Eli Whitney

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents


Eli Whitney—Inventor of the “Cotton Gin”

December 8, 1765, Westborough, MA, 7:00 AM, LMT. (Source: Speculative from Marc Penfield) Rectified from approximate time. Died in 1825. 

(Ascendant Sagittarius; Sun and Mercury in Sagittarius; Moon in Libra; Venus in Aquarius; Mars in Scorpio; Jupiter in Leo; Saturn in Gemini; Uranus in Aries; Neptune in Virgo) An alternative (and perhaps more accurate) time also exists: 3:00 PM, LMT, giving a Taurus Ascendant, a Scorpio Moon conjunct Mars, and an Aquarian MC—all changes being most fitting.           

Eli Whitney has two major inventions or innovations to his credit. The first is the invention of the cotton gin, which made the production of cotton so profitable in the United States that it became the largest producer of cotton in the world. The economic gain which Taurus symbolizes is evident. Secondly, he began the making of guns with machinery, marking the beginning of mass production in the US. A Mars/Moon conjunction in Scorpio in the sixth house of industry would certainly correlate with the production of fire arms.   

The fifth ray (the ray of the inventor) is clearly in evidence. With either chart, the three signs distributing the fifth ray (Leo, Sagittarius and Aquarius) all hold planets. The Taurus rising chart has the advantage of emphasizing Vulcan, which would be important considering the nature of Whitney’s inventions.


I can make just such ones if I had tools, and I could make tools if I had tools to make them with.

I have always believed that I should have had no difficulty in causing my rights to be respected.

I have not only Arms but a large proportion of Armourers to make.

I have now taken a serious task upon myself and I fear a greater one that is in the power of any man to perform in the given time-but it is too late to go back.

One of my primary objects is to form the tools so the tools themselves shall fashion the work and give to every part its just proportion.

The use of this machine being immensely profitable to almost every individual in the Country all were interested in trespassing.

You are undoubtedly acquainted with my Reputation, and as for my Penmanship it must speak for itself; this is to desire your Approbation to keep a public school.


Eli Whitney
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
(December 8, 1765–January 8, 1825) was an American inventor. He was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, on December 8, 1765, the eldest child of Eli Whitney, a prosperous farmer, and Elizabeth Fay of Westborough. Very early in life he demonstrated his mechanical genius and entrepreneurial acumen, operating a profitable nail manufacturing operation in his father's workshop during the American Revolution. Because his step-mother opposed his wish to attend college, Whitney worked as a farm laborer and schoolteacher to save money. He prepared for Yale under the tutelage of Rev. Elizur Goodrich of Durham, Connecticut and entered the Class of 1792 at the age of twenty-three.

Whitney expected to study law but, finding himself short of funds on graduation, accepted an offer to go to South Carolina as a private tutor. Instead of reaching his destination, he was convinced to visit Georgia. In the closing years of the eighteenth century, Georgia was a magnet for New Englanders seeking their fortunes (its Revolutionary era governor had been Lyman Hall, a migrant from Connecticut). When he initially sailed for South Carolina, among his shipmates was the widow and family of Revolutionary hero, General Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island. Mrs. Greene invited Whitney to visit her Georgia plantation, Mulberry Grove. Her plantation manager and husband-to-be was Phineas Miller, another Connecticut migrant and Yale graduate (Class of 1785), who would become Whitney's business partner.

Somewhat ironically, Whitney's two most famous innovations would divide the country in the mid-19th century:

The cotton gin, which revolutionized the way Southern cotton was cropped and reinvigorated slavery; and his interchangeable parts, that would revolutionize Northern industry and, in time, be a major factor in the North's victory in the Civil War.

The cotton gin is a mechanical device which removes the seeds from cotton, a process which had, until the time of its invention, been extremely labor-intensive. The cotton gin was a wooden drum stuck with hooks, which pulled the cotton fibers through a mesh. The cotton seeds would not fit through the mesh and fell outside. Whitney occasionally told a story where he was pondering an improved method of seeding the cotton and he was inspired by observing a cat attempting to pull a chicken through a fence, and could only pull through some of the feathers.

The cotton gin could generate up to fifty pounds of cleaned cotton daily. This contributed to the economic development of the Southern states of the United States, a prime cotton growing area; some historians believe that this invention allowed for the African slavery system in the Southern United States to become more sustainable at a critical point in its development.

Cotton Gin Patent. It shows sawtooth gin blades, which were not part of Whitney's original patent.Like so much about Whitney's career, his claims as inventor of the cotton gin were disputed both in his own time and in our own. In addition to contemporary claimants against whom Whitney litigated (with varying success), modern historians of technology have suggested that the gin may actually have been invented by others, among whom his patroness Catherine Greene, John Ogden Nash, and Hogden Holmes have been mentioned. Whitney received a patent (later numbered as X72) for his cotton gin on March 14, 1794, however, it was not validated until 1807. Whitney and his partner Miller did not intend to sell the gins. Rather, like the proprietors of grist and sawmills, they expected to charge farmers for cleaning their cotton - two-fifths of the profits, paid in cotton. Resentment at this scheme, the mechanical simplicity of the device, and the primitive state of patent law, made infringement inevitable. Whitney's cotton gin company went out of business in 1797.

