How Did Edmund Cartwright's Power Loom Work?

Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom to automate the process of producing cloth from thread. It worked first with water power and then steam power. The first machine he patented was inefficient, and he worked continually to improve it.

In 1784, Edmund Cartwright completed the design for his first power loom. He patented it in 1785 and in the same year set up a factory in Doncaster, Yorkshire, to weave and spin cloth. Despite his efforts to refine the machinery, his factory was not successful. He went bankrupt, and in 1793 creditors repossessed his factory.

A textile manufacturer named Robert Grimshaw built another factory in Manchester in 1790 where he planned to install several hundred of Cartwright's power looms. However, it burned to the ground before it was completed, supposedly as an act of arson by disgruntled hand loom weavers.

Though Cartwright's power loom was crude and inefficient, in 1809 he was awarded a large cash gift by the House of Commons for his efforts to improve the textile industry, and in 1821 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Other inventors and mechanics, notably William Horrocks, Francis Cabot Lowell and Paul Moody, improved the power loom and made it an integral part of American and British manufacturing.