Cotton gin

A cotton gin meaning "cotton engine" is a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, enabling much greater productivity than manual cotton separation. The fibers are then processed into various cotton goods such as linens, while any undamaged cotton is used largely for textiles like clothing. The separated seeds may be used to grow more cotton or to produce cottonseed oil.
Eli Whitney invented his cotton gin in 1793. He began to work on this project after moving to Georgia in search of work. Given that farmers were desperately searching for a way to make cotton farming profitable, a woman named Catharine Greene provided Whitney with funding to create the first cotton gin. Whitney created two cotton gins: a small one that could be hand-cranked and a large one that could be driven by a horse or water power.
The earliest versions of the cotton gin consisted of a single roller made of iron or wood and a flat piece of stone or wood. The earliest evidence of the cotton gin is found in the fifth century, in the form of Buddhist paintings depicting a single-roller gin in the Ajanta Caves in western India. These early gins were difficult to use and required a great deal of skill. A narrow single roller was necessary to expel the seeds from the cotton without crushing the seeds. The design was similar to that of a mealing stone, which was used to grind grain. The early history of the cotton gin is ambiguous, because archeologists likely mistook the cotton gin's parts for other tools.
The worm gear roller gin, which was invented in the Indian subcontinent during the early Delhi Sultanate era of the 13th to 14th centuries, came into use in the Mughal Empire sometime around the 16th century, and is still used in the Indian subcontinent through to the present day. Another innovation, the incorporation of the crank handle in the cotton gin, first appeared sometime during the late Delhi Sultanate or the early Mughal Empire. The incorporation of the worm gear and crank handle into the roller cotton gin led to greatly expanded Indian cotton textile production during the Mughal era.
The Indian roller cotton gin, known as the churka or charkha, was introduced to the United States in the mid-18th century, when it was adopted in the southern United States. The device was adopted for cleaning long-staple cotton, but was not suitable for the short-staple cotton that was more common in certain states such as Georgia. Several modifications were made to the Indian roller gin by Mr. Krebs in 1772 and Joseph Eve in 1788, but their uses remained limited to the long-staple variety, up until Eli Whitney's development of a short-staple cotton gin in 1793.
Many contemporary inventors attempted to develop a design that would process short staple cotton, and Hodgen Holmes, Robert Watkins, William Longstreet, and John Murray had all been issued patents for improvements to the cotton gin by 1796. However, the evidence indicates Whitney did invent the saw gin, for which he is famous. Although he spent many years in court attempting to enforce his patent against planters who made unauthorized copies, a change in patent law ultimately made his claim legally enforceable too late for him to make much money from the device in the single year remaining before the patent expired.
The invention of the cotton gin caused massive growth in the production of cotton in the United States, concentrated mostly in the South. Cotton production expanded from 750,000 bales in 1830 to 2.85 million bales in 1850. As a result, the region became even more dependent on plantations and slavery, with plantation agriculture becoming the largest sector of its economy. While it took a single slave about ten hours to separate a single pound of fiber from the seeds, a team of two or three slaves using a cotton gin could produce around fifty pounds of cotton in just one day. The number of slaves rose in concert with the increase in cotton production, increasing from around 700,000 in 1790 to around 3.2 million in 1850. By 1860, black slave labor from the American South was providing two-thirds of the world's supply of cotton, and up to 80% of the crucial British market. The cotton gin thus "transformed cotton as a crop and the American South into the globe's first agricultural powerhouse".