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Textile Industry


TEXTILE INDUSTRY. Between 1450 and 1800, textile production was second only to agriculture in economic importance. It employed more people and produced more profit than any other manufactured product. Production and trade existed at two levels. Everywhere peasants and villagers turned locally grown wool and flax into fabric and clothing for themselves and their neighbors. The cloth they produced was of poor quality and not designed for export to distant markets. On top of this local market sat a large and lucrative luxury trade in silk, wool, linen, and (eventually) cotton fabric, the most important of which were heavy woolens. The customers for these fabrics were wealthy landowners, government and church officials, merchants, financiers, aristocrats, and master craftsmen in Europe, Asia and the Levant.

Ireland and the Baltic region supplied much of Europe's flax, although it was widely grown and available. In the sixteenth century, Venice and other Italian cities acquired silkworms and mulberry trees, and began silk manufacturing. From there, the silk industry made its way north to Holland, Zurich, Lyon, Cologne, and Spitalfields (East London), England. At the same time, cotton thread and fabric began to arrive from India and became wildly popular.

Most important of all the textile industries was the trade in raw wool and wool fabric. Sheep raising abounded everywhere. In the fifteenth century, the best fleeces came from England. In the sixteenth century, Spanish merino sheep knocked English sheep into second place. French sheep were considered to produce the third best wool. Two types of wool fabric were produced in Europewoolens and worsteds. Of the two, the market for woolens was by far the larger. Woolens were made from short-staple wool fibers that were swirled together before spinning. The cloth had a soft-textured appearance and feel. Worsteds were made from long-staple wool and had a harder, smoother finish. Soft woolens were considered far more desirable than the harsher worsteds and dominated the wool trade.

Turning raw wool into fabric was a long, complicated process. The sheep's fleece was sheared in one continuous piece, rolled, sacked, and sold to merchants (drapers) or clothiers or their agents. The fleeces were dirty and greasy, not uniform, and far from ready for spinning and weaving. Fleece breakers opened up the fleece and removed the large pieces of debris that were caught in it. The fleece was then pulled apart, and the wool was sorted into three or four grades. Next, the sorted wool was cleaned. Any remaining debris was removed from the fleece by beating it with sticks, and then it was washed in alternating hot and cold, soapy and clean water. Some fleeces were dyed at this point, but dyeing raw wool produced dull colors, and it was common to dye fabric after it was completed rather than when the wool was raw. Whether it was dyed or not, the fleece was now lubricated with butter or oil to make it easier to work.

After breaking, cleaning, and oiling, the wool passed into the hands of combers and carders. Their task was to convert a mass of tangled, curling wool into long, straight, smooth fibers for worsteds by combing, or into a smooth ball of short wool fibers for woolens by carding. Spinners converted the combed or carded wool into continuous lengths of yarn by pulling, twisting, and turning it into a thin, continuous thread. This was the most labor-intensive part of the process. Estimates vary, but six spinners (or more) seem to have been required for every loom that was in operation. Yarn that was spun with a drop spindle was stronger than wheel-spun yarn and was used for the looms' warps. Wheel-spun yarn was wound onto bobbins and used for the weft.

Weavers usually wound their own warps and prepared their own bobbins for the loom. The best woolens were woven on broadlooms that produced fabric that was 1¼ meters wide and 22 to 23 meters long. It commonly took two men and one child (most often, probably, a boy in training) to operate a loom and weave the cloth. Once the woolen cloth was woven, it passed into the hands of fullers who cleaned and softened it by dunking it in water that contained various kinds of detergents and soaps that dissolved or absorbed the fat that had been added to the wool before it was carded or combed. Lye, stale human urine, ashes, and fuller's earth were commonly used. Fullers placed the folded cloth in a vat and trod on it with their feet, periodically removing and refolding the cloth so it would be evenly fulled.

After fulling, the cloth was dried, stretched, bleached, and perhaps dyed. Teaselers raised the nap by brushing the cloth with the burr of the teasel plant to impart a soft finish. It was clipped smooth by shearmen, pressed, and returned to the merchant for sale. The entire process involved twenty people (not including dyers) for each piece of cloth produced and took at least six weeks. Women worked as carders, combers, and spinners, while men performed most of the other tasks. The finer the cloth, the larger the labor force and the longer the time it took to produce it. (More finely spun yarn required more spinners, for instance). The finishing of worsteds was much simpler (they did not require fulling, teaseling or shearing, for instance), but the market for them was much smaller.

In the fifteenth century, textile manufacturing was an urban industry, controlled by wealthy merchants (drapers) who purchased raw wool, had it turned into cloth, and then sold it, often to other craftsmen who performed the final finishing steps, including dyeing and teaseling. These were capital-intensive crafts, and cloth merchants often preferred not to be involved in them. Before the seventeenth century, most English cloth was dyed and finished in Holland. In England, in addition to merchants who only bought and sold, clothiers, themselves often master weavers, controlled a great deal of the woolen trade.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, textile workers dominated the population of towns like Venice and Leiden. By the sixteenth century, however, merchants had discovered that they could avoid the high wages, labor shortages, and quality controls imposed by urban guilds and governments by hiring peasants to do manufacturing work in their homes. Urban merchants continued to control production, but much of the work force was spread out through the countryside. Alternately referred to as the putting-out system, cottage manufacturing, and the Verlag system, merchants (Verlagers) found they could save money (rural workers could work for less because they produced much of their own food) and increase production at the same time. Trained cottage workers could be as skilled as urban workers, but many alternated farming and manufacturing and produced goods of lesser quality. The high-end woolen trade remained important, but many merchants began to reorient their businesses away from the luxury market and toward lower-quality, lower-priced, and more rapidly produced goods.

The building of fulling mills (first mentioned in accounts c. 1000) that beat the woven cloth with hammers raised by water wheels to replace the labor-intensive hand (or foot) fulling provided another incentive for merchants to put work out into the countryside and was a major determinant of the location of woolen production. In the eighteenth century, when merchants expanded employment to increase production, many rural villages became as much, or even more, dependent on the textile industry as they were on farming. Following the lead of Franklin Mendels, historians now call this intensification of cottage industry proto-industrialization to distinguish it from its earlier, perhaps more benign, manifestation, when cottage workers toiled fewer hours and produced goods for local markets.


Success in the textile industry was never permanent in the early modern world, and even the seemingly most secure industrial cities could watch their predominance and control of trade decline precipitously. Survival and growth depended on a host of factors: access to raw materials, including raw wool and chemicals for dyeing; labor supply; access to trade routes and transportation systems, including ships and overland carriages; changing political allegiances; warfare; access to water for washing and fulling; demographic growth or stagnation; consumer demand; government laws and guild regulations; entrepreneurship; and fluctuating international markets.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, combinations of these factors inaugurated a series of important changes in the textile industry. Flanders, northern Italy, and southern Germany lost their dominance of woolen production to England, the Netherlands, and the Walloon region between the Meuse and Rhine Rivers. The woolen industries of Lille and Hondschoote disappeared rapidly. Venice, the largest producer of luxury broadcloths in the sixteenth century, saw its woolen industry wither away. One region's loss was often another's gain. England's woolen and worsted industries grew markedly with the government's decision to stop exporting wool fleeces in 1660. Leiden, adapting to a growing demand for lighter-weight fabrics, grew from a town of 12,000 in 1600 to a city of 80,000 in 1640, and then was outstripped by the nearby cities of Liège and Verviers, where labor costs were lower.

Often, the key to success was adaptability, especially in the eighteenth century. The economic downturn of the seventeenth century and changing consumer tastes had dampened demand for luxury woolens. Regions that had access to a variety of wool thread and flax or cotton began to produce "the new draperies," hybrid cloths made of both long and short staple wool (serges and says), wool and flax, wool and cotton, and cotton and flax (fustians and siamoisesthat is, cotton and linen fabric produced in Normandy). Worsted production also profited from the demand for lighter-weight cloth.

Cotton fabrics from India and the Levant arrived in Europe in the sixteenth century or earlier. By the eighteenth century, the Dutch and English East India Companies began to import substantial amounts of pure cotton cloth (calicoes) from India and the Levant to Europe. To protect the woolen industry, England forbade the importation of pure cotton cloth in 1700. Other countries followed suit. Raw cotton and cotton thread continued to arrive, however, imported not only from the Middle East and India, but also, beginning in the early eighteenth century, from the West Indies. The woolen industry remained the largest of the textile industries throughout the eighteenth century, but the market for cotton and linen fabric grew as fast as or faster than the supply of raw cotton. (Europeans were unable to spin cotton thread that was strong enough for warp threads until the introduction of the spinning frame in the 1770s.) The markets for these hybrid cloths of relatively modest quality were substantially different from those for woolen broadcloths. Many cloths were sent to Africa; others were purchased by European peasants, farmers, and urban workers. In both cases, the more brightly colored the cloth, the more it resembled the illegal calicoes and the more popular it was.

In English and Continental cities, woolen and worsted production continued to increase in the eighteenth century, despite the competition of the new draperies. In England this growth was fostered by the creation of urban cloth halls where the clothiers who oversaw the manufacturing of cloth sold their wares to merchants who, in turn, oversaw the finishing, transportation, and marketing of them. The most dynamic sector of the textile industry, however, was in cotton. The supply of raw cotton was far more elastic than the supply of wool and hence less expensive to purchase even though it had to be imported from Asia or the Western Hemisphere. The bulk of the heretofore untapped markets for European textiles lay in warm or temperate zones with hot summersNorth America, Africa, south and east Asia, and the West Indies, where lightweight cloths were clearly more desired than heavy woolens.


As the eighteenth century progressed, the invention of machines designed primarily to increase both the quantity and quality of cotton yarn made the manufacture of pure cotton fabric possible. Textile machines were not new in the eighteenth century. In 1598 William Lee invented a stocking frame for knitting. By the end of the seventeenth century, it had all but eliminated hand knitting. In 1604 William Dircxz van Sonnevelt invented a ribbon frame that allowed one person to weave twelve ribbons at a time, and in the 1600s, Italians invented a machine for throwing silk that revolutionized silk manufacturing. At considerable risk, the plans for these machines were smuggled into England in 1717. Not all machines were immediately successful. John Kay's flying shuttle (1733) was slow to catch on because it speeded up weaving, which already consumed yarn faster than women could spin it. John Wyatt's and Lewis Paul's spinning frame (1738) was equally unsuccessful, but by mid-century the cultural climate was ready for innovation. The carding machines invented by Paul and others in the 1750s, James Hargreave's jenny (1765), Richard Arkwright's spinning frame (1769) (also known as the water frame), and Samuel Crompton's mule (1779) made it possible to produce stronger and finer cotton thread than ever before. With machinery came factories and the growth of cotton cities. Between 1760 and 1830, for instance, the population of Manchester, England, increased from 17,000 to 180,000. Edmund Cartwright devised a power loom in the 1780s, but its advantages over hand weaving were slight, and adoption of mechanical weaving came much more slowly than the adoption of mechanical carding and spinning. Finishing processes were also transformed. Chemicals replaced the sun as bleaching agents (sulfuric acid in 1756; chlorine in the 1790s) and cylinder printing replaced the old block press (1783).

Almost all of these machines were invented for the cotton trade, but they could be and were adapted for use in the production of wool fabric. Worsteds adapted more easily to the new technology than woolens did. The spinning frame was used to spin long-staple wool for worsteds. Short-staple wool used in woolens was more fragile and much more difficult to spin by machine, although it, too, was being spun by jennies by the 1780s. The same was true of mechanical weaving when it spread in the nineteenth century. Stronger threads made it easier to weave worsteds than woolens.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the textile industries of Europe were moving rapidly into the industrial era. The era of cotton had begun; worsteds were outpacing woolens; factory production was returning manufacturing to the cities; and markets had expanded well beyond the luxury trade of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries.

See also Capitalism ; Clothing ; Commerce and Markets ; Enclosure ; Industrial Revolution ; Industry ; Proto-Industry .


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Gay L. Gullickson

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Textile Industry


Production of fibers, filaments, and yarns used in making woven or knitted cloth for domestic or foreign trade is widespread in the Middle East.

The oldest textile materials produced and used in the Middle Eastlinen and woolgo back to remote antiquity. Cotton and silk, which originated in India and China, respectively, came into the region during the Roman Empire, in the early centuries of the Christian era. By the early Middle Ages, quantities of flax (for linen) were exported to Europe, chiefly from Egypt; of raw cotton from Syria and Egypt; of silk thread from Iran, Syria, and the Bursa region (northwest Turkey); and of mohair from Turkey. Flax and silk fibers and fabrics were traded to Europe for many centuries, but flax was gradually produced in many European nations, and the silks of India, China, and Japan competed with Middle Eastern silks and cottons as well as with cottons from the newly colonized Americas and from India. In the nineteenth century, however, the introduction of long-staple cotton made Egypt an important producer, and in the twentieth century, Egypt was joined by Turkey, Syria, Sudan, and Israel. In the 1990s, the Middle East produced 75 percent of the world output of long-staple cotton but only about 8 percent of the total world output of all cottons.

Although the preeminence of the Middle East in the manufacture of handloomed textiles goes back to antiquity, by the late Middle Ages, European productswoolens, fine silks, and linenswere fine enough to be imported by the Middle East. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, the Middle East continued to export cotton cloth and yarn to Europe, but European protective tariffs soon restricted even that trade. With the Industrial Revolution, European machine-loomed fabrics overwhelmed Middle Eastern handmade products and local markets. The number of Middle Eastern handlooms and their total output declined sharply; for example, in Bursa, output of cloth fell from 20,000 pieces in 1843 to 3,000 in 1863. In Aleppo and Damascus combined, the number of looms dropped from about 12,000 in the 1820s to some 2,500 in the 1840s. Middle Eastern weavers were able to recover by using improved looms, importing cheaper and better European yarns, concentrating on inexpensive products, and drastically reducing wages. Hand-crafted fabrics continued to form a large proportion of the textile output until after World War II. In Syria, in the 1930s, there were some 40,000 handweavers, and in Egypt in the 1940s, some 50,000. In Turkey and Iran, carpetmaking was greatly stimulated by rising foreign demand, lower freights that reduced export costs, and some foreign capital investments in the industry. Just before World War I, in 1913, Turkey exported 1,500 tons of carpets, then worth three million U.S. dollars, but the subsequent world wars devastated the industry. Persian carpet exports in 1914 were then worth five million U.S. dollars, and by the 1950s Iran's rugweaving and carpetmaking employed some 130,000 peoplewith exports of 5,000 tons, then worth twenty-five million U.S. dollars, the carpets accounted for 16 percent of Iran's non-oil exports.


Textile factories, or mills, were first used in the Middle East in the 1830s, in the modernizing program of Muhammad Ali's Egypt. The mills exported large amounts of cotton textiles, but they did not survive his death. A few small factories were also set up in Turkey in the nineteenth century, and by World War I, several textile centers had been developed in Turkeynotably in Adana, İzmir, and in the Salonika region. Egypt also had cotton-spinning mills in Alexandria and Cairo. Iran had a small spinning mill in Tehran, but other unsuccessful mills had closed. In Syria, one small mill, founded in Damascus in the 1860s, was operating, but two others, in Beirut and Antioch, had failed. Some two hundred small silk-reeling factories were set up in Lebanon, with others in Bursa, İzmir, and other silk-growing regions of Turkey. In Iran, there was a mill in Gilan.

After World War I, the textile industry wove rayon as well as cotton and wool and expanded greatly, especially after the tariff reforms. Table 1

Middle East cotton industry in 1939
  spindles (thousands) power looms (thousands) output of yarn (thousands of metric tons) output of cloth (million square meters)
source: united nations, review of economic conditions in the middle east, 195152 (new york, 1953).
table by ggs information services, the gale group.
egypt 250 15 24 100
iran 188 4
iraq 1
lebanon 14 1 1
palestine 12 2 1 4
syria 10 4 1
turkey 189 6 23 152
total 663 33 50 256

shows the situation in the cotton industry in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II. By then, textile factories had been built in all the main towns and cities of the Middle East, and local production of cotton yarn and fabrics met 35 to 50 percent of total domestic demand within the larger countries.

During World War II, the region's textile industry expanded by about 50 percent, and the expansion continueswith several additional countries,

Middle East textile output in 1987
  cotton wool silk
  yarn2 fabrics3 yarn2 fabrics3 fabrics3
2in million metric tons
3in million square meters
source: united nations. industrial statistical yearbook (new york, 1988).
table by ggs information services, the gale group.
egypt 251 694 19 24 5
iran1 88 140 16 26
israel 16 4
jordan 2
syria 39 180 2 1
turkey 332 399 51 27 1
total 726 1,415 92 78 6
world 15,091 47,360 2,223 3,484 2,248

with diversification, and with improvement in quality, especially in the finishing processes. Foreign investments have been gradually taken over, and the industry is now owned mainly by the state or local citizens. Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon now export significant textile lots to worldwide markets. The second table shows recent figures.


Issawi, Charles. An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

charles issawi

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Textile Industry

Textile Industry


The textile industry is the worlds oldest branch of consumer goods manufacturing and covers the entire production chain of transforming natural and chemical fibers (such as cotton, wool, and oil) into end-user goods, including garments, household goods, and industrial textiles. In the twelfth century China already produced cotton and fabrics. In the early seventeenth century India and Japan had domestic cotton industries. Modern textile manufacturing originated in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution around 1780. The mechanization of spinning and weaving alongside a rising demand for clothing from the colonies contributed to the growth of king cotton. In the early nineteenth century textile production spread from Britain over western Europe and the United States. Ever since that time, the textile industry has been one of the most competitive and geographically dispersed industries across the world.

Accounting for 5.6 percent of world trade flows and employing at least twenty million workers worldwide, the modern textile industry is a significant economic sector. Despite its geographical dispersion, large concentrations of textile production can be found in China, followed by India, the United States, the Russian Federation, Japan, and western Europe. Since the 1970s a gradual shift of production has taken place to newly industrializing countries in East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, eastern Europe, and North Africa.

The textile industry is typically the leading sector of industrialization. Usually, textiles manufacturing is labor intensive and employs relatively low skills and simple technologies. Moreover the capital investment needed is only modest in comparison with other types of industry. Some developing countries also benefit from local supplies of raw materials (e.g., cotton) that foster the development of textiles production. Thanks to low labor costs, the newly industrializing countries have become fierce competitors for producers in Europe and North America. This rivalry, combined with saturated home markets, has induced corporate restructuring in the European Union and the United States, making the textile industry progressively an industry of large, transnational corporations.

Growing competitive pressure has led to a variety of corporate strategies in American and European textiles. Some companies attempt to cut costs by producing standardized goods that benefit from economies of scale. Other firms pursue offshore strategies and relocate part of their operations to low-labor-cost countries. Most producers, however, choose for focused differentiation: They search for market niches where specialized goods can be sold for a premium price. For that purpose many textile firms invest in quality improvement, innovation, design, marketing, and retailing. Some of the firms also focus on the production of technical textiles (e.g., artificial grass). All these differentiation strategies ask for sophisticated skills, knowledge of local markets, and flexible production facilities. Textile firms increasingly have to cope with a trade-off between labor costs and the need for market proximity.

Since the 1960s governments in western Europe and America have protected domestic textile producers by means of trade arrangements. After the Long-Term Arrangement in 1962, the Multi-Fibre Agreement was negotiated in 1973. The aim of both agreements was to create an orderly development of global textiles trade not only for developed but also for developing countries by restricting imports that disrupted domestic markets. In practice merely the European and North American nations profited from the rules, because in most cases the cheap exports from developing countries were considered to be disruptive for the matured textile industry in the developed world. However, thanks to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which aim for nondis-crimination between all trading partners, and following a ten-year transition period (19952004), the global textile industry is liberalizing more and more. The protectionist strategies of older, established textile nations and the lack of attention of transnational firms for good labor and environmental circumstances at offshore locations are often criticized. Further liberalization should contribute to an improvement of these conditions in the textile industry across the globe.

SEE ALSO Industrialization; World Trade Organization


Abernathy, William, John Dunlop, John Hammond, and David Weil. 1999. A Stitch in Time: Lean Retailing and the Transformation of Manufacturing: Lessons from the Apparel and Textile Industries. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dicken, Peter. 2003. Global Shift: Reshaping the Global Economic Map in the Twenty-first Century. 4th ed. London: Sage.

World Trade Organization. 2005. International Trade Statistics 2004. Geneva, Switzerland: World Trade Organization.

Gert-Jan Hospers

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Textile Industry


Although comprised of highly skilled craftsmanship the textile industry was essentially a cottage industry until the Industrial Revolution. The American textile industry was a direct product of the British factory system when Samuel Slater introduced the first cotton-spinning mill in 1790 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. This change marked the beginning of New England's transformation from an agricultural region to a manufacturing one producing the modern forms of ownership, management, and big business. The factory system's emphasis on the individual worker was a major shift in the early U.S. labor system and it came to characterize U.S. industrial and social development.

In the 1790s Samuel Slater and his partner Moses Brown founded the firm of Almy, Brown, and Slater. Slater constructed machines based on the Arkwright model, a water-powered mill invented in the 1700s by Richard Arkwright. The business flourished and additional mills were constructed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Slater altered the British system so that his firm would function effectively within the social and moral structure of the time. He focused on partnership and single proprietorship, on personal management, small-scale production, the use of water power, and the employment of family labor. From this system emerged a division of labor based on gender and age. Men were typically employed in supervisory capacities, as farm hands and laborers or as skilled artisans. Children and adolescents also worked in the mills while adult women remained at home. The children, often as young as seven or eight, would earn as little as 25 cents per week, and all wages would go directly to the head of the household. Hundreds of manufacturers throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic states followed Slater's example and his mode of operation.

The Slater system was not the only factory form which developed during the early nineteenth century. In 1813 Francis Cabot Lowell introduced the use of power looms at his Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts. These operations combined the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth. Lowell employed women and girls who often lived in boarding houses built by the company. Historians have often labeled the Lowell style as the first form of big business in America. This was due to the large-scale, incorporated nature of these ventures, which were also characterized by professional management. The company operated from Waltham, Massachusetts, until 1823 when it relocated operations to Lowell, Massachusetts. The Lowell companies benefited from the tariff of 1816, which imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported cotton and woolen goods. This made them a financial success with profits reaching 20 to 24 percent annually.

