March 1, 2013
“We wonder if we will be the first generation in American history to leave our children with fewer opportunities and a less prosperous nation than the one we inherited.” –Paul Ryan. There are many turning points in American history, ranging from the 1600’s to the 1900’s. Many of which focus on wars, people, or ideas and they rarely focus on the items produced in those decades that helped encourage the movements to cultivate. Most of the time people don’t focus on the positive things that happened they focus on the huge negatives. I feel that a huge positive during American history is how agriculture developed over time, and through decades. Many people contributed to the inventions, the ideas, the work, and the theories of that time, and those people helped shape, flourish and produce part of that development. To me Eli Whitney played a massive role in making agriculture easier for so many farmers.
Eli Whitney was born into a family that farmed and at a young age he began inventing. Throw the years Eli invented many things, like a violin. When Eli left England in 1792 he was coming to “the South” to be a private tutor on a plantation in Georgia. When he arrived he soon found that farmers had a growing need for a way to make the cotton industry profitable. Cotton was produced on most plantations and required concentrated labor and at the time was unprofitable. The average cotton picker could only pick about 1 lb. a day. Cotton was an important or ideal crop, at this point in time, because unlike any other crop it could be stored for long periods of time. Eli’s employer, Catherine Greene encouraged him to find a solution to this problem. Cotton was at stake seeing that tobacco was decreasing from over-selling and soil depletion. Whitney then applied for a patent that granted him exclusive right to his invention for 14 years. So, Eli began planning and soon developed the cotton gin.
“One of my primary objects is to form the tools so the tools themselves shall fashion the work and give to every part its just proportion.” –Eli Whitney. In retrospect the cotton gin was a tool. The cotton gin revolutionized the production of cotton by speeding up the removal process of seed from cotton fibers. The cotton gin was like a strainer or sieve that made it very easy to extract seeds away from the cotton, so that more cotton was “picked” and stored. This machine made the cotton process less labor intensive for cotton pickers and helped planters actually gain a greater profit. With the increase in the amount of cotton meant that there was a steady supply of raw materials for textile industries, earning farmers more profit. Also the consistence rises in cotton lead to a greater ability to acquire cheaper cloth. In a sense Eli Whitney transformed Americas economy by the mid 1900’s cotton had become Americas leading export. The demand was fueled by other inventions as well, like ways to weave and spin to cotton and steam boats to transport the cotton. Since the cotton gin was created cotton had doubled each decade.
Not only did Eli create the cotton gin, helping farmers everywhere make a profit, he created interchangeable parts, he was the father of mass production. Eli Whitney had an opportunity to make muskets, and he asked the question, what could I do to improve how the musket is made, and how could I make repairs and fabrications easier? In only two year Whitney had made over 10,000 muskets by machine with interchangeable parts.