Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing
Designed to separate cotton fiber from seed, Whitney’s cotton gin, for which he applied for a patent on October 28, 1793, and received a patent on March 14, 1794, introduced a new, profitable technology to agricultural production in America, but also led to an increased dependence on the plantation system and slavery.
We first ran this back on October 28 to coincide with the date of Whitney’s patent application. But keep reading to learn how our talented colleagues in Preservation have worked to safeguard this document and keep it available:
Eli Whitney (1765-1825) received a patent for his cotton gin on March 14, 1794. Whitney, who had recently graduated from Yale, invented the cotton gin while working at the Mulberry Grove Plantation near Savannah, Georgia. Using knowledge of textile machinery, Whitney came up with an engine (shortened to “gin”) that separated the cotton fibers from the seeds, transforming what had previously been a labor-intensive process.
The damaged patent drawing from 1794 was treated by a NARA conservator. A previous Western paper backing was removed mechanically and pressure sensitive tape was removed with heat and solvents. Tears were realigned and mended with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. Paper losses along the edges were filled with Japanese paper laminates, that had been toned with acrylic paints and watercolors.