History 104: Western Civilization since 1648
Lecture: Industrialization

The Technology Broadloom and spinning wheelClick here for Audio

In a sense, the boom began with a single invention related to the production of England's primary export: woollen cloth. Since the 16th century, cloth had been spun using the spinning wheel, then woven using a broadloom. A spinning wheel could be worked by one person, but a broadloom took three: one to work the pedals to move the heddles up and down for weaving, and tall people at either end to pass the shuttle back and forth.

In an effort to speed up the weaving process, in the 1730s John Kay invented the "flying shuttle" loom:

Kay's flying shuttle

The weaver could sit at the machine, working the pedals with his/her feet, and use the handle to activate springs that popped the shuttle back and forth. This eliminated the tall helpers, and speeded up the rate of production by about 300%.

That caused a problem, a technological "bottleneck", because the amount of yard from spinning wheels could not keep up with the demand from Kay looms. This led to further inventions:

Great Wheel Spinning

Spinning by Hand

The spinning jenny, invented by a guy named Hargreaves, made it possible for one person to spin multiple spindles using a hand wheel.


spinning machine

The spinning machine hooked the devices vertically, and could spin fine threads.

Hand Loom weaving (one person narrow)

Power Loom

Ultimately, both spinning machines and the new looms developed further and could be connected to water power. The power looms and power spinning machines automated cloth production. They made possible factories, where unskilled women and children could tie up threads and keep machines going. Skilled spinners and weavers were no longer necessary, and the new machine-made cloth was less expensive and undercut the price of hand-made fabric.

The new technologies, applied to linen and cotton production, led to mass production.



4. Coal and Steam ->