A downturn occurred in the textile industry beginning in 1829 resulting in wage cuts. A labor strike ensued in 1834, which was one of the first forms of collective action taken by industrial workers. In response mill owners resorted to immigrant labor, hiring French, Canadian, Italian, and Irish workers to replace the native-born labor force. Strikes and riots in the 1840s reflected disputes between labor and management over the use of immigrant workers. Given these conditions in conjunction with the depression of 1836 through 1844, the textile industry struggled and labor won few victories during these years.

For much of the nineteenth century the Northeast remained the center of the textile production; cotton, woolen, linen, and thread output in this area was rising. In the 1880s, however, a major shift in location began to occur. Cotton mills became the symbol of the New South and mill towns sprang up in the Piedmont region from Virginia to Georgia and into Alabama. Small textile mills focused on small-scale production and paternalistic practices by the owners. Mill agents and superintendents controlled these southern mill towns, with the company providing jobs, houses, food, clothing, and goods. The work force was drawn from the countryside and conditions were harsh. Attempts were made in the 1880s and 1890s to organize southern mill workers, but strikes were ineffective due to the generally poor conditions of the national economy.

In the early twentieth century conditions in the textile industry continued to be precarious, particularly in the North. The Industrial Workers of the World organized major strikes in 1912 and 1913 in Patterson, New Jersey, and Lawrence, Massachusetts. However, labor remained unable to make a major impact on management's long range operations. If labor grew too powerful in one area the firms simply moved to another location where cheaper labor could be hired. The introduction of synthetic fibers such as nylon and rayon also affected the industry. This greatly impacted the design of fashions and ultimately subjected textile producers to the whims of fashion designers and consumers. In addition, there was increasing international competition to be acknowledgedparticularly from Japan. This led to many manufacturers shutting down production or moving south. By the 1920s New England textile towns had fallen into a depression.

While the textile industry struggled through this crisis the Great Depression (192939) effectively removed the industry from a central place in U.S. manufacturing. However, while many of the dominant textile companies of the early twentieth century went bankrupt, some thrived after World War I (191418). The most important of these, Burlington Mills, prospered remarkably during and after the Great Depression. Spencer Love founded the company in 1923 when it employed two hundred workers. In 1933 there were 6,900 employees and by 1962, at the time of Love's death, the company employed over sixty thousand people. These figures present a stark contrast to the fate of numerous other textile companies; the survival and growth of Burlington Mills can be attributed almost entirely to the management expertise of Spencer Love. The success of this company relied not only on the recurring theme of relocation of factories to areas of cheaper labor, but also on Love's understanding of the basic restructuring of the textile industry during his lifetime. When artificial and synthetic yarns started to displace the natural fibers of cotton, wool, and silk, Love protected his company by extensive diversification and the creation of a multidivisional infrastructure that linked manufacturing with sales. He also promoted greater control over his goods by integrating external services into his company. The most significant factor affecting the success of Burlington Mills was Love's aggressive management style, which was not bound to any particular tradition or plan. He kept the company profitable by experimenting with new products, new machinery, and progressive marketing strategies.

While other sectors of the manufacturing environment such as the steel, chemical, and automotive industries experienced significant expansion, the textile industry did not. The "managerial revolution" that occurred within high throughput companies such as DuPont or General Motors simply never happened in the textile industry. Spencer Love was an anomaly, attempting to transform the traditional textile industry via integration, diversification, and multidivisional structure. Unfortunately, many of the difficulties that had plagued this industry since its beginning were still in evidence in the late 1990s.


Blicksilver, Jack. "Cotton Manufacturing in the Southeast: An Historical Analysis." Harvard Business Review, 1959.

Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. "The Structure of American Industry in the Twentieth Century: A Historical Overview," Business History Review, Autumn 1969.

Forner, Eric and John A. Garraty, eds. The Reader's Companion to American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, s.v. "Textile Industry."

"Strategy and Structure in the Textile Industry: Spencer Love and Burlington Mills," [cited April 16, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @

U.S. Industry Profiles. Detroit: The Gale Group, 1994, s.v. "Cotton Broadwoven Fabric Mills."

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