New Machines and the Factory System

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New Machines and the Factory System

It seems like an idealistic scene: In a quaint English cottage, a mother sits spinning cotton or wool, twisting the short fibers into yarn. Perhaps the older children are sitting at smaller spinning wheels. Upstairs, the father sits at his loom, weaving the yarn spun by his family downstairs into cloth. Not far away, a farmer tends a flock of sheep that provided the raw wool to the family, whose name might well be Weaver. An unmarried older daughter still working at home spinning yarn is literally a spinster.

This picture of cottage industry stood on the brink of extinction in 1760. Within a generation, most of the spinning and weaving in England had moved out of homes and into factories. Men and women, even children, still participated, but as employees, not as semi-independent skilled workers. A set of machines that could imitate the work of spinners and weavers had almost completely taken over the textile industry in England. These machines would soon stand as models for other industries in which machines could do the work of individual craftspeople.

These machines brought enormous change to the way people lived and worked. A large and growing population of people began living in large towns or cities, employed in new factories and facing little or no prospect of improving or controlling their lives. At the same time, factory owners were making huge fortunes independent of the land. They soon insisted that their new economic power be reflected in their political influence. Both the powerful factory owners and the powerless factory workers created by the Industrial Revolution threatened the established political order based on ancient patterns of land ownership.

Soon the new textile machines were installed in the United States, where a textile industry developed in New England. In the American South, large plantations started growing more cotton to be processed into cloth, thanks to the invention of the cotton gin, which made it fast and easy to get rid of the seeds in raw cotton that had previously made cotton difficult to turn into yarn. The new textile machines had an unexpected consequence: they breathed new life into slavery, since cotton growers were convinced that slave labor was essential to operating a large plantation.

New Machines and the Factory System: Words to Know

Cottage industry:

A system in which skilled craftspeople manufacture goods, such as cloth, from their homes rather than in factories. This scenario was typical of the period before the Industrial Revolution

Cotton gin:

A machine used to comb the seeds from cotton balls.


The process of introducing machines to supplement or replace human labor.


A machine, sometimes called a frame, used to weave fabric.


Twisting the short fibers of wool or cotton into a continuous yarn.

Textile industry:

The manufacture of cloth, typically for clothing but also for other purposes, such as bedsheets and sails.


Making yarn into cloth by crisscrossing threads of yarn on a loom.

The introduction of new machines, housed in factories, resulted in major changes not only to English society, but also in other countries. Two hundred years later, as the textile industry opened factories in Asia and boosted many national economies there, the same social issues associated with industrialization—exploitation of children and low wages paid to workers—surfaced again.

Textiles: The second "engine" of the Industrial Revolution

The steam engine was one driving force behind the Industrial Revolution (see Chapter 2); the textile industry was the other. Starting in 1738, a series of inventions introduced major changes in the way fibers were spun into yarn and yarn was woven into cloth. The machines not only changed the mechanics of making cloth; they also changed the relationship between the people who did the spinning and weaving and the merchants who supplied the natural fibers and bought the cloth. What had been home-based, family-based businesses gave way to factory-based businesses on a much larger scale.

Over time, this combination of labor-saving inventions and changing business relations brought about changes in society that spread to other industries and changed the face of politics.

Changes affecting the textile industry

Making cloth traditionally comprised three steps: Raising sheep or plants (cotton or flax) to produce the raw materials used in fabric; twisting the fibers into yarn, a process called spinning; and weaving or knitting yarn into cloth. In the 1700s, changes in England affected all three steps.

The enclosure movement (see Chapter 1) allowed wealthy individuals to take title to many small plots of land and to turn them into large estates suitable for grazing large herds of sheep. This movement resulted in an increased supply of wool. At the same time, in English colonies in North America and India, large plantations were established in climates ideal for growing cotton, the chief alternative to wool. Traditionally, merchants had bought raw wool or cotton from farmers and delivered these materials to skilled workers who made a living by spinning the fibers into yarn and weaving the yarn into fabric. Spinning and weaving often took place within a single family. The mother and children were engaged in spinning the yarn, while the father operated a loom to weave the spun yarn into cloth. It usually took several family members spinning yarn to keep pace with the weaving. (A skilled weaver could use as much yarn as four or more spinners could produce.) This system of manufacturing cloth at home was called a cottage industry, for the obvious reason that it took place in cottages, or houses.

