Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/July 1891/The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: Wool Industry II

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 39 July 1891  (1891) 
The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: Wool Industry II
By Simon Newton Dexter North
 

THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



JULY, 1891.




THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

VI. THE EVOLUTION OF WOOL SPINNING AND WEAVING.

By S N. DEXTER NORTH.

THE card, and all the machinery preliminary or complementary to its work, are of later development than the inventions for mechanical spinning, which created the necessity for improved methods of carding. The evolution of the spindle is the central point in this development. The spinning of wool with distaff and spindle was the only method known until 1530, when one Jurgens, a baker of Brunswick, invented the one-thread spinning-wheel. A similar instrument was in use in India long anterior to this date, but Europe knew it no earlier. This wheel remained in common use until it was superseded by the spinning-frame. But it was improved a century later by the addition of a second bobbin, the invention of M. Besnière, so that both hands could be used in spinning, and the product nearly doubled at the same cost for labor.

The spinsters were wonderfully clever with this wheel, and performed feats which machinery can not surpass. The transactions of the British Royal Society have immortalized a Norfolk lady, Mary Pingle by name, by recording her achievement of spinning a pound of wool into 84,000 yards (nearly forty-eight miles) of yarn; and Mr. Vickerman vouches for the statement that a Lincolnshire spinster, named Ives, spun a pound of wool into 168,000 yards (95| miles) on a one-thread wheel. The ordinary spinsters of the period reached 13,000 yards in coarse yarns, and 39,000 yards in the superfine qualities.[1] The first attempts at the mechanical spinning of wool were made at about the same time in France and England. We read of a machine experimentally tried at Dolphin Holme in 1784, but success did not come until 1791. In 1780 the French Government gave three thousand livres to an Englishman named Price for the invention of a machine suitable for spinning combed wool.

PSM V39 D304 A wool spinning wheel.jpg

Fig. 10. — A Wool Spinning-wheel. A, hand-cards; B, bobbin of roving.

Toward the close of the century M. Simonis, of Verviers, built a machine, by the aid of which three persons could spin four hundred hanks of yarn per day. The English succeeded about the same time in spinning combed wool upon one of Arkwright's machines.

The latter half of the eighteenth century witnessed the parturition of automatic textile manufacture. Invention seemed to suddenly awake from a lethargy of thousands of years. One labor-saving machine followed another with astonishing rapidity. The inventions of Kay, Hargreaves, Crompton, Arkwright, Watt, Cartwright, and a host of others, almost contemporaneous in point of time and general adoption, effected a revolution in every branch of textile manufacture such as had not occurred in all previous time, and whose like we can not again expect to witness. No other fifty years in the world's history are comparable with that half-century in their contribution to the world's capacity for AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. 291

the production of the people's clothing. The automatic manu- facture of wool received an impetus during these years so prodig- ious that we are filled with wonder and astonishment as we record the successive steps in the evolution.

Richard Arkwright has been called the father of the modern textile industry. This unique fame has securely and justly fallen to the humble barber who earned fortune, knighthood, and im- mortality by the keen, practical insight which combined, util- ized, and perfected the inventions of others. The genesis of auto- matic textile machinery was before his advent, however, and he was the adapter rather than the inventor of the spinning-frame. In 1738 John Wyatt, of Birmingham, a man of education and ingenuity, worked out what he termed a " spinning-engine with- out hands," a machine subsequently improved and patented by Lewis Paul. Probably the two men shared the honor of the in- vention between them, while Paul obtained subsequent patents for spinning. In the specifications attached to Paul's application for a patent, the art of spinning by means of rollers was described for the first time. The cotton or wool being prepared in a rope or sliver of equal thickness, " one end of the sliver " so read his specifications " 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 wool or cotton to be spun in proportion to the velocity given to the rollers. As the sliver 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."

These rollers are the mechanical substitutes for the thumb and finger. The Rev. John Dyer, in his poem on The Fleece, de- scribes in rhyme the operation of the machine, and our readers may contrast this process with the distaff-spinning described by Catullus in the similar meter already quoted :

" A circular machine, of new design, In conic shape : it draws and spins a thread Without the tedious toil of needless hands. A wheel, invisible, beneath the floor, To ev'ry member of th' harmonious frame Gives necessary motion. One, intent, O'erlooks the work; the carded wool, he says, Is smoothly lapp'd around those cylinders, Which, gently turning, yield it to yon cirque Of upright spindles, which, with rapid whirl, Spin out in long extent, an even twine."

About 1701 James Hargreaves, of Lancaster County, devised an ingenious and practical method of mechanical spinning, with- out the use of drawing rollers, which he called the spinning

�� � jenny, and by which eight yarns or threads could be as easily spun as one. It was eventually perfected to such a degree that a child could keep eighty or one hundred spindles in motion. This machine was used to a limited extent in the wool manufacture, before it was superseded by the throstle of Arkwright and the mule of Crompton.

