Power Loom

Power Loom

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In 1784 Edmund Cartwright visited a factory owned by Richard Arkwright. Inspired by what he saw, he began working on a machine that would improve the speed and quality of weaving. Employing a blacksmith and a carpenter to help him, Cartwright managed to produce what he called a power loom. He took out a patent for his machine in 1785, but at this stage it performed poorly.

In 1787 Cartwright opened a weaving mill in Doncaster and two years later began using steam engines produced by James Watt and Matthew Boulton, to drive his looms. All operations that had been previously been done by the weaver's hands and feet, could now be performed mechanically. The main task of the weavers employed by Cartwright was repairing broken threads on the machine. Although these power looms were now performing well, Cartwright was a poor businessman and he eventually went bankrupt.

In 1802 William Horrocks, a Stockport cotton manufacturer, patented an improved power-loom. It featured a more effective way of winding the woven cloth onto a beam at the back of the loom. Over the next twenty years further improvements took place and by 1823 Richard Guest was able to claim that "a boy or girl aged fourteen or fifteen could manage two power-looms and could produce three and a half times as much as the best handloom weaver". By 1850 there were 250,000 cotton power-looms in Britain, of which nearly 177,000 were in Lancashire.

The Lesson of the Power Loom

Image courtesy Richard Marsden/Creative Commons

Much of today’s technology is powered by software that developers share freely. The leading Web server software (Apache), the leading smartphone operating system (Android), and most of the code of the leading Web browsers (Chrome, Firefox) are open source. Some people see these developments as evidence of a sharp break from the past: We have entered the Age of Open Innovation, in which inventors no longer keep their knowledge secret or locked up with patents.

But, in fact, innovators shared knowledge extensively in the past. True, many textbooks and technology museums paint pictures of historical inventors jealously guarding their secrets. The Wright brothers, for instance, refused to let anyone see their airplanes fly for several years after their success at Kitty Hawk until they obtained a patent. But scholars have established that past inventors frequently shared their inventions and cooperated with one another in developing new knowledge. Indeed, prior to Kitty Hawk, even the Wright brothers freely shared the results of their experiments and their designs with an international network of aviation developers who had been exchanging knowledge for decades.

This was hardly unusual. Historians have documented that inventors shared ideas and designs in many key technologies. In 19 th -century Britain, those include blast furnace technology for making iron, the high pressure steam engine in the Cornish mining district, textile equipment, the development of coal burning houses in London, and advances in civil engineering. During the same period in the United States, innovators shared designs and other knowledge in the cotton textile industry, in the high-pressure steam engine for western steamboats, in papermaking, in the Bessemer process for making steel, and among mechanics generally. In addition, American and British farmers swapped ideas frequently, including methods of crop rotation and extensive biological innovation in wheat, cotton, tobacco, alfalfa, corn, and livestock.

However, few of these episodes lasted more than a couple of decades. Shared innovation gave way to firms seeking to lock up their knowledge. And therein lies a possible warning for today’s innovators.

People often assert that patents are essential to protect small inventors from imitators. Without patents, new ideas will be quickly imitated, competition will drive down prices, and the original inventor will not be able to profit. But the inventors who shared their ideas actively encouraged imitation, at least initially. Why?

The case of the power loom demonstrates the arc nicely. The power loom, which partially automated textile weaving, was one of the most important inventions of the Industrial Revolution. The most successful design in the U.S. was built by a Scottish mechanic, William Gilmour. He was contracted to design a power loom for Judge Daniel Lyman, who ran a textile mill in Rhode Island. The loom and associated equipment went into operation in 1817, and with Lyman’s encouragement, Gilmour made his design freely available to other mechanics.

Image courtesy Textile Mercury/Creative Commons

Although Gilmour and Lyman directly helped competing mechanics and textile mills, they weren’t fools. For two decades, machine shops and textile mills made high profits. Machine shops could charge high prices for textile equipment because few mechanics knew how to build them textile mills could make high profits because it was much cheaper to use the new loom. Imitation didn’t substantially reduce profits because there was a shortage of mechanics who could build the machines, of entrepreneurs who could run the new type of enterprises, and of skilled workers who could make the new contraptions productive.

At the same time, there were significant benefits to sharing knowledge. Gilmour might have the best loom design, but many other mechanics had better designs for some of the other devices used to produce cloth. In addition, mechanics continually made improvements. By exchanging ideas for two decades, the textile equipment mechanics rapidly improved the technology, doubling the cloth a weaver could produce in an hour compared to the first power looms.