The system had certain advantages for the families engaged in making fabric. When they felt like stopping work for the day, there was nothing to prevent them. They worked at a pace that suited their need for money, rest, food, or sleep. They set their own hours and pace of work. They could make their own decisions, within limits, about what kind of cloth to weave and how much to weave. They could take their time and produce high-quality work, or they could work faster to earn more money, even if it meant producing lower-quality fabric. And although they were paid money, weaving families could also measure their output in yards of cloth produced in a month or a year.

Textile merchants were not always happy with inconsistent quality and schedules as their customers were counting on receiving material in order to make clothing, sails for ships, bed sheets, tents, and other items.

The disparity between how much yarn a spinner could produce and how much a weaver used to make cloth created an opportunity for innovation. In the case of cotton, it took four or more people spinning yarn to keep up with one weaver operating a loom; in the case of wool, it took up to ten spinners to keep up. It was clear that a machine that promised to speed the process of spinning would help increase weavers' output.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, there was a market for more cloth. England's population was growing rapidly—from six million people in 1750 to about nine million in 1800—which meant a strong demand for cloth used in clothing of all sorts, sheets, towels, and curtains.

Just in time to serve the rapidly growing population, a series of inventions revolutionized both spinning and weaving. The new equipment required less time to spin yarn and weave fabric; therefore one person operating one of the new machines could produce several times as much yarn or fabric than previously possible.

Making cloth

To understand how the new inventions changed the industry, it is useful to understand the basic process by which yarn and fabric are created.

First, the curly fibers of sheep's wool or cotton are combed into short, straight strands (a process called carding). Next, these strands are twisted tightly with overlapping ends to create long strands of yarn—the process called spinning. For generations, spinning had been done by a hand-operated spinning wheel. The operator sat on a bench or chair and pushed a large wheel (around three feet, or one meter, in diameter) that turned gears connected to a spindle that was turning (or spinning) quite rapidly. With one hand, the operator (spinster) kept the large wheel turning, in order to keep the spindle going quickly. With the other hand, the operator fed strands of wool or cotton fiber onto the spindle, which twisted the fibers tightly and produced yarn. The basic spinning wheel was evidently developed in India as early as 700 b.c.e. In the 1400s, a modification was introduced that fed the newly spun yarn through a hole onto another turning piece, a bobbin, where the yarn was wrapped.

To make yarn strong and uniform in thickness, spinners had to be careful to feed just the right amount of cotton or wool fiber; mistakes made yarn pull apart, or become too thick, in which case the process had to be reversed and done again. Most spinning was done by women, and the sight of a woman sitting at a spinning wheel was a familiar one in the early 1700s. By 1800, new machines had been developed (see below) that almost entirely eliminated the traditional spinning wheel.

The next stage in making cloth was weaving the yarn into cloth. This process, usually done by men, used a loom, which looked a bit like the edges of a box without sides (which is the reason looms were sometimes called frames). Parallel strands of strong yarn were stretched vertically between two bars on either end; this yarn was called the warp. Sitting in front of the warp, the weaver used foot pedals to lift every other string of the warp, creating a space between the alternate yarns called the shed. The weaver, sometimes with an assistant, passed a shuttle, a tapered piece of wood on which yarn had been wound, through the shed from one side to the other, creating the web of over-and-under yarn that constitutes woven material. The horizontal yarn is called the weft; the weft could use weaker yarns, since the warp yarns hold the fabric together. After one strand of the weft was added, the weaver used the pedals to operate a sort of comb that pushed the horizontal weft yarns tightly together. The pedals also shifted the warp so that every other yarn changed places, after which the shuttle was passed back to the other side. Sometimes weavers lifted only selected yarns of the warp, resulting in patterns woven into the cloth.

