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Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin Patent Application—Historical Document

A historical document is any paper document that was created in the past. Historical documents can teach us about important events or ideas from history. The document below is Eli Whitney's drawing of his invention, the cotton gin. The drawing shows the inside and outside of the machine. Whitney made it so he could get a patent. A patent is an official document that says who owns an invention. It also says that only the owner of an invention can make, use, or sell that invention for a certain number of years.


Primary Source

There is an image of Eli Whitney's cotton gin that he drew to accompany his original patent application.

Source: National Archives.


Background

Can one invention change a whole country's economy? Eli Whitney's cotton gin did. Cotton contains sticky green seeds, which are hard to remove. Before the cotton gin was invented, it took a long time to clean the seeds out of the cotton fiber so that it could be made into cloth. The cotton gin's wire teeth cleaned cotton quickly. Soon after Whitney created the cotton gin in 1793, cotton became the largest export of the United States.