Textile Industry Meets Demand Of Booming US Population

Textile Industry Meets Demand Of Booming U.S. PopulationIn the beginning, in 1887 when Frank P
Bennett first published The American Wool and Cotton Reporter as today’s ATI was then named, the
textile industry was expanding at a furious pace to meet the demands of a market that was growing
even faster. Despite a horrendous death rate for babies and a life expectancy of only 46 years for
men, 48 for women, the population was increasing at a rate of 20% to 25% each decade (from 50
million in 1880 to 63 million in 1890 to 76 million by the turn of the century). And this growing
population needed clothes.Immigrants were pouring in to people the new states admitted to the Union
in the closing years of the century (North Dakota’ South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Utah)
and to join the rush for land in the Indian Territory that would become Oklahoma. . . millions in
need of overalls or corduroys for the week’s work, and blue serge suits for Sunday- go-to-meetin’.
The girls and womenfolk often made-do with house dresses made of printed flour sacks, but they
coveted something finer for church wear. Sacking was a big seller in those days, used for bulk
commodities like sugar, then re-used around the house. In decades to come, paper would supplant
fabric for such toweling and handkerchief use.Mostly FarmersTwo-thirds of the population then lived
on the farm, working from can-see to can’t-see at endless chores; tractors were years in the
future, and Twenty Mule Team borax celebrated the large teams that hauled freight wagons or the
giant combines.Villages, towns and cities were small by today’s standards, but the towns and
cities, and many villages, were linked by the expanding web of railroads and by the telegraph. Farm
to-village roads were muddy ruts in winter and dust beds in drier times. If and when weather
permitted, Saturday was market day, the family heading for town, sitting on stub-legged chairs in
the back of wagons loaded with whatever the season could produce for barter or sale: butter and
eggs most of the time; pelts from trap lines in the winter; surplus of potatoes and other garden
stuff in the summer and fall, to be exchanged for staples flour, sugar, coffee, salt.In more remote
sections. . . the Appalachians, the Ozarks. . . the bartering would often include yarn for use on
the wooden hand looms that persisted well into the 1940’s. The demand for home-use yarn had
prompted the start of many of the small cotton mills in the South in the 1830’s and 1840’s, most of
them with only 1,500 to 2,500 spindles run by men from New England’s established textile industry.
The isolation of the farms was mind-dulling: no television, no radio, no telephone, little mail
beyond the county’s weekly newspaper, little to read except the Bible, and not many could read.
Those were the days of the one-room country schoolhouse, if and when school kept. In 1899, in all
of the U.S., only 72% of the children from ages 5 to 17 were enrolled in school, but a very small
percentage of those finished high school. In fact, in 1900, the entire country produced only 62,000
high school graduates. Most girls only received four to eight years of elementary
education.Inventions AboundBut, in the towns and cities, there was excitement. . . news of
inventions, of new manufacturing enterprises, new markets and new adventures in domestic and world
politics. In 1887, Gottlieb Daimler in Germany produced the first successful automobile. Nikola
Tesla was inventing the alternating current induction motor, soon to be put to use in the mills.
