See biographies by J. Mirsky and A. Nevins (1962) and D. Olmsted (1846, repr. 1972); C. M. Green, Eli Whitney and the Birth of American Technology (1956).
The museum building was originally the Eli Whitney Armory, erected by Whitney to produce muskets on a site he purchased on September 17, 1798. The factory was powered by water from the Mill River and produced muskets for the United States government. On June 14, 1798, he contracted to produce 10,000 muskets to be delivered within 28 months at the cost of $134,000.00; in fact, it took ten years. When he signed the contract, Whitney had no factory, no workers and no experience in gun manufacturing. However, in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, a fellow Yale University graduate and friend, Whitney had written:
Whitney's factory was at the very forefront of the American Industrial Revolution, using water-powered machinery, and it was among the first to have standardized, interchangeable parts (for some but not all of its parts).
The Eli Whitney museum has exhibits on Whitney and his most famous invention, the cotton gin. Other exhibits cover the historic site and A. C. Gilbert, the inventor and toy maker best known for his invention of the erector set. The museum is an experimental learning workshop for design and specializes in building projects for children blending science and invention. The site is located near a water reservoir as well as a hiking trail and also includes a reconstruction of Ithiel Town's innovative lattice truss covered bridge. The museum hosts summer programs and birthday parties.