| || || |
| || |
| || || |
From the 1924 book, A Popular History of American Invention. Original chapter title, “From Plantation to Loom.”
A LITTLE more than a hundred and fifty years ago practically all clothes were made in the home. Cotton and woollen yarns were spun by hand by some member of the family, sometimes by the children, woven or knit into coarse fabrics, and fashioned into various articles of clothing by the older members of the household, or by a mendicant tailor, who wandered from town to town, plying his trade.
Generally, the kitchen was the “living-room” of the house. Light, streaming in through leaded window-panes, fell on strings of dried fruits, vegetables, and corn, hanging from the rafters. The floor was spotless and covered, not with carpet or oilcloth, but with fine white sand.
Beside the window was a spinning-wheel and a smaller wheel for flax. There was also a great wooden loom, with its beam for warp and its shuttle. Cotton was brought by stage-coach from ships that arrived from England or the East.
In the farmhouse this cotton, and the fleece sheared from the sheep grazing on the hills, were cleaned, carded, and spun or woven into cloth.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|A COLONIAL SPINNING-MACHINE.|
As late as 1791, this domestic or home method of production was still in practice in Europe and America, although the invention and use of textile machinery abroad had resulted in the beginning of what is known as the “factory system.” In that year, Alexander Hamilton reported to Congress that “there is only one branch of the wool manufacture, which as a regular business, can be said to have acquired maturity; that is the manufacture of hats.”
He then went on to say: “There is a vast scene of household manufacturing which contributes more largely to the supply of the country than could be imagined. . . . Great quantities of coarse cloths, coatings, serges and flannels, linsey-woolseys, hosiery of wool, cotton and thread, coarse fustians, jeans and muslins, checked and striped cotton and linen goods, bedticks, coverlets and counterpanes, tow-linens, coarse shirtings, towellings and table linen, and various mixtures of wool and cotton and of cotton and flax, are made in the household way, and in many instances to an extent not only sufficient for a supply of the families in which they are made, but for sale, and even in some cases for exportation.
It is computed in some districts that two-thirds, three-fourths, and even four-fifths of all the clothing of the inhabitants are made by themselves.”
Twenty years previously, Hamilton had voiced a belief that the development of the cotton-growing and manufacturing industry in the colonies would be of great benefit. Visualizing its possibilities in the Southern States, he wrote: “If, by the necessity of the thing, manufactures should once be established and take root among us, they will pave the way still more to the future grandeur and glory of America.”
The great change which has taken place since Hamilton’s time is the result of the inventive genius of a little band of courageous men who sacrificed everything to an idea, and who persisted in the face of every discouragement in order to lighten the task of spinning and weaving.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|REDUCED MODEL OF A VAUCANSON LOOM (1746). In 1725 Basile Bouchon invented a method of using perforated paper (like that of a modern automatic piano) by which the simples for any shed could be selected. In 1728 Falcon substituted perforated cards, butt his mechanism was attached to the simple cords and required a boy to operate it. Vaucanson combined the two machines, and the combination was later improved by Jacquard.|
The process of making a piece of cloth involves several steps:
- cleaning the fibre (as in the case of cotton)
- carding the fibre
- spinning the fibre into yarn
- and finally weaving the yarn into a fabric.
To trace the history of textile invention we will take up each of these steps in order.
CLEANING COTTON—A GREAT INVENTION OF ELI WHITNEY
Mechanical improvements had brought cotton manufacturing to the stage where the need for raw material was greater than the supply. The necessity of obtaining more raw cotton was a growing problem, yet few planters in America seemed interested in the cultivation of the plant. All that could be produced in the United States, in 1791, was 138,234 pounds; the balance coming from India and the West Indies.
The solution of the problem was achieved by Eli Whitney. Born on a farm at Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1765, Whitney was a bright and somewhat precocious lad, with a penchant for making things. He thoroughly disliked agriculture and preferred to spend his time in his father’s tool-house rather than in tilling the soil.
As a lad, he made violins. His father thought this a waste of time, and informed his other sons that since Eli preferred to make fiddles, he would have to take his portion of the family inheritance in the things that he created.
But that did not in the least bother young Whitney. He continued to make his fiddles, playing on them at neighborhood dances, and was consequently far more popular with the younger folks than were his brothers.
One day, he took his father’s watch apart; then, in fear of a caning, hurriedly tried to put it together again. To his delight, he found he had succeeded, and that the watch ran as perfectly as before. He did not tell his father about it for many years. It was an accomplishment, however, that started him to making all sorts of things.
During the Revolutionary War he was too young to shoulder a musket; but he knew all about one.
His contribution to the cause of Liberty was the production of nails, which the colonists sorely needed. In those days, nails were made by hand, and the process was difficult. When the struggle for independence was over, Whitney employed his nail-making experience in the manufacture of ladies’ hairpins.
He also fashioned walking-sticks, and sold so many of them that he was able to pay his own tuition through Yale when his father declined to supply him with the necessary funds. He supplemented this sum by working out of study hours for seven dollars a month and board.
Whitney was twenty-seven years old when he graduated, and shortly before leaving the university startled one of his professors by repairing a mechanical apparatus which that learned gentleman had intended to send abroad because he did not think any American had the skill.
Receiving his degree, Whitney started South to accept the post of tutor to the children of a rich Georgia planter. On his arrival he was dismayed to find that some one else had been engaged in his stead. He was about to return North, but having met the widow of the famous Revolutionary general, Nathanael Greene, he accepted her hospitality and made his home at her beautiful house on the banks of the Savannah River.
It was then his intention to study law; but his inventive genius, quickly manifesting itself as he was devising a labor-saving embroidery frame for Mrs. Greene, turned him in another direction.
At that time, astonishing as it may seem, the cotton crop of the entire country could have been raised on a field comprising not more than 200 acres. The price of cotton was exceedingly high because of the cost of preparing it for the market.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|A COTTON-FIELD SUCH AS THIS WAS UNKNOWN IN ELI WHITNEY’S TIME. Then the entire cotton crop of the country could have been raised on a field comprising not more than two hundred acres. Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.|
The chief expense was in cleansing it of the dirt, leaves, and the seeds which clung to the fibres. It appeared unlikely that cotton could ever be raised in large quantities in this country because of the cost of preparing it for the use of the spinner.
One evening Mrs. Greene was entertaining a distinguished gathering of Southern gentry, and the conversation turned to this particular problem.
“Surely, Mr. Whitney can supply your needs,” said Mrs. Greene, with confidence in her protégé. Her guests regarded the remark as a pleasantry, but young Whitney took it in all seriousness.
Never having seen a cotton-plant, the next day he went into the country and obtained samples of the boils. Ten days later he had a model of a cotton-cleaning machine. Mrs. Greene summoned her friends to see the invention, and Whitney proudly set his device in motion.
It proved to be a cylinder four feet in length and five inches in diameter. Arranged upon this were a number of forward-pointing wire teeth or saws, projecting two inches above the surface of the revolving wheel. The saws passed through narrow slits between bars. The wire teeth would catch the cotton and carry it between the bars, which latter would expel the seed because it was too large to go through.
At first the machine moved smoothly, and, to the delight of the spectators, the cotton was cleaned most thoroughly. Then, after a few minutes, the saws clogged and the machine stopped. Whitney was first embarrassed, then alarmed. He feared that he had failed. However, he solved the problem by removing the obstructions with a brush.
His later model had a cylinder with a set of stiff brushes fixed to it, by means of which the cotton gin was able to clean itself as it cleaned the cotton.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|MODEL OF ORIGINAL WHITNEY COTTON-GIN IN THE NATIONAL MUSEUM, WASHINGTON. Forward-pointing teeth or saws projected from a cylinder and passed through slits between bars. The wire teeth caught the cotton and carried it between the bars, which expelled the seed because it was too large to pass through .A set of brushes removed obstructions and prevented the clogging of the machine.|
The results of Whitney’s simple invention are truly startling. Eight years before he perfected the gin, eight bales of cotton, sent from this country to England, were seized by the customs agents at Liverpool on the ground that they “could not have been produced in America.”
The world produced 490,000,000 pounds of cotton in 1791, of which, as we have seen, America supplied only 138,234 pounds. In 1792, the year of the Whitney invention, this country exported 189,316 pounds.
The following year, America exported 487,000 pounds; the year after saw this increased to 1,601,000 pounds; the next raised this to 6,276,000. By 1800, the total production of this country was 35,000,000 pounds, of which no less than 17,790,000 pounds were sent abroad. To-day, the United States produces over 7,000,000,000 pounds of cotton.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
The invention of Whitney’s cotton-gin had not only profound economic effects, but also political consequences. Before the gin was introduced many southern planters were seriously thinking of emancipating their slaves, who were engaged in cultivating indigo, rice, and tobacco.
