Schoolchildren know Eli Whitney’s cotton gin as one of the most influential inventions in American history and an icon of Yankee ingenuity, but its purpose was simple: Remove seeds from cotton. The cotton gin’s impact on the South was complex and profound. This gin, patented in 1794, is the earliest known working scale model in existence and was produced by Whitney under contract with the state of South Carolina in about 1806. It was displayed at the New York Crystal Palace Exposition in 1853 and is on view at the New Haven Museum & Historical Society.
New Haven Museum & Historical Society, 114 Whitney Ave., New Haven, CT. 203-562-4183; newhavenmuseum.org. Exhibits include the largest collection of Amistad-related artwork in the world.