Most of the important weaving inventions during this time were not patented. Because imitation did not destroy profits, it simply didn’t pay to use patents. (This wasn’t limited to the loom: Only 15 percent of the U.S. inventions shown at the 1851 World’s Fair in London were patented.)

But after the 1830s, almost all significant weaving inventions were patented. The textile mills still exchanged information about best practices, but critical knowledge was more often protected by secrecy or patents. Conditions had changed. There no longer were shortages of skilled mechanics, managers, and workers. Market competition was fierce, and profit margins shrank for the textile mills and machine shops.

We see the same thing in other technologies, such as Bessemer steel in the United States or the steam engines in the mines of Cornwall, England: During the early stage of a major new technology, inventors share designs and knowledge and patent little later, things become more competitive and patents play a larger role. As technologies mature, firms share less and patent more.

Something similar is apparent today. Apple Computer got its start in the Homebrew Computer Club, where members shared designs and product features every two weeks or so. During its first decade, the company obtained just 14 patents, mostly on very specific features. And, of course, Apple benefited greatly from this sharing. As Steve Jobs famously declared, “[W]e have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” These included the idea of the graphical user interface, the MP3 player, and the tablet, which Apple borrowed and improved. Today, Apple is a bit different. In 2012 it obtained 1,236 patents, and during recent years it’s initiated more than 100 patent lawsuits around the world, pursuing “thermonuclear war” against the Android phone makers.

This pattern is seen with other companies, too. Microsoft did not obtain its first patent until 1986, when it was 11 years old. Today it has more than 20,000 patents and actively enforces them. Qualcomm also has a large patent portfolio and is fighting anti-patent-troll legislation in Congress. But the founders of Qualcomm freely shared their technology during the early years of digital wireless technology, including a decoding algorithm widely used in cellphones today.

There are still plenty of areas where innovators develop new ideas and share them. Most software startups today, for example, do not patent, although more are doing so for defensive reasons. But history should remind developers that what is shared today might not be tomorrow.

Patent Model of a Power Loom

Before William Crompton’s 1837 patent for a fancy power loom was adopted, the harnesses of power looms were controlled by cams. This arrangement limited the number of harnesses that could be utilized, which in turn limited the complexity of patterns that could be woven. In order to vary the pattern, the cams had to be laboriously changed. Crompton’s invention solved both of these problems. In his patent, an endless pattern chain was used, upon which rollers or pins could be variously placed to engage the harness levers (as had the cams) but which allowed any number of harnesses to be used and easily permitted the changing of patterns. Now more elaborate designs could be easily woven on power looms.

In 1806 William Crompton was born in the textile mill town of Preston, England. He was taught how to weave on a cotton hand loom and learned the trade of a machinist. He was thirty when he came to Taunton, Massachusetts, and was employed by Crocker and Richmond. At this textile mill he designed a loom to weave a new more complex patterned fabric. The mill failed in 1837 and Crompton went back to England. He entered into cotton manufacture with John Rostran, and took out a British patent for his loom under Rostran’s name.

Later in 1839 Crompton emigrated with his family back to the United States in order to promote his looms. He met with success when the Middlesex Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, invited him to alter his fancy cotton loom for the weaving of woolen fabrics. This he accomplished in 1840, and it was considered an important landmark for the woolen industry. In his book, American Textile Machinery, John Hayes quotes the Committee on Patents of the United States House of Representatives, 1878: “ . . . upon the Crompton loom or looms based on it, are woven every yard of fancy cloth in the world.”

In 1849, William’s health declined and his son, George, carried on the business. Like his father, George was an inventor and patented many improvements for the loom. After 1859, the Crompton Loom Work became one of the two largest fancy loom manufacturers in the United States.

Tradition & Innovation

MYB has invested heavily in developing and modernising the production techniques used to create its Scottish Lace and Madras. In return for the use of the loom that helped him produce the first seamless airbag, local inventor Michael Litton used his technical expertise to develop a bespoke technology on which MYB would then weave their Scottish Madras fabrics.

Litton installed an Italian Vamatex loom – this new technology was to maintain the high quality product MYB were known for but with a muchlarger production capability: from 50 metres to 850 metres per loom per week. They still remain the only mill in the world with access to this unique technology. This innovation and development profoundly impacted the sales position of Morton Young and Borland and the company maintained a strong position for years thereafter.

