Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/August 1891/The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: Wool Industry III
|THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.|
Fig. 26.—A Greek Spinner of To-day. WE shall dwell but briefly upon the dyeing and finishing branches of the wool manufacture. In dyeing, the ancients attained a degree of perfection so remarkable as to recall the saying of the prophet that there is no new thing under the sun. They discovered and utilized vegetable and animal dyes of blue, purple, and scarlet, so brilliant and so delicate that, with all our knowledge and experience, we are not able to surpass them. The chief advance in this department of the manufacture has been in the greater ease with which dyeing is effected, and the consequent reduction in its cost, and in the increased number of tints and shades which can be imparted to the material. The art of dyeing appears to have been contemporaneous with the arts of spinning and weaving. Where these flourished, there the dyer always left behind him the evidences of his skill; when these languished and decayed, dyeing became one of the lost arts. The ancient Tyrians attained their celebrity as the most skillful dyers of antiquity by their use of the liquid of the shell-fish buccinum and purpura, while the early explorers of this continent were astonished at the brilliancy of the dyes which the Mexicans and the Peruvians extracted from forest trees. In the Peruvian department at the Philadelphia Exhibition there was exhibited a piece of woven cloth, taken from the tomb of the Incas, which had retained, for more than two thousand years, its original colors scarcely dimmed. Modern dyeing must stand abashed in the presence of such evidence of a permanency it does not pretend to imitate. But it has made some wonderful advances, all within the last quarter of a century, in the successful application of the aniline dyes to fabrics; and the new combinations which are constantly evolved and applied, are all of them possessed of this great advantage, that they are brought within the reach of the millions.
Wool has an affinity for dye surpassing that of any other fiber, and there is no new discovery in dyeing material to which it does not instantly declare kinship. It is dyed to equal advantage either in the fleece (after scouring), the sliver, the yarn, or the piece, according to the use to which it is to be put. The dyeing department of a great wool-factory is one of the most critical points of its administration. Here again art touches manufacture closely. The designer and the dyer are the two agencies through which the manufacturer keeps in touch with the world. Fig. 27.—Rotary Fulling-Mill. The finishing of woolen goods is a series of operations no less important than those which have preceded, for they determine the final appearance of the textures. These processes are numerous and delicate. They have been vastly simplified and expedited by machinery, and chiefly in the last half-century. The most important of the finishing operations is that of fulling or milling. In this operation the cloth will lose by shrinkage from one quarter to one third of the length and breadth to which it is woven. The serrations of the wool, which have been left intact throughout the multitudinous manipulation to which the fiber has been subjected, fit into each other in the process of milling, and lock fast under pressure. Thus a piece of woolen cloth, originally a series of threads loosely woven, becomes apparently one solid mass, which can be pulled apart with difficulty. Fulling can only be accomplished when the cloth is damp, warm water and soaps being used to facilitate it. There appears to be no limit to the felting capacity of wool or the shrinkage which may accompany it.
By the most primitive methods the fulling was done in tubs under the pressure of the feet, a tedious process, requiring several days. In the early days of mechanical manufacture the cloths, after boiling or scouring to remove the oil, were folded in laps, hammered, refolded, and again hammered five or six times, until the fibers had matted and shrunk to the desired size. At a later period there followed a primitive method of automatic fulling, in a milling trough, with "stocks," which were two heavy wooden mallets, lifted in succession by cogs fixed on the axis of a water-wheel. These hammers would make from thirty to forty blows a minute, and the process was repeated four or five times, with intermediate soapings and rinsings, occupying a day to complete it.
The fulling-mill with rollers is an American invention, that of John Dyer, whose patent bears date 1833. The invention of the double crankshaft fulling-mill was also of American origin, Levi Osborne's first machine, made in 1804, being the first of a series of valuable machines on that principle. By the use of the new methods of fulling, the cloth, after saturation with soap and water, is passed between two vertical rollers in a twisted condition, the pressure applied causing it to shrink in the direction of the weft. As the cloth passes through these rollers its progress is interrupted at intervals, and it is held in a trough or case which causes the fabric to shrink in the direction of the warp. The first closed cylindrical fulling machine came into use about 1844. By its use this important branch of the work was executed with a precision and certainty hitherto unattainable, while much economy of room and saving of heat were effected by suppressing the old fulling machines.
