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Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney


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Eli Whitney was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, on December 8, 1765. While still in his teens, he developed a shop on his father's farm where he produced nails and other small items difficult to obtain during the American Revolution. He entered Yale during his twenties and received his degree in 1792.Eli Whitney next went to Georgia in hopes of finding employment as a tutor. Cotton production was not, therefore, economically viable in the South.In a letter to his father on September 11, 1793, Whitney described the process that led to his most famous invention:

In about ten Days I made a little model, for which I was offered, if I would give up all right and title to it, a Hundred Guineas. I concluded to relinquish my school and turn my attention to perfecting the Machine. I made one before I came away which required the labor of one man to turn it and with which one man will clean ten times as much cotton as he can in any other way before known and also cleanse it much better than in the usual mode. This machine may be turned by water or with a horse, with the greatest ease, and one man and a horse will do more than fifty men with the old machines. It makes the labor fifty times less, without throwing any class of People out of business.

Whitney had devised a cotton gin (short for engine), which mechanically separated seed from fiber. This improvement altered the Southern economy by making it profitable to raise and process cotton. Whitney formed a partnership with Phineas Miller, Mrs. Greene’s foreman (and later her husband). A patent was awarded for the machine in 1794, but the concept was simple and easily imitated. As a result, pirated versions of the gin were common and provided him no income. Attempts to enforce his patent rights in court were expensive and unproductive. Disappointed and bitter, Whitney returned to New England in 1798.During that year, Whitney won a contract from the federal government for the production of 10,000 military muskets. The key to his winning bid was the development of a reliable process for manufacturing interchangeable firing mechanism parts. He called this his "uniformity system." The inspiration came from techniques that Whitney had developed in the manufacture of his cotton gin.The objective of Whitney's strategy was for machines to produce parts, each of which had a tight enough tolerance that it could be used with other parts to assemble a whole product without manual labor to file and fit. The process was easier to describe than execute, and the government officials in charge of Whitney's contract were obliged to wait until 1809 for the final delivery of the 10,000th musket, despite a stipulation in the contract for delivery in 1800. They correctly understood that this process would be critical to America's need to defend itself.Some of the aspects of Whitney's "uniformity system" may have existed earlier and he may have been aware of some French processes before devising his own. Nevertheless, he brought many ideas together and advanced the acceptance of his manufacturing concepts. The standardization of interchangeable parts was a major contribution to the development of American industry.Whitney died at New Haven, Connecticut, on Jan 8, 1825.


Eli Whitney's Patent for the Cotton Gin

As Eli Whitney left New England and headed South in 1792, he had no idea that within the next seven months he would invent a machine that would profoundly alter the course of American history. A recent graduate of Yale, Whitney had given some thought to becoming a lawyer. But, like many college graduates of today, he had debts to repay first and needed a job. Reluctantly, he left his native Massachusetts to assume the position of private tutor on a plantation in Georgia.

There Whitney quickly learned that Southern planters were in desperate need of a way to make the growing of cotton profitable. Long-staple cotton, which was easy to separate from its seeds, could be grown only along the coast. The one variety that grew inland had sticky green seeds that were time-consuming to pick out of the fluffy white cotton bolls. Whitney was encouraged to find a solution to this problem by his employer, Catherine Greene, whose support, both moral and financial were critical to this effort. At stake was the success of cotton planting throughout the South, especially important at a time when tobacco was declining in profit due to over-supply and soil exhaustion.

Whitney knew that if he could invent such a machine, he could apply to the federal government for a patent. If granted, he would have exclusive rights to his invention for 14 years (today it is 20 years), and he could hope to reap a handsome profit from it.

The Constitution and Patent Law

In Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 , the Constitution empowers Congress "To promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Patent law must carefully balance the rights of the inventor to profit from his or her invention (through the grant of a temporary monopoly) against the needs of society at large to benefit from new ideas.

The patent bill of 1790 enabled the government to patent "any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any instrument thereon not before known or used." The patent act of 1793 gave the secretary of state the power to issue a patent to anyone who presented working drawings, a written description, a model, and paid an application fee. Over time the requirements and procedures have changed. Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is under the auspices of the Commerce Department.

