Eli Whitney Timeline
Timeline Description: Eli Whitney (born December 8, 1765) is best remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin; however, his career included a number of other manufacturing innovations. He developed interchangeable manufacturing, new milling technologies and more.

Date Event
December 8, 1765 Eli Whitney Was Born

Eli Whitney, the son of a well-off farmer, Eli Whitney Sr. and his wife, Elizabeth Fay in Westborough, MA. Eli grew up on the farm, looking for more effective ways to manage everyday tasks.
1777 Elizabeth Fay Whitney Died

When Eli Whitney was 11 years old, his mother died. He remained on the farm with his father.
1779 Invented Nail Manufacturing

At only 14, Whitney invented aa more efficient way to manufacture nails. Nails were essential for all sorts of construction, so efficiency in manufacture was important. Eli earned a significant income during the Revolutionary War by making and selling nails.
1789 Entered Yale University

Whitney's stepmother opposed college for him, so he worked to earn enough to put himself through college. He worked as both a farm laborer and teacher during the years before Yale.
1792 Graduated Yale

Whitney graduated from Yale in 1792, with Phi Beta Kappa honors. He had planned to go to law school, but lacked the funds.
1792 Travelled to South Carolina

Whitney took a job as a private tutor, planning to move to South Carolina. On the ship to South Carolina, he met the widow and family of General Nathanael Greene, and was invited to visit their Georgia plantation.
1792 Went to the Greene Plantation in Georgia

At the Greene Plantation in Georgia, Whitney met Greene's widow's fiancé, Phineas Miller. Miller would become his business partner. He also, for the first time, recognized the need for a new cash crop.
1793 Invented the Cotton Gin

With the support of Greene and Miller, Whitney worked through the winter, inventing a mechanical device to effectively separate cotton fiber from waste material in the plant.
1794 Patented the Cotton Gin

With Miller, Whitney patented the cotton gin. They planned to install the machine, claiming two-fifths of the crop in payment for processing. Farmers began to copy the cotton gin, leading to a licensing plan.
1790 Whitney Near Bankruptcy(Late 1790s)

Litigation over the cotton gin, as well as other financial troubles had left Whitney near bankruptcy. In addition, one of the cotton gin factories had burned down.
1798 Interchangeable Parts Manufacturing

With limited profits from the cotton gin, Whitney began focusing on interchangeable parts manufacturing, particularly for weapons. In 1798, he accepted an order for 10,000 rifles for the American government. He delivered the order somewhat late in 1809.
1801 Worked in South Carolina(1801 to 1806)

Between 1801 and 1806, Whitney returned to work on the cotton gin project in South Carolina; however, relatively little is known about this period of his life. It may have contributed to the delay in the delivery of the arms order.
1800 Cost Accounting(1800 to 1810)

When questioned about the cost of his muskets, Whitney provided a full cost breakdown, including fixed costs. This marked the first use of cost accounting.
January 8, 1825 Eli Whitney Died

Whitney died in 1825. He was 59 years old, and died from prostate cancer.
1840 Cotton Demand Increased Slave Trade(By 1840)

By 1840, the cotton industry increased the demand for slaves dramatically. Whitney's invention had, indirectly, led to the growth of another industry. The cotton gin re-invigorated the slave trade, even as it had been dying out with the reduction in tobacco as a cash crop.