Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Textiles

( Originally Published 1918 )



What they include. The textile industries are here understood to include (1) the manufacture of various fabrics ; (2) the conversion of these fabrics into articles for personal wear ; and (3) the making of textile products other than those for personal wear. The second and third of these evidently depend upon the first for their materials. There are four leading materials from which the textiles manufactured in this country are made, - cotton, wool, flax, and silk, --- and the textile industries based upon these materials occupy second place in value of product among the fourteen large groups of industries distinguished by the Census—second only to those producing food and kindred products. However, on the basis of the average number of wage-earners employed, the textile group takes first place.

The colonial industry. Although the cotton industry takes an easy first place as compared with the other members of the textile group, historically it was later of development. Woolen and linen cloth for domestic use was " homespun " in early colonial times ; it was not until the arrival of immigrants skilled in the trade that fulling mills were built. About the middle of the eighteenth century the Northern colonies were making practically all the cloth they needed and the colonies, as a whole, about three quarters of their requirement. The product was of a very coarse grade, and throughout the colonial period England and Ireland furnished the bulk of the finer qualities of linens and other textiles.

Linen. As late as 1810 flax exceeded, in this country, both cotton and wool as a textile fiber. The first factories were established .shortly after the Revolution and, from flax and hemp, produced canvas, cordage, sailcloth, and other articles in domestic demand. These early manufactories were in New England and had, of course, no power-driven machinery. Bounties were offered to encourage the production of the articles just mentioned, but when they were removed the industry languished. Factories were

established, as time went on, for making finer goods from flax, but the growing ascendancy of cotton checked their development; a mill persisted here and there, but the industry did not attain any important dimensions prior to the Civil War ; in 1860 we were making only about $800,000 worth of linen goods.

In fact, the development of the industry was slow until the opening of the twentieth century, when it had reached a product value of about $4,000,000 ; since then, however, this figure has nearly doubled. Formerly large quantities of our flax were used for making twine and cloth, but now the situation, despite the growth of the linen industry, has shown something of a shift ; there has been a marked decrease in the production of flax for textile purposes, almost all the flax crop being now utilized for the seed, from which linseed oil is made.

Woolens. The British government discouraged the production of woolen goods in colonial America, wishing to preserve the market for the English product ; the export of woolens and even the transfer of certain woolen goods from colony to colony were forbidden. Imported woolens were expensive, and so we find the colonists wearing leather garments like the Indians. But the British laws did not forbid household production, and the spinning and weaving of cloths and blankets went on in the home. In 1790 there were a few woolen factories in the country, but they were not prosperous. The industry was stimulated during the Embargo and the wars that culminated in the year 1815, but it was hampered at the same time by an insufficiency of domestic wool and by taxes on imported wool. It is said that factory-made woolen goods increased in value between 1810 and 1815 from $4,000,000 to $ 19,000,000. Then followed a period of depression, and it was not until 183o that woolen manufacturing got its first good start.

The woolen industry slower in starting. The specialized manufacture of woolens and mixed cloths was a later development in America than that of cottons. Part only of the raw materials needed was produced in this country ; and the transition from household to factory spinning was made harder by an accompanying change of spinning fibers. The processes in making woolen goods are more complex than those used for cotton, demanding experienced hands in cloth-making and in dyeing and finishing as well ; and so it took longer to develop automatic machinery for wool-working than for cotton-working, and there was a smaller field for the employment of unskilled labor and for the use of power — two conditions of great importance in the competition with Europe. Also the prosperity of this industry was peculiarly affected by the various changes in tariff legislation.

Progress of the industry. The start attained in 183o carried the industry along, and it was enabled to make use of the power loom in manufacturing hosiery, carpets, and other products. This development occurred chiefly in the Middle States, where the wool was grown; half of the woolen mills of 1850 were in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. The early woolen manufacture, as in the case of cotton, was strongly intrenched in New England, but lack of domestic raw wool held it back. In 186o there were nearly 1500 woolen-manufacturing plants in the country, employing about. 50,000 operatives 'and turning out an annual value of nearly $75,000,000. Then, between 1860 and 1880, appeared a remarkable growth of the business, due in good part to the falling off of cotton production, during the Civil War time and later, and to the extraordinary demand for woolens for the armies. The various branches of woolen manufacture have continued to. expand, during the last few decades, along such lines as woolens, worsteds, felt goods, carpets, and rugs, until at the present day there are about $500,000,000 in capital invested and an annual value of product of something like $500,000,000. An interesting feature of our woolen manufacture is the large number of small mills scattered all over the country —a relic of colonial conditions ; but the bulk of the factories is where the population is, Massachusetts holding first place for woolens and worsteds and third place for carpets. New York leads in carpet manufacture, in which detail, both as to quantity and variety, we surpass all other nations.