Eli Whitney Patents His Cotton Gin

In hopes of making a patentable machine, Whitney put aside his plans to study law and instead tinkered throughout the winter and spring in a secret workshop provided by Catherine Greene. Within months he created the cotton gin. A small gin could be hand-cranked larger versions could be harnessed to a horse or driven by water power. "One man and a horse will do more than fifty men with the old machines," wrote Whitney to his father. . . . "Tis generally said by those who know anything about it, that I shall make a Fortune by it."

But patenting an invention and making a profit from it are two different things. After considering possible options, Whitney and his business partner, Phineas Miller, opted to produce as many gins as possible, install them throughout Georgia and the South, and charge farmers a fee for doing the ginning for them. Their charge was two-fifths of the profit -- paid to them in cotton itself.

And here, all their troubles began. Farmers throughout Georgia resented having to go to Whitney's gins where they had to pay what they regarded as an exorbitant tax. Instead planters began making their own versions of Whitney's gin and claiming they were "new" inventions. Miller brought costly suits against the owners of these pirated versions but because of a loophole in the wording of the 1793 patent act, they were unable to win any suits until 1800, when the law was changed.

Struggling to make a profit and mired in legal battles, the partners finally agreed to license gins at a reasonable price. In 1802 South Carolina agreed to purchase Whitney's patent right for $50,000 but delayed in paying it. The partners also arranged to sell the patent rights to North Carolina and Tennessee. By the time even the Georgia courts recognized the wrongs done to Whitney, only one year of his patent remained. In 1808 and again in 1812 he humbly petitioned Congress for a renewal of his patent.

The Effects of the Cotton Gin

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 midcentury 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 midcentury the South provided three-fifths of America's exports -- most of it in cotton.

However, like many inventors, Whitney (who died in 1825) could not have foreseen the ways in which his invention would change society for the worse. The most significant of these was the growth of slavery. While it was true that the cotton gin reduced the labor of removing seeds, it did not reduce the need for slaves to grow and pick the cotton. In fact, the opposite occurred. Cotton growing became so profitable for the planters that it greatly increased their demand for both land and slave labor. In 1790 there were six slave states in 1860 there were 15. From 1790 until Congress banned the importation of slaves from Africa in 1808, Southerners imported 80,000 Africans. By 1860 approximately one in three Southerners was a slave.

Because of the cotton gin, slaves now labored on ever-larger plantations where work was more regimented and relentless. As large plantations spread into the Southwest, the price of slaves and land inhibited the growth of cities and industries. In the 1850s seven-eighths of all immigrants settled in the North, where they found 72% of the nation's manufacturing capacity. The growth of the "peculiar institution" was affecting many aspects of Southern life.

Epilogue

While Eli Whitney is best remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin, it is often forgotten that he was also the father of the mass production method. In 1798 he figured out how to manufacture muskets by machine so that the parts were interchangeable. It was as a manufacturer of muskets that Whitney finally became rich. If his genius led King Cotton to triumph in the South, it also created the technology with which the North won the Civil War.

For Further Reading

Caney, Steven. Steven Caney's Invention Book. New York: Workman Publishers, 1985. (Interesting case histories.)

Green, Constance M. Eli Whitney and the Birth of American Technology. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Educational Publishers, 1965. (Still available in paper.)

Mirsky, Jeannette and Allan Nevins. The World of Eli Whitney. New York: Macmillan Co., 1952.

Murphy, Jim. Weird and Wacky Inventions. New York: Crown Publishers, 1978. (Includes drawings of unusual inventions submitted to the Patent Office with clues to aid the reader in guessing the invention.)

The Documents

National Archives and Records Administration
Records of the United States House of Representatives
Record Group 233
National Archives Identifier: 306631

National Archives and Records Administration
Records of the Patent and Trademark Office
Record Group 241
National Archives Identifier: 305886

Article Citation

This article was written by Joan Brodsky Schur, a teacher at Village Community School, in New York, NY.


The History of the Assembly Line and Interchangeable Parts

The Industrial Revolution radically changed every aspect of daily life, and exploded the average income and population to exponential rates. Two of the forefathers of the Industrial Revolution include: Eli Whitney, the inventor of the Cotton Gin and the concept of interchangeable parts, and Henry Ford, the late great automobile pioneer who created the first continuous moving assembly line. In fact, these two pioneers changed the way manufacturing was conducted in the past to the formidable economic force of today. Interchangeable parts made manufacturing a faster process, whereby identical parts from a master design were used to create an unlimited number of replicas. This revolutionized the handcrafted production humanity was accustomed to since the dawn of civilization. The assembly line allowed for the sequential manufacturing of certain products in a continuous fashion. The Industrial Revolution would have never succeeded without these core concepts to fuel trade and essentially explode economic growth world-wide.