After rinsing, tentering or dry stretching follows. In our older mill-yards may still be seen the tenter posts and hooks, upon which the cloth was stretched and left for several days to dry in the open air. This operation is now quickly performed by the use of revolving frames and steam coils. Raising follows, to open and disentangle the fibers, completely covering the surface of the goods after milling and tentering. The "nap" is raised by the use of the teasel, which earlier manufacturers set in a frame, having crossed handles, and scratched over the surface of the cloth. This frame formed a tool not unlike a currycomb in appearance, and was used by two men, who scrubbed the face of the cloth as it hung in a vertical position from horizontal rails fixed to the ceiling of the workshop. The machine upon which this work is now done is called the raising-gig. It is a large cylinder, containing a number of iron rods closely set with teasels. It travels rapidly, in a direction opposite to the movement of the cloth, which, moving slowly, is brought in contact with the sharp Fig. 29.—Head of Fuller's Teasel, and Heads of Wild Teasel. and pliant teasels, which raise the fibers by a series of rollers, capable of adjustment according to the amount of nap it is desired to raise. The gigging machine also, while not originally an American invention, has received from Americans its most valuable features. As early as 1794 Walter Burt obtained in America a patent for a gigging-mill in which the rotating barrel was the distinguishing part; and the names of Jersey, Christie, Olney, Barrows, Beck, and Wells are honorably identified with its subsequent development.
The process of cutting off at an equal height all the filaments on the surface developed by napping was performed in the middle ages by the use of enormous scissors, and this method was continued, with but slight modifications, down even to the present century. It was slow, laborious, and extremely painful to the workmen who were compelled to operate the shears. The principle of the machine now used for shearing cloth is a cylinder armed with a knife arranged in a helix—a sharp screw turning tangentially in contact with a fixed knife and the cloth upon which the latter rests. Eleazar Hovey, of Canaan, Conn., patented a shearing machine in 1811; and this invention was introduced into France in 1812 by George Bass, of Boston, Mass., and there and everywhere is ranked among the most important of the inventions which have brought the woolen manufacture to its present high state.
Following the shearing, which fine cloths, like broadcloth, undergo twice and three times, are boiling and crabbing. Cloth that is to be "dyed in the piece" now takes its turn in the dye-house, and is run through the dye-kettles in an endless belt over cylinders, as in fulling. Crabbing is a process of scouring by steam, applied separately to each side of the cloth by rolling it upon large metal cylinders, and then rewinding the cloth, reversed, to give it the surface preparatory to dyeing. The process of inspection, called "perching," intervenes at one point or another, according to the fabric, by which any defects in the manufacture are noted. Knotters and binders remedy these defects, removing knots left by the loom, and mending broken threads. Finally comes the pressing, by which the final finish and luster are given to fine cloths. Until quite recently pressing was done by folding the cloth in layers between boards of smooth pasteboard and pressing them between hot plates in hydraulic presses. A machine now expedites this process by compressing the cloth between rollers heated by steam. The inventor of the pressing machine with steam was Seth Hart, who received a United States patent in 1812. This invention appears twelve years later in Europe, John Jones taking out an English patent for the same machine in 1824. It appears that John Beverley, an owner of woolen and cotton factories in the United States, made the first use of the hydraulic press in 1803. He named it a "hydromechanical press." Bowker and Hall, of Boston, constructed a rotating cylinder press, heated by steam, in 1814, which is believed to have contained the first idea of the steam cylinder cloth-press now so universally used. The finishing operations to which worsteds are subjected differ slightly from those applied to woolens, with less of fulling and sometimes with none. Singeing machines are often utilized here, in which the fabric is passed over copper plates, heated to a white heat, so quickly and deftly as to burn from it only the excrescences, leaving the tissue itself unscorched and perfect. Thus completed, the goods are finally boxed and ready for the market.
Dr. Grothe, the distinguished German investigator of textile evolution, has testified that the contributions of American inventors to finishing machinery exceed in extent and value those of any other nation; and he adds that, as a result of his investigations, he is "happy to award the merit of priority in invention, frequently claimed for England, to America, the country which has created inventors through her system of home industry and personal liberty."
We have now completed our tour of the woolen-mill and our hasty examination of the machines which have superseded the earlier inventions in these establishments. Not less striking than their wonderful ingenuity is their multiplicity. We find not only a separate machine for each of the twenty-three different operations enumerated by Ure in 1834, but we also find, in the larger mills, great numbers of these separate machines. A modern factory is, therefore, something almost entirely different from anything which existed a century ago. It contains vast rooms, each devoted to separate branches of the industry. In one we find the scouring machines; in another, the carding machines; in another, if it be a worsted-mill, the combs and gilling machines; in another, long rows of whirling spindles tire the eye, and in another the clatter of hundreds of looms suggests pandemonium. Everything is systematized, and the surroundings of the operatives, with abundance of light, with perfect ventilation, with steam-heat, with convenient retiring-rooms, justify the statement that the gain of the manufacture through improved machinery is no greater than the gain of the operative, which has come through the accompanying improvement in the construction and arrangement of the buildings in which these operations are conducted.
