The 50,000 objects in the textile collections fall into two main categories: raw fibers, yarns, and fabrics, and machines, tools, and other textile technology. Shawls, coverlets, samplers, laces, linens, synthetics, and other fabrics are part of the first group, along with the 400 quilts in the National Quilt Collection. Some of the Museum's most popular artifacts, such as the Star-Spangled Banner and the gowns of the first ladies, have an obvious textile connection.
The machinery and tools include spinning wheels, sewing machines, thimbles, needlework tools, looms, and an invention that changed the course of American agriculture and society. A model of Eli Whitney's cotton gin, made by the inventor in the early 1800s, shows the workings of a machine that helped make cotton plantations profitable in the South and encouraged the spread of slavery.
"Textiles - Overview" showing 1 items.
- Fancy Power Loom Patent Model
- Patent No. 491, issued November 25, 1837
- William Crompton of Taunton, Massachusetts
- Before William Crompton’s 1837 patent for a fancy power loom was adopted, the harnesses of power looms were controlled by cams. This arrangement limited the number of harnesses that could be utilized, which in turn limited the complexity of patterns that could be woven. To vary a pattern, the cams had to be laboriously changed. Crompton’s invention solved both of these problems. In his patent, an endless pattern chain was used, upon which rollers or pins could be variously placed to engage the harness levers (as had the cams) but which allowed any number of harnesses to be used and easily permitted the changing of patterns. More elaborate designs now could be easily woven on power looms.
- Crompton was born in the textile mill town of Preston, England, in 1806. He was taught how to weave on a cotton hand loom and learned the trade of a machinist. Crompton came to Taunton, Massachusetts, at the age of 30, and was employed by Crocker and Richmond. At this textile mill he designed a loom to weave a new, more complex patterned fabric. The mill failed in 1837 and Crompton went back to England. He entered into cotton manufacture with John Rostran, and took out a British patent for his loom under Rostran’s name.
- Crompton emigrated with his family in 1839 back to the United States to promote his looms. The Middlesex Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, invited him to alter his fancy cotton loom for the weaving of woolen fabrics, which he accomplished in 1840. It was considered an important landmark for the woolen industry. In his book, American Textile Machinery, John Hayes quotes the Committee on Patents of the United States House of Representatives, 1878: “ . . . upon the Crompton loom or looms based on it, are woven every yard of fancy cloth in the world.”
- In 1849, William’s health declined and his son, George, carried on the business. Like his father, George was an inventor and patented many improvements for the loom. After 1859, the Crompton Loom Work became one of the largest fancy loom manufacturers in the United States.
- Currently not on view
- model constructed
- before 1837-11-25
- patent date
- Crompton, William
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- patent number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center