Saturday, December 8, 2012
Inventor Eli Whitney was born on December 8, 1765, in Massachusetts. As a youth during the Revolutionary War, he made nails with a device he invented. After graduating from Yale, he pursued a tutoring job in Georgia but wound up inventing a centerpiece of the Industrial Revolution: the cotton gin (short for “engine”), patented in 1794, that quickly, efficiently removed seeds from cotton using a system of hooks, wires and a rotating brush. It reshaped the economy of the Antebellum South by altering a previously labor intensive process, making “King Cotton” a practical, profitable crop – and reinvigorating slavery as a means of producing it. Whitney never became wealthy because the gin was easily, widely copied. He began making firearms and championed the interchangeable-parts system, which revolutionized manufacturing. Pictured: The gin and its patent.