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The Industrial Revolution's Textile Industry by Paradise Fibers

The Industrial Revolution was a period in history, spanning the 18th and 19th centuries, which forever altered manufacturing and transportation. These changes greatly affect the economy, the environment, and society in general. Although it began in England, it eventually made its way to the United States; where it had a significant impact on the course of the country and its growth. The majority of changes attributed to the Industrial Revolution took place within manufacturing; this is illustrated by the advancements within the textile industry.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution many items were produced by hand at home. The invention of automated or powered machines for weaving and spinning quickly altered this with many of these jobs going to factories. Although there were many inventions that affected the textile industry, some had a greater impact and even opened the door to further inventions.

Flying Shuttle

The flying shuttle was one of the first inventions to change the textile industry, as a result of the industrial revolution. It was invented in May of 1733, by a man named John Kay, an engineer, machinist, and son of a wool manufacturer. The flying shuttle improved weaving efficiency in terms of speed and the width of cloth that could be woven. It differed from the traditional method, in which one person passed a yarn bearing shuttle from hand to hand. This was a process that was slow and that only allowed weaving of cloth that was the width of the individual doing the weaving. The flying loom put the shuttle on wheels and was operated by cords that were pulled by an operator. The much improved speed and efficiency was a bonus for manufacturers and vastly reduced their labor costs. Despite the benefit that was gained by incorporating the flying shuttle into their businesses, the newly formed association for manufacturers refused to pay Kay any type of royalty, and this led to his financial ruin.

Spinning Jenny

The spinning jenny was invented as a direct result of the flying shuttle. The increase in weaving speed made it difficult for spinners to create enough thread or yarn to meet the needs of the weavers. They did this using a machine called a spinning wheel that housed a single spindle. In 1764, a weaver by the name of James Hargreaves created a spinning wheel that utilized eight spindles versus the one spindle of the original. He named his invention after his daughter Jenny, who led him to the idea by accidentally knocking over his spinning wheel. Over time, the number of spindles was increased to as many as 80. Much to the distress of spinners in his area, Hargreaves began to sell his spinning jenny. The design was copied and duplicated by many in the industry before Hargreaves obtained a patent in 1770.

The Water Frame

As with any invention, the creation of the spinning jenny sparked others to look for better machines and methods. This was the case with the water frame, which was a collaborative effort between a wig maker by the name of Richard Arkwright, a clock-maker by the name of John Kay, and numerous craftsmen. Their initial effort to create a better spinning machine resulted in what was called the spinning-frame. The spinning frame was a large instrument that produced a thread that was stronger than the thread created by the spinning jenny. It used three multi-speed rollers to produce the thread or yarn, and spindles to twist the fibers together for strength.

The problem with the spinning frame was that its size did not lend itself to hand operation. A number of alternative solutions were tested, before settling on a water wheel, including horses. The resulting water-powered spinning frame became known as the water frame. The design was patented in 1769 and, in 1771; it was installed in its first factory located in Cromford, Derbyshire in England near the River Derwent.

The Power Loom

The new spinning machines were able to produce thread at a pace that outmatched the weavers. To Edmund Cartwright, a carpenter and blacksmith, this represented another problem in need of a solution. His solution was in the form of the power loom, which was an automated looming device that could keep up with the supply of thread and yarn that was being produced. It was first created in 1785 and was powered by water. Future versions of his weaving machine were powered by steam; although, it was a major contributor to the textile industry, it was costly to many weavers who lost their jobs as weavers to the automated system.

The Spinning Mule

The spinning mule was a type of hybrid machine that combined features of the water frame and the spinning jenny. It was developed in 1775 by Samuel Crompton, and was originally small enough for home use. For increased production, "the mule" was later increased in size and fitted with more spindles. It had the ability to produce thread of a finer quality than its predecessors. The spinning mule is often referred to as the Crompton mule, named after its inventor.

The Cotton Gin

The cotton gin was invented by American inventor Eli Whitney in 1793 to separate cotton fiber from seeds, speeding up the cotton separation process. The creation of the cotton gin was one of the first signs of the Industrial Revolution in America. This invention contributed to the profitability of cotton in the Southern United States, because it allowed faster production of cotton.

The Jacquard Loom

The jacquard loom, created by and named after Joseph-Marie Jacquard in 1804, was a machine that greatly affected silk weaving. The loom uses an automated process to created patterns by weaving lifted threads. It operated based on a system of punched cards that matched a row of the intended design and enabled the creation of various patterns.