Cotton goods. Cotton manufacture is the typical fiber-working industry. We are already introduced to it in part, from what has been said earlier about cotton. In the chapter on cotton we have taken up something about the elementary processes of spinning. and weaving. We have seen that the invention of the gin was the turning point in the industry, for the product was so cheapened as to bring it within the reach of the people as a staple for clothing manufacture ; it also led the industry out of the home and into the factory. The period between 1810 and 1830 was the time when this movement was making itself most strongly felt. But the construction of textile-manufacturing machines and their introduction into American factories was a process fraught with difficulty ; England, wishing to secure and keep the monopoly of the industry for herself, prohibited the exportation of machines and also plans and models of machines. American manufacturers had to smuggle in what machinery and machine drawings they could get.

American cotton machinery. But, as a matter of fact, it was not so long after the English machines were in operation that they were duplicated in this country ; it is said that the first cotton factory in this country was built in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1787 ; and then factories were established in New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The credit for building the first complete cotton machinery and operating it in a factory goes to Samuel Slater, sometimes called the Father of American Manufactures, who set up his business in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1799. But development was slow in 1804 only four cotton factories were to be found in the country.

Eminence of New England. Then New England began to take hold, investing in the new industry the capital previously employed in shipping, but later rendered idle by the Embargo.

In 1808 there were in New England 8000 cotton spindles in operation, three years later 80,000, and by the close of the War of 1812 half a million ; and the figures for consumption of cotton by domestic manufacturers confirm this fact of rapid expansion. Up to 1814 machines did the spinning, while the weaving was done on hand looms and in the home ; but in that year the various processes of spinning and weaving were brought for the first time under one roof. This was at Waltham, Massachusetts, in Lowell's factory, which has been called the first complete factory in the world. Nearly all of the early textile mills being very poorly constructed and meagerly equipped, they consequently turned out only the coarser grades of products. But the factory system spread rapidly, anti the factory towns grew up on the streams of New England and the Middle States.

Such towns were Lowell, Lawrence, Holyoke, and Fall River, in Massachusetts.

The industry preceding the Civil War. The general depression following the close of the war period that ended in 1815 was felt in the cotton industry; only the best located, managed, and equipped mills survived after 1820. By 1824, however, the cotton industry was on a sound basis, and from that time on has shown steady growth ; by 183o the United States was surpassed only by England in the-amount of raw cotton consumed annually. At that date over $40,000,000 were invested in cotton manufacturing, over 77,000,000 pounds of raw cotton were used annually, and the value of the manufactured product was about $26,000,000. The industry, as we have seen, came early to be located in New England, which possessed a number of the advantages named above as favorable to industrial development. As early as 184o New England mills were turning out about three quarters of our cotton goods. By the time of the Civil War nearly $100,000,000 were invested in the business, over 422,000,000 pounds of raw cotton were consumed annually, 120,000 people were employed in the mills, and the value of the manufactured product exceeded $115,000,000. Over 85 per cent of the cotton goods consumed in this country were being made here, only the finer qualities being imported ; and besides controlling the domestic market, we had an important export business..

The industry after the war. The Civil War, which resulted in the cutting off of supplies of raw cotton, rendered two thirds of the spindles in the country idle; but there was a rapid recovery afterwards. Between 1860 and 1880 the amount of raw cotton consumed, and the number of spindles in operation as well, doubled. Great improvements were made in processes of manufacture, steam was more and more replacing water power in factory operation, and conditions were coming into being which were to allow cotton factories to locate in the South.

Development in the South. This development in the South represents a striking change in the cotton industry. North and South Carolina and Georgia especially showed marked progress ; the value of the cotton products of these three states constituted 6.2 per cent of the total in 1880, as against 29.7 per cent in 1910. During the same period the capital invested in Southern cotton mills increased from about $22,000,000 to $360,000,000 ; the number of spindles rose from about 600,000 to nearly 4,400,000 ; and the consumption of raw cotton from about 200,000 bales, of 500 pounds each, to 2,500,000. This desirable result was due to the usual combination of advantages : -proximity to raw materials, excellent water power, and a supply of cheap labor ; and it was attained largely at the expense of New England mills and, still more, of those of Europe.