Then came the gin and with it fortunes to be made out of cotton. Slaves could hardly pay for their subsistence as hand-separators of cotton from its seed, but they could be made to earn enormous profits as cultivators of cotton. Whitney’s gin converted the slave from a liability into an asset. Strong, healthy slaves rose in price.
Taking slaves with them, younger sons pushed out into the wilderness, acquired great tracts of land, and made cotton king of the South. Hence the fervent defenses of slavery as an economic necessity, made by ardent Southerners before the Civil War, would never have been uttered if Whitney had not invented and introduced his cotton-gin.
Although Whitney’s gin has since been improved upon, its basic features are practically unchanged. As a result of his ingenuity, a thousand pounds of cotton could be cleaned in the time it originally took one slave worker to seed five pounds by hand. At the old rate the slave would have taken a month to seed an average bale of 300 pounds.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|MODERN COTTON-GIN WITH BREAST REMOVED AND GRIDS AND SAWS EXPOSED. The principle of operation is the same as that originally applied by Whitney in his gin.|
HOW WHITNEY’S IDEA WAS STOLEN
Whitney had become acquainted with Phineas Miller—later the second husband of Mrs. Greene—and the two formed the firm of Miller and Whitney. They had foolishly hoped to monopolize the ginning of cotton. This was a fatal error, and did not tend to endear them to the Southern planters.
Whitney was a level-headed business man as well as a clever inventor, and he soon realized his mistake. In an attempt to regain the confidence of the public the firm offered to lease machines on a royalty basis, but opinion continued to be against them.
The building in which Whitney’s model was stored was broken into and the machine stolen. It was copied freely, used even before he received his patent, and, although he appealed to Congress, no relief was forthcoming. A flood of lawsuits against the infringers was at once begun, but before Whitney obtained a single favorable decision, he had been forced to bring some sixty actions.
Much as his machine meant to America, Whitney claimed that he made no profit out of his labors. In a letter to his friend, Robert Fulton, Whitney tells the story of his troubles:
“My invention was new and distinct from any other; it stood alone. It was not interwoven with anything before known and it can seldom happen that an invention or improvement is so strongly marked and can be so clearly and specifically identified; and I have always believed that I should have had no difficulty in causing my rights to be respected, if it had been less valuable, and had been used only by a small portion of the community. But the use of the machine being immensely profitable to almost every planter in the cotton districts, all were interested in trespassing upon the patent rights, and each kept the other in countenance.
“Demagogues made themselves popular by misrepresentation and unfounded clamors, both against the right and against the law made for its protection. Hence there arose associations and combinations opposed to both. At one time but few men in Georgia dared to come into open court and testify to the most simple facts within their knowledge, relative to the use of the machine.
“In one instance, I had great difficulty in proving that the machine had been used in Georgia, although, at the same moment, there were three separate sets of this machinery in operation within fifty yards of the building in which the court sat, and all so near that the rattling of the wheels was distinctly heard on the steps of the court house.”
Persecution and discouragements followed one after another. In 1795, Whitney’s workshop and models, on which he had worked for two years, were burned down. He and Miller went North to continue making gins, but they had difficulty in raising money, even at the interest of from twelve to twenty-five per cent. Abroad, manufacturers claimed that ginning injured the cotton, and this prejudice had to be overcome.
After a long litigation, however, Whitney received due credit, in a decision handed down by Justice Johnson in a United States court. This was in 1807, when Whitney was suing Arthur Fort and a man named Hodgin Holmes, who had made a machine somewhat like Whitney’s, but with teeth cut in plates of iron.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|Whitney’s Gin: Plan of the saw and brush cylinders.|
Judge Johnson’s charge is interesting. In part, he ruled:
“The machine of which Mr. Whitney claims to be the inventor, so facilitates the preparation of this species (green seed domestic cotton) for use, that the cultivation of it has suddenly become an object of infinitely greater national importance than that of the other species (foreign or black seed cotton) can be.
“Is it then to be imagined that if this machine had ever before been discovered, the use of it would ever have been lost, or could have been confined to any tract or country left unexplored by commercial enterprise?”
Judge Johnson granted Whitney a perpetual injunction, and those who claimed that he had stolen their idea, with those accused by Whitney of stealing his, were legally silenced. After long delays, Whitney was finally awarded $50,000 by the State of South Carolina, and the State of North Carolina voted him a percentage of profits on all cotton-gins used within its territory for a period of five years. Other States promised to do likewise, but conveniently forgot their promises.
Whitney, disgusted, decided to remain in the North and to devote his attention to other pursuits. Tall and dignified, with cultivated mind and manner, he was on the most friendly terms with the leading men of his time, and enjoyed the acquaintance of every President of the United States during his lifetime.
Whitney’s friend, Robert Fulton, remarked that: “Arkwright, Watt, and Whitney were the three men who did most for mankind of any of their contemporaries,” which was, indeed, praise from Caesar, in view of Fulton’s own achievements. Macaulay expressed the opinion that “What Peter the Great did to make Russia dominant, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin has more than equalled in its relation to the power and progress of the United States.”
With Whitney’s gin making possible an increased supply of cotton, there were 140 cotton manufacturers in operation within thirty miles of Providence by 1815. They employed some 26,000 hands and operated 130,000 spindles.
The census of 1910 gave the country a total of 33,998,648 spindles, of which 28,178,862 were cotton; 1,332 establishments employed 387,252 hands; and it was estimated that the cultivation, handling, and manufacturing of cotton gave employment to 9,000,000 persons. In that year, 4,799,000 bales of cotton were used by the country.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|One of Whitney’s patent drawings.|
CARDING THE FIBRE
Before fibres can be spun they must be carded; in other words they must be combed, just as we comb hair. It is the object of carding to disentangle and straighten the fibres. Carding is as old as human industry. The hand-cards used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were wire brushes. One brush was nailed to a table, teeth up, and the other to a two-handled bar wielded by a man.
The fibres were spread over the fixed brush or card and the carder drew the movable brush over it. To strip the fibres from the card teeth, a rod called a “needle-stick” was inserted in the wires and worked in and out. The strip or “sliver” thus secured was then ready to be spun.
James Hargreaves, about whom more will be recounted when the subject of spinning is taken up in this chapter, conceived the idea of doing away with the two-handled movable card wielded by hand.
He attached the movable card to the ends of cords passing through pulleys in the ceiling and hung counterweights to the other ends of the cords. With this pulley system, fibres were more easily carded, although carding was still a matter of muscular power.
Moreover, Hargreaves could operate two and three cards instead of only one with this system of pulleys and cords, so that he invented a real laborsaving device.
But the man who made the first important mechanical improvement in carding and brought us measurably nearer our own automatic day was Daniel Bourn, of Leominster, England. In 1748, he patented the principle of carding by cylinders; a principle that reminds one somewhat of Whitney’s saw gin for removing the seed from cotton.
Bourn’s appliance had four rollers studded with teeth or “cards.” The fibre passed from the first roller to the second, then to the third, and finally to the fourth. When the first roller had done its work of combing, a grid stripped the fibres from the teeth. Ever since Bourn’s day this method has been called “cylinder carding.”
There is another method called “eat carding,” which was also patented in 1748. The inventor was Lewis Paul, of Birmingham, England. Paul also used a cylinder studded with teeth or cards. The cylinder fitted in a rounded trough likewise studded with teeth. By feeding fibres between the cylinder teeth and the trough teeth, and turning the handle of the cylinder it is easy to see that the fibres would be combed.
But the man who gave us the modern, automatic method of carding was Richard Arkwright, one of the great figures in the history of textile machinery, a man of whom more will be said in the proper place. Arkwright saw that the methods of Bourn and Paul, while good, would never provide enough thread for fast spinning machinery, such as he was engaged in devising and introducing.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|ORIGINAL CARDING-MACHINE MADE BY ARKWRIGHT ABOUT 1775 AND PRESERVED IN THE SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM, LONDON. In the large wooden wheel a hole will be noticed. This is intended to receive a crank by which the wheel is turned. The purpose of carding is to separate the fibres, which are entangled in small tufts and knots so as to draw them out in parallel strings and to remove impurities. Carding-engines are brushes of bent iron wire fixed on a set of cylindrical and a set of plane surfaces, the former being made to revolve so-as to sweep over the surfaces of the latter at rest. Sometimes, as here shown, large cylindrical cards work against the surfaces of smaller cylindrical cards, moving at a slower speed; and occasionally both plans are combined in the same engine. The tufts are held fast by the stationary or slow-moving cards, while the quick-moving cards tease out the fibres and disentangle them. Courtesy of the South Kensington Museum, London.|
Arkwright concentrated upon this problem between 1773 and 1775, and succeeded in mastering it. He contributed nothing new in principle. He simply combined the ideas of Bourn and Paul, and eventually produced a machine which would card fibres continuously.
