The Cotton Gin made a huge difference!
Before cotton can be spun into thread, its seeds must be removed. The people of ancient India developed a two-roller device through which they would pull raw cotton to separate the seeds from long-staple cotton fibers. In 1788, Joseph Eve patented a machine that used rollers to clean seeds from Sea Island cotton. One person could clean 24-30 pounds each day. Sea Island cotton is a finicky plant that thrives only in a small strip of land 30-40 miles in coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (which was Spanish until 1823). It was impossible to grow enough in this confined area to meet world demand.
Short-staple G. hirsutum cotton could be grown in non-coastal upland areas and was nicknamed Upland cotton. The sturdy plant was already growing over a wide geographical range, but it presented a different problem. Upland cotton was so difficult to clean that the roller gin (short for engine) could not be used to clean the cotton. Instead, it took one person an entire day to tear one-two pounds of cotton from the clinging seeds. African slaves developed a type of comb to speed the process, and South Carolina inventor Hodgen Holmes experimented with a sawtooth device to clean the cotton; but there was nothing widely available that eased the bottleneck between field and factory. Unless someone could invent a machine to clean Upland cotton, it would be impossible to clean all the cotton necessary to meet British mills' demands.
Eli Whitney is widely credited with the invention of the machine meeting that demand, the cotton gin. After graduating from Yale University in 1792, Whitney traveled south to accept a teaching job. While staying near Savannah, Georgia, at Mulberry Grove (the plantation of widow Catharine Greene), he heard Phineas Miller (the manager of the estate), Mrs. Greene, and other planters lamenting their inability to exploit Upland cotton. He applied his familiarity with New England textile machinery to the problem and, in roughly ten days during spring of 1793, developed a model. A wooden roller embedded with wire spikes or teeth was fitted into a box (perhaps inspired by a cat swiping at a chicken through slats and only coming up with feathers). A second cylinder fitted with brushes (inspired by Mrs. Greene's use of a small broom to clear the spikes) revolved in the opposite direction. When Whitney fed the Upland cotton into the machine, the wire teeth pulled the cotton fibers through small slats in a grate, separating the seeds from the fiber. The gin tended to damage the fibers by cutting some short, so the cotton was worth only half the price of undamaged Sea Island cotton. However, the cotton gin enabled a single worker to clean 50 pounds of Upland cotton a day.
Whitney left Georgia to patent his invention and build a cotton gin factory in Connecticut, but a group broke into the workshop of Mulberry Hall plantation and began copying the easily reproduced machine. As Phineas Miller wrote in 1794:
The people of the country are running mad for them, and much can be said to justify their importunity. When the present crop is harvested there will be a real property of at least 50 thousand dollars lying useless unless we can enable the holders to bring it to market.
Within four years, Whitney alone had 30 cotton gins operating in Georgia, his competitors had many more, and use of the cotton gin had spread westward to Tennessee. Hand-cranked gins eventually were replaced by gins operated by draught animals or water capable of cleaning 500 pounds of cotton per day.
Furthermore, cotton had made the South a player in the world economy. While cotton exports totaled only $5 million (seven percent of total U.S. exports) in 1800, they rose to $30 million in 1830 (41 percent of U.S. exports) and reached $191 million in 1860 (57 percent of total U.S. exports). By 1850, cotton consumption averaged five and a half pounds per person in Great Britain and the United States, in large part because the price of cotton textiles had fallen to roughly one percent of their cost in 1784. Worldwide, southern cotton dominated two-thirds of the market. Southern cotton accounted for 70 percent of the raw material fueling Britain's industrial revolution, and British experts believed that Indian cotton could not replace it in quantity or quality. At least 16 percent of all Britons' jobs depended on textile manufacturing, while cotton fabric made up half of Britain's exports, and an estimated ten percent of Britain's wealth was tied to cotton. The cotton economy had also contributed to the creation of scores of banks in Great Britain (including Barclays) and the formation of the Stock Exchange of London in 1773.
Answered By: gatita - 4/20/2008