Eli Whitney

Week 4:  Eli Whitney (1793)


VIEW K – 2: http://havefunwithhistory.com/movies/cottonGin.html AND READ “NOTE” below.


READ 3 – 6: Eli Whitney: Great Inventor by Jean Lee Latham AND view : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bns6aKfrIjA

7 – 8:  Maker of Machines by Barbara Mitchell AND view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bns6aKfrIjA


 Unfortunately, no free image of Eli Whitney: Great Inventor by Jean Lee Latham is available to me.

Note: Eli Whitney was born on December 8, 1765.  From the time he was very young he was skilled at making things.  At the age of 10 he took apart his father’s watch to figure out how it worked.  He was then able to put it back together again.  The watch continued to work perfectly.  When he was only 12 he made his own violin.  During the American Revolution he made nails to sell to farmers.  After the Revolution, he began selling hatpins for ladies’ hats.  After attending Yale University he moved south to teach.  While there he discovered the need for an invention that would separate cotton seeds from cotton.  He was able to build such a machine in only 10 days.  Even though he received a patent for his machine, it was easily copied by others and unfortunately, he never made much money from the invention.  The invention revolutionized the cotton industry.  Before this time cotton was not a popular crop to plant because it was so difficult to remove the seeds.  After the invention, cotton became one of the most popular crops to plant in the South, which unfortunately, increased the demand for slaves to pick the cotton.  Later Eli Whitney invented a musket(gun) that could be mass-produced.  They were used in the War of 1812.


  • Name two of Eli Whitney’s most famous inventions. (Cotton gin &  machine-made muskets)
  • T/F Eli Whitney did not begin to invent things till he was an adult. (F)
  • What did the Cotton gin do? (removed seeds from cotton plants)
  • Describe the problems he had with his cotton gin. (Idea stolen by many; people began creating it themselves so he wasn’t paid for his invention.  He spent much of his time in court fighting for the rights to produce his invention. )
  • Did Eli Whitney become rich from creating the cotton gin? (no)
  • Why were muskets so expensive to create? (each one was hand-made)
  • How did Eli Whitney changed the musket industry? (he was able to make them by machine, with interchangeable parts, he was the first man to mass produce muskets)
  • When were his muskets used? (war of 1812)

Questions for Grades 3 – 8:

  • How did Eli’s cotton gin change slavery in America? (increased the need for slavery because more workers were needed to plant and pick the crop)

ACTIVITIES: K – 3: coloring page: http://homeschooling.about.com/od/holidays/ss/October-Worksheets3_12.htm

4 – 8: Using the data on the “Slavery and Cotton Production” chart on this website: http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/lesson_29_notes_sec_ho.htm

Make up your own bar graph to show how cotton production and the number of slaves increased during the 8 decades listed.    You can use this graph paper http://customgraph.com/SG/piart.php?art=29 to create your chart.


Copyright January 24th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette

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Filed under Charlotte Mason, Colonial America, Westward Expansion

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