His work was not so much invention as textile engineering, although he had never had an engineering training, and was so poor a mechanic that he could not even make his own models. But his principles were so sound that his automatic carding-engine has not been very much changed to this day.
In 1777, Oliver Evans, an American genius whose name occurs repeatedly in this book, devised a machine which could turn out 1,500 card teeth a minute. Evans asked the Pennsylvania legislature to supply him with funds to introduce his machinery, but he was refused, and in 1788, others began to make cards by his method.
Oliver Evans had caught the inventive fever, however, and in 1808, became the first regular steam-engine builder in Philadelphia. He applied steam to textile machines, built up a thriving business, and contributed many machines for a multitude of uses.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|A MODERN CARDING-ENGINE IN ACTION. Note how sliver is coiled in the can. Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.|
SPINNING THE FIBRE
After the fibre has been carded it is ready to be spun into threads or yarns. The cotton or other fibre, as it comes from the card, is a thin sheet of fleece, called a “sliver” or “roving.” Until about 1730, all yarn was spun by hand from slivers or rovings.
A pinch of sliver was held between the forefinger and thumb, about six inches from the spindle. As the wheel—the old spinning-wheel treasured as an antique in many a household—was turned with one hand, the sliver or roving was drawn out about a yard with the other.
The spindle then was made to revolve so as to twist the drawn-out, cord-like sliver into a thread, which was then wound up on the spindle as yarn.
To-day, swift-running machines perform the whole operation with a simplicity, smoothness, and rapidity that seem little short of miraculous. Instead of laboriously working upon a strand at a time, one trained attendant can take care of 125 spindles in operation, and these spindles rotate at the dizzy speed of 10,000 revolutions per minute.
The man who made the first advance over the old cumbrous method of hand spinning was the same Lewis Paul who invented the flat-carding machine. He must have been an extraordinarily ingenious person. Scarcely anything is known about him except that he was a weaver. Paul patented, in 1738, a startlingly new method of spinning with the aid of rollers. He describes the principle thus in his patent:
“ . . . One end of the sliver is put between a pair of rollers, or cylinders, or some such movement, which, being turned round by their motion, draw in the raw mass of cotton to be spun in proportion to the velocity given to the rollers. As the cotton passes regularly through or betwixt these rollers, a succession of other rollers, moving proportionately faster than the first, draw the sliver into any degree of fineness that may be required.”
It is clear that Paul’s rollers were nothing but mechanical fingers and thumbs. He had evidently analyzed spinning with an eye to mimicking the motions of the fingers. Paul’s method of spinning with the aid of rollers inspired dozens of inventors in after-years, among them the famous Arkwright. Paul’s rollers did not prove a commercial success, although he did grant a few licenses under his patent.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|THE RING SPINNING-FRAME OF RICHARD ROBERTS. Crompton’s mule prompted Richard Roberts to experiment with the “ring frame,” another method of spinning yarn which would not easily break. The principle was introduced in the United States in 1828 by J. Thorpe long before it was known abroad. Courtesy of the South Kensington Museum, London.|
Hand spinners were further alarmed by the activities of James Hargreaves, the previously mentioned illiterate weaver of Blackburn, England, who startled them with a machine that could spin eight threads at a time.
A rapid weaver could use as much yarn as six expert hand spinners, working treadles and wheels, could produce. Here was a man who would do away with these spinners.
Hargreaves was inspired by the necessities of his own situation. As a weaver, he was dependent on a spinner for yarn, and the spinner was his own wife, who could hardly produce thread fast enough for him.
Strangely enough, it was an accident that set him on the right track. While he was brooding over his enforced idleness and waiting for his wife to furnish him with more yarn, her spinning-wheel was upset by her daughter Jenny. Hargreaves noticed that the wheel continued to revolve, and the spindle, now in an upright position, instead of a horizontal one, did not cease to receive the yarn.
This gave him just the hint he needed. He at once set to work to make a spinning-frame with eight upright spindles and a wheel. It proved a success, and because of the accident which had given him the thought, he christened the device a “jenny”—the name of the daughter who had upset the wheel.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|HARGREAVES’S FIRST SPINNING-JENNY OF 1764. While brooding over his misfortunes Hargreaves noted that a spinning-wheel, accidentally upset by his daughter Jenny, continued to revolve, although the spindle was upright instead of horizontal. This gave him the inspiration he needed. He invented a spinning-frame with eight upright spindles and a wheel and called it a “jenny.” Courtesy of the Deutsches Museum, Munich.|
Later, Hargreaves’ invention made it possible to spin as many as 120 threads with no more labor than had previously been expended in producing one. However, the “jenny” could spin only yarn to be used as weft, as the yarn lacked the necessary strength to make it suitable for the longitudinal warp threads, and the spinner was obliged to draw off the threads by hand. It remained for Richard Arkwright to supply its deficiencies.
But despite the fact that thinking men promptly set to work to improve Hargreaves’ discovery, most of his fellow craftsmen were instantly up in arms. They claimed that Hargreaves and other seekers after increased production were robbing human hands of their just labor.
Thus the inventor found himself the centre of a storm of anger and abuse. A brutal mob broke into his humble cottage and smashed his jenny to pieces. In fact, Hargreaves and his wife barely escaped with their lives. He died un-acclaimed after a long, bitter battle against starvation.
Hargreaves never dreamed of the modern improvements upon his idea, nor had he any conception of the progress being made in his lifetime on what is now known as the Jacquard machine.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|ORIGINAL JACQUARD LOOM PRESERVED IN THE CONSERVATOIRE NATIONAL DES ARTS ET METIERS, PARIS.|
ARKWRIGHT THE FIRST TO SUCCEED IN MECHANICAL SPINNING
These undeserved and pitiful experiences of the early pioneers in textile endeavor, make the story of Richard Arkwright much more pleasant reading. He was in a better position to weather the storm of popular disapproval than his predecessors, and fortunately he was able to reap material benefit from his work, although he, too, faced the severest persecution.
Unlike most inventors, Arkwright proved himself a rather good business man and a splendid organizer, so that he was able to laugh at his enemies and to gain for himself fame and fortune. His beginning was humble. Amid the grimy old houses and narrow lanes of Bolton, England, in 1750, stood an inn known as the Old Millstone. Swinging over the door was the sign of a “Subterranean Barber,” whose shop was in the cellar. There, it was advertised, one might be shaved for a penny.
The proprietor of the place was Richard Arkwright, then a youth of twenty-one. He was a tall, bright-eyed, active young man, and like all of his clan, a great talker. Most of his customers were either spinners or weavers, and Arkwright loved to hear them speak of the new machines which were then attracting such attention.
He was one of thirteen children, and his boyhood had been far from happy, for his father was poor, and consequently Arkwright the barber was a man of little learning. However, he had a bent for machinery, and he lost no opportunity to study it.
By the time he was thirty, he grew tired of shaving for a living, and set himself up as a wigmaker, travelling through the countryside to purchase hair from the heads of poor farmer’s daughters.
It was on one of these excursions that he fell in love with a country lass and brought her back with him as his wife to Bolton. She proved to be an extravagant girl, but Arkwright was doing well and did not mind that trait. He had discovered a new and improved way of dyeing hair, and was prospering.
One day, while on a visit to a manufacturing town, he heard some weavers discussing the threads they used in making cloth. These consisted of a linen thread interwoven with cotton. Although Hargreaves’ spinning-jenny had increased production and was now being generally used, it still failed to provide enough yarn for the growing demand. It must also be remembered that its thread was not strong enough to be used for warp.
The situation interested Arkwright, and finding a jenny, he proceeded to study it. He believed that he could develop a machine that would not only spin faster but finer, and he began to experiment. He became wrapped up in the idea and soon began to neglect his business to devote his whole time to his invention.
His money dwindled and his extravagant wife became furious. Arkwright endured her scoldings and continued to stay home, bravely battling with discouragement.
But Mistress Arkwright finally lost her patience. One day, in a rage, she deliberately smashed her husband’s model. She wanted to teach him a lesson and bring him to his senses. Much to her surprise, he drove her out of the house and told her never to return. Then he proceeded with his work, and after several years completed the invention that made his name immortal.
It is said that Arkwright conceived his idea of spinning with the aid of rollers while watching the men in an iron foundry passing a billet of red-hot iron between two pairs of rollers, the second pair revolving faster than the first. It seems more likely that he heard of Lewis Paul’s method of using rollers that turned at unequal speeds. It is certain that he knew of a roller-machine used by Thomas High.
