In 1793 Eli Whitney invented a very important machine. It was the cotton gin. This very simple machine removes seeds from cotton plants at the least fifty times faster than a worker could by hand. Since several southern states had soil that was ideal for growing cotton and all of the new textile mills in Great Britain and the Northeast had a great demand for cotton it suddenly became a very profitable crop.

The cotton gin changed life for the people in the South. Much of their hard times ended and the economy of the South grew rapidly. People who owned plantations in the Old South grew very rich. Other planters however moved westward to start new plantations. This in effect caused the population of Alabama and Mississippi to soar. However along with the greater demand for cotton came an even greater demand for slaves. So southerners continued to bring slaves in to the United States and by 1860 the slave population had reached over four million. As more cotton farms appeared in the western section of the south the slave trade became a very large business there. Also even in 1860 only around one-fourth of southern families owned slaves.