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Inventors and Inventions
Eli Whitney



Eli Whitney
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    armory, interchangeable, partnership, random, widow, production, fiber, renew, personally, refused, various, immediately, coastal, worthless, federal, teaching
     content words:    When Eli Whitney, Eli Whitney, When Eli, Yale College, Catherine Greene, Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene, Phineas Miller, United States, Thomas Jefferson, Eli Whitney Jr


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Eli Whitney
By Mary L. Bushong
  

1     Have you ever wanted to invent something? When Eli Whitney was a young man, he found it hard to get a job. Nothing seemed to work out, until the day he found he was good at inventing.
 
2     Eli Whitney was born on December 8, 1765 in Westboro, Massachusetts. His father was a farmer who also served as a justice of the peace. When Eli was 24, he began attending Yale College, where he learned the principles of engineering. But when he graduated in 1792, he was without a job.
 
3     The first offer of a teaching position fell through. Then he traveled by boat down to Savannah, Georgia for another teaching job. On the way, he made friends with Catherine Greene, the widow of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene. When he arrived, he found that the pay was not what he had been promised, and that job also fell through. Whitney would have been stranded there in Savannah with no job, money, or friends, if not for Mrs. Greene. She invited him to her plantation where he became good friends with her plantation manager, Phineas Miller.
 
4     In those days, the cotton mills in England were hungry for more cotton than they could get. The problem was the only good cotton in the United States, the black seed long staple, would grow only in coastal areas. The other kind of cotton, green seed short staple, could be grown elsewhere, but it was hard to separate the seed from the cotton fibers. It would take a slave most of a day just to separate a pound of fiber.
 
5     The plantation owners longed for some crop that would bring in a good income. Mrs. Greene commented to her friends one day that Eli Whitney was clever enough to design a machine to separate the cotton seeds from the fiber. Then she personally encouraged him to try.

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