Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Cotton Ginning Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #368524

Research Project: Enhancing the Quality, Utility, Sustainability and Environmental Impact of Western and Long-Staple Cotton through Improvements in Harvesting, Processing, and Utilization

Location: Cotton Ginning Research

Title: Development of the cotton gin

Author
item HUGHS, SIDNEY - RETIRED ARS EMPLOYEE
item Holt, Gregory
item Armijo, Carlos
item Whitelock, Derek
item VALCO, THOMAS - RETIRED ARS EMPLOYEE

Submitted to: Journal of Cotton Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/19/2019
Publication Date: 3/26/2020
Citation: Hughs, S.E., Holt, G.A., Armijo, C.B., Whitelock, D.P., Valco, T.D. 2020. Development of the cotton gin. Journal of Cotton Science. 24:34-43.

Interpretive Summary: Cotton fiber was first used in 6000 B.C. in Pakistan. The two New World cotton species that make up most of today’s cotton production include G. hirsutum (Upland) and G. barbadense (Pima). Upland cotton has a significantly greater strength of fiber attachment to the seed than Pima cotton, and this difference had a dramatic impact on the historical development of the cotton gin. The first cotton gin existed by the 5th century A.D. and was known as a single-roller gin. It consisted of a small roller and a separate flat base; the “ginner” rotated the roller over seed cotton lying on the base to pinch the seed apart from the lint. The next development was the churka gin which had two small-diameter rollers that rotated simultaneously in opposite directions (double-roller gin). The churka gin ginned cotton at five times the rate of the single-roller gin. The churka gin was being widely-used in North America by 1750 and ginned both Upland and Sea Island (long staple) 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 to this day), while double-roller gins were used for Sea Island cotton. In 1840, Fones McCarthy developed a reciprocating-knife roller gin that consisted of a leather-covered roller, a stationary knife, and a reciprocating knife. Although the McCarthy roller gin better preserved the fiber properties than Holmes’ design, the saw gin had a significantly higher ginning capacity, so the roller gin was used with Sea Island cotton, and the saw gin with Upland cotton from the 1840’s throughout most of the 20th century. Sea Island ceased in 1923 because of the boll weevil, but Pima cotton was developed at this time in the Southwest and roller gin use continued. In 1963, a rotary-knife roller gin was developed that ginned five times the rate of a reciprocating-knife gin. With the advent of control technologies, a high-speed roller gin was developed in 2005 with a ginning capacity, on a per-width basis, comparable to modern day saw gins; in addition to ginning Pima cotton, it is used to gin high-quality Upland cottons in the West.

Technical Abstract: Cotton fiber was first used in 6000 B.C. in Pakistan. The two New World cotton species that make up most of today’s cotton production include G. hirsutum (Upland) and G. barbadense (Pima). Upland cotton has a significantly greater strength of fiber attachment to the seed than Pima cotton, and this difference had a dramatic impact on the historical development of the cotton gin. The first cotton gin existed by the 5th century A.D. and was known as a single-roller gin. It consisted of a small roller and a separate flat base; the “ginner” rotated the roller over seed cotton lying on the base to pinch the seed apart from the lint. The next development was the churka gin which had two small-diameter rollers that rotated simultaneously in opposite directions (double-roller gin). The churka gin ginned cotton at five times the rate of the single-roller gin. The churka gin was being widely-used in North America by 1750 and ginned both Upland and Sea Island (long staple) 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 to this day), while double-roller gins were used for Sea Island cotton. In 1840, Fones McCarthy developed a reciprocating-knife roller gin that consisted of a leather-covered roller, a stationary knife, and a reciprocating knife. Although the McCarthy roller gin better preserved the fiber properties than Holmes’ design, the saw gin had a significantly higher ginning capacity, so the roller gin was used with Sea Island cotton, and the saw gin with Upland cotton from the 1840’s throughout most of the 20th century. Sea Island ceased in 1923 because of the boll weevil, but Pima cotton was developed at this time in the Southwest and roller gin use continued. In 1963, a rotary-knife roller gin was developed that ginned five times the rate of a reciprocating-knife gin. With the advent of control technologies, a high-speed roller gin was developed in 2005 with a ginning capacity, on a per-width basis, comparable to modern day saw gins; in addition to ginning Pima cotton, it is used to gin high-quality Upland cottons in the West.