After the founding of Jamestown in 1607, settlers quickly learned the South's fertile soil and warm climate made it ideal for farming. For decades, tobacco, rice, and indigo remained the cash crops of the South. Unfortunately, as times changed, demand for these crops declined. The South began to question its agricultural base and the need for slavery. Then an inventor named Eli Whitney made some improvements to the cotton engine allowing seeds to be easily removed from the short staple cotton that grew well in the southern climate. Suddenly, cotton production skyrocketed at a time when the emerging textile industry in New England and Great Britain demanded more of the fiber for cloth manufacturing. Now in the South, cotton was king and slaves provided the cheap labor for the most valuable commodity in the United States.