George Eastman produced the popular Kodak box camera in 18S8, and before long, snapshots of new
dresses could be in the mail; “smile was the word of the day.First Man-Made FiberIn England in
1892, C. F. Cross discovered viscose, leading to the later manufacture of rayon, “artificial silk”,
much less expensive and easier to manufacture than the real thing. Rudolf Diesel patented the
internal combustion engine that bears his name. Marconi developed wireless telegraphy, and King
Gillette was hailed by millions of men for his invention of the safety razor, particularly by those
executives headed for Worth Street meetings who no longer had to scrape their whiskers with a
straight-edge razor in the swaying washroom of a Pullman car (Most towns boasted a daredevil who
could shave the back of his neck with the straight-edge as the train barrelled along).Scientific
American reported the seeds of things to come: Oliver Heaviside’s discovery of the ionosphere in
1892; James J. Thomson’s work with the electron in 1897; and Marie and Pierre Curie’s discovery of
radium in 1898.Henry Ford made his first auto, the Quadricycle, in 1896, but the people’s
automobile was still many years away. Cuba’s efforts to break away from Spain aroused much sympathy
in the United States, and when the battleship Maine was blown up in Havana harbor in 1898, war with
Spain was a certainty. The American fleet broke the back of the Spanish navy, and a defeated Spain
ceded to the U.S. the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Soon thereafter, Congress annexed
Hawaii (in 1893, the U. S. had organized the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, so the islands
were ripe for plucking).ATI Begins With Queen Victoria’s 50thIn the same year as the establishment
of the American Wool and Cotton Reporter Queen Victoria observed her golden jubilee by celebrating
50 years on the throne of a British empire that was still expanding in Asia and in Africa.The
French too were expanding their colonies in Africa and in southeast Asia, while the new German
empire demanded its share of the world’s potential colonies and worked diligently at building its
army and navy and at achieving technological and economic equality with the British. German
chemical firms were already advertising in the Reporter.In Russia, foreign entrepreneurs were
building industries employing millions of former serfs as that country continued its struggle to
modernize despite the despotic conservatism of Czar Nicholas II. Construction on the Trans-Siberian
Railway began in 1891, carrying the Russian empire toward an Asia that sharply contrasted
modernizing Japan with the continued long sleep of the Chinese under their Manchu conquerors and
the Europeans who controlled the ports.The Japanese, imitating the Americans and Europeans, wanted
an empire too. They jumped on the hapless Chinese in 1895 and took as loot the island of Formosa
(Taiwan) and Port Arthur on the mainland. The European heavyweights objected to such greediness and
forced the return of Port Arthur. The “civilized” world was startled by the technical and military
progress the Japanese had made of since Commodore Perry had forcibly ended their centuries-long
isolation.Enter Frank P. BennettAll these events and their implications for the American textile
industry were grist for the mill of Frank P. Bennett whose early career had prepared him well for
the work and for the rising influence of his American Wool and Cotton Reporter.Young Bennett had
worked part-time in a job printing shop while attending Chelsea High School in Malden, Mass. and
got a job with the weekly Malden Mirror after graduation, doing everything that needed doing:
soliciting advertising, writing news reports and editorials, setting type and operating the
press.Like many enterprising young men of his Day he succumbed to wanderlust and worked on
newspapers as far west as Salt Lake City while seeing the country. He returned to Massachusetts in
1876 at age 22 to work for the Commercial Bulletin in Boston. Five years later, in 1881, he swapped
jobs, from managing editor of the Commercial Bulletin to managing editor of the Boston Advertiser,
then owned by Henry Cabot Lodge, a valuable mentor to the young journalist. In his spare time, he
wrote on finance for The Tribune in New York and for the New York Daily Press. His work brought him
into contact with the leading textile executives and financial figures the time and he won their
respect.A Weekly For Movers And ShakersFrank Bennett was 33 when he decided, in1887, that the
textile industry needed a publication to serve its nationwide needs for information. The American
Wool and Cotton Reporter began weekly publication from offices at 19 Pearl Street in Boston, and
quickly built a network of correspondents.Bennett’s years as reporter and editor gave him access to
the movers and shakers of Boston and New York to the facts and rumors of a churning economy, to the
hopes, the fears, the visions and judgements of men who played with gusto the game of making money
in a time when what they made they could keep no income tax. The Reporter, just as its descendant
does today, covered all aspects of the textile industry, from sheep man and cotton planter to mill
operator and mill operative, to machinery maker to designer of apparel to garment manufacturer to
retailer. Coverage extended to Europe, with letters from London, Liverpool, Lancashire, France,
Switzerland and Germany conveyed to the Boston office by the liners and packets plying the
Atlantic, with time lag from date-of-writing to date-of-publication of as little as two weeks.
Letters, sorted in the mail cars of hundreds of trains, brought domestic news, and the telegraph
was available for items of greater importance.This flood of information and the need to keep his
field correspondents active (they were paid by the “string” of published material, at so much per
inch) resulted also in Bennett’s publication of Investor Services and his operation of Bennett’s
Information Services which offered to provide (for $2 per report information on any stock, any
store, or any piece of real estate in the country.Bennett’s editorials reflected the man: candid,
plain-spoken, out-spoken. He did not hesitate to warn of impending danger, as when British
investors began to dump their shares of U.S. companies, provoking the great panic of 1893 when the
heavy transfers of gold to London to pay for the dumped shares left the country short of currency.
