Open main menu

Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Linen

LINEN, a general name for a cloth of very extensive use, made of flax, and differing from cloths made of hemp only in its fineness. The manufacture of linen is of so ancient a date that its origin is unknown. At a very early period linen cloths were made in Egypt, the cloth wrappings of the mummies being all composed of this substance. In the time of Herodotus linen was exported from Egypt; it also formed the dress of the Egyptian priests, who wore it at all their religious ceremonies; hence they were called “linen wearing” by Ovid and Juvenal. Linen passed from Egypt to the Romans, but not till the time of the emperors, when the Roman priests began to wear linen garments. Linen was also used as a material for writing; the Sibylline books, and the mummy bandages covered with hieroglyphics, are instances of this use of the fabric. Linen and woolen cloths formed the only material for dresses during the Middle Ages; and fine linen was held in very high estimation, the manufacture being carried to the greatest perfection in Germany and Brabant. Cotton, on account of its cheapness, has taken the place of linen for many purposes; but the best paper cannot be manufactured without linen. About the middle of the 18th century the inventions of Hargreaves and Arkwright were first applied to the manufacture of linen at Leeds. The manufacture of linen was first introduced into the United States by the establishment of a large mill at Fall River, Mass., in 1834.