March 14 - 1794 - Eli Whitney is Granted a Patent for the Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney was a native New Englander and Yale man who wound up outside Savannah, Georgia shortly after the American Revolution as a tutor on a plantation. There, Whitney became familiar with the issue of separating the seeds from the fiber on short staple cotton, the only cotton that would grow in the inland south, on a large scale. By putting two rotating drums with teeth inside of a box, Eli Whitney was able to solve this problem fairly quickly, receiving a patent from the U.S. Patent Office shortly after he arrived in Georgia. Whether Whitney came up with this entirely on his own is doubtful, but he got the patent in his own name and started up a business with his partner Phineas Miller and Miller's new wife Catherine Greene. Whitney's goal was to have people bring him their cotton, which he would process for them. Plantation owners just decided it was better to pirate Whitney's simple design. This expanded cotton production throughout the South, but did not give Whitney a fortune. Most importantly, throughout the inland south, slavery and cotton production grew exponentially, defining the culture of the American South through the Civil War.