Eli Whitney: The Great American Inventor

Throughout America’s history, there have been many intuitive inventors that have manifested various creations. Some inventions never created any waves on the market, while others took the market by storm. One of America’s most prolific inventors was Eli Whitney.

Eli Whitney was born on December 8, 1765 in Westborough, Massachusetts. Being the son of a farmer, Eli was exposed to various farming situations, and quickly learned his way around the fields that his father tended to. Eli was a studious individual, which was beneficial for his creative ideas of new inventions.

During Eli’s youth, he was a wonderful blacksmith, who always intrigued his neighbors with his skillful ways. Eli tinkered with his ideas, but often made his inventions come to life from the ideas that rested in his mind. As a young man, he created a nail machine that produced the nation’s first every hat pins for women. In his early twenties, Eli Whitney attended Yale College, much to the demise of his parents. Eli wanted to use his creative mind to create further inventions. Yale College was a school for individuals that sought theology and law degrees- a far cry from the direction that he desired to be in. At the age of twenty three, Eli moved out of his parents home, and by twenty seven, he was a Yale graduate. Even with a college education, Eli found that many jobs were mundane, as he could not use his skills in any job that was available. Deciding that he needed to have a job under his belt nonetheless, he resorted to teaching.

Eli’s teaching brought him to South Carolina, where he was going to be a tutor. Upon arrival to South Carolina, Eli was in great dismay when he became aware that he would be given a salary of half of what he was originally quoted. Eli rejected the position, and remained on the land of the Revolutionary General, Nathaniel Greene. While staying at the Greene family home, Eli was encouraged by Mrs. Greene to create new inventions. He was quick to make friends with the Greene plantation supervisor, another former Yale graduate. After watching the farm hands pick cotton for quite some time, Eli had an idea that sparked one of the most ingenious inventions in America’s history.

Eli has been credited as being the inventor of the cotton gin. The cotton gin, which was created in 1793, saved much manual labor for field workers, as well as producing faster work for the farmers. The cotton gin was created as a device that removed the seeds from cotton. At the time of its creation, cotton seeds were removed by hand, which was not only time consuming, but highly labor intensive as well. The invention of the cotton gin by Eli was a blessing for many farmers as well as the field workers. The ingenuity that was placed into the idea behind the cotton gin was quite astounding for its time. The cotton gin was a wonderful contraption. It housed serrated teeth that rested on a rotating cylinder. The cylinder, which would work after turning an external crank, would force the cotton through the teeth, pushing out the cotton seeds that were so tedious to acquire. At the same time that the machine is depositing of the seeds, it is also removing the cotton from the teeth via a system of pulleys and levers. The cotton gin was indeed an invention that was way ahead of its time.

There has been much stipulation over the centuries, though, that Eli did not work alone on the creation of the cotton gin. It is believed that Eli had assistance from Catherine Littlefield Greene, as well as major political figures, such as George and Martha Washington, with the creation of the cotton gin. Much to Eli’s dismay, however, his invention was easy to duplicate. Due to this factor, there were many other individuals that replicated the cotton gin, making Eli’s invention and idea almost absolute at the time. Due to this, Eli’s cotton gin manufacturing company folded, and was forced to close in 1797. At the age of thirty nine, Eli had created one of the nation’s most innovative resources, only to see it easily duplicated, as well as create chaos among the Southern states and the slavery movement.

Although Eli faced a serious setback with his cotton gin company closing down, he was steadfast with his inventions, and did not let the business closure affect his ideas. One of the greatest inventions that Eli brought to the American market that is still in effect today is production of manufacturing by the assembly line. This creation came about after Eli was approved to create the mass production replications of muskets for the United States Government. There were, however, stipulations that were given to the government by Eli. He requested that he was to be given an order of 10,000 muskets to create, at the price of a little over $13.00 each. Eli promised to have the muskets ready for the government in after a period of two years.

This contract with the government proved to be highly successful, as the 10,000 muskets that he was asked to create were made in record time. Eli Whitney utilized his innovative skills to create the machine that replicated all of the intricate pieces that composed the musket. He proved that the machine, which would be powered by man, could produce the pieces, thus creating much less manual labor for the workers, as well as faster work. Not only could the muskets be mass produced, but each piece could be created according to the specifications-piece after piece. Up until that moment in history, every rifle was created by hand, which was not only time consuming, but cost a lot of money for labor, and resources. Eli’s creation of the mass assembly line was an instant success, proving that Eli was indeed a highly tactful inventor. The small factory, which was America’s first to house an assembly line, is still standing today in New Haven, Connecticut.

On January 6, 1817, at the age of 52, Eli married Henrietta Edwards. Over the following years of his marriage, Eli and Henrietta had four children, all of which Eli was quite proud of and loved immensely. However, Eli was to pass away on January 8, 1825, at the age of 60. Eli’s children, especially his son Eli, Jr., became a successful engineer and inventor himself, which would certainly make Eli Whitney quite proud.

Although Eli Whitney passed away by today’s standards would be considered young, he indeed created many wonderful inventions which are still in use today. The assembly line is now used world-wide, and has created millions of dollars of revenue for companies all around the world. Many individuals would not think twice about how the assembly line and cotton gin came about, but without the ingenuity of Eli Whitney, people would wonder what they could do to make their job easier and faster produced. Eli Whitney proved in his lifetime that he was indeed one of America’s finest inventors. The United States has been and will continue to be one of the world’s most technological advanced countries, thanks to wonderful inventors such as Eli Whitney.

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