Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A 1844 Griswold Cotton Gin

The prospect of seeing something I’ve never seen before is the main reason I go to these shows and the Foothills Antique Power Association’s (SC.) 25th Power From the Past Show on May 30, 2015 at Greer, SC. didn’t disappoint.

I was taking some photos of his McCormick-Deering engine when Jerry Neely walked up.

We talked about his engine for a while and then he directed my attention to what was sitting behind it on the trailer which up till then had pretty much gone unnoticed. It doesn't exactly jump out at you, it looks more like a piece of furniture than a machine but that's fitting for the period it's from, when the world was transitioning from an agrarian past to an industrial future. Be honest. Did you pick up on it?

What I was looking at was a reconstructed Griswold Cotton Gin that was originally made in 1844 which is pretty unusual in itself but the real story lies in how it came to be there.

Starting with a pile of badly decomposed timbers and rusted metal parts he found behind the barn on the family farm Jerry began a remarkable bit of reconstructive mechanical archeology and reverse engineering.

With little more to work from than an old photo from the 1920's and a few pieces of wood that were still intact enough to dimension from he scaled off the rest of the machine using a CAD program.

It was an amazing story, and since there's no substitute for firsthand knowledge I asked Jerry to work it up and send it for posting on The Mule. 

He said he'd give it his best shot so here's hoping he's burning the midnight oil at the keyboard and one day soon you'll get the skinny straight from the horse's mouth.

His experience is bound to provide valuable insight for anyone who might be considering undertaking a similar project and the photos he took illustrate the reconstruction from debris pile to a working machine.

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