Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: Eli Whitney

The year of 1765 was made famous by the birth of a man who was destined to enrich his country millions of dollars.

Eli Whitney was born at Westborough, Massachusetts, December 8th, 1765, and received a good education, graduating at Yale College. Going South as a tutor in a private family, his attention was arrested by the slow process by which the seed was extracted from cotton. At that time a pound of greenseed cotton was all that a negro woman could clean in a day.

At the instance of Mrs. Greene, widow of General Greene, he set about constructing a machine to do the work. He had no facilities for pushing the work, even having to manufacture his tools, but he persevered and accomplished his purpose. Rumors of the machine spreading over the State, a mob at night broke open the building wherein the machine was stored, carried his precious model away, and before he could make another, various machines were in use. However, he went North to Connecticut and established a manufactory to make the machines. South Carolina granted him $50,000 after long and vexatious litigation, and North Carolina allowed him a percentage, which was paid in good faith.

But, although Eli Whitney had invented a machine which would do in one day as much as an ordinary hand would in months, which has been worth hundred of millions of dollars to the South; yet, through the influence of Southern members, Congress would not renew his patent, and so much opposition was raised that he actually never received from his invention the money he had spent to perfect it. All efforts to obtain a financial recognition in this invention failing, he abandoned the manufacture of the cotton-gin. He was not discouraged, not at all, but turned his attention to fire-arms. These he greatly improved, being the first to make them adjustable, that is, any single piece to fit the same place in any of the thousands of guns that might be in process of manufacture in his works. He manufactured arms for the government, and reaped a fortune which he had so honestly earned.

On January 8th, 1825, the country lost this wonderful genius, but his fame is growing year by year, as one of the world’s benefactors.