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Textile Fibers
Historical Sketch Of The Textiles
Mechanical Devices For Preparation Of Textiles
Cotton Production
Cotton Marketing
Cotton Manufacturing
Geography Of The Cotton Trade
Prices Of Cotton Goods
Classes Of Wool
Production Of Wool
Wool Marketing
Manufacture Of Wool
Geography Of Wool Production
Mohair, Its Nature And Uses
Raw Silk Porduction
Silk Manufacturing
Silk Waste
Imitations Of Silk
Construction, Color, And Finish Of Cloth
Dyeing And Printing
Cloth Finishing
Care Of Textiles
Textile Tests

Mechanical Devices For Preparation Of Textiles

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The mechanical side of the textile industry has had an interesting and remarkably rapid development during the last hundred years, through the evolution of the modern processes of spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, and finishing.

Ancient methods of spinning.-The earliest method of spinning was simply to twist the textile fibers into a thread by means of the thumb and fingers, or between the palms of the hands, or sometimes, between the palm of the hand and the naked thigh. Evidently these processes were extremely slow; yet for ages, or from earliest history, these were the methods in use down to about the time that Columbus discovered America. During all this time the only implement used in spinning was a stick, usually about eight to twelve inches long, to which was attached the end of the thread which was being twisted, and upon which the finished thread was wound.

The primitive spindle.-This stick, the primitive spindle, was usually held in the right hand, while the mass of fibers to be spun was held in the left. A loose thread was formed from the fibers, drawn out to arm's length, and attached to the spindle, which was then whirled between the thigh and the right palm until the thread had been sufficiently twisted. Then the thread was wound upon the stick and refastened at the end ;a new bunch of fibers was drawn out from the left hand, twisted and wound on the stick as before; and so the process continued.

The spinning wheel.-As stated above, at about the time that America was discovered or probably a little later, a new method, and a much better one, came into use in Europe and spread rapidly throughout the western countries. This invention was the spinning wheel. It combined three important parts, the spindle to twist the yarn or thread, the distaff to hold the loose raw fiber, and a wheel, operated either by hand or by a treadle, to turn the spindle and wind the finished yarn. At first the distaff was held in the hand; later it was placed in the spinner's belt or girdle; but finally someone hit upon the bright idea of placing it on the machine, thus leaving both hands of the operator free to handle the loose fiber. Who invented the spinning wheel no one knows. The idea probably came from Persia or India, since these countries used spinning wheels much earlier than did the people of Europe. Furthermore Japan and China had used similar contrivances for hundreds of years before Europeans had dreamed of such an invention.

The form of spinning wheel just described was in constant use in the homes of the people almost down to our own time. Many now living in this country have seen the spinning wheel in use, and one can find, here and there, in old family homes and in museums, the spinning wheels that once whirred merrily in the making of woolen or linen yarns. A hundred years ago, no home was complete without a spinning wheel.

The spinning jenny.-In 1764, a man named James Hargreaves, a poor laborer of Blackburn, England, invented a machine which he called the spinning jenny, which twisted several threads at one time instead of the single thread of the common spinning wheel. In 1769, a spinning machine of different type was invented in Preston, England, by a barber named Arkwright. Both machines came into use rapidly, especially Arkwright's, which made the better yarn.

The spinning mule.-Next came an improvement by Samuel Crompton of Bolton, who combined the good ideas of both machines and called his invention the spinning mule. Improvements have since been made in this machine from time to time, but the spinning mule is still in use today, although another sort of spinning machine called the ring spinner, invented in 1835 by Richard Roberts, is used rather more now for common grades of yarns. The mule is used principally for the finer grades of soft and fancy yarns.

Effect on textile industry.-These inventions had an immediate effect on cotton production. Lancashire sprang to the front in the manufacture of goods that had formerly come from India, such as calicoes and muslins, and by 1785 cotton cloth became as cheap as linen. Another important factor in the promotion of English cotton manufactures was the growing French fashion of wearing English cotton goods made up into clothing for both men and women. Though in France itself this custom died down during the dark days of the French Revolution and the hard times that followed, yet elsewhere the demand for the English goods became permanent. The cheapness and utility of these cotton goods could not be overlooked by the masses.