This back and forth movement, under alternating parallel yarns, was repeated dozens of times for every inch of fabric woven. The width of hand-operated looms (and consequently the width of cloth produced) was dictated by how far the weaver's arms could stretch out (about six feet, or two meters, for most adults) to catch the shuttle on one side and throw it back to the other.

Technical innovation: Faster, more consistent spinning

Using traditional methods, weavers normally used as much yarn as three or four spinners could produce. Spinning was often slowed when too many fibers were fed into the spindle, making the yarn too thick and leaving a spot where the fibers were not twisted tightly enough to resist being pulled apart. Finding a faster, more efficient way of spinning yarn was seen in the early 1700s as a worthwhile subject for innovation, and it was here that the process of mechanization of the textile industry began.

The first of these innovations was the roller-spinning machine, patented in 1738 by two Englishmen, Lewis Paul and John Wyatt. (A patent is a permit given to an inventor allowing him exclusive rights to make, use, or sell his invention.) Using this machine, the spinster fed fibers into two sets of rollers, which in turn fed them into the spindle. Instead of a woman rotating a large wheel to keep the spindles spinning, as well as making the rollers turn, the roller spinning machine used donkeys for the purpose. The invention was not a commercial success, however, largely because it was prone to breaking down. But it was the forerunner of another machine that did change the face of textiles.

In 1764, an English carpenter and weaver named James Hargreaves (c. 1720–1778) invented a new version of the traditional spinning machine, which he called the spinning
jenny. According to folklore, Hargreaves had a daughter named Jenny (some versions of the story say it was his wife who was named Jenny) who tipped over a spinning wheel one day, at which point Hargreaves noticed that the machine kept turning. This realization sparked the idea of attaching multiple spindles to one large wheel, producing several strands of yarn at once. Hargreaves started working on his idea in 1754, and it took fourteen years to produce the first version of a spinning jenny, which had eight spindles. To feed the cotton fibers, Hargreaves developed a moving bar, operated by a foot pedal, to draw out the cotton fiber and feed it onto the spindles. Soon, versions of the spinning jenny supported up to 120 spindles. Hargreaves sold a few models of his invention to earn money, and soon copies had been made. Some spinsters realized that the greater productivity of the jenny could cost them their jobs (since one operator could now produce as much yarn as eight or more workers using traditional spinning wheels). They broke into Hargreaves's home and wrecked some machines. Eventually, though, about twenty thousand spinning jennies were made (many of them copies of Hargreaves's original, for which Hargreaves received no money). The spinning jenny set the stage for further innovation.

Yarn from a spinning jenny, like yarn spun with traditional spinning wheels, had a drawback: it was not strong. Both the spinning wheel and the spinning jenny failed to feed fibers into the spindles consistently. Sometimes larger bunches would go through, resulting in yarn that was not of uniform thickness and spots where the fibers were not twisted tightly enough to resist being pulled apart. Consequently, yarn from a spinning jenny or traditional spinning wheel was only used for the horizontal yarns (the weft), while the warp needed stronger, more expensive yarn spun from flax to hold the fabric together. Five years after Hargreaves introduced his spinning jenny, English inventor Richard Arkwright (1732–1792) patented another spinning machine that addressed the problem of inconsistent thickness and strength.

Arkwright, together with a clockmaker named John Kay, developed a machine that could separate the fibers of cotton or wool and feed them into the spindles more consistently. Arkwright's machine, called the water frame (because it used a waterwheel pushed by water in a river or stream to keep the spindles spinning), passed combed cotton or wool fibers through four pairs of rollers, each pair moving faster than the last. The last rollers had grooves that enabled fibers to be fed uniformly into the spindles. By twisting fibers more consistently, the water frame resulted in yarn that was both smoother and stronger. Yarn made on Arkwright's machine could be used for both the warp and the weft, resulting in the first all-cotton fabric. Initially, Arkwright used horses to turn the rollers and spindles, but he soon adapted the machine to use a waterwheel pushed by a flowing stream or river. Eventually a steam engine supplied the power.

Arkwright was granted a patent for his new machine in 1771. He proved to be a canny businessman, and he eventually earned a fortune producing cotton yarn.

The last step in automating production of yarn was introduced by Samuel Crompton (1753–1827) in 1779. It was called the "spinning mule" since it was a combination of the spinning jenny and the water frame.

The spinning mule used rollers, like Arkwright's, to draw apart slender slivers of cotton, called rovings. In Crompton's machine, four sets of rollers were used in this process. The rovings were then mounted on a moving carriage, borrowed from the spinning jenny, so that the spindles could twist the yarn without pulling too hard on the rovings, thereby avoiding the earlier problem of yarn being pulled apart as it was spun. In Crompton's model, like the spinning jenny, multiple spindles (about 50) were attached to the moving carriage; later, the number of spindles was raised to 150. Later improvements resulted in very large spinning machines, with up to 1,400 spindles among its thirty thousand parts. Such machines were powered by a steam engine.

After 1830, only a few minor changes were made to the spinning mule, and it was the standard machine used to make yarn for more than a century. Not until the mid-1900s was a replacement, called the winder and ring spinner, developed. The last spinning mule was taken out of operation in 1974.

In the production of cotton yarn, there was one more major invention that had an impact: the cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney (1765–1825), an American. The cotton gin was designed to comb out seeds from the puffs of cotton, called bolls, that were plucked from the plant. The seeds had to be removed before cotton bolls could be carded and used to spin yarn. Removing them required picking them out by hand, one by one, a slow and laborious process that added to the cost of cotton.

In 1792, after graduating from Yale University, Whitney was visiting the Georgia plantation of Mrs. Nathanael Greene, the wife of a Revolutionary War general, where he heard many complaints from neighboring farmers about the time-consuming, labor-intensive job of removing the seeds. Although cotton was a profitable crop, and the land and the climate were ideally suited to growing it, it did not pay to plant very much of it since there was neither enough time nor enough people to remove the seeds from the bolls.

Hearing this, Whitney went about finding a solution. He had grown up on a farm in Connecticut, and he was used to handling machines and working with wood. Whitney soon created a workable cotton gin (short for cotton engine). It looked like a rectangular box with a crank handle on the side and rollers lined with teeth inside. As the crank turned the rollers, the cotton fibers were pulled through, but the seeds, too thick to pass between the teeth, were removed. The machine was easy to operate and could remove seeds much faster than a person could by picking out the seeds by hand.

Whitney's invention was an almost instant success. But Whitney did not profit from his invention as he imagined. At first, he offered to process cotton bolls in exchange for part of the price that farmers got for their crop; Whitney asked for forty percent, which was considered too much by most farmers (even though the cotton gin could produce seed-free cotton at far more than twice the speed of humans, resulting in much lower labor costs). Instead, cotton planters made their own copies of the cotton gin without paying Whitney. Although Whitney had a patent on the cotton gin and tried hard to prevent such copying, the cost of enforcing the patent was too great, and Whitney returned to Connecticut without the fortune he had hoped to earn from the cotton gin.

Speeding up the removal of seeds, the cotton gin eliminated a major disadvantage of cotton as an alternative to wool. Thanks to the cotton gin and the spinning mule, cotton cloth became highly popular. Southern farmers began growing more cotton than ever on huge farms called plantations, worked by slaves from Africa, to meet the growing demand.


Advances in manufacturing yarn were accompanied by developments in weaving. Indeed, advances in spinning and weaving tended to leap-frog one another: weaving drove the need for more efficient spinning, and as spinning became faster and more productive, improvements in looms were needed to keep pace with the production of yarn.

The first and most dramatic advance in looms was the "flying shuttle," a loom invented in 1733 by Englishman John Kay (1704–1764). Instead of being pushed through the shed, Kay's invention put the shuttle on a wheel that ran along a ledge, called the slay. The weaver pulled a cord to pull the flying shuttle from one side to the other. This process moved the shuttle back and forth quicker than the traditional method and also enabled weavers to make "broadcloth," fabric wider than one person's reach.

A loom equipped with a flying shuttle could weave cloth about twice as fast, with less effort, than the traditional method. It made a single weaver much more productive than with hand looms, a fact that was not lost on traditional weavers. John Kay and his flying shuttle were the target of violence that forced Kay to move to France in 1747, where he died in poverty.

In about 1789 another English inventor, Edmond Cartwright (1743–1823), developed a loom that used a water-wheel for power. Cartwright's power loom substituted water power for the human energy it took to beat the warp, the action of pushing the horizontal yarn tightly against the previous one and shifting the warp yarns to their opposite position. The steady, strong movement of the power loom worked faster than an individual human being and did not require rest. In 1790 a factory was built that used a steam engine instead of a waterwheel to provide the power to Cartwright's power loom. (A steam engine is a device that uses the expansive quality of steam to pump a piston [a solid tube] inside a cylinder [a pipe-like structure] as a means of moving objects; see Chapter 2.)

The result was another jump in productivity, but it came at a price: the power loom needed a waterwheel or steam engine to operate. The machines were too large and too complex to be operated by a single person (the steam engine alone needed someone to tend to it) and too expensive for an individual weaver to buy and install at home. The original factory housing a power loom burned down before it could enter production, but the stage was set for changing the way cloth was made: within ten years, a single factory had been built that contained two hundred power looms.

New ways of working: The factory system

The owners of the new machines installed them in large buildings called manufactories (later shortened to factories). Some of the machines needed to be located near a stream or river to provide the energy to push a waterwheel; others were too large to fit in the cramped house of an individual spinner or weaver. Machines driven by waterwheels or by steam engines did not need to stop and rest, as human-powered machines did.

The rise of the factory system, in which workers were paid on how much time they spent in the factory instead of on the value of the finished products they created, led to a profound change in society, and in the relationship between the individual and his or her work. Work came to represent time spent in a factory, instead of producing fine yarn or fabric, for example. If a single worker could produce much more yarn or cloth in a day using a new machine, the benefit went to the machine's owner; the individual running the machine was paid the same wage regardless of output. And since the new machines often required less skill than hand-operated equipment, owners were able to employ people recently displaced from tiny farms by the enclosure movement that consolidated many smaller farms into larger ones (see Chapter 1).

The owners, having paid for the new, complex machines and the factory, plus the raw material (wool or cotton) and the time of the workers, then collected the difference between the value of the finished product and the cost of the raw materials and labor.

From the viewpoint of Britain's economy as a whole, the new factories led to a dramatic increase in productivity and national wealth. The British economy came to be based on importing raw materials from its overseas colonies and exporting the goods it manufactured from them.

One of England's first large factories, housing a large water frame to spin yarn, was built by Richard Arkwright in Nottingham in 1771. Within twelve years, Arkwright employed five thousand workers. By 1800, new factories were springing up all around northern England, where the city of Manchester became the center of England's new industrial economy. According to an 1823 history of the industry by Richard Guest (Compendious History of the Cotton Manufacture, Manchester), by 1818 there were fourteen factories housing about 2,000 looms in the cities of Manchester, Stockport, Middleton, Hyde, Stayley Bridge, and surrounding areas. In just three years, the number of factories had risen to thirty-two, with 5,732 looms. By 1823 there were 10,000 power looms in England.

