< Back to blog

The People and Science Behind American Cotton Gins

Humans have harvested, ginned, and woven  cotton for centuries. Today cotton has a long journey from seed to shelf, and one of the most crucial stops along the way is the  cotton gin. At the gin, cotton is cleaned and baled, and then sets out on  it’s travels towards becoming a final product, like your favorite cotton sheets or denim jeans.

The Roots of Cotton Gins

Cotton gins have been in use since the 5th  century. Back then, they weren’t like the gins we know today, but throughout  history the goal has been the same—to clean the stems, seeds and other  material from the cotton fibers efficiently and as completely as possible  before the raw cotton fibers are spun into thread.

Cotton cleaning was a manual job until Eli  Whitney invented the first mechanical cotton gin in 1793. His patent was  granted a year later, and soon many cotton farmers across the United States  were using his invention to clean and produce a  rapidly-growing amount of cotton. In Whitney’s gin, cotton ran through a  wooden drum embedded with a series of hooks that caught the fibers and  dragged them through a mesh screen. The mesh was too fine to let the seeds  through, but the hooks pulled the cotton fibers through with ease. Smaller  gins were cranked by hand and the larger ones were powered by a horse.

Cotton Ginning Runs in the Family

Eli Whitney’s cotton gin invention set the  stage for other inventors and manufacturers. Today, there are more than 500  cotton gins in the United States. One cotton gin in particular is  revolutionizing cotton gin production by using DNA tracking systems.

MaLeisa Finch has been working at the  Keich-Shauver-Miller Gin in Monette, Arkansas since she was 16-years-old.  Now, she runs the place, processing cotton from 15 nearby family farms in  Arkansas. The gin was founded in 1965 by MaLeisa’s father, Raymond Miller.  When he passed away in 2005, MaLeisa took over the business and continues his  legacy, processing as much as 45,000 bales of cotton per year. 


There are a number of stages in the cotton  ginning process, but the most important is cleaning. The cylinder cleaners in  the gin remove foreign materials from the cotton, such as soil, leaves, and  sticks. The cotton then enters the gin stand where rotating saws pull the  cotton fibers from the seeds (similar to Whitney’s original mesh screens).  The seeds are separated from the cotton and typically reused for planting or  sent to a mill to produce cottonseed oil.

And now MaLeisa has incorporated an  innovation into the process — DNA tracking using SigNature T Technology.

Small Town, Big Science

 MaLeisa believes it’s important for farmers  to know where their cotton goes once it leaves her gin, and it’s just as  important for consumers to know where their cotton was grown. That’s why she  uses HomeGrown SigNature T technology at her gin. Every piece of cotton is  tagged with an invisible molecular marker, allowing the purity of the cotton  to be tested and verified at every stage of the supply chain, no matter where  its final home is.

“The farmers seem very excited about knowing where their cotton is  going to be going now,” says MaLeisa.

SigNature T is natural, invisible, and  durable. It’s derived from naturally occurring plant materials and has no  effect on cotton’s appearance or performance. And it can’t be washed off,  ironed out, or bleached away. SigNature T binds to the cotton at the molecular  level so the cotton can be tested and proven that it’s 100% American  HomeGrown cotton.

With HomeGrown cotton, the  Keich-Shauver-Miller Gin doesn’t just clean and bale cotton and then forget  about it. They’re devoted to their product, farmers, and consumers the whole  way from the farm to your home.

Interested in learning more about our 100%  American cotton? Visit our website here.  


Whether you’re a manufacturer looking to enhance your cotton products or a customer just wanting to know a bit more, we’d love to hear from you.

Learn More
Thank You For Supporting America's Farmers
American Flag Icon