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Joseph Marie Jacquard

Joseph Marie Charles nicknamed Jacquard (7 July 17527 August 1834) was a straw hat maker before becoming a French silk weaver and inventor. He improved on the original punched card design of Jacques de Vaucanson's loom of 1745, to invent the Jacquard loom mechanism in 1804-1805. Jacquard's device was controlled by recorded patterns of holes in a string of cards, and allows what is now known as the Jacquard weaving of intricate patterns.


Jacquard was born at Lyon in France. From age ten onward, he worked as a draw boy, working on the loom for master weavers. It was a miserable and tiresome job. On the death of his father, who was a working weaver, he inherited two looms, with which he started business on his own account. He did not prosper though, and was at last forced to become a limeburner at Bresse, while his wife supported herself at Lyons by plaiting straw. In 1794 he took part in the unsuccessful defense of Lyons against the troops of the Convention; but afterwards served in their ranks on the Rhone and Loire. After seeing some active service, in which his young son was shot down at his side, he again returned to Lyons. There he obtained a situation in a factory, and employed his spare time in constructing his improved loom, of which he had conceived the idea several years previously. In 1801 he exhibited his invention at the industrial exhibition at Paris; and in 1803 he was summoned to Paris and attached to the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers. A loom by Jacques de Vaucanson on display there suggested various improvements in his own, which he gradually perfected to its final state. Although his invention was fiercely opposed by the silk-weavers, who feared that its introduction, owing to the saving of labour, would deprive them of their livelihood, its advantages secured its general adoption, and by 1812 there were 11,000 Jacquard looms in use in France. The loom was declared public property in 1806, and Jacquard was rewarded with a pension and a royalty on each machine.

Jacquard died at Oullins (Rhône), 7 August 1834. Six years later a statue was erected to him in Lyon, on the site where his 1801 exhibit loom was destroyed.

Jacquard loom

The Jacquard Loom is a mechanical loom that has holes punched in pasteboard, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and the many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order. It is based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean Falcon (1728) and Jacques Vaucanson (1740)


Further reading

  • Essinger, James (2004). Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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