Recent improvements.-During the last fifty years the main improvements in spinning have been largely by way of increasing the speed and making the operations more and more automatic. For example, in 1851, one operator could care for about 50 spindles. Now the usual task is 125. Fifty years ago the spindles revolved at the rate of 5,000 turns per minute. The usual speed now is nearly 10,000 turns. Practical mill men claim that this is about the '.imit of improvement in this direction.

In this connection should be mentioned the immense improvements in the preparation of the raw fibers for the spinning machines. Machinery now supplants all the old hand processes of cleaning out the dirt, sticks, and leaves often found in cotton, also of opening up the bales and of carding. Before the middle of the nineteenth century, machines were invented for so combing wool fibers that in the spun thread all fibers lie parallel. This made possible the production of worsted goods, which in the last fifty years has leaped forward tremendously. Recent improvements in combing machinery make it possible to comb with small waste almost any length of wool.

Combing has also been applied with success to cotton fibers, especially in making yarns for knit goods. For some time only sea-island and Egyptian cottons could be combed -that is, the longest stapled cottons-but recent inventions in combing machines take cotton staple as small as seven eighths of an inch long. This length includes most common American upland cottons. There is, therefore, a big future for the textile trade in combed cotton goods, as well as in those of combed wools and other fibers.

Weaving.-Weaving in some form or other has been practiced by all peoples and from the earliest recorded ages. Weaving consists essentially of an interlacing of two sets of threads or cords running in directions at right angles to each other. The threads running lengthwise of the cloth are known as the warp, and those running across the warp are called the woof, weft, or filling.

Ancient forms o f weaving.-Simple weaving processes are used by even the lowest savage tribes, especially in making mats and baskets and in interlacing the bark and twigs for huts or tents. Almost as universal is the making of some kinds of cloth out of woven goods. For this, the simplest arrangement used by the ancients, a method still employed by savage peoples, was the fastening of the warp threads between two convenient objects on the ground, and then weaving the weft or filling threads back and forth through the warp threads in the same manner as in darning. This gave the simplest form of the loom.

The heddle.-The first improvement was a device by which alternate warp threads could be drawn away from the rest so that the filling could be passed through rapidly. This device, called the "heddle," was in its commonest form a piece of wood the shape of a thin board and as long as the width of the cloth to be woven. In this board there were cut vertical slots several inches long at close intervals along the entire length of the board, and between each pair of slots at about the middle point, holes or "eyes" were cut. Alternate warp threads were passed through the slots, one thread through each slot, and the intervening warp threads were passed in due order through the eyes, one thread through each eye. On raising or lowering the heddle the warp threads running through the eyes were raised or lowered, while the warp threads running through the slots remained stationary. Thus part of the warp could be raised above or lowered below the rest of the warp and an open space made for rapidly passing through the filling or weft thread.

The shuttle.-The filling thread was carried through the two layers of warp threads by means of a shuttle which was thrown by hand, the thread unwinding from the shuttle or bobbin within the shuttle as fast as it moved forward.

The reed.-The filling threads were drawn up closely into place by means of a comb or "batten," and later by an improvement known as the "reed." The ordinary loom to be found in most homes a hundred years ago consisted of a frame with a warp beam at one end upon which the warp threads were attached and wound, a cloth beam at the other end upon which the finished cloth was received and wound, two heddles so arranged as to be worked by foot treadles, a hollow shuttle containing the bobbin wound with filling thread and thrown by hand, and a reed to beat the filling thread up into place-all worked by hand. The part of the loom that raised and lowered the heddles was called the "harness." Though there have been great improvements in weaving and in the loom mechanism, the principle applied in this old-time loom is the same as the principle underlying the modern loom.

Flying shuttle invented.-The first improvement in the direction of increasing weaving speed was an invention for throwing the shuttle through the warp by a mechanical device instead of by hand. This invention, called the flying shuttle, was made in 1738 by an Englishman named John Kay. A few years later this machine had entirely taken the place of the old hand-throwing looms in the textile districts of England. In 1760, Robert Kay, a son of the inventor of the flying shuttle, added a device to the loom to hold several shuttles, each with a thread of a different color. This made possible quick changes in weaving in colors.

Improved looms.-During the same year, 1760, a new type of loom, known as the swivel loom, was introduced into England from Holland. On this loom it was possible to weave several narrow pieces of cloth, such as tape, ribbons, etc., at the same time. Shortly afterward came the invention of a loom with several heddles and harnesses, making possible the weaving of figures in cloth. This sort of weaving was still further improved when M. Jacquard of Lyons, France, invented the jacquard loom, in which the raising and lowering of the warp threads is controlled by a complicated set of perforated cards which are made for each particular design or figure to be woven. In this loom practically every thread is under control.

