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American History
3.10 Eli Whitney

About a hundred years ago (1793), Eli Whitney of Westboro', Massachusetts, invented the cotton-gin, a machine for pulling off the green seeds from cotton wool. Near Westboro', Massachusetts, there is an old farm-house which was built before the war of the Revolution. Close to the house is a small wooden building; on the door you can read a boy's name, just as he cut it with his pocket-knife more than a hundred years ago. Here is the door with the name. If the boy had added the date of his birth, he would have cut the figures 1765; but perhaps, just as he got to that point, his father appeared and said rather sharply: Eli, don't be cutting that door. No, sir, said Eli, with a start; and shutting his knife up with a snap, he hurried off to get the cows or to do his chores.

Eli Whitney's father used that little wooden building as a kind of workshop, where he mended chairs and did many other small jobs. Eli liked to go to that workshop and make little things for himself, such as water-wheels and windmills; for it was as natural for him to use tools as it was to whistle. Once when Eli's father was gone from home for several days, the boy was very busy all the while in the little shop. When Mr. Whitney came back he asked his housekeeper, "What has Eli been doing?" "Oh," she replied, "he has been making a fiddle." His father shook his head, and said that he was afraid Eli would never get on much in the world. But Eli's fiddle, though it was rough-looking, was well made. It had music in it, and the neighbors liked to hear it: somehow it seemed to say through all the tunes played on it, "Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well."

When Eli was fifteen, he began making nails. We have machines to-day which will make more than a hundred nails a minute; but Eli made his, one by one, by pounding them out of a long, slender bar of red-hot iron. Whitney's hand-made nails were not handsome, but they were strong and tough, and as the Revolutionary War was then going on, he could sell all he could make. After the war was over the demand for nails was not so good. Then Whitney threw down his hammer, and said, "I am going to college." He had no money; but he worked his way through Yale College, partly by teaching and partly by doing little jobs with his tools. A carpenter who saw him at work one day, noticed how neatly and skilfully he used his tools, and said, "There was one good mechanic spoiled when you went to college."

When the young man had completed his course of study he went to Georgia to teach in a gentleman's family. On the way to Savannah he became acquainted with Mrs. Greene, the widow of the famous General Greene[4] of Rhode Island. General Greene had done such excellent fighting in the south during the Revolution that, after the war was over, the state of Georgia gave him a large piece of land near Savannah. Mrs. Greene invited young Whitney to her house; as he had been disappointed in getting the place to teach, he was very glad to accept her kind invitation. While he was there he made her an embroidery frame. It was much better than the old one that she had been using, and she thought the maker of it was wonderfully skilful. General Greene had fought with Cornwallis.

Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper:
  1. What did Eli Whitney make in the workshop while his father was away?
  2. How did he make his nails?

Q 1: Which enabled him to make money during the war of revolution?
His hand made nails.

Q 2: The opening paragraphp of the passage reveals that Eli Whitney was -------------------------
A Carpenter
A Craftsment
A Mechanic

Q 3: Eli's fiddle seemed to say ------------
Whatever you do, do it properly.
Whatever is done to be done to your satisfaction.
Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well.

Q 4: Where did he join?
He joined in Yale college.
He joined in Washington college
He joined in Stanford college

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Question 6: This question is available to subscribers only!

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