gin, invented in 1793 by Eli Whitney, was designed to separate raw cotton fibers from seeds and other foreign materials prior to baling and marketing. The design was so efficient that it remains virtually unchanged to the present day.
American Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, a device that
rapidly and effectively removes seeds from cotton fiber. This task had previously been done by hand, making fiber processing slow and expensive. The invention will help spur expansion of the cotton industry in the southern United States. The Southâ€s booming cotton economy in turn will increase the reliance on slaves, owing to the labor-intensive character of cotton harvesting.
Although the invention of the cotton gin changed history, its inventor, Eli Whitney, did not reap much of a profit. The gin made cotton cleaning so efficient that the crop became a
primary enterprise for the South. However, patent disputes and supply problems kept Whitney from successfully producing the cotton gin. His later venture into arms manufacturing was more fruitful, and Whitney became a strong promoter of mass production and interchangeable parts.
The role of the cotton gin has changed dramatically in the last 50 years to keep up with
technological and production changes in the cotton industry. At one time, the gin's only function was to remove cottonseed from the fiber. Today, gins must not only separate the seed from the fiber, they must also dry and clean the fiber and package it into bales before it reaches the textile mill.
All gins differ in some aspects of the ginning process. In the Southwest, for instance, gins
are equipped with both saw and roller gins: saw gins for ginning Upland cottons, and roller gins for ginning Pima cotton, a cotton grown almost exclusively in this region of the Cotton Belt. Elsewhere in the Cotton Belt, gins use only saw gins in their operation.