The Wool Manufacture in the United States.
The development of the wool manufacture in the United States occupies a unique relation in this narrative. It is contemporaneous with the period of the actual mechanical florescence of the industry. Up to the time when our independence was asserted, we were a nation dependent upon our household industries and our foreign commerce. We used but little cotton—that little, strange as it now seems, being imported. Men and women were clad in homespun, spun and woven on the domestic wheel and loom. Almost every man was literally his own weaver. The earliest records show that the subject of their clothing was an object of solicitude to the primitive law-makers of the colonies. They were without any raw material whatever. They found no important fiber indigenous here, and their solicitude was great to domesticate sheep.
The first approach to a woolen-mill in the colonies of which
art. But the industry, there and elsewhere, was essentially of the home, and never went far beyond it, notwithstanding the pains which the General Court of Massachusetts took in 1656 to foster spinning by penalties. "Fearing that it will not be so easy to import clothes as it was in past years, thereby necessitating more home manufacture," the General Court ordered the selectmen in every town to turn the women, girls, and boys to spinning and weaving, each family to be assessed for one or more spinner, or fractional part, according' to its size, and "that every one thus assessed do after this present year, 1656, spin for thirty weeks every year three pounds per week of linen, cotton, or wooling, and so proportionately for halfe or one quarter spinners, under the penalty of twelve shillings for every pound short." Legislation of this character shows how promptly the colonists recognized the advantage that must accrue to them from independence of the mother-country in their clothing supply. It also shows them apt pupils of the English system of stimulating special industries by patriarchal legislation. The stimulation thus effected was not without its results. The increasing production of home-made fabrics, while it still supplied hardly a twentieth of the needs of the colonists, nevertheless alarmed the home Government toward the close of the century. In 1699 a stringent decree was laid upon the movement of all woven fabrics within or without the plantations. The manufacture was not prohibited, but nothing was left undone to embarrass and check colonial enterprise in the pet British industry of wool manufacture. This prohibition extended to "wool, woolfells, shortlings, morlings, worsted, bay or woollen yarn, cloath, serge, bays, kerseys, says, frizes, druggets, shalloons, or any other drapery, stuffs, or woollen manufactures." This enumeration reveals something of the character of the goods the colonists were then making around their firesides, and of the names then applied to them.
Following the industry down through the eighteenth century, we find little or no modification of the primitive conditions indicated above. At the anniversary of the Boston Society for the Promotion of Industry and Frugality, August 8, 1753, three hundred "young female spinsters" spun at their wheels on the Common, and the movement for popularizing the home industry went so far as to be nicknamed "the spinning craze." In 1766 Governor Moore reported that there were two kinds of woolen made in the province of New York; "one coarse, of all wool, the other linsey-woolsey, of linen in the warp and wool in the weft." The Stamp Act troubles afforded a distinct stimulus to the industry, and appeals to patriotic pride in the weaving of home-made clothing were common. The president and first graduating class at Rhode Island College are immortalized in history by their appearance on the stage clothed in fabrics of domestic manufacture. Premiums were again offered to encourage both the growth of the raw materials and their manufacture. Ladies' meetings for patriotic spinning were inaugurated in various colonies, and these continued down to and into the Revolutionary War.
With the outbreak of that war, serious attempts at the manufacture of woolen goods in factories began. Samuel Wetherill was regularly engaged in the manufacture of woolen fabrics in Philadelphia about the beginning of the Revolution, and had a contract with the Provincial Congress to supply army clothing. In 1770 Edward Parker received three hundred pounds from the Maryland Legislature to assist him in the manufacture of woolen and linen goods. He had five looms. Charles Carroll, the signer of the Declaration, had a similar establishment. Neither of these parties, in all probability, used any power. The first mill in which power was used was the Hartford Woolen Manufactory, established in 1788 by a company of thirty-one gentlemen, most of them Hartford merchants. The factory was erected on a small stream, whose power operated two carding machines. For several years this factory achieved an annual output of five thousand yards of cassimeres and broadcloths, worth about five dollars a yard. An Englishman named Wansey, who visited this country in 17 i4 and inspected the mill, wrote that these cloths could be sold for about the same price as English goods, delivered in the stores at Hartford, "but the fabric was very poor and hard in the spinning, and dearer than the British, loaded with all the expense of freight, insurance, merchant's profits, and nine and a half cents duty." The Hartford company could not compete with the English cloth, even with these advantages, as its early collapse proved. While it lasted, it was quite the sensation of the country round about. General Washington's visit to the factory in 1789 is minutely recorded in his journal, and the patriotic spirit was stirred by the fact that he appeared at his first inaugural clad in a suit of broadcloth presented by the owners of the mill. General Washington noted the fact that "all the parts of the business are performed at the manufactory except the spinning—that is done by the country people, who are paid by the cut." It was to this factory that Hamilton alluded in his celebrated report on manufactures. Another woolen factory was established at Stockbridge in 1780, and another at Watertown in 1700. The three mills had a capacity of about 15,000 yards per annum, valued at $75,000. In contrast with these figures we have the official value of the woolens exported from England to the United States in 1709 at 2,803,400, or more than two fifths of that country's total woolen exports, no other country even approaching our own as a consumer of English woolens. No wonder Great Britain took drastic steps to preserve this splendid market.