Today many of the original Nottingham Lace looms have also been modified and networked to the CAD computers in the design office. This is yet another amazing development for MYB and has allowed for increased production and design capability whilst simultaneously decreasing the turnaround time for clients.

Over the past 20 years, Morton Young and Borland has developed the MYB Textiles name, adding a contemporary edge to their proud heritage. With a reputation built on the specialist skills and traditions prevalent in its products, maintaining these niche skills continues to be of paramount importance going forward. They thrive as the last remaining mill in the area due to their passion for continuing the lace and madras production tradition with the aid of new forms of product development and innovation.

Edmund Cartwright

British reverend, poet, and lifelong inventor Edmund Cartwright was born on April 24, 1743 in Marnham, Nottingham, England and would later invent a device that set in motion dramatic changes affecting today’s worldwide textile industry.

Cartwright’s parents were wealthy landowners in Marnham, and he and his four brothers were well educated. At least three of them would become well-renowned in their chosen professions. Edmund’s brother, John Cartwright, was a radical leader with England’s parliamentary reform movement at the turn of the century, and his brother George was a trader and explorer of Labrador.

Edmund Cartwright was himself a graduate of University College at Oxford. He pursued a master’s degree with Oxford’s Magdalen College, finishing his MA in 1766. From there, he became rector of a Leicestershire church, married, and continued to progress in his career with the church, taking on the curacy of Brampton in 1772, followed by his appointment as prebendary of Lincoln cathedral in 1786, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Cartwright also published several acclaimed poems including “Armine and Elvira” and pursued an interest in engineering. It wasn’t until he was 40 years old that he began to take engineering and inventing seriously. In 1784, he embarked on a second career of sorts when he became very interested in industrial machinery. That year, he was invited to visit a factory owned by Richard Arkwright where he saw newly invented spinning machines turning cotton into thread at a rapid pace.

Arkwright had invented the spinning frame, or water frame, in 1769. Cartwright and some of his associates had earlier discussed the possibility that once Arkwright’s patents on these frames expired, many mills using his technology were likely to spring up, and much more thread would be produced quickly than could realistically be spun into cloth by human weavers.

Cartwright thought there had to be a way to make the weaving process automatic in order to keep pace. His colleagues didn’t believe it was possible, but with the help of a blacksmith and carpenter, he began working on a machine that would prove the doubters wrong. He created a prototype in 1785. His first version of the power loom was very basic, very crude, and did not perform very reliably. He obtained a patent on the machine, however, and pushed on.

By 1787, Cartwright had improved his loom concept, and he was issued several more patents on his designs until 1788. He opened his own weaving mill in Doncaster, using steam power, which was then a novelty, to drive the looms. One consequence of his invention was that human beings were no longer needed to perform some of the tasks the machine could do, and unfortunately, he realized he was suddenly putting a great number of people out of work. But it was too late to turn back time. Others saw what Cartwright had achieved and began building similar, and in many cases better, machines of their own, and the industry was changed forever.

Cartwright, meanwhile, proved a poor businessman. His looms operated well, but his mill eventually went out of business. He also faced hostility from threatened local textile workers, who are believed to have been responsible for a fire that destroyed 400 of his looms in a factory in Manchester in 1799.

Nonetheless, power looms began to take hold all over England with thousands of them operating all over the country by 1820. The American textile industry modified and adopted Cartwright’s original concept as well, with the first American-built power loom appearing in a factory in Massachusetts in 1813.

Cartwright moved on to other projects, including the invention and patenting of a wool-combing machine in 1790, a concept for interlocking bricks for construction in 1795, and an alcohol engine in 1797. That year, he also patented a fireproof flooring material made of fired clay. Later works included improvements to the steam engine and other modifications for engines and textile machinery.

Having moved to London in 1796, Cartwright never made much financial gain from his inventions. However, in 1809, after a group of textile manufacturers petitioned the House of Commons on his behalf, he was awarded 10,000 British pounds for his contributions to the British textile industry. He died in Kent on Oct. 30, 1823, at the age of 80.

Indian power loom industry: an overview

History of weaving looms can be traced back to 17th century. The first power loom was invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1785. Originally Power looms were with shuttle, and they were very slow. But as the industrial demands for faster production accelerate, faster looms without shuttle came in use in early part of 20th century. As developments and innovations take place, various types of looms were developed for faster production. Today, Air-jet, Water-jet, Rapier and other computer operated looms are used to maximize production of special materials.