Or, when a British syndicate attempted to form a woolen/worsted trust (monopoly) to control
production and prices in the American market; this was before the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. and
trusts were flourishing in nearly every industry. . . the Standard Oil Trust, the Steel Trust, the
Barbed Wire Trust, the Sugar Trust, etc.Or, when he sharply admonished sheep men for including
“dung locks” with the fleece;Or, warning that productive capacity in the late 1890’s could be
excessive since it was increasing faster than the population.”I Told You So!” He could not resist
an occasional I told you so, eg.:From its inception in 1887, the American Wool and Cotton Reporter
has, we are convinced been a safe guide. It has sometimes been our lot to be considerably ahead of
the times, and in some cases we have been obliged to withstand a widespread criticism until our
friends could catch up with us. An instance of this has occurred in the last few months. Our view
regarding the wool market was at the start antagonized by not a few persons for whose judgment we
have always had the greatest respect. Time has fully substantiated our position, many who
previously criticized us have frankly acknowledged the clearness of our prevision.It goes without
saying that our only purpose is to be of the most assistance to the various classes in whose
interest the ‘Reporter’ was started.”By the time of the War Between The States the American textile
industry, launched at Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1790, had grown to 1,091 mills with 5,200,000
spindles processing 800,000 bales of cotton and had outstripped English mills in the economical
production of coarse, heavy fabrics. The industry was centered in New England which had 570 of the
1,091 mills. Massachusetts and Rhode Island alone accounted for nearly a third of the mills and had
18% of the spindles. Fall River and Lowell, Mass. and Providence, R.l., were the leading textile
centers.Biggest of all the mills was Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co. in Salem, Mass., with 65,584
spindles. The average mill housed only 5,000 to 12,000 spindles, with mule spindles out-numbering
ring spindles two-to-one. Most mills used waterpower to run the machinery, but the more dependable
steam engine was rapidly coming into use. Smaller “country” mills worked only during daylight,
those in the urban areas were lighted by gas.Spectacular GrowthThe spectacular growth of the
industry in the early years of the Reporter is illustrated by the figures on spindles and looms in
Chart below.

While the Southern mills were learning how to make coarse goods, the Northern mills turned
more and more to production of the fine goods, a market long dominated by the British, with some
input from the French.British InfluenceThe British exhibit at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in
Philadelphia had included fine woolens and worsteds, inspiring New Englanders to master the art
(the great American Woolen Company was to grow out of this effort, but more about that later]. The
impetus toward greater progress in fine goods production and in improvement of mill machinery came
largely from individuals and families with long experience in the industry. In the 1880’s, however,
many mills were built in communities with no manufacturing tradition, by companies organized by men
with little or no textile experience and manned by unskilled workers. . . all depended on skilled
overseers and superintendents from New England mills for training and for operating know-how.
Opportunity pounded on the doors of many ambitious young men who had started at the bottom of the
ladder: Horatio Alger’s fiction was often fact.This was particularly true in the South where the
promotion of cotton mill companies sometimes took on aspects of a religious revival, with
subscription to mill stock be coming a civic duty because of the jobs that would result.And,
location in the South was attractive tomany Northern investors for many reasons,but principally

  • the supply of raw material to be processed (cotton) was readily available without the cost of
    long haul freight charges,
  • water power sites along the Fall Line and in the Piedmont were plentiful, and the day of
    hydro-electricity was at hand,
  • labor was plentiful and eager to work “in the shade” after years of field work at 40 cents a
    day. The going rate for hands at many mills was $12.50 for 144 hours or two weeks work,
  • states and cities taxed mills lightly; many cities had a gentleman’s agreement not to annex
    mills into their limits, resulting in a ring or belt of mills around a city.

