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Cotton Gin

COTTON GIN

COTTON GIN, the implement or machine used to pull the cotton fibers from the seed. Each fiber grows from the seed like hairs from the head. There are two basic types—the black-seed cotton, from which the fibers pull away rather easily, and the green-seed cotton, from which it is difficult to free the fibers. North American colonists commonly used the roller gin, adapted from the "churka" of India, with which cotton fibers were pulled from the seed by hand-turned rollers. These implements could be used only to gin the Sea Island cotton, a black-seed type; the rollers crushed the green seeds and stained the fiber. But in the ever increasing inland acreage, only green-seed cotton could be grown, and this had to be ginned by hand.

In 1792 Eli Whitney, a Yale graduate then tutoring at an estate near Savannah, Georgia, found that many planters were interested in increasing their cotton production but were frustrated By the inefficiency of having to manually remove the seeds before the fiber could be baled for shipment. In a letter to his father (11 September 1793), Whitney wrote that if a machine "could be invented which would clean the Cotton with expedition, it would be a great thing both to the Country and to the inventor." In the same letter he boasted that his invention would "do more than fifty men with the old machines." Although the reference to "old machines" has been interpreted by some authors to mean the roller gins, it may not; there are unproven claims that Whitney had seen machines similar to his prior to his invention. Nevertheless, Eli Whitney was granted a patent on 14 March 1794 for a "new and useful improvement in the mode of Ginning Cotton." His machine used spiked teeth set into a wooden cylinder to pull the cotton fibers through the slots in a metal breastplate; the slots were too small to allow the seeds to pass through. A second cylinder with brushes freed the fibers from the teeth. Court cases involving competing patents for gins with sawtoothed cylinders were found in Whitney's favor; the saw pattern would eventually be preferred as the more efficient system of gin design.

Whitney and his partner, Phineas Miller, kept the cotton gin under their immediate control by selling ginning services, not machines. When a fire in their New Haven manufacturing shop delayed a shipment of gins, southern blacksmiths began making their own versions of the easily copied machine. After years of court suits, several southern states finally paid Whitney. He received almost $100,000 for the patent rights—a relatively modest amount for a patent that would increase cotton production in America from 3,000 bales in 1790 to more than 2 million bales By 1850. By 1836 cotton comprised two-thirds of all American exports. Patented improvements in the mechanization of the earlier roller gin began in the 1830s, and improvements in the saw gin continued throughout the nineteenth century, although the basic principle remained the same.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Britton, Karen G. Bale O'Cotton: The Mechanical Art of Cotton Ginning. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.

Nevins, Allan, and Jeannette Mirskey. The World of Eli Whitney. New York: MacMillan, 1952.

Grace R.Cooper/a. r.

See alsoAgricultural Machinery ; King Cotton .

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"Cotton Gin." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Cotton Gin." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cotton-gin

Cotton Gin

COTTON GIN


American inventor Eli Whitney (17651825) is credited with developing the cotton gin, a machine that removes cottonseeds from cotton fibers. A simple cotton gin (called the churka ) dates back to ancient India (300 b.c.). But Whitney's gin would prove to be far superior. In 1792 Whitney, who had recently graduated from Yale University, was visiting the Georgia plantation owned by Katherine Greene, widow of American Revolution hero General Nathaniel Greene (17421786). Whitney observed that short-staple (or upland) cotton, which has green seeds that are difficult to separate from the fiber, differs from long-staple (also called Sea Island) cotton, which has black seeds that are easily removed. The latter was the staple of American commerce at the time.

In 1793 Whitney, who is described as a mechanical genius, completed an invention that could be used to clean bolls of short-staple cotton of their seeds. He patented it the next year. The machine worked by turning a crank, which caused a cylinder covered with wire teeth to revolve; the teeth pulled the cotton fiber, carrying it through slots in the cylinder as it revolved; since the slots were too small for the seeds, they were left behind; a roller with brushes then removed the fibers from the wire teeth.

The cotton gin revolutionized the American textile industry which was then but a fledgling concern. The increase in the production of processed cotton was phenomenal. One large gin could process fifty times the cotton that a (slave) laborer could in a day. Soon plantations and farms were supplying huge amounts of cotton to textile mills in England and in the Northeast of the United States where in 1790 another inventor, British-born industrialist Samuel Slater, had built the first successful American water-powered machines for spinning cotton cloth. Together the inventions founded the American cotton industry. Whitney struggled to protect his patent. His problem was getting Southern courts to enforce his patent. The courts, dominated by plantation interests, refused in every case to uphold his patent.

For the southern slaves, Whitney's invention was a disaster. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin a consensus had prevailed that slavery would fade away. There were the moral objections to slavery (which, however, for the first 250 years of its existence in colonial and early republican America, never seemed to be quite persuasive enough to put an end to it). But there was also the fact that slavery was inefficient when applied to most kinds of agriculture or skilled production. Cotton, however, was a labor-intensive crop requiring large gangs of workers moving through the fields at different times in the growing cycle, planting, hoeing, and harvesting. With the invention of the "gin," cotton suddenly became a highly profitable cash crop. Although the Constitution had stipulated that the importation of slaves would end in 1808, now the price of slaves rose and the slave system was reinvigorated at the very time when it was being outlawed in most of the rest of the world.

See also: King Cotton, Samuel Slater, Slavery, Textile Industry

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"Cotton Gin." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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cotton gin

cotton gin, machine for separating cotton fibers from the seeds. The charkha, used in India from antiquity, consists of two revolving wooden rollers through which the fibers are drawn, leaving the seeds. A similar gin was early used in the S United States for long-staple cotton. In the modern roller gin, rollers covered with rough leather draw out the fibers, which are cut off by a fixed knife pressed against the rollers. This type of gin cleans only about two bales per day, but it does not snarl or break the fibers. The saw gin, invented by the American inventor Eli Whitney in 1793 and patented in 1794, consisted of a toothed cylinder revolving against a grate that enclosed the seed cotton. The teeth caught the fibers, pulling them from the seeds; the fibers were then removed from the cylinder by a revolving brush. This device, especially suited to short- and medium-staple cotton, has been mechanized and is used in commercial plants that are also called gins, where the fiber is conveyed from farm wagon to baler by air suction. Such plants have one or more gin stands, each with a series of from 70 to 80 circular saws set on a shaft. The fibers, freed from dirt and hulls, are pulled through a grid by the saw teeth to remove the seeds. The fibers are removed from the saw teeth by a revolving brush or by a blast of air (in more modern plants) and are then carried by air blast or suction to a condenser and finally to the baling apparatus.

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"cotton gin." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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cotton gin

cotton gin Machine for separating cotton lint from seeds, a task previously done by hand. The gin, patented in 1794 by Eli Whitney, could clean more than 20kg (50lb) per day. It contributed to the prosperity of US cotton plantations and to the industrialization of the textile industry.

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"cotton gin." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"cotton gin." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cotton-gin

cotton gin

cot·ton gin • n. a machine for separating cotton from its seeds.

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"cotton gin." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"cotton gin." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cotton-gin