Indian scenario of weaving looms:

Though weaving is one of the important sector for Indian textile industry, it has not been given due attention like spinning sector. Moreover structure of the industry plays a major role in making it competitive. Nature of this sector is mainly unorganized. The sector consists of fragmented, small and often, un-registered units that invest low amount in technology and practices especially in the power loom, processing, handloom and knits.

India has world’s largest installed base for looms. There are approximately 5mn looms in the country. India has 1.8mn Shuttle looms which is 45% of world capacity, and 3.90mn handlooms which is 85% of world capacity.

The power loom sector produces more than 60% of cloth in India and textile ministry’s estimation says that more than 60% of the country’s cloth exports originated from that sector. With its employment of 4.86mn workers, the power looms sector comprised approximately 60% of total textile industry employment.

As per textile ministry of India up till March 31, 2006, the power looms sector — which produces various cloth products, including greige and processed fabrics — consisted of 430,000 units with 1.94mn power looms. The ministry projected the number of power looms to rise to 1.95mn in 2006-07.

But modernization in looms is less and Indian industry still lags significantly behind US, China, Europe, Taiwan etc. (Texmin, 2005). Most of the looms we have currently in country are shuttle-less. There are less than 15,000 modern looms, whereas traditional looms are in large numbers. Value addition and the manufacturing of fabrics according to customer’s compliances, is not possible due to obsolete technology of looms.

Shuttleless weaving looms are up to three times more efficient than shuttle looms, but the penetration of modern shuttleless loom is very less. In 2001, there were some 27,000 shuttleless cotton looms in Indonesia, 21,000 in Thailand and 10,000 in India. In world share of shuttleless looms India ranked 9th. Following chart shows comparison of shuttleless loom proportion of India with other countries.

As described in the chart India has lowest number of shutteless looms among all competing countries. While competitors like China and Indonesia are far ahead in this modernization. USA and Russia has highest proportion of modern shuttleless looms.

Challenges and Adversities:

The Indian loom industry is small scale unlike industry of China and Taiwan and therefore incurs high co-ordination cost.

Higher power tariff is also one of the biggest challenges this industry is facing. Unlike spinning industry weaving loom sector is mostly concentrated in small areas of nations, where power fluctuation is a matter of routine. Productivity also gets affected time to time by fluctuation in power in such areas.

Through Technology Up-gradation Scheme (TUFS) Government is trying to modernize these sector and make import of latest technology looms easier and affordable. Still India lags behind in productivity due to outdated technology and low penetration of shuttleless looms.

Advance technology installation demand skilled labor to understand and install such facilities, shortage of skill labor is also a roadblock in adaptation of new technology in weaving loom industry.

Along with increasing trend of importing new technology shuttleless looms, there is, however, a recent trend of investment in setting up hi-tech, stand-alone mid-size weaving companies focusing on export markets. For example groups like Shanmugavel Group of Dindigul, Tamil Nadu is planning to install 200 new airjet looms and has already placed orders for 30 airjet looms.

TIFAC- (India’s leading institute which focuses on textile machinery upgradation) is partnering with Indian textile manufacturing industry to invent new generation of High-tech weaving looms. Some of the products developed by these joint efforts include a rapier shuttleless loom (4-weft colour), which is developed to suit for Indian condition with M/s. Sree Andal & Co., Komrapalayam. The width of this rapier loom is 72" with speed of 250 rpm.

A project for the development of air-jet and 8-weft colour rapier loom was also taken up with M/s. Industrial Engineering Works. This company with cooperation of SITRA is developing some modern age indigenous looms like Air jet, Rapier and Dobby which can be fit into Indian industrial conditions well.

The powerloom sector occupies a pivotal position in the Indian textile industry. Though current growth of this sector has been restricted by technological obsolescence, fragmented structure, low productivity and low-end quality products, in future Technology would play a lead role in this sector and will improve quality and productivity levels. Innovations would also be happening in this sector, as many developed countries would be innovating new generation machineries that are likely to have low manual interface and power cost. Indian textile industry should also turn into high technology mode to collect the benefits of scale operations and quality.

To reap benefits of these developments Indian powerloom industry has to prepare itself for drastic technological changes and will have to focus on area such as Technology upgradation: modernization of Power loom Service Centres and testing facilities Clustering of facilities to achieve optimum levels of production Welfare schemes for ensuring a healthy and safe working environment for the workers in future.