Power weaving.-In 1785, an English preacher named Edmund Cartwright discovered the possibility of the application of power to the loom. Previous to this time all looms had been operated by hand. But the English producers looked askance at power looms long after they had adopted power spinning. It was not until 1820 that the hand looms began rapidly to make way for the steam-power looms.

Recent improvements.-There have been many improvements in weaving since the beginning of the nineteenth century, but they have been largely in increasing the speed, decreasing stoppage time, and making the looms automatic so that they will run with little or no attention, and stop the moment anything goes wrong. For example, the stops made to change the shuttles when the filling of the shuttle bobbins is used up have been made unnecessary. An American weaver can now attend to from sixteen to twenty-four and even as high as twenty-eight high-grade automatic looms making twenty-seven- to thirty-six-inch wide cloth. When these modern looms are all supplied with their full quota of shuttles, the operator can leave them and go to dinner if he wishes, and the looms will run until some thread breaks, or until the filling in the shuttles has run out, and then they will stop instantly and automatically.

England tried to prevent other countries from getting models of her many textile inventions during the early years of the nineteenth century. Yet the English machines were duplicated in America. The English claim that the Yankees pirated their ideas; while the Yankees claimed independent discovery. At any rate, both spinning and weaving by, power became known in this country before 1820.

Recent noteworthy inventions in looms are the high-speed automatic ribbon looms, silk label weaving machines (since 1903), and web looms for making suspender and garter webbing and shoe lacings.

Knitting.-Knitting differs from weaving in that it employs but one thread, or one set of threads, instead of two. Weaving machinery was invented before the modern looms but the vogue in knit goods is very recent, the people of this country using between three and four times as much per capita now as they did even twenty-five years ago. It is only within the last thirty years that knitting has changed from a home to a factory industry.

Knitting machines.-The first knitting machine, so far as known, was invented in 1589 by William Lee of Nottingham, England. Its use was forbidden, however, by Queen Elizabeth, because of the fear that it would destroy for many hand knitters the chances of making a living. It was not until 1816 that mechanical knitting was revived. At that time a circular knitting machine was invented and run by power. Yet knitting occupied only a small place in factory production for more than fifty years after that. Since 1870, however, the knitting industry has grown very rapidly in Germany, England, France, and the United States. All sorts of knit clothing are made for men, women, and children, and all varieties of yarns are utilized. The general character of the knitting machines of the present can be judged from the following kinds used in making simply the body part of a knit undershirt: flat, ribbed; flat, plain; full-fashioned flat, ribbed; full-fashioned flat, plain; circular, ribbed; circular, plain.

Then there are knitting machines for sleeves, wrists and ankles; and for hosiery, gloves, mittens, caps, leggings, and so on. Some knitting machines are made to produce a loose, elastic fabric, while others produce a hard, solid material. The former are known as spring-needle goods and the latter as latch-needle. Knitting has also been applied in a number of new ways, such as lining for rubber fire hose and lawn sprinkling hose, table padding, etc.

Dyeing and finishing.-The process of dyeing and finishing fabrics was greatly improved at about the same time that the great inventions were being made in the way of rapid and economical spinning and weaving of textile goods, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

Discovery of cheap dyes.-The soda bleach was invented by French scientists and introduced into England shortly after 1780. Indigo, logwood, cochineal, cutch, and several other "natural" dyes had been used for a long time, but some of these were very expensive and difficult to apply.

In 1856 an English chemist, H. W. Perkin, accidentally discovered that he could make a beautiful mauve color from coal tar, a product of practically no value at the time. A little later a French chemist discovered a way of making magenta from the same substance. These were the beginnings of one of the most wonderful scientific developments ever known, for now thousands of colors, shades, and tints are possible, all made from coal tar.

Making dyes from coal tars as a business has grown to tremendous proportions, especially in Germany. Thousands of workmen and hundreds of highly educated chemists are employed, and the yearly product is worth millions of dollars. Of the great number of dyes produced from coal tar, some are of little value while others are exceedingly fast and serviceable for textile use. Some are easy to apply, others more difficult, but all are comparatively cheap. By exercising care in testing the materials and the dyes in advance, by utilizing the chemical knowledge of the present, and by giving the proper time and pains to the processes of dyeing, we can now color any textile satisfactorily with coal-tar dyes. As a result, they have almost entirely taken the place of the old vegetable or natural dyes.