Guest's book also describes the increase in productivity resulting from the new system—and the potential reduction in the number of people needed to produce a given amount of cloth:

A very good Hand Weaver, a man twenty-five or thirty years of age, will weave two pieces of nine-eighths shirting [fabric suitable for making a shirt] per week, each twenty four yards long.… A Steam Loom Weaver, fifteen years of age, will in the same time weave seven similar pieces. A Steam Loom factory containing two hundred Looms, with the assistance of one hundred persons under twenty years of age, and of twenty-five men will weave seven hundred pieces per week.… To manufacture one hundred similar pieces per week by the hand, it would be necessary to employ at least one hundred and twenty-five Looms, because many of the Weavers are females, and have cooking, washing, cleaning and various other duties to perform; others of them are children and, consequently, unable to weave as much as the men. It requires a man of mature age and a very good Weaver to weave two of the pieces in a week, and there is also an allowance to be made for sickness and other incidents. Thus, eight hundred and seventy-five hand Looms would be required to produce the seven hundred pieces per week; and reckoning the weavers, with their children, and the aged and infirm belonging to them at two and a half to each loom, it may very safely be said, that the work done in a Steam Factory containing two hundred Looms, would, if done by hand Weavers, find employment and support for a population of more than two thousand persons.

In summary, a factory employing 125 people (25 men and 100 children) could do the work of 2,000 people under the old system. It is little wonder that weavers saw the new machines as a threat to their jobs. The stage had been set for social change, and there arose numerous protests against the new machines by workers who had been displaced by them.

The changing relationship between workers and their work

In some ways, machines in a factory might seem to be simply a larger version of a weaver's family operation working from a home. But the greater size and the new technology resulted in a much different relationship between the worker and his or her work.

The factory system involved two major changes. The first and more obvious was that people now worked in a different place than their homes. They went to a large building where the new machines were located. Being employed meant agreeing to spend a fixed amount of time on the job, most often twelve hours a day, six days a week (seventy-two hours a week), or more. A worker who could not, or would not, work received no wages. Whole families might lose their housing (occasionally provided by a factory for people who recently moved into town from the countryside) if the father lost his job. The new system meant that workers lost any sense of independence; they lost the ability to regulate their hours of work, or the quality of work. Just as in the traditional cottage industry, women and children were employed in textile factories, but the parents no longer had the ability to control the time their children spent working.

A second change brought about by the factory system was intense specialization. Instead of a family taking raw wool or cotton and turning it into cloth—and thus being involved in the entire production process—in the factory system, the process was broken down into small parts. A worker might be responsible for replacing the supply of yarn on the looms. Another might be responsible for folding the new material as it came off the loom. No worker participated in the entire process.

Workers became like parts of the machinery they attended. Whatever variety in day-to-day tasks that might have marked the previous system was now eliminated. Each day became a long, uninterrupted repetition of the same small task. The need for skills, much less creativity, was minimized. Some workers went from being highly skilled craftspeople to becoming interchangeable parts of a master machine called the factory. And if a worker failed to behave like part of the machine, the flow of work could be interrupted, at great cost to the factory owner and to the worker.

Just as machine parts were replaced if they wore out or failed, so too were the human parts. Machines, whether driven by a steam-powered engine or flowing water, did not get tired or need to rest, eat lunch, or take a break. In the new factories, the pace of work was set by the machine, with little regard for workers' abilities. To maximize profits, factory owners insisted that the machines be kept working at a steady pace, hour after hour.

Setting the stage for social change

Early factory owners were so focused on making money that they did not give too much consideration to the health and well-being of their workers. Employees were expected to work at least twelve hours a day and to keep pace with the machinery. Factory owners took advantage of the fact that operating the new machines required less skill than was needed to be a master weaver, for example. This meant that the supply of potential workers to operate the machines was larger: factory owners could draw on the thousands of people newly driven off the land by the enclosure movement (see Chapter 1), who were desperate for money to live on.

Workers were not viewed as assets but as an expense to be kept low. Factories paid low wages. Sometimes they employed children, who were expected to work for less money than adults. An additional advantage of employing children was that their small fingers enabled them to work more nimbly on some machines than adults could.

Child labor became a regular feature of the new textile factories that sprang up. This development did not seem particularly revolutionary, as children had done chores on the farms where their families used to live. There was no obvious reason they could not work in a factory. Before the late nineteenth century, children typically did not receive a formal education. Factory workers did not need to read and write, and children could be put to work earning money for their family and for the factory owner. Many factories in the early Industrial Revolution employed children as young as six or eight years old.