Relation to Textiles :

The spinning mule was the second advance in the spinning industry, and flipped the gender balance of spinning twice the manual mule made spinning a mostly male operation, while the automatic mule once again made spinning a mostly female operation.

The spinning mule was a direct combination of the spinning jenny and the water frame, but Crompton, the inventor, never patented it – he instead sold the rights to Dale, a Scottish businessman, who patented it and profited from it.

Fashion Archives: A Look at the History of the Weaving Loom

Have you ever seen a piece of fabric being woven? Or perhaps you’ve done some weaving yourself? Either way, if you have, you’ve also seen a weaving loom- the tool that transforms yarn into cloth. Weaving is a precise craft, involving each individual thread being aligned into perfect placement. As you might imagine, this can be difficult and time-consuming. Fortunately, this complex process is made far easier by the weaving loom and the advancements made with this important tool over the course of fashion’s history.

As civilization began to move away from the use of animal hides as their primary material for garments, it was discovered that lacing or knotting lengths of fiber together could create fabric. This way of cloth-making began some time before 5000 BC, with finger weaving, tying and twisting debuting as some of the first textile techniques.


During the Neolithic period, weaving began to develop into the process it resembles today with one of the first iterations of the loom. The warp-weighted loom is a simplistic weaving tool in which the warp threads are positioned vertically. As the name suggests, the threads are pulled taught and kept under tension by weights that have been fastened to the end of the warp. The fabric is woven from top to bottom, beating the weft threads upwards. Evidence of early versions of this loom were found in Serbia as well as Switzerland. After a stint of popularity in Ancient Greece, it’s use spread through Europe, particularly Scandanavia, before falling out of favor.


Another early version of the weaving loom is one that is still widely used in various cultures around the world even today: the backstrap loom. This particular style of loom is found mostly in South and Central America, particularly Guatemala and Peru. However, versions of it also exist in parts of Asia such as Japan, Indonesia, and India as well as Navajo and Zuni Native Americans. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when this particular tool came about, as many of the climates in which it was used were not conducive to preserving the loom components or the resulting fabrics. The earliest evidence of a backstrap loom can be traced to Eastern Asia during the Bronze-Iron Age. As the name suggests, the backstrap loom works by stretching the warp threads between a stationary object and a strap that is wrapped around the waist of the weaver, who leans back to create tension. This tool is deceptively complex, and unique in that the weaver becomes part of the loom, and can act as an “automatic warp regulator,” constantly adjusting tension.


The design of the loom began to advance more rapidly during the Middle Ages, with the invention of treadles. This particular part of the loom lifts specific heddles (looped strands that lift individual threads in the warp to create a pattern.) This invention, believed to have originated in China, allowed for much more complicated textile patterns to be created with ease and this same basic system is still used in weaving today, albeit with some more advanced adjustments. The 18 th century-born draw loom is an early example of this aspect of weaving technology.


Another crucial development in weaving to come out of this time period was the invention of the flying shuttle. The shuttle is a tool that holds the weft threads, and is slid through the warp, weaving them into the fabric. In earlier iterations of the shuttle, the shuttle was slid through the warp by hand, which meant that in order to weave larger pieces, weavers had to pass the shuttle down to one another, which was an inefficient solution. In 1733, the flying shuttle was invented by British weaver John Kay. A mechanized system, this technology allowed the shuttle to fly all the way across the warp uninterrupted, which sped up the weaving process significantly. This tool would be hugely popular in weaving for the following two centuries, only petering out with the invention of mechanized looms.


By 1786, steam engines replaced the human hand as the loom’s power source. During the Industrial Revolution, weaving technology sprang forward, and automated looms became the norm in cloth production. One such invention that is still used today is the Jacquard loom, which came about in 1801. This particular loom utilizes cards with punched holes to dictate the patterns. These cards are strung together in order, and when put together, create the overall design. This particular loom made it much easier to produce complex patterns such as brocade and damask.


By the beginning of the 20 th century, electricity allowed automated weaving to progress even further. Electric motors appeared in place of steam engines, and by the 1940’s looms were fully mechanical. A tool called a projectile briefly replaced the flying shuttle, but this too would be improved upon. Swiss loom manufacturer Sulzer created fluid jet looms- which are exactly what they sound like. A pressurized jet of water or air pushes the weft threads through the warp. This innovation is the current technology used in weaving today.

