Before the MOSI Google Hangout, we did some preparation in class to get ready for the chat. We first looked on the MOSI Textile Galleries website (www.mosi.org.uk/explore-mosi/explore-galleries/textiles-gallery.aspx). We read the brief summary on the Textile Galleries and read the three attached articles on Richard Arkwright, Manchester Textile Designers, and Paterson Zochonis. We took notes on new things that we learned from these readings, and we shared them with our classmates. This was just a brief introduction on the background of the gallery. Then, we watched a video that Jamie, our tour guide at the MOSI Textile Gallery in Manchester, sent us. He quickly went through the machines that we would be seeing in the chat, and he wrote the names of the machines and some of the materials in the video. We wrote down these vocabulary words from the video, and we worked in groups to define these terms. The words were: hopper feeder scutcher, carding engine, draw frame, sliver, speed frame, slubbing, roving, and power loom. We found these definitions using our media literacy skills that I discussed in an earlier blog post. We had to search for these terms using additional keywords in the search because some of the terms had other definitions that had nothing to do with the textile industry. So for example, we would search for the term and add “textile industry” at the end so that the definition would be related to textiles. We became familiar with these terms so that when Jamie said them during the chat, we would already know what he was referring to, and we would understand what he was talking about. Lastly, we prepared questions to ask Jamie under 4 categories: the textile process, the evolution of textile technology, the positive and negative impacts of the Industrial Revolution, and being a historian/curator. Any questions that we had from these categories, we wrote down to ask Jamie during the chat.
During the chat, Jamie talked a lot about the difference between the cotton industry and the new technology in the Industrial Revolution. Before industrialization, the cotton industry was completely family based. Each family worked together to make cloth. Most families had a large attic where they put their sewing frames. They put them in the attic because it usually provided the most light for working. The frame was powered by hand and was a very physical job done by the men or older boys of the house. This process was considered only a man’s job. However, to spin the cotton into thread was the women and children’s job. Women and children used a spinning wheel. They would prepare the cotton for the spinning wheels using brushes to detangle and extract the long fibers. They would then spin it on the spinning wheel using pedals. The whole family was involved in making cloth during the cotton industry. However, then the Arkwright water frame was invented for spinning thread. It spun four threads at once which meant that the water frame was 4 times more effective than the spinning wheel. The threads also came out thinner. Next, the carding engine was invented which was powered by water. The carding engine cleaned the raw cotton, and it disentangled it by brushing through it and catching the long fibers. Any fibers that were too short were not used in textiles but were still used for other lower quality products, and any dirty cotton was considered “trash” but were used for mattresses. Many other machines were invented, and with all the new inventions that helped with each step of the cotton process, the machines became too big to keep in homes, and factories were made to help mass produce cotton products. Typically, each factory would specialize in only one step of the process, so cotton was sent to many different factories to accomplish each step. This is why Jamie had a hard time answering the question of how long it takes for cotton to go through the whole process because it took many days for cotton to travel between all the different factories. So the production of cloth was no longer a family’s job; it was done at the factories. However, with these new, more effective machines in the factories, there came many negative impacts. Families sent their kids to these factories for cheap wages because they needed money, and there were horrible conditions in the factories. The factories were more concerned about their profit than the well-being of the workers. There were many accidents in the factories that killed many workers. One example that Jamie talked a lot about was the spinning mule.
|The Spinning Mule|
This machine had many rows of threads being spun at the same time, and the machine went back and forth quickly four times per minute. If you zoom in to the bottom right corner of the picture, you can see a boy cleaning under the threads of the machine.
|Orphan cleaning under the spinning mule|
The boy’s job was to clean the dirt, dust, and oil under the machine. The factory would usually have an orphan do this job because an orphan was very cheap since there was no one to care for him. This job was extremely dangerous because the orphan had to get out of the way of the machine when it went back and forth. If they didn’t get out of the way in time, they were cut in half. Many orphans were killed doing this job. There were many other factory accidents just like this because the machines were very dangerous. Another negative impact of industrialization was illness. Disease was very easily spread in the factories because the workers shared machines and lived very close to one another. A specific disease-spreading aspect of the machines that Jamie talked about was the shuttles on spinning machines. To work the spinning machines, women had to change the shuttles.
|Jamie holding a shuttle|
In a shuttle, the spool of thread went in the middle, and the end of the spool had to be thread through the hole in the shuttle. To thread this through, women put their mouths on the shuttles and sucked the thread through the hole. After one woman’s shift, another woman would take over her machine and put her mouth on the same part that the first woman did. This spread disease easily. Also, the oils from the thread would fill up in women’s lungs and they would eventually get cancer from it. The dust from the cotton would also settle in workers’ lungs over time in the factories causing breathing problems later in life. Jamie said that there were much worse conditions in the factories than during the cotton industry even though there was a much faster and larger production rate in the factories.
I think that this chat was a great way to have us learn about the textile industry. This was a very memorable event, and a few months from now I will remember this unique opportunity and the information about the factories much more than I would have remembered it if we had learned about it by just copying notes or being lectured. This different and interesting experience of being able to chat with Jamie is going to stick in our minds, and with it the information is going to stick as well. I also thought it was really neat to learn from an outside expert in another continent. We were seeing machines and conversing with a tour guide from a museum in England while sitting in our classroom in the United States. I liked that we could ask Jamie questions and converse with him as if he was standing in our classroom, as opposed to just watching a video of him talking. This experience got us engaged in the information, and I would definitely want to do this with other experts on different topics throughout the year.