Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney

Catherine A. Welch
For ages 8 to 10
Lerner, 2007   ISBN: 978-0822576075

Eli Whitney was the son of farmers and it was just his ill luck that he did not like farm work. He much preferred to work in his father’s workshop making things with his father’s tools and crafting things with his hands. When Eli was just twelve years old he took his father’s watch apart and put it together again so that it worked.

In the revolutionary years nails were hard to come by so Eli set about finding a way to meet that need. When he could he created tools for making nails and he then went out to find someone to help him in the fabrication process. For three months Eli and his helper did well. After the war was over the demand for nails was not so high so Eli moved on to make other items such as hatpins and walking sticks.

Eli wanted to do even more however and after getting the schooling he needed, Eli was finally able to fulfill a dream, he went to college. Better still he did so with his father’s help and blessing. By working hard Eli did well at Yale and was able to graduate. Now he had to find a job for he had no money to speak of.

So Eli decided to take a teaching job in South Carolina. However he was soon distracted when he heard about a problem that local plantation owners were having. They wanted to grow cotton but cotton “wasn’t worth growing” because seeds filled the cotton boll and they were very hard to remove. The plantation owners needed some new kind of machine (or cotton gin) to remove the seeds, a better kind of cotton gin than they had now.

In the end Eli did not take the teaching job at all. Instead he built a cotton gin which made him famous - but his problems were just beginning.

This book will give young readers an excellent introduction to the life of Eli Whitney, the man whose invention, the cotton gin, had a profound effect on American history. With an easy to follow and engaging text, annotated illustrations, and informative boxes, this title from the “History Maker Bios” series is perfect for the young history enthusiast.