What did people use woven cloth for?

You might think the main purpose of weaving was to make clothing, and people did use cloth to make clothing.

Sails and sailing Tents to live in Knotted carpets

But even though cloth was much more expensive then than it is now, people also used cloth for all kinds of other things. They used cloth to make sails for boats, tents, carpets, sheets, towels, cheese-making, bags to carry things in, and many other things.

Power Loom - History

The Rustbelt runs right through Pennsylvania, the former heartland of American heavy industry. Throughout most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, coal, iron, steel, railroads, and petroleum formed the basis for giant industries that dominated the economic landscape of the state. However, in addition to these industries, Pennsylvania was home to a remarkable diversity of enterprises that served the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

This unusual feature of Pennsylvania industry was the result of many factors some of which dated back to the founding of the colony by William Penn, who promoted its rapid development by allowing settlers from many regions in Europe, especially Germany. By the mid-18th century Pennsylvania was perhaps the most diverse society in the world. What united most of these colonists was an enterprising spirit, which, when combined with a lot of hard work, made Pennsylvania into a prosperous place containing a large number of businesses that produced a wide variety of goods.

The general pattern of the state's industrial development had been established by the Civil War, characterized by, "a great variety of manufactures well scattered." Since many firms served primarily local markets, Pennsylvania industry consisted of an unusually large number of companies. For example, in 1860, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had similar industrial employment and output, but Pennsylvania had three times as many establishments. Nearly a century later, two-thirds of all the varied types of industrial commodities manufactured in the United States were produced in some quantity in the Keystone State. It would be this industrial diversity that would sustain the state's economy when the formerly dominant industries declined in the latter part of the twentieth century.

The distinctive industrial economy of Pennsylvania was in part shaped by the state's geography, resources, and early development. As settlers moved inland slow and expensive transportation by horse and wagon forced farmers to depend on locally produced goods. The many Appalachian mountain ridges that traverse the state made overland transport even more difficult, until the Transportation Revolution&ndashbringing steamboats, canals, and railroads&ndashin the first half of the nineteenth century began to connect the numerous regions of the state. Improved transportation made it possible for many Pennsylvania manufactures to grow into industries that served regional if not national markets. To support the economic development of the state, the Pennsylvania government had in the 1820s and 1830s funded an extensive and expensive canal system. The coming of canals and railroads did much to integrate the state economically, but some areas were still by-passed.

In addition to the influence of its mountainous topography, the waterways of Pennsylvania were also responsible for shaping the industrial geography of the state. The two major centers of production&ndashPhiladelphia on the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and Pittsburgh at the junction of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers&ndashhad started as important transportation hubs and centers for trade. (The state's other major river, the Susquehanna, flowed south linking the central part of the state to Baltimore.) As the population of these cities grew, they became home to manufacturers of goods for local, regional, and sometimes national and international markets. Urban skilled craftsmen provided the technical expertise upon which industry would later build. Fortunes made by artisans and merchants would in the nineteenth century provide the capital needed for industrial enterprises.

Most of Pennsylvania's first industries developed from the state's natural resources. Grist and saw mills soon appeared in pioneer communities to grind grain and saw lumber. Pennsylvania was covered by mature forests that had grown on what turned out to be excellent farm land. Both milling and lumber would be significant industries in the state until the twentieth century. The abundance of timber near the ports of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia made both cities into centers of shipbuilding that prospered until the post-World War II era. The mineral resources of the state stimulated the development of other industries, usually located near mines or quarries or along major transportation routes.

During the colonial era, Pennsylvania led the colonies in iron production&ndashutilizing abundant sources of iron ore, limestone, and charcoal derived from wood. In the nineteenth century, the state led the nation in iron and steel production, in part due to Pennsylvania's immense coal resources&ndashfirst anthracite in the northeast and later bituminous in the southwest. Available cheap energy was a valuable resource that allowed the state to be a leader in the glass, brick, and cement industries. For example, the Pennsylvania oil industry created by-product natural gas that fueled the expansion of the glass industry in the Allegheny River valley beginning in the 1880s.

Timing was also an important factor in the development of Pennsylvania's industries. Starting with the aggressive development policies of William Penn and his successors, Pennsylvania got a head start in many fields.