It is the common understanding that the woolen manufacture owes its development to the application of mechanical ideas first applied to the manipulation of. cotton. The two industries have,

PSM V39 D306 Hargreave improved spinning jenny.jpg

Fig. 11. — Hargreaves's Spinning Jenny, as improved.

indeed, marched forward shoulder to shoulder. They are allies, both in use and in methods of manipulation. Nearly every new idea in the mechanism of one has been turned to good account in the other. Cards for the combing of cotton were first adapted from the woolen manufacture, while on the other hand the woolen manufacture owes a vast debt to men whose discoveries were first applied to cotton. This debt is reciprocal, and it is hard to strike a balance of obligation. It was not until after Arkwright had utilized and developed Paul's machine for "spinning without fingers" that the wool manufacture began to get the full benefit of it. Arkwright's first patent was dated July 3, 1709; it covered the use of successive pairs of rollers drawing the sliver of cotton from one pair of rollers on to another pair running at greater speed, twisting the thread in the mean time by means of wooden fliers, with wire arms for correctly guiding the thread upon the AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. 293

bobbins, and driving the latter by worsted bands. It is worth noting that James Watt obtained his first patent on the steam- engine in this same memorable year 1769. Thus the indispensable auxiliary of manufacturing evolution the power to drive the ma- chines that were to supersede the hands had a contemporaneous birth. Long prior to the application of steam-power other agen- cies than human strength were utilized to drive these primitive machines. We read of asses harnessed to them, and Arkwright drove his first spinning machines with the aid of a bull. The English manufacturers were never able to utilize water-power for driving their machinery to the extent that it was applied in the earlier manufactures of the United States. The streams of New England were long the only motive power of her machinery ; and their value to-day, in the various processes of the woolen manu- facture, is beyond calculation.

Paul and Wyatt taught the world how to spin a hundred or more threads at one operation ; but years elapsed after these early inventions before they came into general use. Paul worked his own machines for many years ; but when he died they were broken up and sold, and the world continued to spin on the foot-wheel. The tardy realization of the value of these inventions was due primarily to the opposition of the hand operatives to the intro- duction of anything in the nature of improved machinery. The guilds were strong, and determined in their refusal to operate or tolerate new devices for dispensing with hand labor. Poor John Kay, after inventing his fly-shuttle, was compelled to close his mill at Leeds by the riotous hostility of the hand-weavers. Learn- ing that he was also engaged in devising machinery for spinning, a mob broke into his house, destroyed everything it contained, and would have killed the inventor himself had not friends smug- gled him away in a wool-sheet. We need not be surprised at the blind brutality of these ignorant workingmen. They looked upon the inventor as an enemy, planning to take the bread from their mouths. But what shall we say of the manufacturers who stole the patents of Kay, without recognition of the service his genius had done them ? And what shall we say of the Government which permitted this man, in his old age, without recompense for inven- tions which added untold millions to the wealth of his country, to seek refuge from persecution in France, there to die in abject penury ?

It needed a man of the determination of Richard Arkwright to force the world to appreciate the opportunity which these in- ventions opened before it. In 1775 Arkwright obtained a patent, the specifications of which contained the drawing rollers patented by Lewis Paul in 1738 ; the roving-can used by Benjamin Buller in 1759 ; the main cylinder and the finishing cylinder, both used

�� � 294 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

by Thomas Wood in 1774 ; the crank for working the doffer comb, invented by James Hargreaves in 1772 ; and a feeder, or cloth for feeding the carding engine, invented by John Lees in 1772.* That Arkwright covered other people's inventions in his patent was officially determined ; but of his immense service to the world in teaching it how to utilize the inventions of others, and by their combination and improvement, there can be no doubt. He sought and found capital, keen enough to see the possibilities hidden in crude and isolated inventions. More than twelve thou- sand pounds had been expended in his mills before any profits were realized. But when profits once began they came fast, and here was made the first of the colossal fortunes which the manip- ulation of cotton and wool has brought to Great Britain.

Samuel Crompton, the inventor of mule-spinning, had a differ- ent experience from Arkwright, although he contributed quite as much to the mechanical evolution of the textile industries. His first mule, invented about 1779, carried forty-eight spindles on a movable carriage, the spindles turning on their axes and centers, while the movable carriage was receding from the rollers, which measured out the roving to a certain length. Two pairs of rollers were used, made of wood and covered with sheepskin, having an axis of iron. One pair revolved at a greater speed than the other, thus producing a draught or elongation of three or four inches to one. The carriage with the spindles could, by the movement of the hand and knee, recede just as the rollers delivered out the elongated thread in a soft state, so that it would allow of a con- siderable stretch before the thread had to encounter the stretch of winding on the spindle. Crompton thus adopted the system of spinning by rollers, wedded it to the useful jenny of poor Har- greaves, and endowed that union with the spindle-carriage, which was the crowning merit of his invention. Crompton's mule in- creased the power of a spinner a hundred-fold.

In this machine was first accomplished the automatic mechani- cal action of the spinner's left arm and forefinger and thumb, which held and elongated the sliver as the spindle was twisting it into yarn. It produced a yarn of much greater fineness and evenness than it had been possible to make by any process pre- viously in use. This invention was the j>rototype of the mule, thousands of which are at work throughout the world to-day. It got this name from its combination of Paul's and Hargreaves's inventions.

The Crompton machine was correct in principle, but a rude piece of workmanship, dependent in all its original movements upon manual labor. Water was first applied to it as a motive

  • Bcnnet Woodcraft.

�� � AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. 295

power in 1790, by William Kelly, of Scotland. It was not until 1825 that the self-acting mule was evolved by Richard Roberts. His second patent, dated in 1832, made the self-acting mule ap- plicable to the wool manufacture. But its use continued to be confined, for years afterward, almost wholly to the cotton manu- facture. In almost all the American woolen-mills, down to the close of the civil war, the spinning continued to be done on the hand-jack, which is still found in many of them. The introduc- tion of the automatic mule, which became general about 1870, has enormously facilitated the manufacture. It is stated by careful manufacturers that the substitution of the automatic mule, with the other improved machinery which has come during the same period, has resulted in a gain of fully thirty per cent, in production in twenty years. The economical gain, in the saving of help, is even more striking. Experts have calculated the difference be- tween hand-jacks and mules in the cost of manufacture, as follows : Forty-eight cents for one hundred run yarn, with the jack ; twenty cents for the same yarn, with the mule, or less than one half.

The hand-jack usually carries 240 spindles, revolving from 4,000 to 4,500 times a minute. Mules carry 300 or more spindles. In the organization of a woolen-mill one set of cards, which re- quires about twenty-six horse-power to run, will keep from 400 to 500 spindles in motion, although this relationship varies greatly, according to the class of goods manufactured, the age of the machinery, and the capacity of superintendents. American woolen-mills run, in their equipment, all the way from one to seventy sets of cards, and from 240 to 25,000 spindles.

In the woolen manufacture proper, as now conducted, there is but one process after that of carding and condensing to the per- fect yarn, ready for the loom. The condensed sliver which has come from the cards is in fact a sort of yarn, which requires only twist and elongation to impart strength, firmness, solidity, and to reduce it to the proper size. The mule has two distinct motions which effect elongation and twist simultaneously. The carriage travels backward and forward, and carries the spindles which hold the bobbins on which the sliver has been wound, while in the frame are fixed other bobbins, called condenser bobbins, to receive the yarn. The machine in operation gives out from small rollers, fixed in the frame, a certain amount of the sliver, simul- taneously with the imparting of a degree of twist ; then the rollers cease to revolve, while the carriage continues to recede, drawing out the sliver to the necessary length, while in the mean time the spindles, revolving with an increased velocity, furnish what is called the finishing twist. The rollers limit the length of sliver to be operated upon, the carriage draws it, and the spindles im- part the twist. This is a very general description of one of the

�� � most complicated and beautiful processes in the whole manufacture, performed upon a machine which the operatives in some parts of Europe call "the iron man," in allusion to its deft action.

The mule is the machine now universally used in the manufacture of woolen yarn. But an entirely different method of

PSM V39 D310 A woolen mule.jpg

Fig. 12.—A Woolen Mule.

spinning is also applied in the woolen manufacture, or in that branch of it known as the worsted manufacture, quite distinct in several of its preliminary details, and quite as important in the modern development of the industry.

These two distinct processes of manufacture which have grown up in the treatment of wool, have practically made two industries out of one. They are alike, in that they utilize the same raw material, and do not essentially differ until the process of carding is completed. This diversion of the industry is traced to the immigration of the Flemings, which occurred during the reign of Henry I, although historians have attempted to antedate the worsted manufacture even to the Saxon period. The worsted manufacture originated at Worsted, a town in Norfolk, where one of the early Flemish colonies existed whose people employed a method of their own in treating the wool, which produced a woolen stuff of a peculiar quality, to which the name of worsted was given.[2] There is no earlier record of its existence than the time of Edward II (1315), when a complaint was made to Parliament that the clothiers of Norwich who manufactured worsted were making pieces only twenty-five yards long and selling them as thirty (the regulation length).

Instead of simply carding the wool, the Flemish combed it. The hand-comber employed two combs}} one as a "pad" comb, which was fixed to a post by an iron rod. The raw material, after being properly prepared, washed, oiled, and separated into convenient handfuls, was lashed into the comb upon the pad. Thus loaded with wool, the comb was placed in a stove adapted to the purpose and called the comb-pot, and when properly heated, one comb upon the post, the other held in the hand, the process of combing began, each comb becoming a working comb alternately, the teeth of one passing through the tuft of wool upon the other, until the fibers became perfectly smooth, straight, and free of short wool, or "noil," which was left imbedded in the combheads — the residue being called the "top."[3] The illustration shows how the hand-comb differed from the card used in the preparation of the wool for the woolen yarn.

PSM V39 D311 A pair of hand combs.jpg

Fig. 13. — A Pair of Hand-combs.

The material when thus combed differed from the same material carded, in that the combed wool contained only the long fibers, which lay parallel, the short fibers or noil having been altogether rejected or combed out. The carding eliminates no noil. Long and short fibers go together to the spindle. Thus it happens that a woolen yarn is soft and fluffy, while a worsted yarn is hard and firm, possessing a much greater tensile strength. In the woolen yarn the fibers are tangled and crossed, and drawing is avoided as much as possible in preparing the raw material for spinning, so as to leave the natural curvature of the fibers undisturbed and afford the greatest freedom of action to the felting quality of the wool. In worsted yarns the object is to obliterate the felting quality and to secure elongation and parallel arrangement of the fibers."

