Quick Intro: How The Cotton Gin Works

If you're looking for a quick intro to how the cotton gin works, you've found it.  The cotton gin was designed in 1793 by Eli Whitney.  It was a monumental achievement which played a large role in the Industrial Revolution, helping to increase the production of cotton fiber.  Here are the basic mechanics of how the cotton gin works.

  1. Separation is the first step in the design.  The cotton gin begins by separating the cotton fiber from the seeds, improving the speed which was normally done by hand.  From a number of small wire hooks, the hooks would pull the cotton into the machine.  The brushes inside the wire design of the cotton gin would then brush the loose lint from the cotton.
  2. The cotton gin would then clean the cotton.  There were a number of spikes placed on a wooden cylinder of the cotton gin.  The spikes would act as a sort of comb.  When the cotton came through the spikes, the spikes would ensure that the cotton seeds would not pass through the cotton gin. 
  3. Finally, the cotton gin would separate the cotton.  With the seeds extracted, the cotton would be separated onto a pan on the opposite side of the cotton gin.  The wire teeth of the grid would allow the finished cotton product to come through the device.  Thus the cotton gin served as a way to clean the cotton product after farming.  It would completely mechanize the cotton cleaning process, increase cotton production, and lead to increased slavery.


Yafa, Stephen. "Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber." Penguin, 2006.

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