History Of The Textile Industry In The USA
During the 1700’s, the textile industry had many difficulties. It was reliant on manual labor and draft animals to supply the raw materials needed for cloth production. Eventually, the introduction of industrial technology changed the face of the textile industry forever. Until that point, the world was reliant on hand looms and horses to produce fabric.
Samuel Slater, the British-born American industrialist, is often credited with the beginning of the industrial revolution in America. His knowledge of the textile industry in England, along with his entrepreneurial spirit, helped to jump start our country’s first textile manufacturing boom. He was born in Derbyshire, England, on June 9, 1768, into a large farming family. He worked at an early age as an apprentice to Jedediah Strutt, a partner in a cotton mill with Richard Arkwright, inventor of the water-powered spinning frame. As a young man, Slater became familiar with the machinery and processes used in his apprenticeship and learned all of Arkwright’s designs, including the carding, drawing, and roving machines. When he decided to emigrate to America, he knew how to use all of Arkwright’s methods and machines in a new country. He managed to find the support of Providence investors and local artisans, as well as a source of capital from Moses Brown and William Almy, and set up the first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. By 1808, thirteen more mills had been constructed in the region.
Eli Whitney was a Massachusetts farm boy who grew up with an affinity for machine work and technology. He had a knack for creating things people needed – nails, hairpins, canes, ladies’ hatpins – and was also an expert craftsman of muskets. He was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, and despite his humble beginnings, he recognized that his talent for mechanical activities and inventions could be valuable to his family. He honed these skills as a child, crafting a fiddle that sounded great and making nails in his father’s workshop during the Revolutionary War. In 1792, Whitney left New England and headed south via ship to Georgia. His destination was Mulberry Grove, a plantation owned by Catherine Greene, the widow of a Revolutionary War general.
When it became clear to American inventor Eli Whitney that the cotton industry could be made more profitable if the seed could be separated from the fibers more quickly, he began designing the cotton gin. This invention dramatically lowered the cost of producing cotton, making cotton fabric cheaper and more commonly available for use in clothing. Modern industrial cotton gins are located throughout the United States and in major cotton growing areas around the world. They have multiple powered cleaning cylinders and saws that remove foreign matter, including seeds, from cotton balls as they are sucked in via a pipe. The first cylinder has rows of wire teeth, which grip the cotton, and pull it through closely spaced ribs (ginning ribs) that prevent the seeds from passing through. The lint then passes into a second rotating cylinder that has brushes attached to it. The cotton is then cleaned, and is compressed into bales for shipment.
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