It was used in the English textile industry, in small farms, and lock making trades as late as the 19th century. David Hounshell writes, "In 1854, the British obtained their military small arms through a system of contracting with private manufacturers located principally in the Birmingham and London areas.... Although significant variation occurred, almost all of the contractors manufactured parts or fitted them through a highly decentralized, putting-out process using small workshops and highly skilled labor. In small arms making as in lock production, the 'workshop system' rather than the 'factory system' was the rule." (Hounshell 1984, p. 17) It was replaced by inside contracting and the factory system. All of the processes were carried out under different cottage roofs.
The domestic system was a popular system of cloth production in Europe. It was also used in various other industries, including the manufacture of wrought iron ironware such as pins, pots, and pans for ironmongers.
It existed as early as the 1400s but was most prominent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It served as a way for entrepreneurs to bypass the guild system, which was thought to be cumbersome and inflexible. Workers would work from home, manufacturing individual articles from raw materials, then bring them to a central place of business, such as a marketplace or a larger town, to be assembled and sold. The raw materials were often provided by the merchant, who received the finished product, hence the synonymous term putting-out system. The advantages of this system were that workers involved could work at their own speed while at home or their home and children working in the system were better treated than they would have been in the factory system, although the homes were polluted by the toxins from the raw materials. As the woman of a family usually worked at home, someone was often there to look after any children. The domestic system is often cited as one of the causes of the rise of the nuclear family in Europe as the large amount of profits gained by common people made them less dependent on their extended family. These considerable sums of money also led to a much wealthier peasantry with more furniture, higher quality food, and better clothing than they had had before. It was mostly centralized in Western Europe and did not take a strong hold in Eastern Europe.
The use of the term has expanded, and is used to refer to any event which allows a large number of people to work part time. For example, eBay is said to have spawned a cottage industry of people who buy surplus merchandise, and sell it on their auction system.
The process of the cottage industry involved the entire family as most work performed in the 18th century did. In fact the entire process moved from child to the mother then to the father. First was the process called carding. Carding was usually done by children. This involved using a hand-card that removed and untangled the short fibres from the mass. Hand cards were essentially wooden blocks fitted with handles and covered with short metal spikes. The spikes were angled and set in leather. The fibres were worked between the spikes and, by reversing the cards, scrapped off in rolls (cardings) about 12 inches long and just under an inch thick.
The second process was known as spinning and this was performed by the mothers. The spinning of wool, cotton or flax was originally done by the spindle and distaff. The distaff, a stick about 3 ft long, was held under the left arm, and the fibres of wool drawn from it were twisted spirally by the forefinger and thumb of the right hand. As the thread was spun, it was wound on the spindle. The spinning wheel was invented in Nuremberg in the 1530s. It consisted of a revolving wheel operated by treadle and a driving spindle. This slow process of spinning was a tedious process that remained unaltered until the invention of James Hargreaves who invented what is known as the Spinning Jenny. It is claimed that one day his daughter Jenny, accidentally knocked over the family spinning wheel. The spindle continued to revolve and it gave Hargreaves the idea that a whole line of spindles could be worked off one wheel. The machine used eight spindles onto which the thread was spun from a corresponding set of rovings. By turning a single wheel, the operator could now spin eight threads at once.
The last process was performed by the fathers or the men of the household, this process was called the weaving. The weaving was done on a machine known as the handloom weaver so weaving was also referred to as handlooming. The handloom was devised about 2,000 years ago and was brought to England by the Romans. The process consisted of interlacing one set of threads of yarn (the warp) with another (the weft). The warp threads are stretched lengthwise in the weaving loom. The weft, the cross-threads, are woven into the warp to make the cloth. Like the process of spinning, weaving remained unchanged for a great period of time. Then the twelfth child of a Yeoman farmer, John Kay invented the flying shuttle, which enabled a weaver to knock the shuttle across the loom and back again using one hand only. The speed of weaving was doubled; and a single weaver could make cloths of any width, whereas previously two men had sat together at a loom to make broad cloth. Unfortunately John Kay had to fight for the royalties of his invention his whole life and died a poor man.
Recently cottage industries have been encouraged by environmental groups to preserve areas of the rainforest by aiding the local tribes in a sustainable way. The Maisin tribe and others in Papua New Guinea is a notable example to sustain the rainforest for future generations.
''' Domestic system cotton industry