Although modern Bangladesh is, along with China, a major participant in the global textile industry, the textile industry itself originated in the West. Many economists see the textile sourcing sector as a stepping stone for their countries’ eventual industrialization and economic prosperity. The early steps of industrialization in the world’s most industrialized nations often included wholesale fabric, weaving and spinning industries. The United States and Great Britain tell the same tale. This piece examines the history of the American textile industry, beginning with its migration from England and ending with its decline as the economy improved.
First textile mill of America
After seeing the success of England’s textile industry in the late 1700s. Many Americans hoped to see a similar boom in their own country. However, it was against the law to export loom patterns from England. By moving to the United States and taking his expertise of power looms with him in 1789, Samuel Slater was able to avoid being prosecuted under this legislation. Slater’s insight was instrumental in Moses Brown constructing the country’s first water-powered spinning textile mill in 1790. The growth of the cotton textile industry in America may be traced back to 1793, when Eli Whitney developed the cotton gin to speed up the process of separating cotton seed from cotton fibre.
Francis Cabot Lowell, an American trader, was instrumental in establishing the country’s first textile mill within a short time frame. He was inspired by the success of British textile mills, and in 1813 he and many others founded the Boston Manufacturing Company.
In Waltham, Massachusetts, adjacent to the Charles River, the business built a mill and instituted the Lowell system, which combined the processing of raw cotton into fabric into a single facility. Lowell was also famous for hiring young women seeking their own financial independence to work in his mills, where they became known as the Lowell Girls. Many people also consider the installation of the Lowell mill as the commencement of the Industrial Revolution in America.
Lowell died of sickness in 1817, and his company’s shareholders utilised the profits they earned to expand the mill town the next year, 1822. They called the Massachusetts town Lowell in honour of Francis Cabot Lowell. Thanks to Lowell, the bulk of firms by 1832 were tied to the textile sector.
A tale of King cotton
In the South, cotton was crowned “King Cotton,”. And in the 1800s, the South was the primary source of cotton supply for the United States. During 1860, raw cotton accounted for nearly 60% of American exports. In the 1850s, the Boston Manufacturing Company was responsible for 20% of the world’s cotton output. It’s estimated that by 1870, the United States had 2,400 woollen mills and hundreds of cotton mills.
The textile business was often prompted by the need to produce for the military. When the Civil War broke out, the textile industry in North Carolina shifted its focus. This was typical of the rest of the country and shift from yarn spinning to producing supplies for the military. It’s intriguing to consider cotton as a negotiating tool during the Civil War. The South hoped that if they could prove their legitimacy by controlling the cotton trade, the European powers would finally acknowledge them. The textile industry was vital to the British economy. And British relied heavily on American cotton, especially in the regions surrounding Liverpool.
The North understood that cotton exports were crucial to the South’s ability to fund the war. To solve this issue, it seemed logical to shut off access to Confederate ports. The Confederacy, however, made a fatal error in its calculations, and the British were unwilling to take a side in the conflict despite a severe cotton shortage and the resulting temporary collapse of their textile sector.
Blankets and military outfits manufactured in the United States were in high demand during World War One. As a result of the need for textiles during World War I, North Carolina’s textile sector saw significant growth. Further, by 1923 it had overtaken Massachusetts as the most valuable textile-producing state in the United States.
Origin of north carolina textile industry
As they had since the early 1800s, textiles remained a vital component of the American industrial system after World War I. With a high of 1.3 million workers in June 1948, the textile sector was a major economic driver in the South. In 1940, the textile and clothing manufacturing industry employed 40 percent of North Carolina’s workforce. In the 1960s, domestic textile production in the United States reached a staggering 95%.
The decline of the American textile sector, however, did not start until the late 1990s. North Carolina lost almost 650 textile factories between 1997 and 2009. And the state accounted for just 1.1% of the nation’s textile sector workers in 2013. Only around 3% of American apparel is produced here at home, while the rest comes from factories in other countries.
However, the textile sector in the United States, and particularly the Carolinas, has been on the rise recently. China started sending textile manufacturing employment to the US in the early 2010s. One observer made it popular with only the beginning of a textile resurgence that will revitalise the Carolinas. The United States now ranks fourth in the world in terms of textile exports. The textile, fibre, and clothing industry brought in $28.6 billion in exports last year.
The United States textile industry is a global leader in R&D, and it is now concentrating on developing advanced textiles for use by the United States military. But, as A. Blanton Godfrey, NC State University’s dean of the College of Textiles, pointed out, “if Norma Rae [a character in a 1979 film about a textile worker who makes an organising effort for unions] wants to sit at a computer terminal and programme the robot, that’s different.” Since the first American water-powered spinning textile mill opened in 1790, Godfrey is correct: the textile business has gone a long way.
Ready to use clothing
Factory-scale manufacturing of apparel and footwear did not begin until after the invention of the power-driven sewing machine. There were tailors and seamstresses in most towns who could manufacture personalised garments for clients before the advent of sewing machines.
In or around 1831, George Opdyke (later New York City’s mayor) started making some ready-made garments on the side, which he stocked and sold mostly out of a shop he had in New Orleans. Opdyke was an early adopter of this practice among American businessmen. Large-scale industrial manufacturing of clothing, however, did not begin until after the invention of the power-driven sewing machine. The fashion business has expanded since then.
Because of reasons such as automation, import competition, and a change in U.S. comparative advantages for related goods, the textile and garment manufacturing sector in the United States has fallen dramatically over the last several decades. The textile industry in the United States, however, is slowly making a comeback. In 2021, the value-added production of U.S. textile manufacturing was $16.59 billion, up 23.8% from 2009. U.S. apparel production, however, fell to $9.5 billion this year, 4.4% lower than in 2009.
However, the textile and garment industry in the United States, like many others, got impact by the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020. But started beginning to recover in the third quarter. In particular, by the end of 2021, American textile manufacturing had recovered to its levels prior to the COVID pandemic. However, as the American economy has matured and become more complex, textile and clothing production’s percentage of GDP has declined from 0.57% in 1998 to just 0.12% in 2020.
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