In the early days of the manufacture the best results were only attainable in worsted yarns from long-fibered fleece. The English wools are commonly called combing-wools for this reason, and it was the possession of this fleece of an unrivaled quality which made England the birthplace of the worsted manufacture, and has kept it at the front in this process.

One of the results of improved machinery has been to remove any distinction between woolens and worsteds based upon the difference between the wools employed in the two processes. Short wool of merino blood can now be combed as successfully as the longer staple. The processes of treatment, however, continue to differ radically. This difference, as already seen, is primarily created by the introduction of the combing machine, an instrument unknown to the wool manufacture proper.

Short-stapled wool is carded before going to the comb; but the long wools, to avoid the breaking of the fibers which would result

PSM V39 D312 A gilling machine.jpg
Fig. 14. — A Gilling Machine.

from carding, are prepared for combing by screw gill-boxes, so constructed as to open, separate, and straighten the fibers. Five or six slivers obtained from the first gill-box may be run into one by the use of a second gilling machine, so intermingling them that the deficiencies of one sliver are supplied by its neighbor. The half-dozen slivers are thus drawn into one smaller than any of those of which it is composed. This operation is continued through other gill-boxes when fine counts of yarn are desired, until the fibers have become thoroughly separated and parallel, to facilitate the work of the combing machine.

This machine is the mechanical wonder of the wool industry. It performs with automatic precision a series of complicated movements long deemed to be only capable of accomplishment by hands guided by human intelligence. For years after the idea of the machine took germ, it was the hope and the despair of many inventors in England and on the Continent. The hand-worker remained in exclusive control of the delicate operation until 1830. Human intelligence required for the successful performance of combing expertness and experience in high combination. Wool-combers came to be a class by themselves in England — a class magnifying its own importance and skill — quite the aristocracy of the manufacture. For years after the experiments of the inventors were well under way, and even after machines were in

PSM V39 D313 A noble comb.jpg

Fig. 15. — A Noble Comb.

actual use, the hand-combers remained confident that no automatic machine could supersede their boasted expertness of hand. Failure after failure seemed to warrant their confidence. The combing machine is one in which the power of the capitalist, no less than the genius of the inventor, has been exemplified. It cost more to complete, and has yielded more in the way of profit to its inventors, than any other machine of the century. To Dr. Edmund Cartwright, the inventor of the power-loom, belongs the honor of creating the germ of the subsequent machines. His first machine, patented in 1789, consisted of a cylinder, armed with rows of teeth, revolving in such a manner that its teeth would catch and clear out the wool contained in the teeth of a fixed and upright comb. His second machine, patented in 1790, superseded this imperfect movement by the contrivance of a circular horizontal comb-table. The machine attracted great attention, and the wool-combers, of whom there were 50,000 in England, immediately petitioned Parliament for its suppression. A bill for that purpose was actually introduced in the Commons. As years passed without

PSM V39 D314 An american combing machine.jpg

Fig. 16 — An American Combing machine.

the successful application of the machine, they grew confident, and their annual celebrations of the anniversary of St. Blaize — the patron saint of the wool-comber — became largely demonstrations of defiance to the inventors.

Controversy will always exist as to who first evolved a successful combing machine. The names of George Edmund Donisthorpe, Samuel Cunliffe Lister, James Noble, and Isaac Holden AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. 301

are equally associated with the evolution of the machine in Eng- land ; while that of Josue Heilmann, an Alsatian, who undoubtedly worked out a combing machine on independent lines, is im- mortalized by his invention, which was patented in France in 1845, and in England in 1846.

The various inventors named created three machines, working upon different principles, all of which are now in use, and each of which has points of superiority in different kinds of work. They are known as the Lister, the Noble, and the square-motion combs ; the French machine, founded upon Heilmann's invention, being a modification of the Lister. In 1843 Mr. Lister succeeded in comb- ing the first fine wool (Botany) ever combed by machinery. After that the use of the machines speedily became general. The Noble comb is in the most common use, perhaps, being found superior for combing the short-stapled wools now largely utilized in the worsted manufacture. The Lister machine is preferred for the long-stapled wools. The picture of the Noble comb conveys a good impression of its general appearance. An intelligible de- scription of its complicated and delicate parts is out of place in a paper of this description. Only when seen in operation can one truly appreciate what a wonderful achievement of the human mind is the combing machine.

From the comb, the wool intended for worsted yarn, now in the form known as " tops," goes first to a back-washing machine, to eliminate any remaining dirt, and is again gilled. The intro- duction of the gill-box, or drawing machine, now effects another distinction between the worsted and the woolen yarn. It is the beginning of a process of drawing, which continues through many subsequent machines. The worsted yarn is the result of a series of combinations or doublings accompanied by drawing or stretching. The drawing machine combines and reduces the thick sliver, or a number of them, down to a size so small that it can be spun into a thread without an excessive draft, and at the same time levels it so that the thread will be of uniform thick- ness. The sliver is put through six or more machines, each of which combines and draws half a dozen larger slivers more or less according to the size of the yarn to be spun. Thus, in a Botany wool, with nine operations, the number of slivers ordi- narily combined are 8, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, which are equal to the enormous number of 288,000 doublings. There have been at least two doubling operations between the comb and the top, of say ten and six slivers in each case, so that the total doublings from the comb to the spindle amount to 17,280,000. By this process of continued doubling and drawing, it becomes an easy matter to spin worsted yarns of extreme fineness, running in their counts all the way up to 80s, 90s, and even higher, the French particularly

�� � excelling in the manufacture of very fine counts, to which their system of worsted mule-spinning seems to be especially adapted. The finer yarns spun in America will usually average about 40s, which involves a length of more than 20,000 yards to a pound of yarn.

