Early Industrialism

By Sophie Jones and Nina Flanigin

Eli Whitney made his mark by creating a solution to the laborious work needed to hand pick and separate the seeds of cotton. This mechanical genius created the Cotton Gin, hoping to solve the poverty of the South. This invention was fifty times more effective than the hand picking process that most Southerners lived by. The Cotton Gin changed the world, making cotton highly profitable. As the factory system flourished, Whitney appeared again with a mass production if muskets for the US army. He seized upon the idea of machines creating each part. Being able to dismantle and quickly reassemble muskets became the basis of interchangeable parts. Interchangeable parts became the basis of modern mass-production, assembly-line methods.  Sectional specialization was prominent in the US, New England became the center of textile mills,  Pennsylvania led in the production of iron, plantation agriculture boomed in the South, and diversified farming happened in the West.

Eli Whitney - the mechanical genius himself!

Whitney knew that if he could invent such a machine, he could apply to the federal government for a patent. If granted, he would have exclusive rights to his invention for 14 years, and he could hope to reap a handsome profit from it.


Each  new invention stimulated more imaginative inventions. For the decade ending in 1800, only 306 patents were registered in Washington; but the decade ending in 1860 saw the amazing total of 28,000. In 1838 the clerk of the Patent Office had resigned in despair, complaining that all worthwhile inventions had been discovered.  

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