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February 03, 2005

A Key Invention

And the cotton gin also gave American slavery an enormous boost: here was something else--something very profitable given England's enormous demand for fibers for the factories--that you could make the slaves do:

The Cotton Gin - Eli Whitney: Eli Whitney's machine was the first to clean short-staple cotton. His cotton engine consisted of spiked teeth mounted on a boxed revolving cylinder which, when turned by a crank, pulled the cotton fiber through small slotted openings so as to separate the seeds from the lint -- a rotating brush, operated via a belt and pulleys, removed the fibrous lint from the projecting spikes.

The gins later became horse-drawn and water-powered gins and cotton production increased, along with lowered costs. Cotton soon became the number one selling textile.

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 mid-century 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.

Posted by DeLong at February 3, 2005 12:15 PM