Talk:Eli Whitney

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Category needs to be added[edit]

Please add Whitney to the People from Worcester County, Massachusetts category. I do not have enough edits to edit this article. --Mcfly007 (talk) 21:30, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

 Done per request. — ¾-10 03:04, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Common Misconceptions[edit]

On Wikipedia's own List of common misconceptions page, it lists that he did not in fact invent the cotton gin, yet on this page it is in the first sentence. Someone needs some citations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:13, 23 April 2010 (UTC)

No such reference in made on the cited Wikipedia page. There is no reference to cotton gin at all. N0w8st8s (talk) 04:14, 18 January 2014 (UTC)n0w8st8s
You are responding to a comment from 2010. - SummerPhD (talk) 04:25, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

Article name REDUX[edit]

I haven't researched this yet. I'm calling on anyone who's interested in this article to get involved. How do we KNOW that Eli Whitney, the cotton gin guy, the one who died in 1825, was a "Jr"? The reason I ask is because Roe 1916 p160 clearly says that "Eli Whitney, Jr." was the son of an ex-Governor Edwards, who was a trustee of Eli Whitney (d. 1825)'s estate. Can anyone set this straight? Was Eli Whitney (d. 1825) a "Jr" at all? If Roe is wrong, what are the refs that correct him? I suspect (not yet confirmed) that Wikipedia has this wrong currently. I may not wait to remove the "Jr" from this article title before digging up further research. If the "Jr" belongs, someone will need to come back and *show* why it should be re-added. — ¾-10 17:55, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

OK, well duh, the "Early life" section tells me that there's a good reason to call him Jr, because his dad was Sr. HOWEVER, there's still a problem here. The guy that Roe 1916 p160 talks about was an important guy who did a good job churning out rifles for the U.S. Army in the 1840s. And he was known as "Eli Whitney, Jr." Which was lamentably ambiguous, since "cotton gin" Eli Whitney was also a Junior, but it was what it was, lamentability or not, and apparently most people didn't know that "cotton gin" Eli Whitney was also a Junior; he was famous simply as "Eli Whitney". OK, at this point, my hypothesis is that we are going to need to have 2 articles, named as follows:
Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney, Jr. (18whatever-18whatever)
Eli Whitney, Jr.
Eli Whitney, Jr. (18whatever-18whatever)
with the latter being about the later guy. — ¾-10 18:10, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
Actually, the ambiguous referent of "His" in "His son" at Roe 1916:160 may have confused me. I'm guessing it means that "1840s-steel-barrel Eli" was the son of "cotton gin Eli", not the son of ex-Governor Edwards. However, this still might imply that there's an error in this article, because there is uncertainty as to who was running the company in 1841 (Edwards? "stone crusher Blake"? "1840s-steel-barrel Eli"?), in 1842, and through the rest of the forties. This article seems to suggest that "stone crusher Blake" was running it from 1841 and for some years onward. Roe 1916:160 seems to say that "stone crusher Blake" only ran the company from 1825 to 1835. One thing I wonder is if Roe was mistaken in calling "1840s-steel-barrel Eli" as "Eli Whitney, Jr." I wonder if Roe *should* have been calling him "Eli Whitney III."
Any Wikipedians who live near (or work at) the Eli Whitney Museum may be able to bring clarity. — ¾-10 18:33, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
More follow-up: According to a page on the museum's website,, "cotton gin Eli"'s son, that would be "1840s-steel-barrel Eli", was born in 1820 and was known by the name "Eli Whitney, Jr." And I believe history generally knows him as "Eli Whitney, Jr." Therefore, even if "cotton gin Eli" was indeed technically a Junior (to be confirmed), we're gonna need to do some mighty powerful disambiguatin' here in this article, and explain the genealogy a bit. — ¾-10 18:51, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

I don't know if anyone has bothered to email the Eli Whitney Museum, but I just did. Wikipedia must have it incorrect as I would think that the museum would have better information. Who knows. The museum says that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. And Eli Whitney, Jr. was his son who married Henrietta. Wikipedia has this confused. I also asked the museum to find some ancestry of Eli Whitney, the cotton gin inventor. Hopefully, someone will straighten this out. Also, the photo that Wikipedia uses is the photo of Eli Whitney and according to the museum it is NOT the photo of Eli Whitney, Jr.Mylittlezach (talk) 18:37, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

The 'photo' of Eli Whitney you are referring to is is an image of a well-known painting of Eli Whitney by the American artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse from the Yale University Art Gallery. It is certainly an image of Eli Whitney. MarmadukePercy (talk) 19:21, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

