An American inventor, Eli Whitney, invented a cotton gin that took the industry to a whole new level and even revolutionized Antebellum South’s economy. His invention was so effective that it elevated the economic foundation of slavery in the United States.
Despite the fact that he has contributed a lot to this world, many are unaware of his lifestyle and invention. Some are even confused whether he was a black man or a white man. So without any further intervention, let’s praise this man and know him better through this article.
Was Eli Whitney Black?
This question has troubled many. Although Eli has been included in the songs “You Must Learn” as a notable African-American inventor and taught in school that he was black, Whitney is a white man. Many historians and students later realized this fact after the demise.
Family, Siblings, Nationality
This cotton gin inventor was born on the 8th of December in 1765 in Westborough, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America. Therefore, he belonged to American nationality and grew up on a farm. His father, Eli Whitney Sr., worked as a farmer who also served as a justice of the peace, while his mother’s name was Elizabeth Fay.
In 1777, Eli lost his mother at the age of 11. After the sudden demise of his mother. His father married again, and Whitney got a stepmother. It was devastating for him, and later, at the age of 14, he joined a nail manufacturing operation in his father’s workshop. Eli spent his childhood happily with his two brothers Benjamin and Josiah, whereas he was happy to have sister Elizabeth Whitney Blake.
Quick Facts of Eli Whitney
January 8, 1825
Age of Death
Westborough, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America
Eli Whitney. Sr
Four Son and One Daughter
Farmer, Teacher, Manufacturer
Inventor, Farmer, Manufacturer
Eli Whitney Education
Astonishingly, Eli’s stepmother was not that supportive on the matter of education. However, he prepared for Yale at Leicester Academy under the supervision of Rev. Elizur Goodrich of Durhan, Connecticut. Luckily he enrolled there in the year 1789. Later in 1792, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
Later on, he was determined to study law, but his financial circumstance hindered him from doing so. Therefore, he opted for the teaching profession instead and failed on it too. As a result, he went to Georgia in search of employment. At the end of the 18th century, Georgia became a pivotal place governed by Lyman Hall, where New Englanders made a fortune.
Prior to this, Whitney sailed for South Carolina, and there he encountered widow Catherine Littlefield Greene. She was a notable woman who was previously married to Gen Nathanael Greene of Rhone Island and later married to Phineas Miller. Both of them had a more significant influence on his life as he partnered them to work on Georgia Plantation named Mulberry Grove. Not to mention, it was also his considerable step in his inventing career.
Eli Whitney Museum
At the moment, Eli Whitney Museum is located in Hamden, Connecticut, used for experimental learning workshops for teachers and students. Similarly, its major building is situated in the Eli Whitney Gun Factory, which was invented by himself in 1798. Most importantly, the museum is used for design, invention, building projects, and exhibits on Eli and A.C Gilbert.
Along with several educational programs, this museum also supports 60 paid apprentices age between 13 and 18. Generally, they work for 200 hours throughout the year and approximately about 400 hours in summer. During their time there, they garner skills in design, teaching, fabrication. Not to mention the Apprenticeship alumni include Joshua Revkin, Emily Oster, and Jennifer Oxley.
Eli Whitney Wife and Kids
He was very conservative when it came it came to his personal life. Therefore, there is very little information relating to his love life. This outstanding manufacturer walked down the aisle with Henrietta Edwards in the year 1817. He was blessed to have four sons, and one of them was named Eli in the year 1820.
Later, he named his Eli Whitney Jr. Moreover, he had a daughter named Pierpont Edwards. It was also reported that during his death bed, one of his sons, Eli Whitney III, used several instruments to play soothing music. During this time, he also invented and manufactured many devices in order to ease his pain.
Eli Whitney Cotton Gin
In his lifetime, Eli made two new inventions that contributed to victory on the side of American during the Civil War. Firstly Eli invented a cotton gin in the year 1793. It is a device that is used to separate seeds from cotton. Before his discovery, this job was very hectic and required a lot of labor and manpower.
