Cotton Gin

What does Cotton Gin mean?

On March 14, 1794, Eli Whitney patented his invention of a machine that could take seeds out of cotton. Although one of the most important hardware developments in the history of cotton textiles, Whitney’s gin invention was pirated and this put Whitney’s company out of business by 1796.

Heddels explains Cotton Gin

The cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry. Thomas Jefferson considered it to be one of the most valuable inventions in America’s history. Whitney came up with the simple idea of removing the fibers from the seeds rather than the other way around. Wire hooks in a cylinder pulled the valuable cotton fiber through a mesh sieve, leaving the undesired seeds behind. Operated by a crank, Whitney’s gin was fifty times faster than cleaning cotton by hand.

Its creation largely increased the production of cotton in the United States. In 1793, before the cotton gin, the South exported 487,000 pounds of cotton to England. By 1805, it was exporting 40 million pounds. To date, no one has developed a better cotton gin than Whitney’s. Minor improvements have been made; however, the mechanics of the modern gin are essentially the same as Whitney’s original gin.

Additional Resources

The original cotton gin:

Raw Denim Term - Cotton Gin


Overview of the development and impact of the cotton gin: