In the last Loom Chatter post I envisioned a future in which fly shuttle weaving is practically a lost art and rapier and air jet looms are coveted, rare machines that have been replaced by cutting edge equipment driven by nano-sized robots. This far-fetched yarn of fancy was spun to convey an important point.
To my fellow purist denim head: did you know that when the now-revered power shuttle loom was introduced there were strong sentiments against it? It was denounced by the trade and enthusiasts for weaving characterless fabric that was too uniform and mass-produced. Proponents of the hand loom were so vehement that in 1790 a mill was destroyed by a mob to show their dissatisfaction. Granted the trade had great economic incentive (power looms enabled reducing the labor force to half) but the general feelings are similar to what we have today when preferring the shuttle over air and rapier looms. I provoke this point to have us question, and perhaps reinforce, our appreciation of vintage fly shuttle weaving, looms, and denim.
To give us an idea of what was going through the minds of the people introducing new loom technology below is a sampling of advertisement quotes from the Draper Company.
"We believe that certain improvements we are soon to introduce will divide the cost of weaving by two..."
"Textile workers should be interested in all inventions that make their labor easier, cleaner, or healthier."
"The majority believe in progress. They favor inventions that relieve human labor by transferring operatons from fingers to levers and cams."
"Before the year is over the Amoskeag Mfg. Co. will have nearly 10,000 looms changed to take our motions."
"What do you think of a loom that requires but half the labor, weaves more perfect cloth and will run over time without need for attention."
"The only hope for our cotton mills in these critical times lies in the prompt adoption of improved machiner."
"Every new idea meets the same opposition...In the first few years this machine had to bear the brunt of criticism, antagonism, doubt, fear, and mis-representation."
Disclaimer: While above applies to cotton weaving history in general I have yet to establish the extent to which this applies to denim. If anyone comes across any text related to this matter please leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: "Labor-Saving Looms" by Draper Company (1904)
Labels: loom chatter