Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/193

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181
AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

yarns out of which the clothing of the people was made before the Christian era and for centuries later.

Illustrations are given of the distaff and spindle of ancient Egypt, taken thence to Greece, Rome, Padua, Miletus, referred to

PSM V39 D193 A primitive spindle.jpgFig. 4.—A Primitive Spindle.

so frequently in the Scriptures, and still used in parts of India and elsewhere. For at least thirty centuries no other means of spinning was employed.

The Egyptians wove in an upright loom, beginning at the top and weaving downward, so as to sit at their work. In Palestine the loom was also upright, but the weaver, weaving upward, was obliged to stand. There was also a horizontal loom of very ancient date, the earliest known of which was sold in London, together with some "staves," "shuttles," and a "stay," in 1316.

Just what the primitive hand-loom was we know to exactness, for there are still countries in which it is used, particularly in the manufacture of carpets, precisely as it was used before the Christian era. Ouskak, the seat of the Smyrna carpet industry, where five hundred looms are kept busy, illustrates the strength of tradition in resisting innovation as well perhaps as any locality in the world. Here to-day may be seen the female population of the town busily at work, sitting crosswise at the foot of their looms, often as many as ten in a row, each working at a two-foot width of carpet. Their looms consist of two thick poles fixed firmly in the ground; two others are joined, one above and one below, and to these the warp or chain of the carpet is fastened. The yarn is taken from bobbins suspended above their heads and tied to the warp. It is then cut with a sharp knife and the pile and woof driven together by means of a comb.

This primitive method of manufacture has the advantage of permitting a looser texture than is possible where power is used, and in consequence the colors blend more readily and beautifully, and the carpet is soft and pliant to the tread.

The Romans carried the art of wool manufacture to the highest point of perfection that it reached in ancient times. They bestowed the utmost pains upon the improvement of their breeds of sheep, and the fleeces of their finer animals sold for fabulous prices. Woolen garments formed almost the exclusive attire of the Romans, male and female, of every rank, and the enormous supplies of clothing sent to their armies prove that the manufacture must have afforded occupation to large masses of the people. Pliny's