Why did the cotton gin transform southern agriculture?
During the industrial revolution, new technologies and machineries started to emerge, which enhanced the lives of America citizens. Such a technology for instance was the cotton gin, which was invented by Eli Whitney (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross and Brands 272). Whitney’s invention significantly influenced agriculture, in the South, which saw significant changes. This paper will discuss why the cotton gin transformed Southern agriculture drawing its findings from American Stories Vol. 1.
Before this machine was built, farmers, in the South, grew cotton on their lands, and also incorporated African slaves, who, in reality, did all the work in the farms. According to Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross and Brands (p274), slaves planted seeds, tended the bushes and plucked the cotton once they matured. This was preceded by the process of removing the seeds from the cotton fibers, which consumed a lot of time, as well as labor. The slave worked from eight to ten hours a day without pay, and in addition, the produce was not as well as expected. During those ten hours of working, small quantity and poor quality cotton was produced. However, the introduction of the cotton gin changed everything entirely (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross and Brands 277).
Cotton was also not a significant crop in the South in the early days. Making a cotton thread from cotton lint was too difficult, and this made slaves produced cotton of low quality. It required substantial effort to plant, look after and pick cotton (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross and Brands 277). Extra work was needed to grant this as the African slaves were not sufficient enough. The cottons gin, therefore, assisted the individuals, who worked in cotton plantations, to remove the seeds from the fibers. Doing this manually used to take a lot of time and labor. Therefore, the machine brought about efficiency in separating the seeds from the fibers. Whitney’s machine, with the assistance of a few men, cleaned more cotton much faster compared to the amount of cotton that the whole labor force cleaned in a day (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross and Brands 271). The process of cleaning the cotton, with the help of James Watts Steam Engine, was fully mechanized. This led to a whole fresh industrial/agricultural frontier of the South.
It became easier, owing to the cotton gin, to grow cotton and stack them in bales. A quicker production of cotton led to more cotton being grown, which eventually led to the drop of cotton prices. This, on the other hand, resulted in an increase of consumers as more individuals could now afford cotton (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross and Brands 277). People formerly opted for flax as it was second to cotton, but its quality was not as strong as cotton. Cotton, before the invention of the gin, was only used by the rich. However, with the market of cotton changing, rich merchants had to clear some land so more cotton could be planted to cater for the increasing demand of the product.
In conclusion, the cotton gin transformed the Southern agriculture as it was now easy to produce cotton, which a lot of individuals needed. The invention of the cotton gin led to development of the Southern agriculture. Southern farmers grew richer than before due to this machine and cotton become the main export during that time.
Divine, Robert, Breen, Timothy, Williams, Hal, Gross, Ariela and Brands, Henry. American Story, The: Volume 1. London: Pearson, 2010. Print.
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