From the drawing machines, the material next advances to the roving frame, the last operation through which the sliver—called "stubbing" at this stage of manipulation}} must pass before it is ready for spinning. Roving may be described as a combination of drawing and twisting, with an excess of drawing; while

PSM V39 D316 Flier spindle.jpg
Fig. 17.—Flier-spindle.

worsted spinning is a combination of the same processes, with an excess of twisting.

The spinning-frame, originally used in the worsted manufacture, is very different from the mule, the roving having been subjected, as we have seen, to processes not required in dealing with the condensed sliver. In the worsted spinning-frame, or throstle, the rollers are so arranged as to draw out the roving before any twist is imparted. There are three distinct types of worsted spinning-frames in common use, known as the flier, cap, and ring. The French utilize a fourth method, involving a different preparation of the roving, which is simply the principle of mule-spinning, already described. A flier-spindle is shown in the illustration.[4] It is most commonly used for the lower counts of yarns. The flier-spindle has a rotary motion. In cap-spinning (see illustration) the spindle and the cap are the stationary parts. A tube or shell, which receives the bobbin, is placed on the spindle, and its motion distributes the yarn upon the spindle.

PSM V39 D317 Cap and ring spindles.jpg
Fig. 18. — Cap-spindle. Fig. 19 — Ring-spindle.

Cap-spinning is chiefly utilized in the finer counts of yarn, as there is no limit to the speed at which the bobbins may be made to revolve. In ring-spinning which is more common in the cotton manufacture, the spindles revolve, and the bobbins are so attached as to revolve with them, thus imparting their own twist. The ring-frame is more largely used in the worsted-yarn manufacture for doubling, or making twofold yarns, than for spinning.

It may now be easier for the reader to fully comprehend the difference between a woolen and a worsted thread — made from the same wool in many instances, but so differently treated in manipulation that they seem almost as fundamentally unlike as a woolen and a cotton thread. Worsted has received a treatment similar in many respects to that by which a cotton thread is made. We have seen that the worsted manufacture is a series of processes continuously following each other, and that the woolen manufacture is a compound process intermittently carried on. The woolen sliver, after leaving the carding machine, is wound at once upon bobbins attached to the mule. In this machine the spindles have a compound motion, simultaneously in progress, whereby the sliver is drawn and wound. This operation completes the woolen thread. This yarn requires very different treatment, both in the weave and the finish, from the worsted yarn. The latter is distinguished by a compact weave, ready at

3 o 4 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

once for the finishing. The woolen fabric comes from the loom loose, open, rough, and must be thoroughly milled or fulled before it is finished.

The woolen cloth spun on the mule, and milled was, until a few years back, the only wool fabric made for men's wear. There are innumerable varieties of it, including broadcloths, doeskins, twills, flannels, tricots, beavers, cassimeres, cheviots, meltons trade-names which stand for certain standard fabrics, with little regard for their etymological significance. Until the year 1840 the wool manufacture of the United States was exclu- sively confined to the woolen form. In that year the first delaines made in this country were manufactured at a mill in Ballardvale, Mass. All the wool was combed by hand, and the printing of the goods was at first also by hand. The success of this experiment started others in the field, and by 1855 several of the largest estab- lishments in the country were engaged in the manufacture of ladies' worsted dress goods.

The use of the worsted process in garments for men's wear is as recent as the year 1866. It appears to have originated in England, where Josiah Lodge, of Huddlesfield, claims to have been the first to utilize the process in the manufacture of men's trouserings and suitings. The innovation was quickly adopted in France, in Germany, and in the United States, and these worsted suitings are so popular and so serviceable that the manufacture of wool goods may almost be said to have been revolutionized in the interval. There are to-day as many persons and looms employed in the worsted manufacture in England as in the woolen manufacture, and the substitution of worsted for woolen machinery has been going on at a rapid rate. The largest wool manufacturing establishment in the world, that of Isaac H olden & Sons, at Bradford, England, contains three hundred sets of cards and three hundred combing machines, and is exclusively employed in the manufacture of " tops " for the worsted spinners. In this country our largest mills are engaged in spinning worsted yarns and weaving worsted cloths. In their equipment they run from two or three combs up to fifty or sixty, and from ten thou- sand to fifty thousand spindles. It is impossible to state a rela- tionship between combs and spindles, owing to the great variety of the yarns and fabrics made from worsted. Although no radi- cal improvements have recently been made in the comb, the effi- ciency has been increased about thirty per cent in the last twenty years. In 1870 the product of a comb was from four hundred to four hundred and fifty pounds a day. The same labor will now produce from seven hundred to eight hundred pounds, yielding a better quality of product.

�� � AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. 305

The Evolution of Weaving.

The earlier improvements in spinning machinery which have been described, preceded, in point of time, the development of the loom, and thus made more conspicuous the primitive methods of weaving that continued in vogue, and became a stimulus to in- ventors in this field. Arkwright's machinery was even regarded as an evil, for a time, on the theory that it enabled England to spin more yarn than her weavers could fabricate, and the surplus, exported to the Continent, could there be woven into cloth so cheaply as to seriously injure English trade.

The strict chronological order of the initiative steps in the de- velopment of woolen machinery would have headed the list of the noble army of inventors with the name of John Kay. Kay had the management of a woolen factory at Colchester, England, belonging to his father. Having a sort of universal genius for mechanical invention, he introduced various improvements in dressing, batting, and carding machinery, as well as in the Dutch drawboy and inkle looms, that had been brought from abroad by his father. He also invented an improvement in reeds for looms, by making the dents of their polished blades of metal, instead of cane (the only materials used up to that time), by which they were not only rendered more durable, but adapted to the weaving of fabrics of a finer, stronger, and more even texture than cane reeds could produce. Kay secured patents for several of these improvements, which were universally adopted. But his crown- ing invention was the first fly-shuttle known to man, patented May 26, 1733. Hitherto the shuttle had been thrown back and forth between the warp threads, being thrown by one hand and caught by the other alternately, while each weft thread was driven home by the " layer/' propelled by the hand which had just cast the shuttle. In broadcloths, the process differed in this, that a weaver stood upon either side of the work, and the shuttle was thrown alternately from one to the other. Thus for more than five thousand years, by millions of skilled workmen, one genera- tion following in the exact footsteps of another, had the clothing of the people been woven, with little attempt to expedite or to simplify the process. Thus had been fabricated the mummy-cloth of Egypt, the " woolen wind " or fibrous muslins of the Indias, the rich tapestries of the Greeks and Romans, and every other fabric of every character and age.

John Kay's invention consisted of a race-board fixed to the " layer " under the warp, with a shuttle-box at each end, a spindle and picker in each box, and a cord passing from each picker to a short lever held in the weaver's right hand. These improvements did not dispense with the weaver's hands and feet in forming the vol. xxxix. 22

�� � cloth, but they permitted one hand to be used exclusively in throwing the shuttle, while the other was solely occupied in driving home the weft. The comparative speed of fabrication, by reason of this invention, won for it the name of "fly-shuttle"; and in truth it is likely that no division of labor between the two hands of one operative ever produced results equal to those which this invention secured.

At once, upon its general adoption, the average production of a loom was more than doubled, and the cloth was of a better quality than formerly. The same shuttle arrangement, with hardly any change, appears in the looms upon which our grandmothers wove their homespun, and they may still occasionally be seen in the old farm-houses of the United States.

PSM V39 D320 Common fly shuttle loom.jpg

Fig. 20. — Common Fly-shuttle Loom.

As early as 1078 a French naval officer, M. de Gennes, conceived the idea of a power-loom, and communicated his plan to the French Academy. He described, prophetically, the advantages its utilization would effect in economy, in uniformity of product, and in increase of production — precisely as we have since realized them. More than a century elapsed before his ideas were successfully utilized. Numerous attempts were made, but through one defect or another they failed of adoption.

A studious clergyman, addicted more to poetry than to trade, led the way in the solution of this problem. His name was Edmund Cartwright, already alluded to in connection with the AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. 307

ing machine. He had never set foot inside a cotton or woolen mill at the time when he undertook to revolutionize their entire methods. A strange-looking and clumsy machine Cartwright's first power-loom was, according to his own description. " The warp," he wrote to a friend, " was placed perpendicularly, the reed fell with a force of at least half a hundred-weight, and the springs which threw the shuttle were strong enough to have thrown a Congreve rocket. It required the strength of two powerful men to work the machine at a slow rate, and only for a short time'; but I succeeded in weaving by its aid a piece of coarse cloth like sail cloth. Conceiving, in my great simplicity, that I had accom- plished all that was required, I then secured what I thought was a most valuable property, by a patent, on April 4, 1785. This be- ing done, I then condescended to see how other people wove ; and you will guess my astonishment when I compared their easy mode of operation with mine. Availing myself, however, of what I then saw, I made a loom in its general principles nearly as they are now made." The theologian, having learned what the weavers could tell him, taught them more than they had been able to teach themselves in a thousand years.