Textiles provided another essential industry in which Pennsylvania established an early position. The mechanization of textile spinning and weaving launched the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain in the 1770s, and Americans followed its lead several decades later. In the United States, the mass production of inexpensive cotton cloth became centered in Lowell, Massachusetts. Philadelphia textiles focused on woolen, silk, and hosiery markets. After 1840, farmers in the western part of the state began to raise sheep, whose wool was spun and woven in local mills. The absence of southern cotton during the Civil War led to a dramatic expansion of the state's woolen industry. By 1880 virtually every county had at least one mill and Pennsylvania surpassed Massachusetts to become the leading producer of woolen goods.

The textile industry in Philadelphia consisted of a large number of mostly small establishments that produced a wide variety of fabrics. Carpet weaving started in Philadelphia in 1791, and by 1810 the city had a virtual monopoly. The introduction of the Markland power loom in 1868 helped Pennsylvania become the leader in carpet manufacture between 1870 and 1900. In cotton goods, Philadelphia concentrated on intricate and fancy fabrics, frequently woven on handlooms. After 1880, silk spinning, weaving, and knitting factories began to appear in eastern Pennsylvania to take advantage of cheap female and child labor provided by immigrants whose adult male breadwinners worked in mines or mills. By 1900, one-third of America's silk textiles were made in Pennsylvania, mostly in Philadelphia, Scranton, and Allentown. In that year, textiles was the number two industry in the state, and Pennsylvania was number two in the United States, not just in textiles but in manufacturing generally.

As the twentieth century began, while most Pennsylvanians benefited from the wide variety of goods that poured out of the state's mines and factories, some citizens, especially those who called themselves Progressives, increasingly worried about the negative aspects of industrialization. In its pursuit of economic growth, state government had tolerated long hours and low wages for workers, permitted unsafe working conditions, and chose to do very little about air and water pollution caused by industry.

In addition, Pennsylvania politicians had been unduly influenced by wealthy businessmen, who had frequently used unscrupulous and illegal tactics to amass their riches and power. Progressives pressured government to regulate industries to ameliorate some of these consequences of Pennsylvania's&ndashand America's&ndashheadlong and often reckless industrialization. Increasingly government responded with laws that restrained business practices, established rights for workers, and protected natural resources and the environment generally.

Although Pennsylvania continued to be an industrial powerhouse in the twentieth century, its national prominence began to decline after 1920. As transportation improved and economic development became more widespread, industrial production tended to move to the west and the south. Between 1900 and 1910, production of cotton cloth in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina grew from ten to one hundred million square yards, while, Pennsylvania's output stayed at thirty million.

Although the Pennsylvania textile industry had peaked, it remained a viable industry throughout most of the twentieth century. One major adjustment was a shift from fabric to apparel manufacture. By 1940, Pennsylvania was the number three state in apparel manufacture, and women's clothing was the state's fastest growing product. Between 1920 and 1940, nearly three-fourths of the state's forty leading manufacturing industries had declining shares in national markets. The most pronounced declines occurred in the most established industries&ndashcoal, iron and steel, railroads, and textiles.

In the twentieth century, Pennsylvania developed some of the newer, consumer-oriented industries. One example was processed food generally and snack foods specifically. Of course, there was Hershey in chocolate bars, but Pennsylvania also excelled in ice cream, pretzels, and potato chips. The Pittsburgh firms Alcoa and Westinghouse gave the state a major stake in the new aluminum and electrical industries, respectively.

Having long been a center for the production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, Pennsylvania shared in the rapid growth of this industrial sector in the twentieth century. The new textile fiber rayon was first manufactured in the United States in Marcus Hook in 1911. Although Michigan became the center of the automobile industry, Pennsylvania was home to Mack and Autocar truck manufacturers and to Harley Davidson motorcycles.

When radio listening became a favorite American activity in the 1920s, several Pennsylvania firms made the popular electronic device. That state became a center for electronics during World War II when the first computer, ENIAC, was constructed at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After the war, its inventors, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, developed the first commercial computer, UNIVAC for their Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Their small Philadelphia operation soon became part of the Remington Rand and later Sperry Rand companies.

With the rise of IBM in the 1960s, the locus of the computer industry moved north into New York. Even though Pennsylvania did not become Silicon Valley, the state has been able to adapt to the challenges of a global economy because of the long-standing diversity of its industries, both in terms of products and size of firms.

Watch the video: Fine Peace of Weaving by Jacquard Loom (June 2022).


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