Labor and Laborers of the Loom
Mechanization and Handloom Weavers, 1780-1840
Routledge – 2013 – 290 pages
Labor and Laborers of the Loom: Mechanization and Handloom Weavers 1780-1840 develops several themes important to understanding the social, cultural and economic implications of industrialization. The examination of these issues within a population of extra-factory workers distinguishes this study.
The volume centers on the rapid growth of handloom weaving in response to the introduction of water powered spinning. This change is viewed from the perspectives of mechanics, technological limitations, characteristics of weaving, skills, income and cost. In the works of Duncan Bythell and Norman Murray the displacement of British and Scottish hand weavers loomed large and the silence of American handloom weavers in similar circumstances was deafening. This study reflects the differences between the three culture by centering not on displacement but on survival. Persistence is closely tied to the gradual nature of technological change. The contrasts between independent commercial artisans and outwork weavers are striking. Displacement occurs but only among artisans devoting their time to independent workshop weaving. Alternatively outwork weavers adapted to changing markets and survived. The design and development of spinning and weaving device is stressed, as are the roles of economic conditions, management organization, size of firms, political implications and social factors contribute to the impact of technological change on outwork and craft weavers.
1. Refugio, on Account of its Beauty 2. Of Oil, Seed, and Flock 3. Of the Weaver's Art, and Organization of Labor 4. 'I am Well Acquainted with Working a Spring Shuttle and Think Myself a Master of the Business': Beginnings and Experimentation 1787- 1790 5. Giving Out the Psalm: Samuel Slater and the Arkwright System of Manufacture 1790-1800 6. 'I will Thank you to put Yarn out to Good Weavers Only' 7. All other Inventions were Thrown into the Shade 8. 'Sending Good Money to Make Bad more Valuable if Possible' 9. 'My Ram Turned out to be a Bore': Technology, Economy and Out Work in Rhode Island after 1830 10. 'All Ye that have Woolen Weavers for Sale': Putting Hand Loom Weavers and Machine Production in Place
Gail Fowler Mohanty teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and Bryant University.