Yes, but Wikipedia refers to the person in the photo as Eli Whitney, Jr and not Eli Whitney. There is a discrepancy from Wikipedia and the museum.Mylittlezach (talk) 19:36, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

I believe I can shed light on this discrepancy. I am going to call them by nicknames to keep clear who I am talking about. Cotton-gin Eli is "THE" Eli Whitney that is most famous. Steel-barrel Eli is his son. Now get this: they BOTH have some basis to be called by the name "Eli Whitney Jr": Cotton-gin Eli because his father, apparently, from what I've read, was Eli Whitney Sr; and Steel-barrel Eli because that's how everyone knew him during his lifetime and for decades afterward. In other words, even though Cotton-gin Eli was "technically" a Junior, history and fame never CALLED him that, because they knew him as simply "Eli Whitney" period. Meanwhile, Steel-barrel Eli was "technically" the third generation, but history and fame never CALLED him that, because, working from Cotton-gin Eli being just "Eli Whitney" period, they called his son "Junior". I am 99% sure that the above is correct. Now here's the part I don't recall certainly off the top of my head: I believe that Steel-barrel Eli had a son, also named Eli, who history and fame have always referred to as "Eli Whitney III" (ie, "the third"), BUT that man was "technically" the fourth generation. [¶] Because history and fame knew these men as Eli [period], Eli Junior, and Eli the third, that is what Wikipedia should also call them. The person who changed the title of this Wikipedia article about Cotton-gin Eli to "Eli Whitney Jr" did it solely based on the fact that his dad was a Senior. That title-changing editor was, no doubt, entirely ignorant that Steel-barrel Eli is the man that history has known for a century as "Junior". Therefore, we should change it back, which would put Wikipedia's article title back in line with historical usage and [thus] with the museum's nomenclature. But I can't do it because only admins have the authority to do a page move over an existing redirect. — ¾-10 01:50, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
Guys and gals, I am going to go look up how to flag down an admin and get their help to change the name of this page back to "Eli Whitney". Fingers crossed. — ¾-10 13:14, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Done at Wikipedia:Requested moves. I hope no one tries to block this request without actually knowing anything about the topic, such as that steel-barrel Eli existed, and that he was called "Eli Jr". — ¾-10 13:31, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Thanks to Anthony, an admin, for doing the move. Much appreciated. — ¾-10 04:24, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

I've now fixed all the embarrassingly wrong stuff (2011-04-24)[edit]

Hi all. With my changes of 2011-04-23 and 2011-04-24, I've now fixed all the embarrassingly wrong stuff. This includes:

  • Wikipedia no longer conflates the "Junior" issue.
    • It no longer tries to call Cotton-gin Eli (b. 1765) "Junior", because that's not how history has called him (see earlier talk thread for explanation if needed);
    • It recognizes that his son, Steel-barrel Eli (b. 1820), was in fact the one that history has long known as "Junior";
    • It no longer conflates Eli Junior with Eli Whitney Blake, who was his cousin—not the same man;
  • It no longer tries to claim that Gribeauval "perfected" the American system (duh?!);
  • It no longer tries to fork the coverage of the details of the development of intechangeability, because that's what {{main|interchangeable parts}} is for.

Whew! What a large load of crap cleaned up! But I am happy, because this latest iteration of article version just goes to prove once more that Wikipedia is a self-correcting mechanism, given enough time. Cheers, — ¾-10 15:26, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

PS: The cycle time could be reduced if more members of the decently educated portion of the general public would bother to participate in improving Wikipedia. It seems a little weak that, out of all the people in the world who were capable of fixing this article, it didn't get done until *I* did it. Sigh. Oh well. I'll just keep showing all y'all up. And don't fret about Wikipedia becoming too good (i.e., a scary-good free resource), because it will happen without you anyway. Welcome to the world of tomorrow! ;-) — ¾-10 15:42, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

Unintended Consequences[edit]

I've removed the following line referring to the cotton gin leading to the American slave economy: "(regardless of whether Whitney intended that or not)"

I think it was intended to point out that, though the cotton gin did indeed affect slavery, there is no reason to assume it was Whitney's intention. However, by even bringing it up, it achieves the opposite. It would be like an article on Hitler's mother that says "She gave birth to Adolf Hitler, which led directly to the Holocaust (whether she intended that or not)."

Unless there's some controversy to suggest that maybe he DID intend his invention to give a boost to the slave trade, there's no need to state it. And if that controversy exists, it should be cited. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zegota (talkcontribs) 05:28, 29 January 2014 (UTC)