today is a special day

On March 14, 1794, Eli Whitney received a patent for his cotton gin, an machine that separated cotton fiber from seeds. There had been machines like that for centuries, but Whitney’s was the first to clean short-staple cotton and also produce up to fifty pounds of cleaned cotton in a day. This jump in production made cotton a profitable crop for the first time, and with each decade after 1800, the yield of raw cotton doubled.

(image: Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing, National Archives and Records Administration)