses or steam and could produce a lot more cotton with at least 50 fewer people being involved in the process.
‘Gin’ Means the Engine
The word ‘gin’ when it comes to cotton gin is actually another word for the engine of the machine.
Use of the Cotton Seeds
The seeds from the cotton plants were not wasted since, once they were removed from the content lent, they were utilized in processes to create cotton seed oil or even to replant in the fields to grow more cotton plants.
Eli Whitney was not the Only Inventor
It is believed that inventor Eli Whitney only created the prototype for the cotton gin while input for the idea came from a woman named Catherine Littlefield, as well as slaves. Eli Whitney had to apply for the patent because, back in that time period, women or slaves were excluded from being allowed to file a patent.
The Other Partner
Eli Whitney had a business partner named Phineas Miller and they were forced to fight more than one expensive legal battle against farmers who refused to pay Whitney two-fifths of the profit from their farms each year. There was a legal loophole that existed during that time that allowed farmers to make similar machines and claim them as new inventions, which meant Eli Whitney did not make very much money off of his invention. That particular loophole was closed in the 1800s, although legal battles raged on for many years.
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