LINEN, cloth woven with the fibres of the flax-plant (Linum usilatissimum), a manufacture of so ancient a date that its origin is unknown. Linen cloths were made at a very early period in Egypt, as we see from the cloth wrap pings of the mummies, which are all linen. It appears also that linen was, in the time of Herodotus, an article of ex port from Egypt. (ii. 105.) After the separation of the ligneous fibres of the plant, the distaff and common spinning-wheel were employed for the preparation of the thread or yarn, and the haud-loom generally, in its simplest form, was used for weaving the cloth. The first attempts to adapt the inventions of Hargreaves and Arkwright to the spin ning of flax were made at Leeds within the present century. Mill-spun yarn is now universally employed by the linen weavers of this kingdom for the produc tion of the very finest lawn, as well as of the coarsest linen ; and the use of the power-loom has been adopted for weav ing all but the very finest and most costly fabrics. The consequences of these im provements have been to render this country independent of all others for the supply of linen yarn of every quality, and to diminish in a most important de gree the cost of linen fabrics; so that British yarns and cloths are now profita bly exported to countries with which the manufacturers of Great Britain and Ire land were formerly unable to compete, and against which they were " protected" in the home market by high duties on importation.
The growth of the linen manufacture in Ireland is ascribed to the legislative ob struction raised in the reign of William III. to the prosecution of the woollen manufacture in that part of the kingdom, which it was alleged interfered prejudibi ally with the clothiers of England. The linen weavers were at the same time en couraged by premiums of various kinds distributed by public boards authorised by parliament, and by bounties paid on the exportation of linen to foreign coun tries.
in 1835 the quantity of linen shipped from Ireland was estimated at 70,209,572 yards, the value of which was 3,730,8541. (Report of Irish Railway Commissioners.) The linen manufacture was introduced into Scotland early in the last century, and in 1727 a board of trustees was ap pointed for its superintendence and encou ragement. Notwithstanding this and the further stimulus afforded by premiums and bounties, the progress of the menu ticture in that part of the kingdom was for a long time comparatively unimpor tant. At Dundee, the great seat of the Scotch linen trade, there were imported in 1837, 30,740 tons of flax, besides 3409 tons of hemp, and there were exported from that place 641,938 pieces of different qualities of linen, sail-cloth, and bagging, besides a quantity, computed to be as great, retained for home use.
The bounties allowed on the shipment of linens were graduated according to their quality and value, and ranged from a halfpenny to a penny halfpenny per yard. After being gradually diminished for some years these bounties were finally discontinued 5th January, 1832. The manufacture has not suffered from this circumstance, while the country has saved from 300,000i. to 400,0001. per an num formerly paid to enable foreigners to purchase our linen at prices below the cost of production.
The number of flax factories at work in different parts of the kingdom, according to returns made by the inspectors of fac tories in 1835 was 347, of which 152 were in England, 170 in Scotland, and 25 in Ireland. In 1843 there were 392 flax factories in the United Kingdom, and the number of persons employed in them was 43,487. According to the census of 1841, there were in Great Britain 85,213 em ployed in the linen manufacture in its various branches.
Linen is next in importance to cottoa. and woollen goods as an article of export. The quantity of linen exported from the United Kingdom in the five years from 1828 to 1832. averaged 59,734,219 yards annually, and in the five years from 1833 to 1837, the annual average was 69,911,799 yards. The quantity of linen yarn exported in the six years from 1832 to 1837 was as under:— lbs.
1832 . . 110,188 1833 . 935,682 lbs.
1834 . . 1,533,325 1835 . . 2,611,215 1836 . 4,574,504 1837 . . 8,373,100 The quantities of manufactured linen and linen yarn exported in the following years was as under :— Linen, yards. Yarn, lbs.
1838 77.195,894 14,923,329 1839 85.256,542 16,314,615 1840 89,373.431 1841 90.321,761 25,220,290 1842 69,232,682 29,490,987 1843 84,172,585 23,358,352 The declared value of the exports of linen and linen yarn in 1843 and 1844 was as follows :— 1843. 1844.
Linen manufactures 2,80.3,223 3,055,243 Linen yarn . . 898,829 1,021,796 3,702,052 4,077,039 The total value of the exports of linen to France in 1828 amounted to no more than 72281., the value of 64,212 yards of linen ; whereas in 1842 that country took from us 8,586,667 yards of linen, and 22,202,292 lbs. of yarn, valued together at 1,019,694/. The exports to the United States of North America amounted in 1836 to 39,937,620 yards, and in this and the previous year the quantity amounted to nearly one-half the whole exports of linen. The quantity sent to the United States has fallen off one-half or more within the last few years.