Eli Whitney, an American inventor most notably known for the cotton gin, was one of the leading pioneers of the Industrial Revolution. The cotton gin, a machine that separates cotton fiber from its seeds, was one of the most influential inventions during the late 1700s to early 1800s. In fact, the cotton gin exploded the economy of the antebellum south by skyrocketing the profitability of cotton. As a result of this strong economic foundation, the exploitation of African Americans through slavery allowed for a rapid increase of production.

Eli Whitney was an advocate for interchangeable parts, identical pieces used to manufacture mechanical devices on a massive scale. Interchangeable parts allowed for easy assembly of new gadgets and repair of existing products. One custom-designed part can replace another without re-fitting its grooves. Interchangeability aided in the explosion of the assembly line that would become the foundation of modern manufacturing.

Henry Ford, a pioneer of the American Revolution and founder of the Ford Motor Company, sponsored and developed the earliest assembly line technique composed in mass production. Henry Ford combined Whitney's concept of interchangeable parts to create a continuous flow of mass production known as the assembly line. Henry Ford's Model T automobile changed the face of the transportation industry. In fact, Ford's concept of continuous assembly line production was coined &ldquoFordism&rdquo among other industrialists. &ldquoFordism&rdquo was composed of the concept of assembly line mass production coupled with high wages for factory workers. Henry Ford's global vision garnered him the respect of those around the world. His determination for modernity, quality goods at cheap production prices, and high wages for workers makes him one of the most influential businessmen in human history.

The Industrial Revolution imparted rapid economic growth between nations that has exploded into the massive global trade market of the modern era. Manufacturing has grown at an exponential rate since the inception of the assembly line and interchangeable parts. Albeit, negative social and class situations developed out of this industrial explosion, it serves to show that mankind has the ability to revolutionize how we survive by extending our thumbprint through innovation. Manufacturing still faces a major shift in how we conduct our business affairs, which leads to exceeding hope for future pioneers and innovators who wish to take after the ingenious developers of the 20 th century.

Follow these links for more information on the origin of the assembly line and interchangeable parts:


Eli Whitney’s Impressive Display

In 1797, when Congress voted to prepare the nation for war with France, including the appropriation of a large amount of funds for new weapons, the young inventor Eli Whitney𠄺lready known for his invention of the cotton gin in 1794–seized an opportunity to try to make his fortune. In mid-1798, he obtained a government contract to manufacture 10,000 muskets within an extraordinarily short time frame of less than two years.

By January 1801, Whitney had failed to produce a single one of the promised weapons, and was called to Washington to justify his use of Treasury funds before a group that included outgoing president John Adams and Jefferson, now the president-elect. As the story goes, Whitney put on a display for the group, assembling muskets before their eyes by choosing (seemingly at random) from a supply of parts he brought with him. The performance earned Whitney widespread renown and renewed federal support. It was later proven, however, that Whitney’s demonstration was a fake, and that he had marked the parts beforehand and they were not exactly interchangeable. Still, Whitney received credit for what Jefferson claimed was the dawn of the machine age.


Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney was born in Westboro, Mass., on Dec. 8, 1765. He took an early interest in mechanical work. Although he worked on his father's farm, he preferred his father's shop, where, by the age of 15, he was engaged part-time in making nails for sale. He taught school to earn money to continue his education and graduated from Yale College in 1792.

It was Whitney's intention to study law, and he undertook to tutor children on a plantation near Savannah, Ga., to support himself. In Georgia he attracted a great deal of attention by inventing a number of domestic contrivances for his hostess. He was informed of the need for a machine to clean green-seed cotton. Cotton gins of various designs were then in use in different parts of the world, and models had been imported and tried in Louisiana as early as 1725. None had ever worked well, however, and when Whitney arrived in Georgia, cleaning was still a hand job. It took a slave a full day to clean one pound of cotton. Whitney set his hand to the problem and within ten days had produced a design for a gin. By April 1793 he had made one which cleaned 50 pounds a day.

