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.