At all events, he drew the sliver or roving through four pairs of rollers, as Paul had done before him, then twisted the threads delivered by the rollers by means of four spindles. It must not be supposed that Arkwright merely copied the machines of other men. Every great invention is an evolution, a natural growth. Arkwright made Paul’s roller-drawing principle practical, and that is why he is esteemed a great inventor.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|ARKWRIGHT’S ORIGINAL SPINNING-MACHINE OF 1769. Hargreaves’ spinning-jenny could supply thread useful only as weft because it did not have the requisite firmness or hardness required for longitudinal threads or warp. Arkwright overcame the difficulty by inventing the spinning-frame. The machine was patented in 1769.|
Arkwright’s machine did not have to be stopped to wind the lengths of yarn, as did the spinning-wheel. It performed, by itself, the whole process of spinning. All the workmen had to do was to feed it with cotton roving, and join or piece a thread when it broke.
The thread it produced was fit for warp as well as weft. As a result, cloth could now be made wholly of cotton. Arkwright used almost his last penny to employ others to help him construct his machine. He went to John Kay, a watchmaker of Warrenton, for his first rude model, in 1767.
Remembering Hargreaves’ fate, Arkwright kept his invention a secret until he secured a patent; and that took about two years. Even with this protection, he found himself and his machine targets of rioters; so he smuggled it to Nottingham, where he proceeded to improve it.
When his funds were practically gone, Arkwright found a friend in John Smalley, of Preston, Arkwright’s birthplace. Later, in company with Samuel Need and Jedediah Strutt, he erected a spinning-mill of his own in Woolpack Lane, Nottingham, the first “mill” in all England.
Envious capitalists claimed that Arkwright had stolen his invention, and they sought to have his patents annulled. Years of litigation followed, and, unfortunately, Arkwright got the worst of it.
Then a mob, spurred on by those who hated him, burned his mills at Chorley, while the local constabulary and soldiers stood looking on in amusement, without making the slightest effort to interfere.
Arkwright’s organizing ability, however, proved more than a match for the methods of his adversaries, and soon he grew rich. He purchased a country estate and built a fine house known as Willersley Castle. In time, he was chosen high sheriff of the county, a great honor in those days.
When, in 1786, George III visited the vicinity, it was Arkwright who received the king and congratulated him upon having escaped from an attempt upon his life. The speech so pleased the king that he knighted Arkwright, and the man who had been a poor barber became Sir Richard Arkwright.
It was Sir Richard Arkwright, the prosperous mill-owner, who introduced the factory system into the textile industry, the man who left a fortune of £400,000, and not plain Dick Arkwright, the barber, whom Carlyle had in mind when he wrote: “He was a plain, almost gross, bag-cheeked, pot-bellied Lancashire man, with an air of painful reflection, yet also of copious, free digestion.”
In spite of his great gifts, Arkwright found reading and writing difficult; even at the age of fifty he pored over a grammar and a spelling-book several hours a day.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|DRAWING OF ARKWRIGHT’S ORIGINAL SPINNING-MACHINE, 1769. In English none too good Arkwright thus describes his original water-frame spinning-machine, patented 1769:
“A, the cog-wheel and shaft, which receive their motion from a horse. B, the drum or wheel, which turns C, a belt of leather, and gives motion to the whole machine. D, a lead weight, which keeps F, the small drum, steady to E, the forcing-wheel. G, the shaft of wood which gives motion to the wheel H and continues it to I, four pairs of rollers (the forms of which are drawn in the margin), which act by tooth and pinion made of brass and steel nuts fixed in two iron plates, K.
That part of the roller which the cotton runs through is covered with wood, the top roller with leather, and the bottom one fluted, which lets the cotton, etc., through it; by one pair of rollers moving quicker than the other draws it finer for twisting, which is performed by the spindles.
K, the two iron plates described above. Four large bobbins with cotton rovings on, are conducted between rollers at the back. M, the four threads carried to the bobbins and spindles by four small wires, fixed across the frame in the slip of wood V. N, iron levers with small lead weights hanging to the rollers by pulleys which keep the rollers close to each other. O, a cross piece of wood to which the levers are fixed. P, the bobbins and spindles.
Flyers made of wood with small wires on the sides lead the thread to the bobbins. Small worsted bands are put about the whirl of the bobbins, the screwing of which tight or easy causes the bobbins to wind up their threads faster or slower. The four spindles run in iron plates. V, explained in letter M. W, a wooden frame of the whole machine.” Courtesy of the South Kensington Museum, London.
SAMUEL CROMPTON IMPROVES THE JENNY
It remained for a youth who composed hymns and whose hobby, like that of Eli Whitney, was the construction and playing of violins to combine the inventions of Hargreaves and Arkwright and enable England to make the fine muslins she had long imported from India. He was Samuel Crompton, a sensitive, superstitious, proud, hard-working, rather artistically inclined man.
Born near Bolton, in Lancashire, in 1753, like many Lancashire children he trampled the dirt out of washed cotton and learned how to spin before he ever went to the Bolton day-school. Almost from the cradle the difficulties of spinning were driven home to him. He was cuffed and scolded because the Hargreaves jenny he worked broke the soft threads.
Hargreaves’ spinning-jenny, with the improvements made upon it, had a series of vertical spindles, each of which was supplied with a ribbon or roving of cotton, fed from a separate spool. It had a clasping mechanism by which the operator could catch and draw out all of the roving at one time, during the operation, and then feed the threads to the spindles, for winding.
The process was almost exactly that of hand-spinning, except that from eight to twenty threads could be handled at once. The great trouble was that the individual skill of the user of the ancient distaff, and later of the wheel, was missing. The machine had no judgment and did not improve its product with practice.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|(Left) Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning-mule. He played the violin for eighteen pence a night in order to purchase the tools he needed in the development of his spinning “mule.” (Right) Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the modern method of spinning. Carlyle described him as a “plain, almost gross, bag-cheeked, pot-bellied Lancashire man, with an air of painful reflection, yet also of copious, free digestion.”|
Crompton seriously began to apply himself to the improvement of the jenny when he was twenty-one. He worked steadily on an invention, which would remove its defects, between the years 1774 and 1779. He played the violin for eighteen pence a night in the Bolton theatre to earn the money he needed for the purchase of tools.
At first his family did not know of his ambition and his experimenting. The old “Hall-in-the-Wood” where the Cromptons lived, was always regarded as a queer place by the countryside. The strange lights and noises which came from the place, and which finally made secrecy impossible, gave the old tumbledown mansion the reputation of being haunted.
Curiosity overcame fear, and a few daring Lancashire weavers peeped in now and then to find out why Sammy Crompton was staying up so late at night.
At last Crompton finished what was at first jocularly called a “mule”—a name that has now become part and parcel of the spinner’s vocabulary. Crompton saw that if the threads were to be prevented from breaking, on the Hargreaves jenny, they must be relieved of strain during the process of drawing them out.
His “mule” was a combination of the drawing rollers of Paul and Arkwright and the stretching devices of Hargreaves. As the rollers paid out the elongated thread, the spindle was made to move back so as to slacken the thread and relieve the strain.
Hence the rollers could stretch the thread, and not until it was ready to be wound up on the spindle, was any strain placed upon it; even then, the strain of winding was not sufficient to break it.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|CROMPTON’S FIRST MULE, AN IMPROVEMENT OVER HARGREAVES’ JENNY. The mule was a combination of the drawing rollers of Paul and Arkwright, and the stretching devices of Hargreaves. As the rollers paid out the elongated thread, the spindle was made to move back so as to slacken the thread, and not until it was ready to be wound up on the spindle was any strain placed upon it, and then only enough to carry out the winding operation. Courtesy of the Deutsches Museum, Munich.|
Crompton’s yarn was the marvel of Lancashire. “How did he make it ?” all the weavers asked. He was flooded with orders for yarn. But also he was continuously spied upon. Curious eyes were glued at gimlet-holes in his loft.
Remembering what happened to Hargreaves and how the mob had smashed his first jennies, he took his machine apart and removed to Oldham. There he began to spin fine yarns in secret.
Finally he did start to sell his machine, but at such unfavorable terms that he made no money. Arkwright’s patents had been thrown open to the public by a decision of the King’s Bench. Appropriating both Crompton’s mule and Arkwright’s rollers, weavers of fine fabrics became so wealthy that they strutted about the streets of Manchester with five-pound notes stuck in their hats.
Parliament voted £10,000 to Cartwright, inventor of the power-loom in recognition of his services. Crompton hoped that as much might be done for him. He succeeded in arousing the interest of Spencer Percival in his case. Percival, then prime minister, promised to obtain £20,000 for him. Elated, Crompton went up to London, in 1809, on the day the petition was to be put before Parliament. But his joy soon changed to sorrow.
The powerful Percival greeted him at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament, but suddenly a pistol-shot dashed the inventor’s hopes. The premier had fallen victim to the bullet of the crazy assassin, Bellingham. Thus robbed by fate of his patron’s support, Crompton was given only a grant of £5,000.
