Textile Heritage Museum

Textiles: Ancient to Modern Day
  • 6000 B.C. WOOLEN textiles found in Southern Turkey.
     
  • 5000 B.C. COTTON is grown and woven into cloth in India, Pakistan, and Eastern Africa.   FLAX is grown & woven into LINEN fabric in Egypt.
     
  • 2700 B.C. SILK cloth is woven from the cocoons of silkworms in China.
     
  • 2500-1200 B.C. Textiles are woven in India, Pakistan, Central Europe, and the Middle East.  China is spinning and weaving silk into fine brocade and damask fabrics. Silk fabrics are also made in Persia, Syria, and Japan. Spinning of wool & cotton fibers into yarn was done by hand using a distaff (stick) and a bowl in which to spin the stick. The loom is of ancient origin.
     
  • 500 B.C. The Great Wheel is developed in India for spinning cotton into yarn. The Great Wheel is used in Europe by the middle ages.
     
  • 300 B.C. England, France & Spain are making woolen textiles.
     
  • 700 A.D. American Indians (Pueblos) are growing & weaving COTTON into cloth.
     
  • 400-1500’s Development of textile production in Europe and England: Carding and weaving of cotton or wool was done at home or in guilds—“cottage industry.”  Waterpower, used since ancient times only to grind grains and irrigate land, was now harnessed to run machines for the developing textile industry in England. The turbine was first developed in 1827, and it eventually replaced the water wheel in the late1800’s, making waterpower more efficient.
     
  • 1589 Hosiery knitting machine invented in England by William Lee
     
  • 1607 American Colonies are growing and exporting cotton.
     
  • 1750-1900 England builds factories for power spinning and weaving of cloth.
     
  • 1790-1810 Rhode Island develops a cotton industry dependent on Southern plantation cotton—grown and cleaned by slave labor. Massachusetts builds textile mills.
     
  • 1790-92 First water-powered spinning mill in America is built by Samuel Slater in Rhode Island.
     
  • 1792 Cotton “gin” is invented by Eli Whitney to speed removal of cotton seeds.
     
  • 1810 First successful power loom is built by Wm. Gilmore & David Wilkinson of England.
     
  • 1822-46 A textile mill city is built in Lowell, Massachusetts along the Merrimack River--modeled after the textile mill cities of England. Nine huge textile mills, six miles of canals, machine shops, worker housing and churches were built. Thousands of people were employed in each mill.
     
  • 1830 First steam locomotive is built in America.
     
  • 1830-82 The Southern textile industry begins to blossom with small water-powered textile mills because of the local source of cotton, the rivers of the Piedmont for waterpower, farmers for laborers, and plenty of women and children to work in the mills.
     
  • 1835-1870 Railroads are built throughout the south. Coal from Virginia becomes available and very cheap. New factories are built right next to rail lines. Cotton mills sprout up all along the railroad in every small town in the Piedmont of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. Older factories convert to steam power run by coal to provide a steadier, inexpensive source of power for machinery.
     
  • 1910 Rayon (artificial silk) is commercially produced in the USA.
     
  • 1914-1930 Many northern cotton mills close up and move south. Cotton mills employ thousands of Southern farmers and their families.
     
  • 1923 Rayon fabric production started in Burlington, NC by Spencer Love.
     
  • 1930 Rubber is developed.
     
  • 1935 Acetate is developed by Celanese Corp. of America.
     
  • 1936 Glass fibers are spun into fabric.
     
  • 1938 Nylon fiber is developed by Du Pont Company.
     
  • 1940 Nylon fiber is used instead of silk for parachutes and for women’s hosiery.
     
  • 1946 Metallic Fibers used in fabrics.
     
  • 1949 Olefin is developed.
     
  • 1950 Acrylic fiber is developed by Du Pont Company.
     
  • 1952 Polyester is developed & combined with cotton for wash & wear fabrics.
     
  • 1959 Spandex is developed.
     
  • 1960-2002 Non-woven textiles are developed.
     
  • 1970 Burlington Industries becomes world’s largest textile-manufacturing corporation.
     
  • 1992 Lyocell is developed. 

The textile industry is on the move again: to Mexico, China & other Eastern countries, South America, Central America, Italy, Turkey, Australia.

  • 2003 Many Southern textile mills have closed and others are struggling to stay in business. Thousands of workers are unemployed.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Beaulieu, Robert J. “Textiles.” World Book Encyclopedia. 1993 ed.

Broudy, Eric. The Book of Looms. New Hampshire: Brown University Press of New England,
1979

Glass, Brent D. The Textile Industry in North Carolina. North Carolina: Division of Archives and
History, 1992.

Hollen, Norma and Jane Saddler. Textiles. New York: MacMillan Co., 1955.

“Industrial Revolution.” Modern Internet History Sourcebook. 1997 Fordham University. Nov 2001
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook14.html

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