To be precise, the word gin is an abbreviation of the engine. When he was working in Mulberry Grove, he invented many household devices. Seeing this, Mrs. Greene was very impressed with him and encouraged him to deal with other infamous business personnel of that time. It is also during that time, one of the businessmen thought of an idea to utilize a machine to remove the seed from the cotton as it would take a day to accomplish it by hand.
Within a week, Whitney made a prototype with a wooden drum that sticks with hooks. It was only a matter of time that he modified this version for better results, hence an advance cotton gin was discovered. To be clear, Eli was inspired when a cat was trying to pull a chicken from the fence and only succeeded in pulling out some of the feathers.
Wide Production of Cotton
With varieties of hit and trial, Eli was able to generate 25 kg (55 pounds) of cotton on a daily basis. Eventually. The Southern United States became one of the major reasons where cotton was harvested. There are some historians who also believe that the invention contributed to putting the African Slavery system in effect.
Later on, Whitney filed a patent for his cotton gin in the year 1793 on October. Within a year, he received a patent as X72 on 1794, March 14, and was valid until 1807. Sources suggest that Eli and his partner Miller were not planning to sell the cotton gin. However, due to the patent infringement, they lost most of their income and had to distribute it in the market.
In addition to this, the United States exported the majority of cotton after the discovery of cotton gin. Also, they sold approximately about 500,000 pounds (230,000 kg) in 1973 and increased drastically in 1810 by 93 million pounds (42,000,000 kg). Although America supplied a vast number of cotton from 1820 to 1860, it promoted slavery for another 70 years.
Eli Whitney Interchangeable Parts
Along with Cotton Gin, Eli has made his name as manufacturing interchangeable parts. He is the champion of muskets and is a perfectionist in making armories. The main reason he was involved in this work was that cotton gin could not reward as much as he had anticipated. In May 1798, the government made an offer where they would provide $800,000 to produce small arms and cannons in case of war against France.
The government also promised to distribute $5000 as an incentive and later provided $5000 as supplementary. Luckily Eli was able to grab the deal, and the next thing is history. However, the arms were not distributed until 1809 due to various reasons. There are some rumors that from 1801 to 1806, Eli took the money in order to make a profit from cotton gin in South Carolina.
Cause of Death
This notable inventor was famous for his brilliant inventions, which had a huge impact on the American economy in the mid 19th century. Unfortunately, Eli died at the age of 59 on the 8th of January in 1825. Prior to his demise, Whitney celebrated his 59th birthday and was staying in New Haven, Connecticut.
To clarify leading cause for his death was prostate cancer. His death had impacted the invention world significantly. In honor of Eli, Yale University organizes a Eli Whitney Students Program were non-traditional students.
Eli Whitney Net Worth
There is no doubt that Eli was very creative and had a different perspective on several matters. His dedication, passion and hard work is the reason why he was able to accumulate a massive amount of money during his youth.
According to reputable resources, it has been reported that Eli Whitney had a net worth of $810 million. It is all thanks to his creativity and positive mindset to move forward no matter what. Furthermore, he was also one of the wealthiest people during his time.
Eli Whitney Quotes
- I have now taken a serious task upon myself and I fear a greater one that is in the power of any man to perform in the given time-but it is too late to go back. – Eli Whitney
- One of my primary objects is to form the tools so the tools themselves shall fashion the work and give to every part its just proportion. – Eli Whitney
- I have always believed that I should have had no difficulty in causing my rights to be respected. – Eli Whitney
- I have not only Arms but a large proportion of Armourers to make. – Eli Whitney
- You are undoubtedly acquainted with my Reputation, and as for my Penmanship it must speak for itself, this is to desire your Approbation to keep a public school. – Eli Whitney
- I can make just such ones if I had tools, and I could make tools if I had tools to make them with. – Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney is not active on any social media platform.