Whitney went into partnership in May 1793 with Phineas Miller and returned to New England to build his gins. He received a patent for his machine in March 1794, by which time word of his design had spread and imitations were already on the market. It was the initial hope of Whitney and Miller to operate the gins themselves, thus cornering the cotton market, but a lack of capital and the large number of pirated machines made this impossible. Whitney took infringers to court, but he lost his first case, in 1797, and it was to be ten years before he won decisively and was able to establish his right to the machine.

During this decade of frustration and financial uncertainty, Whitney turned to the manufacture of small arms as a way of repairing his fortune and saving his reputation. He signed his first contract with the Federal government on June 14, 1798, and promised to deliver 4,000 arms by the end of September 1799 and another 6,000 a year later. Whitney had no factory and no workmen, knew nothing about making guns, and had thus far been unable even to manufacture in quantity the relatively simple cotton gins. The inducement for him was that the government agreed to advance him $5,000.

Judged by the terms of the contract, however, Whitney was a failure. He had no idea of how to go about fulfilling his obligation, and indeed he delivered his first 500 guns in 1801, three years late. The last guns were not delivered to the government until January 1809, almost nine years late. By this time the government had advanced him over $131,000. He died in New Haven, Conn., on Jan 8, 1825.

Whitney's claims of novel methods of production have led many scholars to assume that he had worked out and applied what came to be called the American system of manufactures. By this method, machines were substituted for hand labor, parts were made uniform, and production was speeded up. Thus it became possible to dispense with the skilled but expensive master craftsmen required previously.

This idea was not a new one. The Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem had used such a system in the 1720s, but no one had carried on his work. By 1799 the government armory at Springfield, Mass., had cut the number of man-days needed to make a musket from 21 to 9 through the use of machines.

The question thus becomes: where did Whitney fit into this growing concept of the American system? We know practically nothing of what went on within his armory. The records show that he tried to hire workmen away from the Springfield Armory to build machines for him. We know also that in a recent test of Whitney muskets not all their parts were in fact interchangeable and that some parts were not even approximately the same size. The answer then must be that Whitney was only one of a number of men who, about 1800, began to experiment with a relatively new and potentially revolutionary method of production— mass manufacture, by special-purpose machines, of products made up of uniform and interchangeable parts.


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Eli Whitney Jr. (1765 – 1825)

Whitney was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, on December 8, 1765, the eldest child of Eli Whitney Sr., a prosperous farmer. His mother, Elizabeth Fay of Westborough, died when he was 11.At age 14 he operated a profitable nail manufacturing operation in his father’s workshop during the Revolutionary War. Whitney worked as a farm laborer and schoolteacher to save money. He prepared for Yale at Leicester Academy (now Becker College) and under the tutelage of Rev. Elizur Goodrich of Durham, Connecticut, he entered the Class of 1789, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1792.Whitney expected to study law but, finding himself short of funds, accepted an offer to go to South Carolina as a private tutor. Instead of reaching his destination, he was convinced to visit Georgia. In the closing years of the 18th century, Georgia was a magnet for New Englanders seeking their fortunes (its Revolutionary-era governor had been Lyman Hall, a migrant from Connecticut). When he initially sailed for South Carolina, among his shipmates were the widow and family of Revolutionary hero, Gen. Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island. Mrs. Greene invited Whitney to visit her Georgia plantation, Mulberry Grove. Her plantation manager and husband-to-be was Phineas Miller, another Connecticut migrant and Yale graduate (Class of 1785), who would become Whitney’s business partner. Whitney is most famous for two innovations which later divided the United States in the mid-19th century: the cotton gin (1793) and his advocacy of interchangeable parts. In the South, the cotton gin revolutionized the way cotton was harvested and reinvigorated slavery. In the North the adoption of interchangeable parts revolutionized the manufacturing industry, and contributed greatly to their victory in the Civil War.