The Industrial Revolution.-The remarkable series of inventions which so rapidly revolutionized textile production was but one striking phase of that widespread "Industrial Revolution" which in both Europe and America, but more especially in England, characterized the period from 1760 to 1830. Not only were the textile and other industries affected; even more impressive was the change in home life and general social conditions.

The household industry.-Previous to 1760, textile making was essentially a home industry; that is, the entire work was done in the home of the worker, or, as he was then called, the manufacturer. The family was the unit of labor and the women and children were important assistants. All work was done by hand. The head of the house did his own purchasing and selling of the 'raw and finished products. In the home the women spun the raw cotton, wool, or flax into yarn on the old-fashioned spinning wheels. One loom kept four or five spinning wheels busy. Often the family bleached and dyed the cloth and pressed it, or gave it whatever other simple finish was thought desirable. The family owned what it made, as well as the tools used in the making. There was comparatively little hiring for wages. Work, such as dyeing, done outside the home by some other family, was usually paid for with a share of the finished product. There were, to be sure, some wage workers, such as journeymen weavers, but the number was small as compared with the wage laborers under our present labor system. The most frequent break in the straight family unit was when boys were taken in from other families to learn the trade, to serve as apprentices; yet these apprentices were usually treated as members of the family. After some years they became fully conversant with the trade and became journeymen wage earners. Later most of them set up establishments of their own, in many instances marrying the daughters of the masters whom they had served as apprentices. Thus the household system went on.

Beginning of Factory System.-In 1771 water power was applied to the spinning wheel-a profitable innovation. Spinning factories sprang up along the water-power streams of Lancashire. Women in the homes began to lose their occupations at the old-time spinning wheel while the spinning factories began to employ both men and women to run the power spinning machines. Inevitably, then, the house industry system began to break down and the factory system of the present to rise. For the fifteen years during which water power was used, a number of towns sprang up near the waterfalls, whither people moved from their country homes to live near their jobs.

Movement to cities.-In 1785 Watt's steam engine was applied to spinning machinery. On account of its convenience and the cheapness of the coal from the near-by mines, steam power grew in favor, until in many places the water-power plants were closed and the towns around them deserted for the big cities with their steam-power factories. There was a large foreign as well as domestic demand for cloth, wages were considered good, and the socalled factory system became firmly established within a few years.

Changes in methods of labor.-But what a change had been wrought in the methods of production! No longer could the laborer own the tools or machines with which he worked. He no longer had anything to say about the product. He was now employed at a daily or weekly wage. Instead of doing everything required to produce the finished goods, from buying the raw material to selling the completed product, he did but one small subdivision of the work. A factory now had buying, producing, and selling departments, each with its own group of employees. In the producing department, this division of labor was carried to minute detail. With the introduction of automatic machines, the workers were frequently set at some one task that called for but a single movement of the hands, repeated thousands of times a day. Such division of labor, profitable from the manufacturer's standpoint, has been carried very far in modern plants. For example, in a modern tailor shop or clothing factory, the making of an ordinary coat requires about forty separate operations, that of a vest about eighteen, and that of the trousers twentyeight. In making a corset in a modern factory there are some eighty-five or ninety separate processes; in the making of an ordinary pair of men's shoes, over one hundred and forty-five. The tailor of today makes only one-fortieth of a coat instead of a whole suit of clothes. The shoemaker makes only one one-hundred-forty-fifth part of one kind of shoe instead of a whole pair of shoes as did the shoemaker of the past. And the same thing has taken place in practically all other manufacturing occupations. This minute division of labor was one of the characteristic results of the Industrial Revolution.

Big capital required.-Immense amounts of capital were brought together for running the modern factories. The corporation was developed as a suitable form of organization of this capital, and the markets of the world became responsive to the will of these great aggregations of capital instead of to the old-fashioned law of supply and demand under competitive conditions.

Attempts to cheapen cost o f production.--In the severe competition that arose at the beginning of the factory system, lasting in some industries down to the present day, the managers began to seek all sorts of devices to cheapen the cost of production.

Adulterations.-They imitated til a time came when cheapness nastiness. Pure-food legislation to keep greedy manufacturers from poisoning people by wholesale. There is now a strong movement for pure-fur laws and pure-textile laws. One state, Louisiana, has already passed a law making it a crime to sell shoes of which any part is imitation leather, unless a statement to that effect is stamped on the shoe. Similar bills have been introduced in several other states.