Neither of these pioneer enterprises was a success, either mechanically or financially. The machinery was imperfect and inadequate, and the projectors learned by sad experience that they could not equal the British fabrics either in quality or in price. The Hartford factory struggled along until 1795, when the machinery—consisting of eight looms, two carding machines, one spinning jenny, one twisting machine, and other odd implements—was sold at auction.
The year before the collapse of the Hartford factory the first incorporated woolen company in the United States began operations at By field, Mass. The Byfield factory was operated for five years under the superintendence of John and Arthur Scholfield, two ingenious Englishmen, who are commonly spoken of as the first woolen manufacturers in the United States, in the same sense that Samuel Slater is described as the pioneer cotton manufacturer. It is certain that theirs was the first instance of a successful woolen manufactory with improved machinery of a character which entitled it to rank with the mills which were plentiful in Great Britain at the date of which we are speaking. The Scholfields introduced a new carding machine, of their own construction, based upon the machines they had seen in operation in their native land. It was adapted to water-power, and the beginning of the new era of woolen manufacture in the United States fairly dates from it.
For many years prior it was vaguely realized in the United States that the world was upon the eve of a new and strange industrial development, from participation in which this country seemed to be excluded by laws designed to keep it industrially dependent. Tench Coxe states that he first became aware in 1786 that labor-saving machinery for spinning was being largely used in Great Britain, and he then made unsuccessful efforts to obtain models of these machines. The mother-country, thoroughly awake by this time to the significance of the textile inventions of her citizens, had passed laws by which she hoped to retain the monopoly of the rich harvest their ingenuity promised. The first of these statutes, enacted in 1774, a few years after Arkwright's successful inauguration of the factory system with his new appliances, was entitled "an act to prevent the exportation to foreign parts of the utensils made use of in the cotton, linen, woolen, and silk manufactures of this kingdom"; and its purpose, as set forth in the preamble, was "to preserve as much as possible to his Majesty's British subjects the benefits arising from these great and valuable branches of trade and commerce." The statute
prohibited, under penalties of forfeiture and heavy fines, "the putting on board of any ship or vessel, not bound to some port or place in Great Britain or Ireland, of any tools or utensils commonly used or proper for the preparation, working up, or finishing of the cotton, woolen, silk, or linen manufacture" Another statute, even more stringent, was enacted in 1781, by which a year's imprisonment was added to the penalties of forfeiture and the fine of 200 previously imposed. This policy was rigorously enforced, notwithstanding some modifications of the law in 1825, and again in 1833, until the year 1845, when machinery for the textile manufactures was for the first time omitted from the list of prohibited exports.
No known instance occurred during the earlier decades of the enforcement of these laws in which a perfect textile machine was smuggled into this country. Some few models were clandestinely introduced, but they were of so imperfect a character that it may literally be said that the United States was compelled to invent anew the machinery with which, gradually, and after a most trying probation, her textile industries were finally established. The more remarkable is it, therefore, that this country learned so quickly how to clothe itself, and maintained and developed a great woolen industry in the face of a nation which had such a tremendous start in the race.
No circumstances could have afforded a greater incentive to the inventive faculty of a young and ambitious people. Very soon it was at work; very rapidly it traversed the ground already covered in England; and very naturally it has happened that the inventors of the United States have supplied the world with many of the most important of the inventions which have accelerated the development of the textile arts.
For many years the carding machines formed an important part of the fulling-mills of the clothiers of the early part of the century. As late as 1810 the trade of the clothier was as distinct as that of the hatter, although both have nearly disappeared. In New England nearly every township had its carding and fulling-mill, the machinery being moved by power. The wool was carded into rolls, to be spun in the household, at a cost of about seven cents a pound, and the cloth, after having been woven in the families, was fulled and dressed by the clothier. In Vermont, in 1810, 1,040,000 yards of cloth and flannel were woven in families and dressed in these mills. In 1840 there were 2,585 fulling and carding mills in the United States. Forty years later this number had been reduced to 991; and, in the decade since 1880, the mortality among them has been even greater. In the mills which still remain, on the outskirts of civilization, the operation of fulling has been almost wholly abandoned, and custom-carding only is done for the neighbors who still spin and weave their homespun.
