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Textile Industry

cotton, american, colonial, wool, linen and world

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TEXTILE INDUSTRY. American.— In 1800 there were no textile mills, as the term is now understood, in the United States. What ever the American people did in the way of manufacturing their own clothing was mostly done in the household; the spinning wheel and the handloom were utensils as familiar in the old-fashioned kitchens as the pots and kettles of the housewife. The homespun garments worn by our forefathers were fashioned out of wool grown on the home farm, carded by hand cards, washed in tubs, spun and woven by hand, fulled and finished at home, cut up and sewed — all by the joint labor of husband, wife, sons and daughters. The finer clothes worn in those days were all imported; and as the colonies grew and multiplied, and their consumption of English textiles increased, the manufacturers of the mother-country foresaw a wondrous new market opening up before them. The desire to retain and increase that market for textiles, in the manufacture of which England already led the world, was far more prominent among the causes leading up to the American Revo lution than its historians have yet discovered.

Colonial Homespun.— The homespun gar ments of colonial days were plain, and wore like iron; their ingredients were indicated in the name commonly applied to the cloth — "linsey It was a fabric of woolen weft, woven on a linen warp. Linen was much more commonly produced in the household than cotton fabrics, and wool was more in use than all other fibres combined. Cotton was a scarce commodity in Colonial America until long after the Revolution. It possessed a value equal to that of wool, and sometimes very much higher. What little of it was used prior to the 19th century was mostly imported from Barbados. When Samuel Slater started the first American cotton mill at Pawtucket, in 1793, he insisted upon using cotton from the Indies, because of the poor quality of the cotton then raised at home. No one dreamed, when the °Shipping and Commercial List and New York Price Cur rent)) first made its appearance, that America was destined to become the cotton-producing country of the world; nor did Slater's little mill of 250 spindles, which had then been in operation five years, give signs that it was the germ of an American industry which would consume annually within 100 years more cotton than all the world was then growing. The his

tory of the textile industries during the colonial period is nowhere suggestive of the develop ment which confronts and amazes the student at the opening of the 20th century, who finds them, with their subsidiary industries, employ ing more capital and creating a greater value of annual product than any other group, except iron and steel.

Expedients of the Colonists.— Our fore fathers realized how important it was that the colonists should learn to clothe themselves. They resorted to all sorts of expedients, some of which smack strongly of state socialisms, to overcome the difficulties in the way. They offered bounties to increase the number of sheep and promote the growth of flax. In Massa chusetts laws were passed making it compul sory that each family should spin a given quantity of yarn every year, under penalties of heavy fines. Gradually the household textile in dustries assumed an importance which alarmed the mother-country, and the Lords of Trade at tempted by various restrictive orders to pre vent and harass a development which threat ened to destroy the colonial market for the chief products of British industry. Parliament passed an act in 1774— which was shortly after the Arkwright inventions had inattgurated the modern factory system — forbidding the ex portation, under heavy penalties, of any of the machines used in the cotton, silk, woolen or linen manufacture. . This statute, which re mained in force, with certain modifications, until 1845, was evidence of a puerile hope that the English people could keep the fruits of inventive genius bottled up in their little island, while England permitted her sons to carry their inventive ideas across the water.

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