Picture of the Day: The Patent for the Cotton Gin

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On this day in 1765, Eli Whitney was born in Massachusetts. In 1792 he left New England and headed to Georgia to work as a tutor. Within months of arriving, he invented the cotton gin, a machine that removed the seeds from cotton bolls. Above is the 1794 patent for his invention. Though the machine reduced the labor involved in processing picked cotton, it greatly increased the demand for slaves to work in the fields. In the years following the spread of his invention, the cotton industry rapidly grew, and slavery -- an institution that had been in decline -- became more widespread throughout the South.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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