He spent all of this in attempting to establish himself as a bleacher, cotton merchant, and spinner, and remained poor until he died in 1827, a disappointed man, fully realizing the benefit his sacrifices had given to mankind.
His “mule” is now an automatic device; but its essential principle has not been changed.
Crompton’s mule had prompted Richard Roberts to experiment with the “ring frame,” another method of spinning yarn which would not easily break. However, an American conceived the idea before it was tried in England, and in 1828, J. Thorpe introduced it in this country, long before it was known abroad.
THE INVENTION OF THE POWER-LOOM
We have now briefly traced the development of ginning, carding, and spinning. There still remains the last phase of weaving the carded, spun thread into fabric. Suppose we take a peep into the home of an English weaver, and then try to realize what the invention of John Kay, of Bury, meant to him.
Imagine a quaint, thatched cottage with a great clumsy loom of wood set up in the main room. The weaver and his assistants are ready to set to work. The yarn, either spun by the weaver’s family or purchased from a neighbor, is ready to be fashioned into cloth.
First, the assistants attach a strand of yarn to a long wooden needle known as a “shuttle.” The shuttle is heavy and the weaver needs both hands and plenty of strength to use it. His first task is to “set” the warp-threads—which run the long way of the fabric—and these he stretches across a wooden frame by means of his shuttle. Then the “woof” or cross-threads are woven horizontally across the warp, much as our Indians still weave their woollen blankets.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|SEVENTEENTH CENTURY WEAVING-ROOM WITH A LARGE LOOM. From a copper-engraving of Jan van Vliet, made in 1635. It was not until John Kay invented the “fly” shuttle (so-called because of its speed), that the loom was radically improved.|
It was the shuttle of such a loom that John Kay improved. He was a machinist and engineer, born in 1704 and educated abroad. While still a mere youth, he was put in charge of his father’s woollen-mill. His inventive genius soon showed itself, and he made improvements in dressing, batting, and carding machinery.
His first patent was for a machine that twisted and carded mohair and worsted, and twined and dressed thread; a patent granted when he was but twenty-six. His “fly shuttle,” so christened because of its speed, improved the quality of the cloth, lightened the work of the operator, and more than doubled the output.
Before him—as we have seen—the shuttle was cast through the warp from side to side with one hand and caught by the other. The weft-thread was driven home by the hand which had just released the shuttle. For heavy fabrics, a weaver had to stand on either side of the loom.
Kay simplified this by making a shuttle with a handle and spring. His invention enabled the weaver to throw the shuttle
with one hand, leaving the other free to drive home the weft.
Simple as Kay’s invention was, it astonished his associates. Yorkshire clothiers realized its advantage, but they had no intention of paying Kay for it. They stole it and formed the “Shuttle Club,” agreeing to pay each other’s fines if Kay went to law.
The weavers, however, were furious, and Kay had to flee to Leeds. He encountered similar hatred there. Weavers broke into his quarters, demolished his machines, and would have killed him if his friends had not secretly carried him off, wrapped up in a sheet.
Kay sought refuge in France and reconstructed the broken machines he had smuggled out of England. He told Parliament that he had many more devices in mind, but would not show them unless he was guaranteed better treatment. He also pleaded that he needed money to pay his debts and support his family.
He died in France in obscurity and in poverty. Yet his inventions, since modified, are still in daily use. Kay’s son, Robert, had been caught in the fire of inventive enthusiasm, and, ignoring his father’s fate, he produced the “drop-box,” by which it became possible to work many different kinds of weft or cross threads into the same fabric—a hitherto unheard-of thing.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|EARLY FORM OF KAY FLY-SHUTTLE LOOM. In the commonest form of Kay fly-shuttle looms the warp is wound about the beam A; the lease is preserved by the rods at B; and the heddles at C consist of twines looped in the middle, through which loops the warp-yarns are drawn, one half through the front heddle and the other through the back one. The yarns then pass through the reed under D, fixed in a swinging frame E, called the batten, lay, or lathe.
This lay is suspended to a cross-bar F, attached to the upper part of the side uprights so as to vibrate upon it. The weaver sits upon the board G, presses one of the treadles at H with his foot, which, raising one of the heddles and sinking the other, sheds the warp by lifting and depressing each alternate thread a little way. Thus a pathway is opened for the shuttle to traverse the warp.
The weaver holds the picking peg I in his right hand and by a smart, jerking motion drives the shuttle swiftly from one side of the loom to the other, between the warp yarns. The shuttle having left behind it a shoot of weft, between the reed and weaver, he now pulls the lay, with its reed, toward him with his left hand, so to drive home the weft yarn to the web, made by the preceding casts of the shuttle. The cloth is wound upon the cloth beam over I.
CARTWRIGHT AND THE POWER-LOOM
What the loom now needed was some way of driving it mechanically. The inventions of Paul, Hargreaves, Arkwright, and Crompton had made it possible to spin yarn faster than any loom could weave it.
It remained for a minister, a man who wrote poetry in his youth, to think of applying power to looms for weaving. The inventor was the Reverend Doctor Edmund Cartwright, born at Nottingham in 1743, the scion of an excellent family. He was a graduate of Oxford University and fellow of Magdalen College, and until his forty-first year, he seemed to have little interest outside the pursuit of his pious studies and of literature.
In 1784 he was invited to dine at an inn. The conversation turned toward the need for further textile development. He listened intently and finally expressed the opinion that he saw no reason why yarn might not be woven as fast as it was spun. He even predicted that the world would soon have “weaving johnnies as well as spinning jennies.”
Before long Doctor Cartwright became the laughing-stock of his neighbors. He would go on long walks through the country, making strange gestures with both arms, and talking to himself. But, crazy as his actions seemed, he was only imitating the motions of his new machine which was beginning to assume physical form in his mind.
At last he did complete his power-loom, but himself admitted afterward that it was but a crude affair, so crude as to be hopelessly impractical. He did not realize this until he saw hand-looms at work. His machine would never do; it was not nearly so simple or so effective as the machines which it was intended to displace.
As Cartwright himself admitted, “it required the strength of two powerful men to work the machine at a slow rate and only for a short time.” After further attempts, he obtained another patent on August 1, 1787. Even this device was not a brilliant success. He had the right idea, but he never brought it to fruition.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|HOW THE WARP YARN IS WOUND IN A MODERN MILL FOR USE IN THE LOOM. Courtesy U. S. Department of Agriculture.|
He had conceived the seemingly impossible, and had even made a loom which could be stopped automatically when a single thread might break. The trouble was that no mechanism, no matter how perfect, could be successful so long as warps continued to be starched or “sized” while a loom was stationary.
Cartwright realized this defect, and tried to overcome it, but without success. He knew that if continuous operation could be attained, his power-loom would thrive.
Incomplete as Cartwright’s invention was, he too found masters and men arrayed against him. The goods he made were damaged. His workmen were bribed away, and his patents openly infringed. One Manchester firm did contract for 400 looms, but before delivery could be made, the mill built to receive them was burned by an angry mob.
At first the minister had been well able to secure financial aid, but as the defects in his loom grew apparent, the capitalists withdrew and his own resources faded. With a grant of £10,000 from Parliament, he bought a farm in Kent and spent the rest of his life there.
Cartwright seems to have been a sort of universal genius. A memoir of the man, published in 1843, says: “He made bread in his own kitchen; published a scheme for rendering houses fireproof; invented bricks on a geometrical system; made a machine for biscuit-making; helped Fulton with his first steamship models; brought chemistry to bear upon the science of agriculture; introduced a new three-furrow plough; got the Agricultural Board’s gold medal for experiments in manure, and their silver medal for an essay on the culture of potatoes; and obtained patents for calendering linen, making ropes, and cutting velvet pile.
Indeed, it may he said of him that he went to the grave inventing. Being sent to Dover, in his eightieth year, for warm sea-bathing, he invented a method by which the bath-man saved the labor of two men pumping water. A few weeks later, he designed the model for a new centaur carriage; and a day or two previous to his death, in 1823, he wrote an elaborate argument to a friend on a plan he had discovered of working the steam-engine by gunpowder instead of steam.”
Although several hundred Cartwright looms, driven by animal and steam power, had been introduced, his invention was not a technical success because, as we have seen, it had to be stopped so that the thread could be sized by hand.
Evidently a way had to be discovered for sizing the warp—that is, covering it with adhesive starch paste for certain kinds of weaving—while it was in motion. The needed invention was supplied in 1802 by William Radcliffe and his assistant Thomas Johnson. It was called the “dandy loom.”
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|(left) SAMUEL SLATER. (right) DOCTOR EDMUND CARTWRIGHT. Samuel Slater introduced into America knowledge of Arkwright’s method of spinning, and is, therefore, the father of the American textile industry.
