While machines made to remove the seeds from long-staple cotton have been around for over 1500 years, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was the first to separate the seeds from the fibers of short-staple cotton. Eli Whitney was born in Westborough, Massachusetts in 1765 and grew up to have great mechanical skill. Growing up, young Eli Whitney built several things and even started a nail-making business during the American Revolution when he was just fourteen years old. After the war, business for nails went down, so he and his assistant began manufacturing hatpins. He knew how to adapt to changes in the market of his industry (Huff 12). As he got older, he began teaching at a grammar school in 1783 until he began attending Yale College in 1789 (Carlson). Later in his career, he pioneered the use of interchangeable parts in firearms manufacturing. The government contracted him to make 10,000 muskets in 1798, and later another 15,000 muskets in 1812.
Before the advent of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, plantations in the Antebellum South experimented with several crops in attempt to gain wealth, but nothing seemed to work. The climate was too hot for tobacco, yet not hot enough for sugar cane (Huff 36). Both long-staple and short- staple cotton were experimented, but were found unable to be prof...
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...g life they would have experienced back home. The nation soon became split between rural farmers in the South and city-dwelling industrial workers of the North. These cultural differences between the Northern and Southern United States would eventually lead to the Civil War (Huff 64).
Even though the cotton gin did not bring in a whole lot of money for Eli Whitney, he was still a successful inventor and manufacturer until he died in 1825 at the age of 59. The invention of the cotton gin revolutionized the way cotton was produced in the Antebellum South as well as helped the textile industry in New England blossom. Needless to say, the cotton gin is perhaps the most influential invention of the 19th century, making cotton the major cash crop of the South, making a need for more slave labor on southern plantations, and indirectly causing the American Civil War.
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