Though Whitney is popularly credited with the invention of a musket that could be manufactured with interchangeable parts, the idea predated him. The idea is credited to Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, a French artillerist, and credits for finally perfecting the “armory system,” or American system of manufacturing, is given by historian Merritt Roe Smith to Captain John H. Hall and by historian Diana Muir writing in Reflections in Bullough’s Pond to Simeon North. By the late 1790s, Whitney was on the verge of bankruptcy and the cotton gin litigation had left him deeply in debt. His New Haven cotton gin factory had burned to the ground, and litigation sapped his remaining resources. The French Revolution had ignited new conflicts between Great Britain, France,and the United States. The new American government, realizing the need to prepare for war, began to rearm. The War Department issued contracts for the manufacture of 10,000 muskets. Whitney, who had never made a gun in his life, obtained a contract in January 1798 to deliver 10,000 – 15,000 muskets in 1800. He had not mentioned interchangeable parts at that time. Ten months later, Treasury Secretary Wolcott sent him a “foreign pamphlet on arms manufacturing techniques,” possibly one of Honoré Blanc’s reports, after which Whitney first began to talk about interchangeability. After spending most of 1799-1801 in cotton gin litigation, Whitney began promoting the idea of interchangeable parts, and even arranged a public demonstration of the concept in order to gain time. He did not deliver on the contract until 1809, he then spent the rest of his life publicizing the idea of interchangeability. Whitney’s defenders have claimed that he invented the American system of manufacturing, the combination of power machinery, interchangeable parts and division of labor that would underlie the nation’s subsequent industrial revolution. While there is persuasive evidence that he failed to achieve interchangeability, his use of power machinery and specialized division of labor are well documented.

Machine tool historian Joseph W. Roe credited Whitney with inventing the first milling machine. Subsequent work by other historians (Woodbury, Smith, Muir) suggests that Whitney was among a group of contemporaries all developing milling machines at about the same time (1814 to 1818). Therefore, no one person can properly be described as the inventor of the milling machine.

His 1817 marriage to Henrietta Edwards, granddaughter of the famed evangelist Jonathan Edwards, daughter of Pierpont Edwards, head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, and first cousin of Yale’s president, Timothy Dwight, the state’s leading Federalist, further tied him to Connecticut’s ruling elite. In a business dependent on government contracts, such connections were essential to success.


The assembly line has long been considered one of the greatest innovations of the 20th century. It has shaped the industrial world so strongly that businesses that did not adopt the practice soon became extinct, and it was one of the key factors that helped integrate the automobile into American society.

The Early Assembly Line Concept

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, manufactured goods were usually made by hand with individual workers taking expertise in one portion of a product. Each expert would create his own part of the item with simple tools. After each component was crafted they would be brought together to complete the final product.

As early as the 12th century, workers in the Venetian Arsenal produced ships by moving them down a canal where they were fitted with new parts at each stop. During its most successful time, the Venetian Arsenal could complete one ship each day.

Eli Whitney and Interchangeable Parts

With the start of the Industrial Revolution, machines began to perform work that once required human hands. With the use of machines, factories sprang up to replace small craft shops. This change was made possible by the concept of interchangeable parts, an innovation designed by Eli Whitney.

The concept of interchangeable parts first took ground in the firearms industry when French gunsmith Honoré LeBlanc promoted the idea of using standardized gun parts. Before this, firearms were made individually by hand, thus each weapon was unique and could not be easily fixed if broken. Fellow gunsmiths realized the effect LeBlanc’s idea could have on their custom creations and the concept failed to catch on. Another European craftsman had similar ideas. Naval engineer Samuel Bentham, from England, used uniform parts in the production of wooden pulleys for ships.

It wasn’t until Eli Whitney introduced the idea in the United States that the practice took off. He was able to use a large unskilled work force and standardized equipment to produce large numbers of identical gun parts at a low cost, within a short amount of time. It also made repair and parts replacement more suitable.

Ransom Olds

Ransom Olds created and patented the assembly line in 1901. Switching to this process allowed his car manufacturing company to increase output by 500 percent in one year. The Curved Dash model was able to be produced at an exceptionally high rate of 20 units per day.

The Oldsmobile brand then had the ability to create a vehicle with a low price, simple assembly and stylish features. Their car was the first to be produced in large quantities. Olds’ assembly line method was the first to be used in the automotive industry and served as the model for which Henry Ford created his own.

Henry Ford improved upon the assembly line concept by using the moving platforms of a conveyor system. In this system the chassis of the vehicle was towed by a rope that moved it from station to station in order to allow workers to assemble each part.

Using this method, the Model T could be produced every ninety minutes, or totaling nearly two million units in one of their best years. Often credited as the father of the assembly line, he would be more appropriately referred to as the father of automotive mass production.

