Hi Agnes and everyone,
A colleague who has worked on a history-of-technology curriculum tells me that
the term "cotton gin" often refers to an entire facility for ginning cotton. The
Walker Evans photo in the Learning Page activity thus shows a structure that is
a 'detail of a cotton gin.'
We're used to thinking of 'cotton gin' as referring to the patent model
registered by Eli Whitney. But I just entered 'cotton gin' into the American
Memory search engine, and found lots of pictures of structures of all kinds -
from shacks to factories - all of which were called cotton gins. It seems that
as agriculture becomes more and more industrialized (a process the Whitney gin
helped inaugurate) the structure that's called a 'gin' keeps getting bigger and
bigger. Makes sense, right? Just one more indication of the way that archives
help to enrich our frequently box-like way of thinking about history.
By the way, you can see facinating images and films of early cotton gin models
and some nifty student and teacher activities to boot (though this is shameless
self-promotion, since we at CCT helped create them) on the Smithsonian Lemelson
Center's website at:
All the best,
Subject: Cotton Gin
From: [log in to unmask] at internet
Date: 11/16/99 10:34 PM
I was conducting an inservice this afternoon for a group of sixth-grade
US history teachers. I printed copies of the inventions/ innovations
contained in the "What Is It?" lesson on the Learning Page and they were
identifiying the picture. The second image of the six is identified as
a cotton gin. One of my participants said that the image did not
reperesent the actual cotton gin. That the gin was probably in the
nearby building. I logged on and looked at the images before and after
this in the FSA collection. I can not tell anything from these
pictures. Is the picture of the gin itself? If it is not then I am not
sure it should be used in the way it is. What do you think?
Is there anyone out there who can answer this question? I have the other
half of this inservice on Thursday.