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LOGO: Journal of Cotton Science


Development of the Cotton Gin

Authors: Sidney E. Hughs, Gregory A. Holt, Carlos B. Armijo, Derek P. Whitelock, and Thomas D. Valco
Pages: 34-43
Engineering and Ginning

Cotton fiber was first used in 6000 B.C. The two New World cotton species that are most of today’s production include G. hirsutum (Upland) and G. barbadense (Extra Long Staple [ELS]). The first cotton gin existed by the 5th century A.D (single-roller gin). The next development was the churka gin (double-roller gin) which ginned cotton five times faster than the single-roller gin. The churka gin was widely used in North America by 1750 and ginned both Upland and Sea Island (ELS) cotton. The spike-tooth cotton gin was developed by Eli Whitney in 1794. Hodgen Holmes developed a continuous flow gin with toothed saw blades in 1796. These were a different concept than the double-roller gins. Holmes’ saw gin dominated the industry for Upland cotton (and still does), whereas double-roller gin use continued for Sea Island cotton. In 1840, Fones McCarthy developed a reciprocating-knife roller gin. The saw gin had a significantly higher ginning capacity than the McCarthy gin, so it was used with Upland cotton and the McCarthy roller gin was used with Sea Island cotton to preserve the long-staple cotton’s quality. Sea Island production ceased in 1923 because of the boll weevil, but Pima (ELS) cotton had developed by this time in the Southwest, so roller gin use continued. In 1963, a rotary-knife roller gin was developed that ginned at five times the rate of a reciprocating-knife gin. A high-speed roller gin was developed in 2005 with a ginning capacity, on a per-width basis, comparable to modern-day saw gins.