Of the early stages of the introduction of wool-spinning machinery in this country the records are exceedingly deficient. Spinning jennies, built by Arthur Scholfield as early as 1800, were the first actually utilized in this country, and are described as containing from twenty to thirty spindles, upon which a single woman could spin from twenty to thirty runs of fine yarn a day "in the best manner." These jennies cost about fifty dollars' and were operated by a crank moved by hand. In the history of the oldest woolen manufactory in Rhode Island, the Peace Dale Company, founded by Rowland Hazard in 1802, spinning and weaving were carried on wholly by hand, until about 1819, when a spinning jack of fifty-two spindles was operated.
The power-loom for weaving broad goods was not introduced until 1828. The date of 1830 has been fixed upon by Dr. Hayes as marking the successful introduction of the woolen manufacture in this country substantially with the principal
appliances and machinery of the present day. This was the date of the erection of the Middlesex Mills, of Lowell, of whose history it has been written that "it covers the entire life of the successful woolen industry of this country." In the earlier days of our manufacture, the products of our mills were chiefly the coarser fabrics. Until about 1840 they consisted almost wholly of satinets, flannels, and blankets. The manufacture of fine broad cloth was indeed early attempted, and with considerable success. Gradually, amid many vicissitudes, and with great loss of capital, large mills were established and succeeded in maintaining themselves and in diversifying the industry.
We shall not attempt to state the statistics of this development. They are accessible in the census reports to those specially interested. By 1880 the product of all our mills, employed in the manipulation of wool in any form, was stated at 6207,000,000, and the census of 1890 will show this product not far, if any, short of $350,000,000. Next to England the United States is to-day the largest wool manufacturing nation, and the people of the United States consume a much larger quantity of wool per capita than any other people. Indeed, the increasing capacity of our woolen mills barely keeps pace with the increasing consumption of our people.
Economic Aspects of the Evolution.
The evolution of the wool manufacture has had an economic influence upon civilization more marked even than that which has to do with the cost of clothing. Indeed it is a disturbing element, in estimating this reduced cost, because that which was once fabricated at home, by the members of the family, the labor of some of whom at least would otherwise have counted for nothing, is now bought in the shops. This evolution has substituted the factory system for the household industry, almost obliterating the latter in all countries which are within reach of commerce. We have seen how important an element in the household economy of the American colonies and the early republic the making of the cloths for clothing was. It was of even greater importance in England and France, and particularly in England, where, up to the introduction of automatic machinery, the handling of wool, both for domestic use and export, continued to be the most important occupation of the people next to agriculture, with which it was so closely allied. We can trace the gradual development of the old English system into the new. The founders of the great houses which now conduct the industry were, many of them, the hand combers or spinners or weavers of the primitive industry. They were the forehanded among these laborers, who gradually took others into their employment, and, as machinery came into vogue, were able to utilize it. Thus the minute subdivision of the household industry has been duplicated in the English factory system. The scouring of the wool is done by one establishment, the carding and combing by another, the spinning by another, the
weaving by another, the dyeing and the finishing by still others; while the packing of the goods for the market often constitutes still another distinct subdivision of the business. While this minute subdivision of the industry is largely the outgrowth of conditions rather than a tendency evolved from experience, it may be said to be definitely determined that the best results are attained by it. Under this system a community like Bradford in England is a great beehive of interdependent industries, the separate stages of the manufacture being carried on in separate establishments. The whole energy of the management, in each branch, is devoted to securing the best results in that particular branch under the most economical conditions. Here, in a radius of 75,000 acres, with a population of 500,000 people, is consumed nearly or quite one half of the total quantity of wool worked up in Great Britain. Here a capital of £40,000,000, employing 140,000 operatives, turns out each year a product of manufactured wool valued at nearly the total amount of its capital. Here, built up within the century, is an aggregation of organized industrial development without a parallel among the princely cities of antiquity—the most striking, the most tangible, of the many results of the evolution of the wool manufacture. The complete organization of the Bradford manufacture indicates the ultimate development of the industry.
It is not difficult to understand why the development of Great Britain and France, in this particular, with its striking concentration of the textile industries in towns like Bradford, Huddlesfield, Manchester, and Leeds, and Rheims and Roubaix, has not been duplicated in the United States. While the factory system here has superseded a household industry, it is in no sense an outgrowth from it. We have seen why not, in the difficulties which attended the procurement of machinery in the early days of manufacture here. The first factories were stock companies, necessarily, for few individuals had the capital necessary to found mills. These original mills performed all the operations of the manufacture, because there were no agencies through which any part of these operations could be independently carried on. Waterpower being then the great desideratum, they were widely scattered on the streams of the New England and Middle States. This scattering created the necessity for the equipment of complete mills under one management. Time is gradually effecting something of a concentration of kindred industries, as in Philadelphia, which is called the textile center of the United States, and in New England towns like Fall River, Lawrence, and Lowell. With this concentration, there is gradually evolving a system of subdivision. This tendency we may look to see increase in the wool manufacture, with a corresponding gain in the stability of the industry, and in the variety and the excellence of its products.