The principle and the working of the hand-loom and the power-loom of Dr. Cartwright were the same, and they continue to be the same throughout all the modifications of the perfected loom. Their three fundamental motions are, first, the " shedding," or dividing of the warp threads by means of harnesses, to permit the passage of the weft threads between them ; second, the " pick- ing " or shooting of the weft ; and, third, the " battening or beat- ing home of the weft. In the first power-loom, Dr. Cartwright combined, with the frame, the beam, the heddles, and the har- nesses of the hand-loom, mechanical substitutes for the weavers' hands and feet. They were tappets and treadles, for operating on the warp ; apparatus for throwing the shuttle, driving home the weft, letting off the warp, taking up the cloth, stopping the loom on the breaking of a thread, and self-acting temples. The prob- lem of weaving once solved, however crudely, improvements upon Dr. Cartwright's loom followed naturally. Dr. Jeffray, a Paisley physician, soon improved the Cartwright loom by introducing a device to prevent the breaking of the weft ; and it was again im- proved by one Miller, of Dumbartonshire, who substituted for the spring, in throwing the shuttle, the direct action of the motive power. The splendid machines of to-day, doing their beautiful work so smoothly, so perfectly, so rapidly, have grown gradually, one improvement following another, out of the clumsy Cart- wright machine so quaintly described above. It is a source of pride to American manufacturers that in this department also the contributions of American inventors have vastly advanced

�� � the industry and have been recognized throughout the manufacturing world. Not only did two distinguished Americans, Francis C. Lowell and Patrick T. Jackson, practically reinvent the power-loom, in 1813, as applied to cotton goods, but another, an adopted citizen, William Crompton, first adapted the power-loom to the weaving of fancy woolen fabrics, and to-day the two principal

PSM V39 D322 Hand loom of 1750.jpg

Fig. 21. — Hand-loom of 1750. (From Hogarth's Two Apprentices.)

makes of American looms, the Crompton and the Knowles, are generally recognized as superior to any foreign patterns and are largely used in foreign mills.[5] Crompton's fancy power-loom was applied to woolen fabrics in 1840. "Not a yard of fancy woolen fabrics had ever been woven by a power-loom in any country," wrote Samuel Lawrence, "until it was done by William Crompton at the Middlesex Mills, in Lowell, in 1840." It was affirmed before a congressional committee in 1878 that "upon a Crompton loom, or looms based upon it, are woven every yard of fancy cloth in the world." The importance of this contribution to the wool manufacture can only be appreciated in connection with the fact that three quarters of all the woolen cloths now worn are woven upon fancy looms. Up to that time it had been deemed impossible to successfully weave the finer worsted fabrics except by hand.

There is no machine of Crompton's first build known to be extant, nor even a picture of one. In 1855 it was greatly improved, and its capacity increased from eighty to ninety picks per minute. The illustration shows one of the narrow looms of the 1855 pattern, with its working parts well brought out. In 1857 the Crompton

PSM V39 D323 Crompton fancy narrow loom of 1855.jpg

Fig. 22. — The Crompton Fancy Narrow Loom of 1855.

establishment perfected the pioneer broad loom, of which great numbers were made during the succeeding ten years. They were made ninety-two inches wide in the reed space, and attained a speed of eighty-five picks a minute with twenty-four harnesses, thus practically doubling the productive capacity of the operative, who could attend a broad loom as easily as a narrow loom. This machine was therefore an enormous stride in advance; none that has since been made can equal it.

Mechanical weaving has now reached a perfection that the hand-loom can not attain. There is greater regularity in the product, less waste of material, and great saving of labor — one weaver in the lighter fabrics easily attending to two or three looms. The power loom is worked without muscular effort, dexterity in the repairing of broken yarns being the chief requirement of the operatives. Consequently, women have almost universally superseded men in its operation.

I shall attempt no description of the power-loom, or of its complicated motions. The illustrations represent the most recent patterns of American broad looms for heavy worsteds, of twenty-five or thirty-six harness capacity, upon which can be woven every variety of fabrics, from the simplest to the most intricate. These looms can be arranged for the Jacquard attachment.

PSM V39 D324 Knowles open shed fancy loom.jpg

Fig. 23. Knowles's Open-shed Fancy Loom.

Remarkable success has attended the efforts to increase the speed of the power-loom. They are built to vary in speed from fifty-four to three hundred picks a minute, according to the fabric upon which they are employed. One hundred and fifteen picks a minute, for each one of which the shuttle travels one hundred and fifteen inches, is now accomplished in the weaving of fancy worsteds. This is not a single or simple motion, but a series, each dependent on the other. The power-loom, at one and the same time, forms the shed in the warp threads, as called for by the pattern or design, and, through the agency of few or many harnesses, propels the shuttles in consecutive order across the piece, beats the picks of weft into close compact, and winds the woven cloth on the piece-beam. Should the wet yarn break or run off the bobbin, or should the shuttles fail to reach home, the loom automatically stops itself. What more can human ingenuity do for the power-loom?

However improved, the principle of weaving is that utilized in the primitive hand-looms. No more complicated pattern or weave can now be made than the ancients achieved on their hand-looms. Homer describes a product of Creusa's shuttle, in which appeared a gorgon and dragons. The damasks and tapestries of the ancients were as elaborate in figure-work, woven into the warp and woof, and more beautiful in coloring, than modern machinery has ever achieved. The famous Gobelin tapestries, with their elaborate allegorical scenes, present a development of the art impossible

PSM V39 D325 Carpet loom with jacquard attachment.jpg

Fig. 24. Carpet-loom, with Jacquard Attachment.

