A contract between Eli Whitney and the State of Tennessee for use of the cotton gin, 1807.
The first page of this contract is a typed transcription and the remaining pages are the original handwritten contract. The contract gives the State of Tennessee patent rights to Eli Whitney’s cotton gin. After his invention, Whitney did not envision selling patent rights to his design. Instead, he planned to charge farmers fees for using gins that he built to process their cotton. But planters in Georgia where Whitney developed the gin began making their own versions and claiming they were "new" inventions. Struggling to turn a profit and bogged down by legal battles, Whitney and his partners agreed to license gins. In 1802, South Carolina agreed to purchase Whitney's patent right and North Carolina and Tennessee followed. Catherine Miller and Phineas Miller, mentioned in the contract, were a married couple who supported Whitney’s invention and invested in his cotton gin business. The Millers were neighbors of the Georgia plantation where Whitney was a tutor when he built his first cotton gin model. Phineas Miller died before this contract was created.