The new mill communities in the South had little or no rental housing when the mills were
built. The more urbanized North had attracted capital investment in tenements for its workers. To
attract theirlabor, Southern mills built entire villages, most often on hills for drainage, with
“shotgun” houses having privies in the back yard. Wells for water were spaced about two blocks
apart in the middle of the street. For most of these villages, piped water did not come for a
generation.Mill VillagesThe owners and the managers of these mills were very paternalistic, just as
management of early New England mills had been, particularly those of Lowell, Mass. They provided
boarding houses for single men, community centers for recreation, plots to raise vegetables, a
common pasture for cows kept by the farmers-turned-millhands. They built churches and subsidized
the pay of preachers. In return, they expected their workers to lead sober and moral lives.
Hang-overs, card playing, unblessed pregnancies, and the like, could lead to dismissal.Some mills
provided schools for elementary grades; compulsory public education was yet to come. Children went
to work in the mills at 8, 10 or 12 years of age. Many old-timers who moved their families from the
farm to the village recalled that their lot as young mill hands was not as dreadful as pictured by
some journalists and social reformers. The alternative on the farm was daily chores, chopping
weeds, picking cotton from sun up to sundown. In the mill, they had the companionship of many other
children and the added benefit of working “in the shade.”National magazines and reform
organizations in nearly every state persisted in efforts to pass child labor legislation, but
parents were often indignant at the suggestion that “the law” might take away their authority over
their offspring, might deprive the family of their earnings.New Mill FeverThe fever for building
mills continued in the North and South. By 1890, New England was home to 60 per cent of all the
cotton mills in the country, but this proportion dropped to 49 per cent by 1900 as the South’s
share increased from 21 per cent in 1890 to 39 percent in 1900.With all these mills increasing the
production of greige goods, the result was need for more bleacheries, dye houses and print works,
to the economic benefit of Providence, R. I., Waltham, Mass., Stockport, N. Y., Wilmington, Del.,
Fall River, Lowell, and Peabody, Mass., where many such plants were located.In 1880, there had been
191 dyeing, bleaching, and printing plants. By 1890, the number had grown to 248 and by 1900 to
298.There were steady improvements in the equipment operated in all these mills and finishing
plants, but few major innovations. One of these was the humidifier, introduced soon after 1881,
which allowed mills to take advantage of steam power, later of electric power, and to move away
from the rivers, on whose proximity they had depended for the humidity needed in spinning and
weaving.Ring Spindle Invented In 1830, Jenks had invented the ring spindle, which replaced the
double-armed flyer of the throstle with a wire “traveler” running on a fixed steel ring. Sawyer
vastly improved this system in 1871, achieving high speed spinning that led to production of fine
yarns.Most Southern mills employed ring spinning from the very beginning: mills in the North were
reluctant to discard throstle and mule spinning that still worked well, thus giving the Southern
mills an unintentional competitive advantage. Here is a statistical comparison of the relative
growth of mule and ring spinning:The most important innovation was that which dealt a mortal blow
to the “kiss of death” shuttle: the Northrop shuttle-changing device. The “kiss of death” was the
term applied by public health officials to the old-style shuttle that had to be threaded by sucking
the filling thread through the shuttle eye. Weavers told their learners they wouldn’t qualify as
real weavers until they had sucked eight yards of yarn into their stomachs. The public health
people pointed out that repeated “kissing” of the shuttle by different workers led to the
transmission of germs in a time when highly contagious influenza and tuberculosis competed with
heart disease as the leading cause of death. But, there were few health officials, and scant
general knowledge of how disease spread.The cure was the shuttle-changing device invented by J. H.
Northrop, an Englishman hired in 1881 by George Draper and Sons of Hopedale, Mass. Northrop first
tried his device in a mill in October, 1889. He also developed a self-threading shuttle and shuttle
spring jaws to hold a bobbin by means of rings on the butt, all leading to the filling changing
battery that was the basic feature of the 1891 Northrop loom, regarded as one of the greatest
technical developments in the industry. Until that time the loom had to be stopped to replenish
filling.Draper’s Northrop loom permitted a dramatic increase in production, and in the number of
looms that a weaver could work.Water Power Gives Way To SteamEarly mills had been powered by the
force of falling water, with the power transmitted to machines by intricate systems of belts driven
by shafts linked by gears to the water wheel. Steam gradually replaced water as the power source.
