Ever wonder how we got all of that cotton to make cotton clothes?
In the early days of cotton harvesting, all the cotton seeds had to be picked out of the cotton balls by hand. This process was very slow and took many hours to clean out and separate the seeds from just one or two pounds of cotton fiber. This was a necessary process to have pure cotton, but also painfully taxing. The workers on the cotton farms had to work long and hard to pick out all those seeds. Fields were full of cotton that needed to be separated, but it took many days and lots of hard work just to harvest and separate a couple pounds of cotton, much less a whole field of cotton. The people had to wonder if there wasn't a better way to harvest this cotton. Thankfully there was.
In 1793 Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. He had to fight in court for quite some time to gain a legal patent for the cotton gin that he had invented, but eventually he was able to get a patent. The cotton gin was a machine that took the cotton through comb like “fingers” that separated the cotton fibers from the cotton seeds. This was a great help to the many workers that had been doing all this work by hand. Now they could process a lot more cotton in a shorter time period. But there was a problem, it took about three or four people to run the cotton gin, whereas before, one person could do the job, although it would have taken much much longer.
Because of the invention of the cotton gin, farm owners started planting more fields of cotton. Now they had a more efficient method for separating the cotton seeds from the cotton fiber and the cotton market started rising. People wanted to make more money and cotton was selling, so they planted more fields.
There are still cotton gins today that are currently used for separating and processing cotton. Cotton gins have changed over the many years since Eli Whitney first invented his. The cotton gins that are now used are much larger and more efficient although they still use the same ideas. Cotton gets hauled to the cotton mills by the truckload and is processed quite quickly. Much much faster than any person could separate cotton seeds from cotton fibers. At the end of the process the cotton is in bales.
The cotton industry is a very interesting study and I'm sure you would find it interesting to look into it more and see all the great things that it has done for the United States of America.