Doctor Cartwright was forty-one before he became an inventor. Although his name is associated with weaving he was an extraordinarily prolific inventor in other fields. He made bread after his own fashion; devised a method of fireproof construction; worked out a system of geometrical bricks; made biscuit machines; applied chemistry to agriculture; received medals for his agricultural innovations; and patented machines for calendering linen, making ropes, and cutting velvet pile.
SAMUEL SLATER COMES TO AMERICA
If has been thus necessary to trace the course of textile invention in England because the American colonies, long after they had become an independent nation, were utterly dependent on the mother country for everything but homespuns. England had invented and introduced most of the inventions described long before the United States had time to catch its industrial breath.
Great Britain desired to retain as long as possible the commercial supremacy which exclusive possession of spinning and weaving inventions had brought about. Consequently, in 1744, and again in 1781, the most drastic laws were enacted to protect them.
Penalties of fine and even imprisonment were provided for the “putting aboard of any ship or vessel not bound to some place or port in Great Britain or Ireland, of any tools utensils commonly used or proper for the preparation, working up, or finishing of cotton, silk, or linen manufacture.”
This made it impossible for the colonists to establish a textile industry on their own account, and it was not until 1845 that spinning and weaving machinery was freely permitted to be sent out of the United Kingdom.
During all these years not a single complete textile machine seems to have been successfully smuggled into this Country, although it is said that a few models of Arkwright’s machine were surreptitiously brought across the Atlantic in 1786.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|ARKWRIGHT’S IMPROVED SPINNING-MACHINE OF 1775, PRESERVED IN THE SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM, LONDON. In this machine improvements were incorporated to facilitate the processes of carding, roving, and spinning. Courtesy of the South Kensington Museum, London.|
Arkwright established the factory system in England; Samuel Slater in the United States. Slater was the son of an English yeoman, and was born in 1768. Reared in the midst of England’s cotton-mills, he was early apprenticed to Arkwright’s partner, Jedediah Strutt.
Hearing of the bounties offered for the development of cotton machinery in America, he escaped from England in disguise—for even weavers could not leave the mother country freely—arrived in New York in 1789, and read in a Philadelphia newspaper an account of the defective jennies there in use. He wanted to go to Philadelphia, but the captain of a Providence packet told him of the conditions in New England.
Upon the captain’s advice, he wrote to Moses Brown, a cotton manufacturer of Providence, who had made a fortune in the East India trade. Brown answered: “If thou canst do this thing, I invite thee to come to Rhode Island and have the credit of introducing cotton manufacture into America.”
Slater went at once, presenting in support of his claims, his indenture papers to Strutt, and stating that he had an “oversight” of the Arkwright machines.
“Under my proposals,” he told Brown, “if I do not make as good yarn as they do in England, I will have nothing for my services, but will throw the whole of what I have attempted over the border.”
Arriving at Brown’s house, Slater found almost heroic efforts to establish cotton manufacture under way. He was told that the Hartford Manufacturing Company had inaugurated a subscription through the neighborhood in 1778, and had secured a capital of £1,250. In all, there were thirty-five stockholders, headed by Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, Oliver Wolcott, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Peter Colt.
Within a year after its founding, this plant produced enough cloth to offer it for sale. But, owing to unskilled labor and ramshackle machinery, its product was not of good quality. It had to compete against English-made goods, which, even after paying five percent duty, undersold the domestic fabric and gave greater satisfaction.
Other mills had experienced similar troubles. As a result, at the time of the first federal census, in 1790, there were, in the whole United States, only three woollen-mills worthy of the name. Their capacity was about 15,000 yards annually, valued at $75,000.
The firm of Almy, Brown, and Slater was formed, and young Slater, little more than twenty years of age, set to work. He went to board with Oziel Wilkinson, who, with his sons, had been trying to make cards. They had not been successful, but Slater soon pointed out where they had erred.
Four years before Slater’s arrival, what is claimed to be the first woollen factory in America, operated by power, was opened at Byfield, with Arthur Schofield in charge of the work. He, too, had been attracted to this country from England, and had slipped in secretly. Thus, 1794 is accepted as the authentic date of the beginning of wool manufacture in this country.
Slater had set out to reproduce spinning-machines from memory. He had no patterns and the task was greater than he had imagined. Hence, it was not until November, 1790, that he was really in operation.
It was of his mill that Alexander Hamilton said, in 1791: “The manufactory at Providence has the merit of being the first, introducing into the United States the celebrated cotton mill, which not only furnishes materials for that manufactory itself, but for the supply of private families, for household manufacture.”
Slater’s first real mill, built in 1793, had as its motive power an old negro known as “Primus” Jenks; but this colorful method of operation proved too slow, and the first water-power spinning plant in America soon succeeded the clumsy efforts of the faithful “Primus.” The mill still stands—in Pawtucket, Rhode Island—a monument to its founder.
Slater’s wife, Oziel Wilkinson’s daughter, also caught the inventive fever. In 1793, she conceived the idea of twisting
fine Surinam cotton yarn which her husband had spun, instead of linen twisted yarn, for sewing thread. She did it on her own spinning-wheel, and so satisfactory was the result that her brothers established a manufactory to produce such thread.
Although Slater died rich, his early compensation was not great. His salary for superintending two mills was three dollars a day, and an interest in the profits. But to him belongs the everlasting credit of having established the textile industry of the United States on a firm basis.
HOW THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY WAS FAIRLY STARTED
Meanwhile, in 1764, James Davenport, an American mechanic, earned the distinction of taking out the first patent granted in the United States, for his spinning and carding machines. He set them up in the Globe Mills at Philadelphia, where he also had weaving machinery which enabled boys who worked ten hours a day to make about twenty yards of sail cloth.
Davenport went to Boston, hoping to Sell his machinery, but grew discouraged and soon died. Unfortunately the machinery was scrapped and sold in such small parts that it could not be assembled again.
With knowledge of the later improvements made abroad— particularly those which made Cartwright’s power-loom successful—John Slater, younger brother of the immortal Samuel, arrived here from England in 1803. The older Slater had advised him to visit the Manchester and Oldham Mills before coming over, and as a result, John had learned many secrets of which Samuel was unaware.
In 1805 the younger Slater took the trail through the wilderness on horseback to select a site for a new spinning-mill. He chose a place on the banks of a river which the Indians called Monhegan, and founded the town of Slatersville.
It was to the younger Slater that John Gilmore soon came with his idea for a new loom. He offered to build and operate it with the understanding that he was to receive nothing if it did not prove successful. John Slater was willing to accept Gilmore’s offer, but the conservative Samuel vetoed it.
Gilmore then approached Judge Daniel Lyman, at North Providence, who financed its construction and operation. Thus, in 1815, the power-loom was introduced into New England.
As early as 1804, Rowland Hazard first attempted to card wool by water-power. He had been a commission merchant, and married Mary Peace, for whom the great textile centre of Peacedale was named. He allied himself with Thomas Williams, and the two built up a great cotton-manufacturing enterprise which made them wealthy.
In February, 1813, the first mill in the world in which the whole process of cotton manufacturing, from spinning to weaving, was carried on by power, was established at Waltham. It was first known as the Boston Manufacturing Company, but later took the name of the Waltham Company. Francis Cabot Lowell was the sponsor of the enterprise, in company with Patrick Tracy Jackson.
After graduating from Harvard, Lowell visited Scotland, in 1811, and became interested in the textile activities there. He not only succeeded in seeing closely guarded machines, but obtained a sufficiently clear idea of them to enable him to work on similar models.
He knew that shrewd management, plenty of capital, and cheap labor, were great advantages enjoyed by British manufacturers. He believed, however, that New England offered superior water-power and cheaper raw material. He saw no reason why America might not break the monopoly enjoyed by the British. This view was shared by his brother-in-law, Jackson, who agreed to aid Lowell in the attempt.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|Later mill powered by steam, not water power.|
Returning to Boston, Lowell began his experiments with a power-loom, assisted by Paul Moody, a mechanic of Amesbury. They conducted their work in an old store in Broad Street, and by the end of 1814 they had a practical loom ready to install in the new mill at Waltham.
Lowell’s loom differed from the ones he had seen abroad. It necessitated certain changes in the spinning process and in the sizing of the warp. To meet this, Moody invented a new warper. Then a new bobbin and fly were required, and Moody and Lowell together devised the double speeder.
This called for the nicest mathematical calculations, but Lowell proved equal to the task. In subsequent patent litigation, an expert, called to testify, expressed surprise that any one in America except himself could have worked out the problem.
Later, Moody overcame the waste and expense of winding thread for filling, from the bobbin to the shuttle quills, by providing what is called the filling-throstle. In the first construction of his dressing-frame, Moody found that the wooden rollers had warped so that they would not fit accurately. This was because they were constantly wet. He tried coating them with pewter, but this was not satisfactory. He then made a mould of soapstone in which to cast the coatings, but his brother suggested that he make the rollers of soapstone itself. When tried, this worked perfectly.