Surveying the whole field, we are struck by two features in this evolution, the combination of which includes the sum of the advance. Not less wonderful than the succession of power-machines for the automatic handling of the fiber in the several stages of its manipulation, is the series of mechanical contrivances for the automatic delivery of the material from machine to machine without the touching of human hand. The ingenuity of man has been constantly directed, in these latter years, to devices for the accomplishment of two purposes: first, to increase production; second, to diminish waste. Both tend to reduce the cost to the consumer, the first by reducing the number of operatives required to make a given amount of product and by increasing the productive capacity of machines otherwise perfect. Perfect as these machines now appear to be in their operation, every one among them is susceptible of improvement, and the patent offices of every manufacturing nation are burdened with the plans and specifications of new devices, conceived by the bright mechanics who abound among the operatives, and suggested generally by their daily work and observation, the purpose of which is to add either simplicity or celerity, or to still further reduce the necessity for handling. Most of these inventions come to naught; many of them are constantly introduced into the mills. Some few of these advances not previously spoken of may be enumerated here. Self-feeders on the first breaker and finisher have been applied to card machines, dispensing with half the help formerly necessary in the card-room. Self-operating mules have been introduced in cloth-mills, effecting a saving of from twenty to forty per cent in the cost of spinning. Improved winders, driers, and cloth-presses give greatly increased rapidity to the processes of finishing. In weaving flannels, a width of three yards at once, seventy-five or eighty picks a minute are woven as economically and as excellently as forty or fifty picks were thirty years ago. In making cassimeres, the broad loom has been generally substituted for the narrow loom almost universally employed as recently as 1860. Fifty-six yards of Brussels carpet can now be woven in a day by one girl, in the improved looms, where fourteen yards a day was a good product in 1860, with the same help. Similar illustrations might be multiplied almost indefinitely. While there has been no new departure or novel idea of transforming effect in the wool manufacture, the general advance in mechanical efficiency, during the last quarter-century, has been so great as to equal an economical gain in manufacture equivalent to that which took place when power was first substituted for hand-labor. In our great yarn-mills there is constant progress in the direction of an increased product, of a finer quality, from the same machinery. The standard of productive capacity is thus shown to be variable, dependent in a perceptible degree upon the ability of the management to get the best results from a given capacity. The obvious advance in the future is in this direction. We can hardly look for any radical new departure in the mechanism of wool manufacture, such as occurred with the introduction of automatic spinning, the combing machine, and the power-loom. At the same time it would be foolish to assert that some new mechanical discovery, which may be at this very moment lying fallow in the brain of an unknown genius, will not work another revolution as complete as that which marks the transition from the household to the factory system. We can not, for instance, doubt that electricity is to work its wonders in this department of human industry as well as in every other.
This paper may properly conclude with some indication of the nature of the world's gain from the evolution of the wool manufacture. It is difficult to obtain a proper standard for such comparison. Statistics, even were they obtainable, present the contrast very inadequately. The total gain secured over hand labor can hardly be estimated at an absolute value, for the present efficiency can not be obtained. In the principal operations of the manufacture the increase has been about as follows: In olden times a woman could card one pound of wool a day by hand. At present one operative, with the necessary machinery, can card one hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds a day. Hence the improvement is about one hundred and twenty-five. On a spinning-wheel a woman could produce daily two skeins. An average mule today spins about five hundred pounds; hence the improvement is about five hundred times. On a hand-loom it took a day to weave two to three yards. Power-looms produce from thirty-five to fifty yards a day, or an improvement of seventeen. Hence, disregarding all other factors but these, and placing a modest estimate, it is possible at present, with power machinery, to produce over seven hundred times more goods to-day than in the olden time, with the same number of hands, disregarding the quality, design, etc. This enormous gain can hardly be stated by periods. It has practically been achieved in a single century. In 1800 it was declared in the British Parliament that thirty-five persons could then accomplish, in the wool manufacture, with the aid of machinery, what would have required the labor of sixteen hundred and forty persons in 1785. That was equivalent to the statement that one person could then do the same work that forty-seven had done fifteen years earlier.
