2. After hisconversation withthe Georgiaplanters, Eli Whitneyput aside his plansto study law andinstead tinkeredthroughout thewinter and spring ina secret workshopprovided byCatherine Greene.
3. Before long he hadarrived at his basicdesign, which had acylinder spiked withwire teeth. The rawcotton was fed ontothe cylinder and as itrotated the teethpassed throughnarrow slits in apiece of wood,pulling the cottonfibers through butleaving the seedsbehind.
4. Within months hehad created thecotton gin. A smallgin could be hand-cranked; largerversions could beharnessed to ahorse or driven bywater power.
5. "One man and ahorse will do morethan fifty men withthe old machines,"wrote Whitney tohis father. . . . "Tisgenerally said bythose who knowanything about it,that I shall make afortune by it."
6. But in the end,Whitney madevirtually nothingfrom hisinvention. Otherscopied hisinvention and hewas left virtuallypenniless.
7. Eli Whitney andInterchangeable Parts
8. In 1804, Whitney leftthe South forever,disappointed anddisgusted. In hiswords, "An inventioncan be so valuableas to be worthless tothe inventor."
9. But after settling in New Haven, Connecticut,Whitney settled on an idea that would be asvaluable to the North as his cotton gin was tothe South.
10. In 1798, the federal government awarded EliWhitney a contract of $134,000 to produceand deliver 10,000 muskets.
11. Until then, every rifle had been made byhand from stock to barrel; but the parts ofone gun did not fit any other gun, nor didanyone expect them to.
12. It was Whitneysidea to usemachines thatwould make allthe parts of hisrifles so nearlyidentical that themachines partscould beinterchangeablefrom one gun toanother.
13. This system ofmanufacturingwould permitan unskilledman to turnout a productthat would bejust as good asone made by ahighly trainedmachinist.
14. Whitney’s idea caught on all over America.By 1850, English visitors back from Americadescribed what they now called the “AmericanSystem of Manufacture.”