It is told how Lowell and Moody, searching for new machines to improve, called upon a man named Shepard, at Taunton. He had a patent for winding-machines which were highly thought of, but he wanted too great a price, and they were shrewd buyers.
Shepard thought that Moody would pay, as he imagined he could not do without the machines, but Moody suddenly conceived the idea of spinning directly upon the bobbins.
“You be hanged !“ exclaimed the angry Shepard. “I’ll accept your offer.”
“You’re too late !“ broke in Mr. Lowell, and the two went back to their mill and began to spin caps directly upon the bobbins, thereby dispensing with the Shepard device.
It was the influence of Slater that prompted Colonel Joseph Durfee, who served in the Revolution, to build a mill at Fall River, in 1811, which was in operation when the British tried to raid the territory during the War of 1812. Durfee, although sixty-one years of age, mobilized and armed his employees and neighbors and repulsed the attack.
His enterprise supplied work for the surrounding country, as the cotton was sent to the farmers to be picked and cleaned. It was spun at the mill and then sent away to be woven, finally being finished at Durfee’s plant.
The mill was never a financial success, and the doughty colonel died poor. The successor to his mill exists today, under the name of the Globe Yarn and Laurel Lakes Mill Company. On its old pay-rolls are the names of the ancestors of some of the most influential men of Fall River at the present time.
One of the most important improvements this country ever produced, was the work of Asa Arnold of Rhode Island, who invented the compound gear, in 1823. It combined a train of three bevelled wheels to regulate the varying velocity required for winding filaments of cotton.
He secured a patent, but before he received the papers, his invention was stolen and re patented in England, so that Arnold did not profit by his own. A similar misfortune befell Charles Danforth, of Paterson, New Jersey, who invented the cap spinner in 1828. This device improved the spinning of weft before the later aids of the self-acting mule were known, and he readily secured a patent. Again an Englishman appropriated the idea, and Danforth found himself protesting helplessly.
But little as seemed to be the reward of textile invention, those pledged to its cause did not falter. In 1812, spurred on by the blockade of the British fleet, American inventors, alone, took out 237 different patents covering all manner of appliances for weaving and spinning, and many other processes in the working up of Cotton, wool, flax, linen, and even silk.
Energetic as these inventors were, and self-reliant as they proved to be, they nevertheless wished to know what was being done abroad. In 1838, William C. Davol bought some “mules” in Manchester. To get them out of the country, however, was another matter. He had purchased them from Sharp and Roberts, and intended to make like machines in America on a royalty basis.
To get around the British embargo, he took down the mules and packed the various parts in small boxes, labelling them plate glass. These boxes were shipped to France, and then to the United States, where, after two years in transit, they were reassembled and put to work in Davol’s mill at Metacomet.
A great problem in weaving was that of producing figured effects in threads of different colors. To the Frenchmen, Basile Bouchon, Falcon, Vaucanson, and Jacquard belongs the credit of having applied perforated paper or cards to the solution of the problem, a principle with which any one who has ever seen a modern automatic player-piano in operation is familiar.
Although machines in which perforated paper or cards are thus applied are commonly supposed to have been invented by Jacquard alone, they combine the ideas of several men. A Jacquard machine is such a complicated combination of hooks, needles, springs, cards, and cylinders that it is hopeless to give a comprehensible, simple]e description of its ingenious method of automatically picking out the right threads to be woven in a figured pattern.
The underlying idea of Jacquard is still applied, but modern automatic looms have been vastly improved by American inventors employed by Crompton and Knowles, and by the Drapers.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|(left) J. M. JACQUARD. (right) LUCIUS JAMES KNOWLES. J. M. Jacquard, of whom this is a portrait, was a weaver, and therefore familiar with the machines of Bouchon, Falcon, and Vaucanson. He combined the ideas of these men in a single machine, simplified the operation, and produced the Jacquard loom. Lucius James Knowles, who improved the loom of his associate, William Crompton, was one of the American pioneers of the automatic loom.|
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CROMPTON AND KNOWLES LOOM
In the last twenty years those interested in loom construction have been primarily concerned with making every new loom automatic, so that a lower cost of weaving would result. Aiming for greater speed, they also sought to lighten the task of the operator, so that each weaver might supervise a greater number of looms.
Two outstanding American figures in this field of twentieth-century improvement are William Crompton and Lucius James Knowles, who founded a great textile-machinery firm at Worcester, Massachusetts.
In 1837, William Crompton took out his first patent for a loom to weave figured patterns on what was called the chain principle. This is a method of raising and lowering the “harness” or wooden frame through which the filling threads are passed by the shuttle through the warp.
Originally, cams, placed at intervals, would raise certain portions of the harness, so that some of the threads would not pass through the warp when they were not desired in the pattern. This cam method permitted the weaving of only simple designs.
The new chain or belt method, however, provided “lifts” at any desired interval. These would raise or lower any number of the many warp threads desired, and either permit them to pass through the warp or to be omitted from the weaving process. Thus, more intricate patterns could be woven.
Since the expiration of Crompton’s initial patent, professional inventors associated with his organization have produced more than 750 innovations and improvements in weaving machinery. In this group we find some seventy men. One of them, Horace Wyman, has to his credit 103 personal patents and 67 taken out in conjunction with others. Another, E. H. Ryon, has received nearly 100 patents, while others have obtained from one to eighty-three assigned to Crompton and Knowles.
William Crompton’s first loom was the pioneer in the weaving of fancy woollens by power. It was put into operation at the Middlesex Mill at Lowell, in 1840. The goods it produced were found to compare favorably with the finest foreign cassimeres. This invention made it possible to change easily from one pattern to another. The most complicated designs could now be woven into cloth by power.
Crompton’s son, George, followed in his father’s footsteps, and in 1857 was granted a patent for a broad loom, nearly double the width of former looms. It had improvements which enabled it to run at what was considered an extraordinary speed, and it soon displaced the narrow loom.
Then, in 1856, the younger Crompton and Horace Wyman, whose prolific inventions we have mentioned, further simplified the arrangement of the loom so that fabrics in the process of weaving were no longer subjected to damage resulting from the dripping of oil from the bearings upon the warp. This accomplished a great saving and avoided much waste.
The vital principle of the looms in use throughout the world to-day is the invention of Lucius James Knowles, who took out his first patent in 1856. This was an improvement upon the chain principle of his associate Crompton.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|SKETCH OF L. J. KNOWLES’ LOOM WHICH WAS PATENTED IN 1856.|
The following year, after Knowles had made still further developments, his loom was exhibited at a fair in Worcester, where it attracted great attention. He apparently did not regard his improvement as being ready to patent, but the principle involved was protected in 1863, and is still in general use.
From the date of his first patent, Knowles was constantly at work, eliminating awkward features from his looms and adding desirable simplifications and improvements. One patent allowed another with astonishing rapidity. The descendants of both Crompton and Knowles are also listed in the Patent Office records many times.
But it was not until 1873 that Knowles secured protection for the idea which is regarded as the basis of the present-day Knowles loom. In the firm’s exhibit at the Centennial in Philadelphia, in 1876, was a forty-harness loom, which astonished spectators by the fineness and rapidity of its work in weaving patterned cloth from warp and filling-yarn supplied by the American Mills, of Rockford, Connecticut.
In that day, it was considered the triumph of progress in the United States.
By this time inventors had turned their attention to pleasing the feminine fancy, and looms had been perfected to produce prettier patterns and finer fabrics for women’s wear. Our grandmothers owe a debt to George F. Hutchins, the inventor of ninety-four different textile devices, for the completion, in 1883, of a fancy-dress-goods loom similar to the Knowles loom.
It was so designed that silks could be woven in pleasing conceptions of figure and color. No longer was American textile invention confined to the production of clothing necessity, and the effort to attain greater luxury in fabric was under way.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|KNOWLES FOUR-HARNESS LOOM OF 1874.|
In the same year, the Knowles loom invaded the foreign field. After it had been exhibited at the Mechanics’ Exhibition in Boston, it was shown at Huddersfield Fair in England, where it startled British manufacturers. The Yankee inventor was no longer laughed at. He was welcomed and eagerly sought out. America, despite her early handicaps, had now far outdistanced foreign competitors.
Whenever a new weaving problem faced an American manufacturer of cottons, woollens, or silks, an appeal was certain to be made to Crompton and Knowles. The asking for an invention became as natural as the present-day woman’s request of a store to show her a desired pattern and quality of goods!
These appeals for aid resulted in innumerable improvements. One of the most important was accomplished in 1884, when a new loom made it possible to weave a stronger worsted. The first of these looms had been set up in the Oswego Mills at Providence, and the heavy Knowles worsted-loom became the standard among woollen manufacturers.