Cheap labor demanded.-Child labor has been profitable, since children can do much of the work in a textile mill that men and women had formerly done. In the early part of the nineteenth century children were sent to work twelve or fourteen hours at the cotton mills, when only five years old. The story of this period is in fact the darkest blot in textile history. The children were treated like slaves, handled in herds, poorly fed, poorly clothed, and overworked in unventilated factories. Great numbers died. The survivors grew up uneducated and good for nothing, immoral and careless of every human custom and institution, a menace to society. More recently child-labor laws preventing such evils have been enacted in most countries, though not yet in some of our own states.

Evils o f city life.-Other evils grew out of the factory system before people began to know how to meet them. Most of the people in the early factories came from country homes in which textiles had formerly been made. These old homes were broken up, their members scattered to the four winds. Only those too old or too young to work remained behind, and the children were soon ready to be sent to the cities to work. These people knew nothing of crowded city life. It was a far cry from the country home, its vegetable patch, the flower garden, the chickens, sheep, and cattle, to the crowded, many-storied tenement with high rents, and little sunlight or fresh air. The change was ruinous to health and character; the result was a more frenzied concentration on the one thing, to make money. Distrust and other unsocial feelings became frequent, and the struggle between capital and labor inevitable.

Such were the conditions of living in the textile industry, and they deteriorated rapidly. Health, strength, and morals suffered. The second generation became weaker than the first. Intemperance and vice grew frightfully. It looked for years as if civilization were headed towards anarchy or destruction.

Government regulation.-Governments have now recognized new functions in their relation to industry, and have established laws regarding sanitation, ventilation, and lighting in factories and in tenements. Hours of labor have been shortened for women and children. Compulsory education has been demanded. Dangerous machinery must be so guarded as to prevent accidents. The problems of health and morals are beginning to be considered as community problems instead of individual matters as they were before the days of the Industrial Revolution.

General results of the Industrial Revolution.-The Industrial Revolution brought changes that have benefited humanity. It made it possible for the masses of the people to be comfortably clothed and fed. It multiplied the producing efficiency of the individual. Machinery now does the drudgery formerly done by hand. None the less the Revolution brought evils too-needless ones, to be sure, but not yet wholly eradicated. People did not know how to prevent them; they did not even know of their existence until many lives had been sacrificed and much misery caused. Invention of machinery and of improved mechanical processes so rapidly changed production that people were not able to make the necessary social changes fast enough to keep pace with the industrial development.

Early attitude towards machines.-One of the most interesting phases of the Industrial Revolution was the antagonism of the workers themselves towards the great improvements in the machinery. It has already been noted that in 1589 the inventor of the knitting machine was forbidden to use it. The feeling was then common in all Europe that labor-saving machinery would do more harm than good. For example, a ribbon loom that would weave four to six pieces at one time was invented in 1529 by a German in Danzig. History reports that the inventor was secretly drowned at the command of the mayor of the city.

In 1630 or thereabouts, a similar labor-saving loom appeared in the city of Leyden, Holland. The weavers of the city rose in a riot, and the town council burned the new devices in the public square. Many other towns had similar experiences both on the continent and in England. At one time the German emperor forbade the use of automatic devices on looms, and not until 1765 did weavers dare to use them openly in Saxony. Hargreaves' first spinning jenny was smashed by his neighbors. A machine for dressing wool was invented in 1758, and as soon as the workmen near-by discovered its purpose, they came in and burned it. Hundreds of attacks like these followed in England. In 1810 there was an insurrection led by an idiot named Ned Lud, so the histories state. His followers, called Luddites, marched from factory to factory, and from town to town, and smashed and burned every form of modern machinery that they could find. This great disturbance was finally suppressed by the government but only after considerable bloodshed. The workmen instinctively felt that the machine was taking away their work, thereby depriving them of the means of getting a living. In a measure this was true. Thousands of men, often skilled workers, found themselves out of a job when a machine was invented that could do what they had done. Often the new machines required only a small boy or girl to tend them. It took time to find and master other kinds of work. On the other hand, to the human race as a whole, the machines were a great blessing, cheapening the necessities of life, and making it possible for even the poorest workman and his family to have goods which until then only the rich man and the noble could possess.

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