We have already alluded to the last half of the eighteenth century as marking a greater advance in the textile industries than all the centuries preceding it. The range of improvement in the present century covers the whole ground of the evolution, except the bare principle of automatic or mechanical manufacture, which was still in its infancy in 1800. The nineteenth, therefore, outranks even the eighteenth century in the economic progress which distinguishes it. Of this tremendous advance the most important steps, so far as relate to machinery for expediting processes, economizing help, and performing complicated operations automatically, have occurred in the latter half of the present century.
The individual capacity of the operative, thus enormously increased by machinery, has been accompanied by an increase in the total number of persons solely occupied in the manufacture of wool. The number who were thus employed in the period of household industry can not, of course, be estimated. But a vastly larger number of persons now depend directly and solely for their livelihood upon employment in woolen-factories than was ever the case before the introduction of power machinery and the factory system, and they are able to earn quite double the wages of the hand-operative of olden times. It follows that the increase in
the production of woolen goods to-day is very much greater than would be indicated by the fact that the labor of one operative is now equivalent to that of one hundred operatives one hundred and fifty years ago. This deduction is borne out by the extraordinary increase in the world's wool-clip. It is safe to put the annual product of wool at 2,000,000,000 pounds in the greasy state. Of this amount nearly one half comes from three countries—Australia, South America, and South Africa—whose wool-clip is a development subsequent to, and undoubtedly caused by, the substitution of machine for hand manufacture. The clip of the United States has increased from a few hundred thousand pounds, at the time of the Revolution, to over 300,000,000 pounds, and the product of the continental countries has also increased very greatly in the interval.
To fully realize the quantity of raw material now consumed in what are commonly known as woolen goods, we must estimate the quantity of waste and substitutes utilized as equal to that of wool; and thus we have 4,000,000,000 pounds of raw material passing annually through the looms of the world. Hand manufacture knew no such thing as a substitute for wool. The raw material has only been kept abreast of the manufacturing capacity by the discovery of methods for the utilization of these substitutes.
Something of what the world has gained in quantity has been lost in quality at certain points. It can not be pretended that the utilization of wastes and substitutes does not involve a certain element of deterioration. Nevertheless it is a distinct gain to the world, as is every new development that reduces the waste in any branch of industry. Within a few years a machine has been invented, known as the Garnett machine, which enables manufacturers to comb out all their waste, whether from cards, mules, spinning-frames, or from whatever source tangled and twisted fibers are produced in the various processes of manufacture, and to so restore it that it may be again utilized in connection with the original fiber. The saving thus effected is enormous. The machine, as the illustration shows, is in principle the same as the carding-engine. Its strong, sharp-pointed, steel teeth gradually untwist and teasel out the kink in yarn or thread, restoring the fibers of wool in nearly their original length of staple.
The fiber of wool has a wonderful capacity of endurance. Once used it may be, and is, used again and again, reproduced, not with all its original virtues, but still with many serviceable qualities, and called, according to its form, shoddy, mungo, waste, wool-extract. The French, by a happy conceit, call this material renaissance; and it is literally wool born again. By chemical processes the wool in mixed goods is separated from the cotton or other fibers employed for its adulteration, and wonderful machines tear it apart, readjust its fibers, and prepare it again for the spindles. Thus it goes into new garments, of a cheap grade, to be sure, but, if properly prepared, of a serviceable quality. It is customary to speak contemptuously of shoddy and of those engaged in its manufacture and use. But those who do so do not understand how important is the part now played by this preparation in the cheapening of the people's clothing and in the well-dressed appearance of the community. Goods into which this material enters, or goods in which the warp is made of cotton, have not the enduring quality of the fabrics woven by our ancestors. President Eliot, of Harvard University, in a recent magazine contribution, says: "The Hessian country girl proudly wears her grandmother's woolen petticoats, and they are as good and as handsome as sixty years ago. A Scotch shepherd's all-wool plaid withstands the wind and rain for a lifetime"; and he adds a eulogy of the old Swiss porter's overcoat, which had kept him warm and dry for twenty-five years. In sharp contrast with these examples the learned college president speaks contemptuously of the "all-cotton" clothing of an American rural community that costs about ten dollars a suit, fades promptly, and wears out at the slightest provocation. If President Eliot desired his readers to infer that the farmers and peasants of the foreign countries which he names are better clothed than our own farmer classes, he unconsciously permitted himself too broad a generalization from the interesting and isolated instances which he cites. The machine-made cloths of this day and generation do not last a lifetime, or sixty years, or even twenty-five years, either in the United States or in Europe. The fabrics which so excited his admiration were the homespun products of hand manufacture. It is true that they had great endurance, and this quality they secured at the sacrifice of lightness and compactness. Heavy cloths of the homespun characteristics are not now made by machinery, because the people prefer lighter fabrics, even though they wear out quickly. They are able to gratify their preference because the evolution has reduced the cost of everything in the nature of wearing apparel to a degree' only less striking than the increased productive capacity. It is equally difficult to express this gain in figures. But it is indicated by the fact that the farmer's wife can affor'd to abandon the spinning-wheel and loom and purchase the finished product of the fleece which she sends to market rather than to transform it herself into the long-lived goods which President Eliot so greatly admires.