To E. H. Ryon are due many of the improvements on automatic looms, in which tremendous strides have been made in the past decade; and to B. F. McGuiness of the Crompton and Knowles staff, goes the credit for the “centre stop motion” now in general use.
This is a small device placed in the middle of the contrivance on which the shuttles ride. It consists of three little wires which drop down if a single filling-thread breaks, and by this action stop the loom.
Prior to its perfection, the snapping of a thread would result in a faulty pattern, and the imperfect goods would have to be picked apart and rewoven. The name “centre” distinguishes it from other similar devices, sometimes placed in other positions upon the loom.
With the introduction of the Crompton and Knowles looms, it seemed certain that in time, all types of cotton and woollen looms would be equipped with automatic weft-changing devices, and to-day the versatile and gifted group of inventors associated with this company are bending unceasing energies to this end.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|MODERN MILL WITH CROMPTON AND KNOWLES LOOMS INSTALLED.|
IRA DRAPER AND THE FIRM HE FATHERED
Although much of the cloth we wear to-day could not readily he distinguished from that woven by old, discarded methods, the whole population of the country in 1770 did not require as much woven fabric as is turned out by one modern mill. In the early days of the last century, as the population increased and civilization progressed, more and better materials were sought for clothing.
The cry throughout the infant American textile field was for greater production without sacrifice of quality.
In 1816, before the era of what may be termed the “factory system” of invention, Ira Draper was busy on improvements for the making of cotton cloth. Son of Abijah Draper, who had been an officer in the War for Independence, he was born in Dedham, December 29, 1764. Young Draper moved to Weston, Massachusetts, in 1808, and early showed signs of mechanical talent.
He had a number of inventions to his credit when he took out his first patent for a “loom temple” or device to hold and guide the cloth in weaving. Draper’s temple enabled the weaver to double the number of looms he could operate; but Draper was not satisfied, and later materially improved his temple.
His son James became interested, and in 1830 bought his father’s patents. He advertised the new “temples” in the Boston Transcript of July 23 of that year, and continued to manufacture and sell them until he formed a partnership with his half-brother, E. D. Draper, in 1837.
Five years later, the plant was moved to Hopedale, and in 1853 the firm of E. D. and G. Draper was organized to carry on the improving of cotton-machinery.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|(Left) IRA DRAPER, WITH ONE OF HIS SELF-ACTING LOOM TEMPLES PATENTED IN 1816. (Right) JAMES H. NORTHROP. Inventor of the Northrop loom, which with its automatic features has practically revolutionized power-weaving. Courtesy of the Draper Corporation.|
George Draper, the new partner, was born in 1817, and spent his boyhood years in a cotton-mill, where he gained much practical experience. He served as superintendent of several New England mills, and in 1840 and 1842 took out patents which further perfected the original “temple” of Ira Draper.
Others became interested in this improvement, and Elihu and Warren W. Dutcher, of North Bennington, Vermont, took out patents on a totally different type of loom temple, in 1851. These were provided with cylindrical rolls, and so constructed as to hold the cloth closer at the last pick or blow which drives the loom shuttle.
The success of this invention threatened serious competition to the Draper interests and as a result, in 1854, the Dutcher and Draper firms were merged. Dutcher had taken out over twenty patents on temples and machines for making them; also machines for setting temple teeth, which are in use to-day.
The business went through various vicissitudes and changes until it became known as George Draper and Sons at the time of the Centennial Exhibition.
From this period, an astonishing number of devices were turned out by the various members of the firm, which grew in success and importance under the guidance of William F. Draper, who presided over a department organized to invent new devices. Many were conceived, and their influence in cheapening spinning has been tremendous, saving manufacturers of yarns hundreds of millions of dollars.
Toward the late eighties the men comprising George Draper and Sons began a series of extensive and costly experiments on automatic looms. These experiments resulted in the construction of what has been called the “Triumph loom,” whose pioneer inventor, James H. Northrop, attained a fame as distinctive as that of the earliest English geniuses.
Up to thirty years ago each loom required the more or less constant supervision of an attendant, his watchfulness expending itself chiefly on the shuttle. After a short time, the loom stopped because the yarn in the shuttle was exhausted.
Most of the weaver’s time was spent in refilling the shuttle and restarting the loom. If there was any way of changing an empty shuttle for a full shuttle while the loom was in motion, production could obviously be greatly increased. Yet more than this was required.
The weaver had to thread the shuttle, and this took still more time. Hence the problem involved also the threading of the new, full shuttle, while the machine was still moving. It was this extraordinarily difficult problem that Northrop successfully attacked.
THE NORTHROP LOOM—A REVOLUTION IN WEAVING
Northrop was an English mechanic who had secured work at the Hopedale plant while the predecessors of the present Draper Company were devoting their attention to the problem of an automatic shuttle-changer. A member of the firm had inspected such a device at Providence in July, 1888, but concluded that it was impracticable.
Determined to overcome its defects, the firm appropriated $10,000, and assigned Alonzo E. Rhodes to the task of solving their problem. By February of the following year, Rhodes had a loom ready to demonstrate.
Meanwhile Northrop, who had invented a spooler-guide and other improvements in cotton machinery, had left the Drapers to devote himself to farming. He did not find rustic life to his liking, however, and soon returned to his place in the Draper plant. Hearing of the firm’s activities, Northrop remarked, one day in February of 1899, that if they would let him do it, he could put a shuttle changer on a loom without spending more than one dollar, and that he could accomplish this within a week.
He was given the chance, and retiring to a hen-house on his farm, set himself to work. Early in March, he produced a rough wooden model. It delighted his employers and he was told to go ahead with the finished machine. By the fourth of July he had completed it.
Three months later, a Northrop loom was in operation at the Seaconnet Mill, in Fall River, and by April, 1890, several filling-changing looms of the same kind were running.
It was soon discovered that ordinary plain looms were not sufficiently uniform to permit of being equipped with Northrop’s attachments, so the Drapers began the designing of another loom which would have a warp stop-motion as well as the filling-changer. This took several years to accomplish, and it was early in 1895 before the Northrop loom, as it is known to-day, was put in use in various mills throughout the country.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|A MODERN WEAVE-ROOM EQUIPPED WITH NORTHROP LOOMS. The weaver is relieved of the labor of withdrawing, filling, threading, and inserting shuttles, and the loom is automatically stopped when a warp thread breaks. As a result one weaver is able to attend more looms than ever before. Courtesy of the Draper Corporation.|
The Northrop loom revolutionized weaving as completely as had the power-loom. Reloading of the shuttle, once a hand operation, is now accomplished automatically without stopping the loom. The loom has a magazine just as an automatic pistol has, and the mechanism fills the shuttle, puts it in place, ejects the empty shuttle, and feeds the fresh yarn into the threading device.
The Northrop loom is the last word in textile history. Many of its operations seem to be almost human. At first, it was found that breaking threads resulted in throwing full bobbins out of the machine. The stop-motion overcame this.
Devices to guard against misthreading were added.
A feeler device to measure the quantity of yarn in the shuttle followed. Now, as long as a bobbin contains the proper amount of yarn, nothing happens. When it needs replenishing, the “feeler” starts this process.
A “weft parter” removes the ends of yarn from exhausted bobbins; and a new warp stop-motion eliminates the need for watchfulness to detect the breaking of a single warp end. If the thread does snap, “drop wires” fall and close an electric circuit, resulting in the stopping of the loom.
This little story has briefly told of the progress of the world’s effort to clothe itself since the era of the beginning of textile invention, and has pointed out mankind’s debt to British and American inventors. The changes which have taken place have had astonishing effects on both sides of the Atlantic.
Because of them, labor has attained a new dignity and social conditions have been materially altered, both here and abroad. Western England has been transformed from an agricultural section into a manufacturing centre.
The clear, swift-running streams of New England now flow by great plants whose power they once supplied, and still do in some instances. Not only has production itself increased, but the individual spinner and weaver of to-day is able to accomplish a thousand times more than those who toiled in the time of handcraft methods.
With this enormous expansion has come a marvellous increase in the production of cotton and a corresponding advance in the wealth of the Southern States. The West, too, has profited through the raising of sheep for wool.
The silk-producing lands of the world also reap their share of benefit by supplying the silkworm’s product for Yankee machines.
The amount of capital invested in textile enterprises in the United States is now estimated at $1,343,324,605. Employees to the number of 739,239 earn about $250,000,000 annually, and their output is valued at $1,215,036,792.
| || || |
| || |
| || || |
|COTTON WAS ORIGINALLY REGARDED AS A VEGETABLE WOOL. This picture is taken from a book published in 1654. Travellers had brought back stories from India that wool there grew on trees. An imaginative publisher undertook to make this clear, with the result here shown.|