to automatic machinery. Neither has machinery increased the number or variety of the weaves in common use. But a single invention, that of Joseph Marie Jacquard, and known by his name, has made possible in power weaving the making of figured patterns without limit of variation, thus robbing the hand-loom of one of its last points of superiority. Jacquard perfected his 3 i2 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

invention in 1800, and its use has gradually become general in figured goods. It is regarded as the greatest invention in the art of weaving, next to the power-loom itself, and was only eclipsed by that of our own inventor, Erastus B. Bigelow, who made the Jacquard loom automatic. A report of the patent commissioner has declared that " Mr. Bigelow's invention presents a machine which is admitted to be unsurpassed by anything which the mechanical genius of man has ever devised." Mr. Bigelow's invention was i>atented in 1838, but not perfected for Brussels carpets until ten years later. It revolutionized that industry at once. The cost of weaving Brussels carpets had hitherto been about thirty cents a yard, and the product of the hand-loom did not exceed four yards a day. The Bigelow invention made it easy for a single female weaver to weave from twenty-five to thirty yards of carpet a day, at a cost for labor of about four cents a yard. With the expiration of Mr. Bigelow's patents a most ex- traordinary impetus was at once given to the carpet manufacture in the United States, where to-day more carpets are made and used than in any other country.

The power-loom, as to-day constructed and used, is unquestion- ably one of the most perfect, as it is one of the most complicated, of human inventions. The range of textiles, hitherto made only on hand-looms, is becoming, on account of the constant develop- ment of the power-loom, more limited every year. It is only in the production of fabrics in the weaving of which continual and elaborate changes have to be made in the colored weft threads that the hand-loom is still used excluding, of course, its perma- nent use as a pattern-loom.

The development of the loom has been accompanied by many inventions which simplify and expedite loom-mounting, which includes all the processes through which the warp yarns must pass between the spinning-frame and the loom. Filling is wound directly into a cop for the shuttle, and placed therein, ready for the weaving. The processes to which war]) yarns are subject are known as warping, sizing, beaming, healding, and sleying. They deter- mine the character and variation of the weave ; and, in a sense, the art of cloth manufacture, as distinguished from its mechanics, may be said to center in them, and in the designing-room, from which they are controlled. We have left ourselves no space in which to even allude to the various interesting and ingenious machines now utilized in the preparation of the warp for the loom. Necessarily this is the point in the manufacture of fancy goods where auto- matic machinery can not be wholly applied. In connection with the action of the harnesses in the loom, all the variations of the weave are determined by the designer, whose plans for the distri- bution and shedding of the threads must be carried out by hand.

�� � The study of the weaves and of the possibilities of variation in fabrics, arising from the different methods of inserting the weft threads into those of the warp, from the use of different colored threads, both for warp and weft, and by the use of different materials, is perhaps the most fascinating branch of the whole

PSM V39 D327 Crompton thirty six harness worsted loom.jpg

Fig. 25. — The Crompton Thirty-six Harness Worsted Loom.

textile industry. But it is out of place in a paper that relates to the mechanical evolution of that industry. Machinery has done more than its share to assist human ingenuity in the devising of new and attractive variations upon the fundamental weaves. A loom in which thirty-six harnesses can be worked automatically suggests variations of pattern which are practically infinite. These looms, with, the aid of the Jacquard attachment, have enlarged the field of art in woolen fabrics, so that it now presents a limitless opportunity for the play of genius. In this direction we may look for constant advances. In recognition of the opportunity, textile schools for the better education of those who have to do practically with the manufacture have been established in the chief manufacturing nations of the Continent and in England. The influence of these schools upon the character of woolen fabrics is increasingly perceptible and is most gratifying. It is this influence which to-day constitutes the chief advantage which foreign manufacturers possess over those of the United States in the woolen manufacture. Nor can we hope to equal their achievements in this country until we have supplied the means for the better technical education of those who determine the character of the fabrics made in the American mills. In machinery equipment, and in all appliances for economical production, our best mills are fully abreast of the best foreign mills. But in the character of our products we continue to be imitators rather than originators.


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  1. Charles Vickerman, lecture on The Woolen Thread.
  2. It is curious to observe how names have been inherited in the wool manufacture. Worsted is so called from the town where this particular method of manufacture originated. "Hank" is derived from the name Hankemus de Brabant, a Flemish spinner who settled in York; and "blanket" from the name of three brothers Blanket, also Flemish, who settled, at Bristol, among the immigrants tempted to England by the liberal inducements of Edward III.
  3. The origin of the word "top" is attributed to the fact that the product of the hand-comber was wound by him into a ball which took on a shape quite like that of a boy's top — large above, and tapering nearly to a point. The origin of the word "noil" is not as satisfactorily explained. Vickerman says that the term is from the Latin, and means "knotty," or "not do"; but this is at least doubtful.
  4. It is quite clear that the flier, which is fitted around modern spindles for twisting the yarn before it is wound on the bobbin, was known to Leonardo da Vinci, and probably invented by him. Among his mechanical drawings is one which shows a spindle, with flier and bobbin, with a device for moving the bobbin up and down on the spindle so as to effect an even distribution of the yarn. But the use of the flier was not known in England before the end of the seventeenth century. In a pamphlet printed in 1681, by Thomas Firmin, there is an illustration of an improved wheel, with two spindles, provided with fliers, having on them hooks or pins for directing the yarn on different parts of the bobbin.—Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. Over eight thousand of the Knowles open-shed fancy looms are now in operation in England.