Mass Production and the Robotic Age

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, engineers around the world experimented with robotics as a means of industrial development. General Motors installed its own robotic arm to assist in the assembly line in 1961. In 1969, Stanford engineer Victor Scheinman created the Stanford Arm, a 6-axis robot that could move and assemble parts in a continuous repeated pattern. This invention expanded robot use in ways that continue to be applied in modern assembly. At Philips Electronics factory in the Netherlands, production is completed by a number of robot arms assigned to specific tasks.

Today robotics are reaching a completely new level of sophistication. Companies like Rethink Robotics are striving to develop adaptive manufacturing robots that can work next to humans these robots would help to improve efficiency and increase productivity. Rethink Robotics especially is working on making their robots low-cost and user-friendly. Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robot, originally launched in 2012, is being upgraded all the time.

Unbounded Robotics recently launched a robot called UBR-1, with manipulation, intelligence, and mobility for under $50k. It is being offered to universities as a research platform, similar to Baxter, but mobile. The one-armed robot can do human-scale tasks and offers advanced software and state-of-the-art hardware. Unbounded Robotics has been taking orders for UBR-1 and plans to start shipping this summer.

Lest anyone think that robotics are not cost-effective and that they will replace humans in the workplace, it should be said that in fact, robots like Baxter operate at about $3 per hour and that three to five million new jobs will be created this decade due to the creation of Baxter and other co-robots. And not only that, but U.S. efficiency and productivity are three times that of China.

It’s obvious that robotics already have and will certainly continue to have a place in the world of manufacturing in the future, if not in other areas of life. With the increase in technology that we see every year, there are great things to be seen in the field of robotics in the near future.


Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney was one of the first great inventors in the United States. He invented the cotton gin, which helped to make cotton the most important crop of the Southern states. He also invented methods of producing many goods quickly and cheaply. Factories still use these methods, called mass production, today.

Eli Whitney was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, on December 8, 1765. He graduated from Yale College in 1792. He then moved south to Georgia.


Eli Whitney - History

After graduating from Yale, Whitney headed to work as a tutor in South Carolina. When upon arrival his proposed salary was halved, he accepted the offer to settle on a friend's plantation in Savannah, where he would make his cotton gin breakthrough.

Photos: (left) Georgia Historical Society (right) American Textile History Museum

In popular mythology, Eli Whitney has been deemed the "father of American technology," for two innovations: the cotton gin, and the idea of using interchangeable parts.

Young Entrepreneur
Eli Whitney was born in 1765 and grew up on a Massachusetts farm. During the Revolutionary War he manufactured nails to fill the demand caused by British embargos. Young Eli quickly learned how the marketplace worked, and diversified into hatpins and canes. It was his genius to observe what people needed, and to provide it.

Economy-Building Invention
After working his way through college at Yale, Whitney moved to South Carolina. There he saw how hard it was to separate the green seeds from short-staple cotton. In just a few days in 1793, he invented a machine that could do the task ten times faster than a slave doing the work by hand. The cotton gin revolutionized agriculture. It also made possible the cotton economy of the American South, perpetuating and increasing the practice of slavery upon which the agricultural system depended.

Manufacturing System
In 1798, Whitney, who had not seen much profit from his epochal machine, launched a new venture: arms manufacturing. Once again he observed carefully, noting a war scare with France, and delivered something necessary and innovative: arms that he claimed he could produce more efficiently with the help of machines. His idea of machine-made, interchangeable parts was the beginning of what would become known as the "American system" of mass production. Although other Americans would create this system in their industries, it was Whitney who popularized the idea and was instrumental in lobbying politicians to pass legislation to standardize arms production.

Diligence, Sobriety, Thrift
Whitney was also one of the first Americans to marry the ideas of republicanism and technological progress. A shrewd employer, Whitney advanced the paternalistic factory system that would characterize the American industrial revolution by linking economic progress with the Puritanical attributes of diligence, sobriety, and thrift. Whitney died in 1825.


Later years

Though Whitney was very late in producing the arms promised to the government, he succeeded in building a business that could fulfill large orders quickly. He built a factory in Whitneyville, Connecticut , and continued his business. In 1812 he was awarded another federal government contract, as well as one from New York . This time the business was financially rewarding for Whitney.

Because of his business difficulties, Whitney married late in life. On January 6, 1817, he married Henrietta Frances Edwards. Three of their four children survived Whitney, who died in New Haven, Connecticut, on January 8, 1825.


Watch the video: Eli Whitney - Inventor of the Cotton Gin. Mini Bio. BIO (September 2022).

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