How vaguely do the people realize the thousand-and-one comforts and conveniences and economies which have been brought into every household by the cheapening of fabrics of almost infinite variety of form and utility which the woolen manufacture has taken on! There is now no phase or form of want, of garment, of decoration, or of household economy, which can not be gratified at a reasonable cost.
The variety of the fabrics into which wool is now converted is one of the most striking features of the evolution. The carpets on our floors, the blankets that cover both our horses and ourselves, the reps and plushes that make the most durable and elegant coverings for household furniture, railroad cars, etc., the curtains that shade our windows and form the drapery of our doors and parlors, the stockings on our feet and the mittens on our hands, the knitted underwear that guards us from la grippe, the dresses in which our wives and mothers do their shopping, the clothes that we wear, the overcoatings and even the overshoes necessitated by our inclement winters, the bunting that we display on the house-tops on the national holidays—everywhere we utilize wool, and the more of the wool and the less of cotton, silk, linen, or other fibers used in all these ways, the warmer, the healthier, the more endurable, the more satisfactory is the result.
It would be interesting, had we not already far outstripped the bounds of a magazine article, to follow the manufacture into these subordinate branches, which are more numerous than in any other industry, and several of which, particularly the manufacture of carpets and of knit goods, present unique phases of development which have not even been hinted at in these pages. Enough has been said to show that the ancient myth of the golden fleece was prophetic of an industry which has added fabulous wealth to the world, and which will continue to supply increasing employment to labor and increasing employment to capital through all time to come.
- Bischoff, vol. i, p. 270.
- This was not always the case, however. Judge Johnston, of Cincinnati, in his address before the Pioneer Society of that city in 1870, gives the following graphic picture of a method of home-fulling which, he says, prevailed throughout Ohio early in the century: "When the wool became abundant the method of scouring and fulling blankets, flannels, cassinets, and even cloths, was simple. Every house had hand-cards, and as many spinning-wheels as spinners, and no respectable house was without a loom. When the goods were carded, spun, and woven, then came the kicking frolic. Half a dozen young men and as many young women [to make the balance true] were invited. The floor was cleared for action, and in the middle was a circle of six stout splint-bottom chairs, connected by a cord to prevent recoil. On these sat six young men with shoes and stockings off and trousers rolled above the knee. In the center the goods were placed, wetted with warm soap-suds, and then the kicking commenced by measured steps, driving the bundle of goods round and round; the elderly lady, with long-neck gourd, pouring on more soap-suds, and every now and then, with spectacles on nose and yard-stick in hand, measuring the goods till they were shrunk to the desired length. Then the lassies stripped their arms above the elbows, rinsed and wrung out the blankets and flannels, and hung them on the gardenfence to dry."
- The Philadelphia Magazine or American Monthly Museum for 1775 describes and illustrates what it calls "the first spinning jenny introduced in this country" and made by Christopher Tully in that year. The editor says of it: "The machine for spinning twenty-four threads of cotton or wool at one time (by one person) having attracted the notice of the public, and we being desirous to contribute everything in our power toward the improvement of America, engaged Christopher Tully, the maker of the machine, to furnish us with an engraved plate and description thereof. . . . We have seen the machine perform and are convinced of its usefulness. The Society for the Improvement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in England repeatedly offered a premium of 100 sterling for a machine on this plan, but never had any presented to them which would answer the purpose. Notwithstanding which a very large one has been erected at Nottingham, in England, which performs to great advantage, but no person as a speculatist is admitted to see it."
- Mr. Hazard has shown the progress of thirty years in the following statement: "In 1816 and later I used to employ scores of women to spin at their homes at four cents a skein, by which they earned twelve cents a day at most. The wool was carded into rolls at Peace Dale and transported to and from on the backs of horses. Some time ago I stood in a manufactory in the same village and took note of a stripling who tended two highly improved jennies, from which he was turning off daily as much yarn as six or seven hundred formerly spun off wheels in the same time."
- The records of the United States Patent Office, from its founding up to July, 1890, show a total of 8,890 patents issued for textile machinery, divided as follows: Felting and hat-making, 1,231; carding, 1,194; knitting, 1,189; spinning, 1,921; weaving, 2,954; cloth-finishing, 401.
- The hand-loom weaver in the United States never earned more than fifty cents a day, and in earning it he was compelled to exert himself physically to a degree not approximated in the management of a power-loom. Carroll D. Wright.