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The Cotton Gin and Eli Whitney

Background on the Cotton Gin

By

The Cotton Gin and Eli Whitney

Cotton Gin

Mary Bellis
The cotton gin is a device for removing the seeds from cotton fiber. Simple devices for that purpose have been around for centuries, an East Indian machine called a charka was used to separate the seeds from the lint when the fiber was pulled through a set of rollers. The charka was designed to work with long-staple cotton, but American cotton is a short-staple cotton. The cottonseed in Colonial America was removed by hand, usually the work of slaves.

Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin

Eli Whitney's machine was the first to clean short-staple cotton. His cotton engine consisted of spiked teeth mounted on a boxed revolving cylinder which, when turned by a crank, pulled the cotton fiber through small slotted openings so as to separate the seeds from the lint -- a rotating brush, operated via a belt and pulleys, removed the fibrous lint from the projecting spikes.

The gins later became horse-drawn and water-powered gins and cotton production increased, along with lowered costs. Cotton soon became the number one selling textile.

Demand For Cotton Grows

After the invention of the cotton gin, the yield of raw cotton doubled each decade after 1800. Demand was fueled by other inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as the machines to spin and weave it and the steamboat to transport it. By mid-century America was growing three-quarters of the world's supply of cotton, most of it shipped to England or New England where it was manufactured into cloth. During this time tobacco fell in value, rice exports at best stayed steady, and sugar began to thrive, but only in Louisiana. At mid-century the South provided three-fifths of America's exports, most of it in cotton.

Modern Cotton Gins

More recently devices for removing trash, drying, moisturizing, fractioning fiber, sorting, cleaning, and baling in 218-kg (480-lb) bundles have been added to modern cotton gins. Using electric power and air-blast or suction techniques, highly automated gins can produce 14 metric tons (15 U.S. tons) of cleaned cotton an hour.

Continue > Patent For The Cotton Gin

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