The New International Encyclopædia/Whitney, Eli

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1428460The New International Encyclopædia — Whitney, Eli

WHITNEY, Eli (1765-1825). An American inventor, famous for his invention of the cotton gin. He was born at Westboro, Mass., and was educated at Yale College, where he graduated in 1792. He then went to Georgia as a teacher, where he found a generous patron in the widow of General Nathanael Greene, of the Revolutionary Army, on whose estate he resided, and studied law. While here he had opportunity to display his inventive genius, and at the request of some neighbors of Mrs. Greene he attempted to devise a machine for separating the seed from the fibre of the green seed cotton. He set to work under great disadvantages, having to make his own tools, and even to draw his own wire, while rumors of his success led some lawless people to break into his workshop and steal his machine before he could obtain a patent for it. Forming a partnership with one Miller in 1793, he went to Connecticut to manufacture cotton gins, but litigation in defense of his rights consumed all his profits and $50,000 voted him by the State of South Carolina. Finally, in 1798 he got a Government contract for the manufacture of firearms, which he carried out with ingenious machinery so arranged as to secure absolute interchangeability of parts. His manufactory of firearms was located at Whitneyville, Conn., and was maintained with success. Whitney had but little material reward from the gin, which immediately proved one of the most important inventions connected with the cotton manufacture. See Cotton; Cotton Gin.