While the cotton gin did not earn Whitney the fortune he had hoped for, it did transform Southern agriculture and the national economy. Southern cotton found ready markets in Europe and in the burgeoning textile mills of New England. Cotton agriculture revived the profitability of slavery and the political power of supporters of the South's "peculiar institution." By the 1820s, the dominant issues in American politics were driven by "King Cotton": maintaining the political balance between slave and free states and tariff protection for American industry. The cotton interests led the country into war with Mexico, expecting a vast expansion of cotton agriculture.

Interchangeable Parts
Although Whitney is popularly credited with the invention of a musket that could be manufactured with interchangeable parts, the idea predates him and he never succeeded at it. The idea is credited to Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, a French artillerist, and credit for finally perfecting the "armory system," or American system of manufacturing, is given to Captain John H. Hall. In From the American System to Mass Production, historian David Hounshell describes how de Gribeauval's idea propagated from France to the colonies via two routes: from Honoré Blanc via his friend Thomas Jefferson, and via Major Louis de Tousard, another French artillerist who was instrumental in establishing West Point, teaching the young officer corps of the Continental Army, and in establishing the armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry.

By the late 1790s, Whitney was on the verge of bankruptcy and cotton gin litigation had left him deeply in debt. His New Haven cotton gin factory had burned to the ground, and litigation sapped his remaining resources. The French Revolution had ignited new conflicts between England, France, and the United States. The new American government, realizing the need to prepare for war, began to rearm. The War Department issued contracts for the manufacture of 10,000 muskets. Whitney, who had never made a gun in his life, obtained a contract in January, 1798 to deliver ten to fifteen thousand muskets in 1800. He had not mentioned interchangeable parts at that time. Ten months later, Treasury Secretary Wolcott sent him a "foreign pamphlet on arms manufacturing techniques," possibly one of Honoré Blanc's reports, after which Whitney first began to talk about interchangeability. After spending most of 1799-1801 in cotton gin litigation, Whitney began promoting the idea of interchangeable parts, and even arranged a public demonstration of the concept in order to gain time. He did not deliver on the contract until 1809, but then spent the rest of his life publicizing the idea of interchangeability. (Hounshell, pp 30-32)

Whitney's defenders have claimed that he invented the American system of manufacturing -- the combination of power machinery, interchangeable parts, and division of labor that would underlie the nation's subsequent industrial revolution. While there is persuasive evidence that he failed to achieve interchangeability, his use of power machinery and specialized division of labor are well documented (Woodbury 1960). When the government complained that Whitney's price per musket compared unfavorably with those produced in government armories, Whitney was able to calculate an actual price per musket by including fixed costs such as insurance and machinery, which the government had not included. He thus made early contributions to both the concept of cost accounting, and the concept of the efficiency of private industry.

Later Life and Legacy
Despite his humble origins, Whitney was keenly aware of the value of social and political connections. In building his arms business, he took full advantage of the access that his status as a Yale alumnus gave him to other well-placed graduates, like Secretary of War Oliver Wolcott (Class of 1778) and New Haven developer and political leader James Hillhouse. His 1817 marriage to Henrietta Edwards, granddaughter of the famed evangelist, Jonathan Edwards, daughter of Pierpont Edwards, head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, and first cousin of Yale's president, Timothy Dwight, the state's leading Federalist, further tied him to Connecticut's ruling elite. In a business dependent on government contracts, such connections were essential to success.

Whitney died of prostate cancer on January 8, 1825, leaving a widow and four children. His armory was left in the charge of his talented nephews, Eli Whitney and Philos Blake, notable inventors and manufacturers in their own right (they invented the mortise lock and the stone-crushing machine).

Eli Whitney, Jr. (1820-1894) assumed control of the armory in 1841. Working under contract to inventor Samuel Colt, the younger Whitney manufactured the famous "Whitneyville Walker Colts" for the Texas Rangers. (The success of this contract rescued Colt from financial ruin and enabled him to establish his own famous arms company). Whitney's marriage to Sarah Dalliba, daughter of the U.S. Army's chief of ordinance, helped to assure the continuing success of his business.

The younger Whitney organized the New Haven Water Company, which began operations in 1862. While this enterprise addressed the city's need for water, it also enabled the younger Whitney to increase the amount of power available for his manufacturing operations at the expense of the water company's stockholders. Originally located in three sites along the Mill River, the new dam made it possible to consolidate his operations in a single plant.

Whitney's grandson, Eli Whitney III (1847-1924), sold the Whitney Armory to Winchester Repeating Arms, another notable New Haven gun company, in 1888. He served as president of the water company until his death and was a major New Haven business and civic leader. He played an important role in the development of New Haven's Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood [1].

Following the closure of the armory, the factory site continued to be used for a variety of industrial purposes, including the water company. Many of the original armory buildings remained intact until the 1960s. In the 1970s, as part of the Bicentennial celebration, interested citizens organized the Eli Whitney Museum, which opened to the public in 1984. The site today includes the boarding house and barn that served Eli Whitney's original workers and a stone storage building from the original armory. Museum exhibits and programs are housed in a factory building constructed c. 1910. A water company office building constructed in the 1880s now houses educational programs operated by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (which succeeded the New Haven Water Company).

Eli Whitney and his descendants are buried in New Haven's historic Grove Street Cemetery [2].



to all Astrological Interpretations by Michael D. Robbins
to other commentary and projects by Michael D. Robbins
to the University of the Seven Rays

to Makara.us home

Web www.makara.us
www.esotericastrologer.org www.netnews.org