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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Regency Inventors that Changed the World: Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney was American very true but he patented the cotton gin almost during the extended Regency Era (1795-1837). And his invention didn't just change America (though it did) but the world. Imagine where we wouldn't be without the cotton gin or the mass produced musket rifle (in 1798)?

March 14, 1792--Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin (what's the etymology of gin here? Anyone know?)

Eli Whitney left Massachusetts for Georgia and a new job. He wanted to be a lawyer but there were those pesky debts to pay off first. They didn't have student loans then.

According to there were 2 kinds of cotton:
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.

There's an interesting bit on Eli's trouble in getting Southern farmers to pay (exorbitant fee of 2/5 their cotton processed) and patent loopholes in the original law, but here's a more interesting part: The effect of the cotton gin on cotton production, Southern plantation expansion, and slavery.

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.

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