Friday 5 July 2013

Men of Yore: Edmund Cartwright

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form.  Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards.  We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenaces of men of yore.  Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc.  It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practice.

Edmund Cartwright

Edmund Cartwright was originally from Nottingham. After graduating from Oxford University in 1779, he became the rector of Goadby church, Marwood in Leicestershire. In 1784 he visited Arkwright's cotton-spinning mill. Cartwright was sure that he could develop similar technology to benefit weaving.
In 1785, he patented the first version of his power loom and set up a factory in Doncaster. He was no businessman, however, and he went bankrupt in 1793, which forced him to close his factory.
Cartwright was a prolific inventor. He patented a wool-combing machine in 1789 and a steam engine that used alcohol, as well as a machine for making rope, in 1797. He even helped the American, Robert Fulton, with his steamboat inventions.
The power loom was quickly integrated into the weaving industry. It was improved upon by William Horrocks, famous for his invention of the variable speed batton in 1813. The power loom was used alongside Crompton's Spinning Mule in many factories. Although Cartwright did not make very much money from any of his patents, in 1809 the House of Commons voted him a sum of £10000 in recognition of his contribution to the textile industry. Cartwright retired to a farm in Kent, where he spent the rest of his life improving farm machinery.


Men built the modern world.  And the modern world includes the more mundane items as well as the fantastic feats, that we might take for granted, like clothing for instance.  Someone had to concieve, design and construct the raw materials, machines and so on, all from scratch.  A man had to figure out how to scrape animal skins, then figure out how to press loose strands of fur into felt, and then weave fibres together to make cloth, and then design the machines that allow us to wear cheap clothing.  If it wasn't for that mechanization we'd all be paying hundreds of £s (or $s) for our clothing instead of tens.  In 1850 USA a pair of trousers cost $18 (or ~$540 in modern money).  And way back in the 1400s a quality three piece suit (trousers, jacket and waist-coat) would cost a Master Mason one years wages (Source, pdf document).  Nowadays you can pick up a high quality suit for a fraction of that cost, and that saving is largely thanks to decreased labour costs caused by mechanization.

Check out some of the other entries from the 'Men of Yore' series:
Franz Achard
Daniel Boone


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