Biography of Eli Whitney
Famous American Biographies





ELI WHITNEY, the inventor of the cotton-gin, was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, December 8, 1765. After his. graduation from. Yale College, he went to Georgia, where he studied law, and lived with the family of the widow of General Nathaniel Greene. At that time the only way known to separate the cotton seed from the fiber was by hand, making it extremely slow and expensive, and for this reason cotton was little cultivated in this country. Mrs. Greene urged the inventive Whitney to devise some means for accomplishing this work by machinery. This he finally succeeded in doing, but he was harassed by, attempts to defraud him by those who had stolen his ideas. He at last formed a partnership with a man named Miller, and they began the manufacture of the machines at. Washington, Georgia, in 1795. The success of his invention was immediate, and the legislature of South Carolina voted the sum of $50,000 for his idea. This sum he had great difficulty in collecting, after years of litigation and delay. North Carolina allowed him a royalty, and the same was agreed to by Tennessee, but was never paid.

While his fame rests upon the invention of the cotton-gin, his fortune came from his improvements in the manufacture and construction of firearms. In 1798 the United States government gave him a contract for this purpose, and he accumulated a fortune from it. The town of Whitneyville, Connecticut, was founded by this fortune. Whitney died at New Haven, Connecticut, January 8, 1825.

The cotton-gin made the cultivation of cotton profitable, and this led to rapid introduction of slavery in the south. His invention thus affected our national history in a manner little dreamed of by the inventor.


FROM:
A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.


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