Advantages of New England. New England, however, has not by any means been driven from the field : Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts, are the leading cotton-manufacturing cities of the country, New Bedford being probably the producer of the best cotton cloth made in New England. The labor situation in the New England textile industries is typical of American industry in general. Although the New Englanders, after a century's experience as textile workers, are skilled operatives, the industry no longer depends upon native stock. Within recent decades large numbers of French Canadians have come from Quebec to the mill towns of New England. Here they find employment which is lacking in their own country, with its large and rapidly increasing population. In recent years larger numbers of Europeans also have come, with the result that the mill towns show many languages. Thus has New England also been provided with a relatively cheap class of labor, comparable in some respects with that of the South.

Present conditions. At present there are about 1300 cotton manufactories in the country ; the capital invested is about $900,-000,000, and the annual value of the product is over $700,000,000. In this matter of value of product Massachusetts is easily the leader, followed by North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Rhode Island, the order varying somewhat in different years.

Silk. Silk manufacture was the latest of its group to extend outside the household. Silk was raised in the eighteenth century in Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, and as early as 1790 bolting cloths were made at Wilmington, Delaware, and small goods at Philadelphia, from American materials. Connecticut manufactured several hundred pounds of sewing silk annually, in households, and sold it at home and in neighboring states. But there was no manufacturing enterprise of any importance in this earlier period.

Development of the silk industry. Sixty years were necessary to teach Americans that they could not raise silk with profit ; in fact, the highest expectations along this line were seen in the late thirties, during which period household manufacture of silk persisted, and mills used domestic materials. In 1810 reeling and twisting were done by water power in certain Connecticut villages ; and between that time and 184o plants designed to use American silk were started at a number of scattered places, both within and without New England. Some of these undertakings were successful and worked out valuable improvements in the machinery used ; but most of them failed, either because they lacked raw materials or because they lost in silk-raising more than they earned in silk manufacture. Some of the states, but not the national government, gave legislative encouragement to this industry. The unwinding of the cocoons and the conversion of their material into a continuous and even thread requires skill and patience, together with labor that is both skillful and cheap. But these factors could not be found in America, for this sort of labor could not be procured here ; and so certain preliminary but essential processes never came to be performed economically and perfectly on a scale to support mill industries.

The industry after 1840. Americans could manufacture silks well enough, even though they could not raise the raw material ; that is, they could do that which did not demand patience so much as originality in devising machines and labor-saving devices generally. They were making ribbons and trimmings in 1810; ; and the whole situation was solved about 1840, when China began to send us raw silk in quantities. During this period the mills ceased to depend upon local material. Between 1840 and 1860 there was a marked advance in the industry, notably in making sewing silks ; a number of small factories were built up, prominent among which was one at South Manchester, Connecticut, now a model manufacturing town containing one of the largest silk plants in America. Yet by the middle of the last century the silk industry was still an infant : in 186o the product of all our silk mills was worth about $6, 500,000 annually, of which value sewing silk contributed more than half. The invention of the sewing machine in the middle of the century gave a stimulus to the demand for sewing silk, and machine twist was being produced in 1852 ; but it was not until after the Civil War that ribbons and dress goods were manufactured in any quantities.

Recent development. The Civil War was succeeded, as we have seen, by remarkable growth in the cotton and woolen manufacture ; but a development still more wonderful took place in the case of silk. The value of silk products increased from the $6,500,000 of 1860 to $41,000,000 in 1880 and has continued to rise rapidly ever since. There are now about nine hundred establishments, as compared with three hundred and eighty in 188o; these employ over 100,000 operatives, and the annual value of their output is about $250,000,000. Pennsylvania is the most distinctively silk-manufacturing state, though Paterson, New Jersey, is still referred to as " the Lyons of America."

Other fibers. The manufacture of fibers other than the ones we have mentioned is relatively unimportant. One illustration may be given. The manufacture of hemp was a rather important industry in colonial times and for a quarter of a century there-after ; hemp was used for making cordage and bagging — in fact, the manufacture of these products and of sailcloth, articles much needed in commerce and fishing, was one of the earliest industries of the nation. The manufacture of hemp migrated west-ward ; about 1850 Missouri became a rival of Kentucky, and of the 9,540,000 yards of bagging reported by the Census of 186o the latter state made about 5,750,000 and Missouri about 2,000,000 less. Hemp production has decreased along with that of flax.

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com