The very fact that machines were housed in factories contributed to major social problems over time. Some factory owners paid wages that barely covered the cost of food and shelter. Factory owners who provided nearby housing for workers often charged rent that was high relative to the wage. In an era when towns were new (sometimes centered around a newly built factory near a stream or river), there were no modern grocery stores. Instead, factory owners opened shops to sell food, and although items in such shops were often overpriced, workers had no alternatives.

The end result of the Industrial Revolution was to convert many highly skilled craftspeople into parts of a master machine called the factory. The factory was a single machine-like system that combined parts made of metal with parts made of flesh and bone. The two worked together in a constant, coordinated, uniform way, day after day, year after year. When a part wore out, whether it was machine or human, it was replaced. Strict rules governed exactly when workers could eat, take a break, or go home.

In these ways, the Industrial Revolution was more than just the introduction of engines and machines to processes like spinning and weaving that had taken place for countless centuries. In ways that were subtle and not so subtle, attitudes began to change. As people working in factories took on aspects of machines, those who employed them began to view their workers as disposable parts, or an economic nuisance. If a superior invention could replace workers and increase output, it was adopted. The fate of the displaced workers was not viewed as the responsibility of the factory owner, any more than the fate of hand-weavers had been the responsibility of the very first factory owners.

Workers no longer lived in villages where they were well-known members of a community, and where their families had lived for generations. Crowded into cities or factory towns sooty from the smoke of coal fires powering steam engines, having little time for anything beyond work, they took on aspects of anonymous parts. In some cases, the workers' views of themselves changed as well. Life was reduced to drudgery, hard work without cessation. Pride in workmanship was replaced by exhaustion at the end of a long day of repetitive tasks.

The end result was that by the end of the first stage of the Industrial Revolution, machines were using the workers, rather than the other way around. In 1854 the American writer Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) declared in Walden, Or Life in the Woods: "Men have become the tools of their tools."

The stage was set for new forms of social and political relationships, and for violent conflict.

For More Information


Bland, Celia. The Mechanical Age: The Industrial Revolution in England. New York: Facts on File, 1995.

Bruno, Leonard C. The Tradition of Technology: Landmarks of Western Technology in the Collections of the Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1995.

Cardwell, Donald. The Norton History of Technology. New York: Norton, 1994.

Guest, Richard. A Compendious History of the Cotton Manufacture. First published 1823. Reprint: London: Cass, 1968. Excerpts found on the Web in the Modern History Sourcebook, Paul Halsall, ed. (accessed on February 12, 2003).

Jennings, Humphrey. Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers,1660–1886. Edited by Mary-Lou Jennings and Charles Madge. New York: Free Press, 1985.

Steele, Philip. Clothes and Crafts in Victorian Times. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1998.


Berg, Maxine. "Small Producer Capitalism in Eighteenth-Century England." Business History, January 1993, p. 17.

Fisk, Karen. "Arkwright: Cotton King or Spin Doctor?" History Today, March 1998, p. 25.

Griffiths, Trevor, Philip A. Hunt, and Patrick K. O'Brien. "Inventive Activity in the British Textile Industry, 1700–1800." Journal of Economic History, December 1992, p. 881.

Reid, Douglas A. "Weddings, Weekdays, Work and Leisure in Urban England, 1791–1911: The Decline of Saint Monday Revisited." Past and Present, November 1996, p. 135.

Sullivan, Richard J. "England's 'Age of Invention': The Acceleration of Patents and Patentable Invention during the Industrial Revolution." Explorations in Economic History, October 1989, p. 424.

Web Sites

Mokyr, Joel. "The Rise and Fall of the Factory System: Technology, Firms, and Households since the Industrial Revolution." Northwestern University Department of Economics. (accessed on February 10, 2003).

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New Machines and the Factory System

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New Machines and the Factory System