Cotton Gin

Essay by hamlet06902College, UndergraduateA+, February 2004

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Not long after listening to the growers speak of their troubles, Whitney began to experiment and arrived at his basic design of the cotton gin. This machine was created to ease the tremendous burdens of those who labored to pick the seeds from the cotton. Many labored under difficult conditions, and even under good conditions, one could manage to clean only one pound of the crop a day.With his invention, Whitney made it possible to clean fifty pounds per day.

Whitney had arrived at a basic design: a cylinder, through which the cotton was fed, with wire teeth. The raw cotton from the field could be fed through the cylinder and as it spun round, the teeth would pass through small slits in a piece of wood, pulling the fibers of the cotton all the way through but leaving the unwanted seeds behind.

This crudely made box, with a cylinder, a crank, and a row of saw-like teeth had made it possible to clean fifty times more cotton than could be cleaned by hand.

It is said to have begun the Industrial Revolution, and made an immediate impact upon American industry.


Whitney's cotton gin, with the help of a few men, or mules, cleaned more cotton in a matter of minutes than a team of men could do in an entire day. With the adaptation of James Watt's steam engine to drive the gin, the process became entirely mechanized, leading to a whole new industrial frontier in America.

The largest result of this mechanization was the tumultuous increase in cotton production, which helped to revive a badly lagging economy in the Deep South. Once again farmers and growers were finding profits, thanks to this labor and...