History Of The Organization Of Textile Industries
The development of the textile industry may be divided into four
stages or periods: first, the family system; second, the guild system;
third, the domestic system; and fourth, the factory system.
=The Family System.= Under the family system the work of spinning and
weaving was carried on by members of a household for the purpose of
supplying the family with clothing. There were no sales of the
product. Each class in society, from the peasant class to that of the
nobleman, had its own devices for making clothing. This was the system
that existed up to about the tenth century.
=The Guild System.= As communities became larger and cities sprang up,
the textile industry became more than a family concern. There was a
demand for better fabrics, and to meet this demand it became
necessary to have a large supply of different parts of looms. The
small weaver who owned and constructed his own loom was not able to
have all these parts, so he began to work for a more prosperous
weaver. The same conditions applied to spinning, and as early as 1740
spinning was carried on by a class distinct from the weavers. As a
result the small weaver was driven out by the growth of organized
capital, and a more perfect organization, called the guild system,
arose. By this system the textile industry was carried on by a small
group of men called masters, employing two, three or more men
(distinguished later as journeymen and apprentices). The masters
organized associations called guilds and dominated all the conditions
of the manufacture to a far greater extent than is possible under
It was the family system that existed in the American colonies at the
beginning of the settlement, and for many years after. The guild
system was not adopted in America because it was going out of
existence on the Continent.
=The Domestic Period.= By the middle of the eighteenth century the
textile industry began to break away from the guilds and spread from
cities to the rural districts. The work was still carried on in the
master's house, although he had lost the economic independence that he
had under the old guild system where he acted both as merchant and
manufacturer. He now received his raw material from the merchant and
disposed of the finished goods to a middleman, who looked after the
demands of the market.
=The Factory System.= The domestic period was in turn crowded out of
existence by the factory system. A factory is a place where goods are
produced by power for commercial use. The factory system first came
into prominence after the invention of the steam engine. No record has
been found showing its existence prior to this invention.
English weavers and spinners became very skilful and invented
different mechanical aids for the production of yarn and cloth. These
mechanical aids not only enabled one man to do twenty men's work, but
further utilization was made of water and steam power in place of
manual labor. Then began the organization of the industry on a truly
gigantic scale, combining capital and machinery and resulting in what
is known as the factory system.
Previous to the development of the factory system there was no reason
why any industry should be centered in one particular district. Upon
the utilization of steam power the textile industry became subdivided
into a number of industries, each one becoming to a great extent
localized in convenient and suitable portions of the country. Thus in
Bradford the wool of Yorkshire (England) meets the coal of Yorkshire
and makes Bradford the great woolen and worsted center of the world.
The same thing took place in Manchester, where the cotton of America
meets the coal of England under satisfactory climatic conditions, and
around Manchester is the greatest cotton manufacturing of the world.
The same is true in America. Lawrence became a large worsted center on
account of the great fall of water and the use of the river to deposit
wool washings. Lowell, Fall River, and New Bedford became large cotton
centers for similar reasons.
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