Ads from Georgia Gazette regarding Eli Whitney's cotton gin, 1794-1795
This advertisement titled “Cotton Ginning” is the first public notice of Miller & Whitney’s cotton gin. Miller &Whitney expected to make a lot of money from their endeavor, and they decided to charge a toll to use their machine. The ad states that Miller will gin cotton for planters, in exchange for one pound clean cotton for every five pounds brought to the gin. Many planters resented paying a 20% toll to gin cotton, and it became apparent that anyone with blacksmith’s tools could construct their own copy of the gin.
The next advertisement titled “A Caution” reminded planters that Whitney held the patent for this gin. Miller & Whitney made it clear that they would use the laws protecting patents against those who made gins without permission, unless they immediately turned in the illegal machines. More and more planters claimed to improve upon Whitney’s design for the gin, the most common improvement was to use saw blades instead of wire teeth. Miller and Whitney asserted that using metal to tear seeds from the lint was their idea, adding that a saw blade was only “a more expeditious mode of attaching the tooth to the cylinder.” In a letter to Whitney, Miller wrote, “it seems to be a general opinion among our best friends that the machines which are made by the Country blacksmiths clean the cotton at least as well, and clean it in much larger quantity than ours.” Miller & Whitney faced their biggest legal challenge in 1796 when Hogden Holmes received a patent for his saw gin. A long and bitter lawsuit followed which ultimately ruled in Whitney’s favor. The experience, however, was a nightmare for Miller & Whitney. Whitney’s patent was not renewed in 1808, and both men actually lost money on the venture.
Miller, Phineas. “Cotton Ginning.” Georgia Gazette. 6 March 1794. Newspapers on Microfilm, Published Materials Division. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
Miller & Whitney. “A Caution.” Georgia Gazette. 7 May 1795. Newspapers on Microfilm, Published Materials Division. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
The subscriber will engage to gin, in a manner equal to picking by hand, any quantity of the green seed cotton, on the following terms; viz. for every five pounds delivered him in the seed he will return one pound of clean cotton fitted for market.
For the encouragement of cotton planters he will also mention, that ginning machines to clean the green seed cotton on the above terms will actually be erected in different parts of the country before the harvest of the ensuing crop.
Mulberry Grove, near Savannah, March 1, 1794
The subscribers having, by the industry and attention of Eli Whitney, and at a heavy expense on the part of Phineas Miller, invented, perfected, and brought into use, a new constructed machine for ginning cotton, had flattered themselves that the Planters would have been satisfied with the moderate terms proposed for cleaning out their crops, and that a property, acquired in a manner so advantageous to the general interest of the public, would have been protected from injury, without the intervention of the laws. But since this is not likely to be the case, the best information having been received that several attempts have been made, under the pretext of improvements on their machine, to trespass on their rights, and to wrest from them their hard earned privileges, they are induced to give the following public notice: That the said Eli Whitney did, on the 14th day of March, 1794, obtain a patent, executed in due form, under the great seal of the United States, granting to him the full and exclusive right and liberty of making, using, and vending the others to be used, his new and useful improvement in the mode of ginning cotton, for the term of 14 years, beginning from the 6th day of November, 1793, as will appear on record in the office of the Secretary of State to the United States: That, on the 21st day of June, 1794; the said Eli Whitney, by deed of transfer on record at said office, made conveyance of one half of his interest in said patent to the said Phineas Miller. That the principle of the Improvement on which said patent is founded consists in picking the cotton from the seed with teeth, from which it is afterwards removed with a brush. This improvement being perfectly different from any method heretofore practiced for ginning cotton is the more clearly and explicitly secured by the laws of the United States made for the encouragement of the arts. And since the property acquired by the patentees in this invention is placed under the same protection as any real estate belonging to their fellow citizens, they will view in the same light every trespass or injury to which it may be exposed, and will certainly make use of the means which the laws of their country have placed in their hands to obtain ample redress. As they will be forced, however, with great reluctance, to this necessity, they now offer to those who have hitherto been ignorant of their patent, and who have constructed the machines upon principles, the use of which is thereby exclusively secured to the patentees, that if they will immediately desist from all further trespasses, and deliver up the machines so constructed, they shall not be prosecuted for the heavy penalty they have forfeited by the laws, but meet with every reasonable indulgence from Miller and Whitney. Savannah, May 1, 1795.
Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.
Indicator 3-4.1 Compare the conditions of daily life for various classes of people in South Carolina, including the elite, the middle class, the lower class, the independent farmers, and the free and enslaved African Americans. (H, E)
Indicator 3-4.2 Summarize state leaders’ defense of the institution of slavery prior to the Civil War, including reference to conditions in South Carolina, the invention of the cotton gin, subsequent expansion of slavery, and economic dependence on slavery. (H, E, P)
Indicator 3-4.7 Summarize the effects of Reconstruction in South Carolina, including the development of public education, racial advancements and tensions, and economic changes. (H, E, P)
Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.
Indicator 4-6.1 Compare characteristics of the regions of the North and South prior to the Civil War, including agrarian versus industrialist economies, geographic differences and boundaries, and ways of life. (G, E, H)Standard 7-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of political, social, and economic upheavals that occurred throughout the world during the age of revolution, from 1770 through 1848
Indicator 7-3.5 Explain the impact of the new technology that emerged during the Industrial Revolution, including changes that promoted the industrialization of textile production in England and the impact of interchangeable parts and mass production. (E, H)
Standard 8-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution—the beginnings of the new American nation and South Carolina’s part in the development of that nation.
Indicator 8-2.4 Explain the economic and political tensions between the people of the Upcountry and Lowcountry, including economic struggles of both groups following the American Revolution, their disagreement over representation in the General Assembly and the location of the new capital city, and the transformation of the state’s economy that was caused by the production of cotton and convinced Lowcountry men to share power with Upcountry men. (H, G, P, E)
Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.Indicator 8-3.1 Explain the importance of agriculture in antebellum South Carolina including plantation life, slavery, and the impact of the cotton gin. (H, G, E)
Standard USHC-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and the resulting regional conflicts that took place in America in the nineteenth century.
Indicator USHC-3.3 Compare economic development in different regions of the country during the early 19th century, including agriculture in the South, industry and finance in the North, and the development of new resources in the West. (E, H)