A reproduction of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin model, patented in 1794.
Inventor Eli Whitney developed this model for the cotton gin and applied for a patent in 1793, though others quickly pirated his invention. Whitney’s cotton gin used rotating brushes and teeth to remove the seeds from cotton. Southern plantation owners depended on enslaved people to cultivate and harvest labor-intensive crops such as rice, sugar, tobacco, and especially cotton. As the market demand for cotton increased in the early 1800s and the cotton gin made cotton processing faster and easier, the Southern cotton industry expanded dramatically, as did the system of slave labor on which it relied.