As late as 1900, however, water still furnished 50% of the power for the mills of Manchester, Mass.
and 49% for those of Lowell. Steam liberated the mill from the riverbank but not from power
transmission by gear and belt. That liberation came with the electric motor, whose birth coincided
with the birth of the American Wool and Cotton Reporter.As Sidney B. Paine has written, electric
motors were practically unknown in the commercial world prior to 1886. The alternating current
motor was still in the laboratory stage, the first polyphase induction motor being placed on the
market in 1892. A few mills had used small direct current motors, but no mill was electrified until
Columbia Mills Co. (Columbia, S. C.) made the momentous decision to sign a contract July 31, 1893
with General Electric Co. for two 500-kilowatt, 3-phase, 36-cycle, 600-watt generators and 17
65-horsepower induction motors, each of the motors serving a separate section of the mill,
independently of the others. To save space, the motors were suspended from the ceiling. Development
of electric power for the mills then spread swiftly.Textile EducationIn the later years of the
century mill owners were realizing the need for training future overseers, superintendents and
managers. Leadership and interest in working in the industry were often lacking in second and third
generations of family-owned mills, and the owners realized they would have to hire those who could
do what the founders did.When the Philadelphia Textile Association was organized in 1882, a main
purpose was to establish a textile school. Sufficient funds, however, could not be raised at the
outset. So,Theodore C. Search, one of the association organizers, started a school of his own, in
one room, with crude apparata, teaching five weavers from Philadelphia mills at night. His example
inspired the Philadelphia association to try again, this time successfully, and what is now the
Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science came into being, alma mater of many of the industry’s
leaders.In 1895, Mr. Search exhibited the work of the Philadelphia School at the thirtieth
anniversary meeting in Boston of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers. His address on
textile education led Massachusetts textile men to have legislation passed providing matching funds
for textile schools, leading to institutions at Lowell, Fall River and New Bedford. The South
followed the examples: Clemson College (Clemson, S.C.) opened a textile department in 1898, Georgia
Institute of Technology and the North Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1899, the
AandM College at Storkville, Miss., in 1901, and the AandM College at College Station, Texas, in
1904.ATMI’s Roots The American Textile Manufacturers Institute, Inc. is the central trade
association for the cotton, man-made fibers and wool segments of the American textile industry, its
membership comprising 85% of the industry’s production.ATMI is active in government relations work,
statistics and economic research, public relations, safety and health, marketing, environmental
preservation, international trade, data processing and almost any area of activity, except
technical, which might be of concern to its individual members and which may best be handled
through combined effort.ATMI is descended from the Southern Cotton Spinners Association,
incorporated in 1897 in North Carolina; the name was changed May 3, 1903 to American Cotton
Manufacturers Association. ACMA was incorporated March 8, 1905.The Cotton-Textile Institute was
organized October 4, 1926, incorporated in New York, and was merged with ACMA September 30, 1949 to
form the American Cotton Manufacturers Institute, Inc.On April 30, 1958, the National Federation of
Textiles, formed in 1934, merged with ACMI.The NFT’s predecessor organization is said to be The
Silk Association, organized in 1872. The name of ACMI was changed on October 1, 1962 to American
Textile Manufacturers Institute, Inc.The Association of Cotton Textile Merchants of New York, which
was organized on January 17, 1918, was consolidated with ATMI January 17, 1964.The National
Association of Finishers of Textile Fabrics, which was originated January 12, 1898 and staffed on
January 6, 1914, was consolidated with ATMI May 20, 1965.The National Association of Wool
Manufacuters, which was formed Novemer 30, 1864, merged with ATMI on July 1, 1971.Early Industry
LeadersColonel J. T. Anthony, 1897-1898, founder and first president of the Southern Cotton
Spinners Association which became the American Cotton Manufacturers Association. He was born on
November 12, 1843 in Hanover County, Virginia; served in the Army of Northern Virginia in the
division commanded by General George A. Pickett. He moved to Charlotte, N. C. some 12 years after
the war. In addition to textile interests, he engaged in the lumber, ice, coal, and cottonseed
trade. He died in July, 1930.