Austin, John

Austin, John
SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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fl. 1789 Scotland
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Scottish contributor to the early development of the power loom.
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On 6 April 1789 John Austin wrote to James Watt, seeking advice about patenting "a weaving loom I have invented to go by the hand, horse, water or any other constant power, to comb, brush, or dress the yarn at the same time as it is weaving \& by which one man will do the work of three and make superior work to what can be done by the common loom" (Boulton \& Watt Collection, Birmingham, James Watt Papers, JW/22). Watt replied that "there is a Clergyman by the name of Cartwright at Doncaster who has a patent for a similar contrivance" (Boulton \& Watt Collection, Birmingham, Letter Book 1, 15 April 1789). Watt pointed out that there was a large manufactory running at Doncaster and something of the same kind at Manchester with working power looms. Presumably, this reply deterred Austin from taking out a patent. However, some members of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce continued developing the loom, and in 1798 one that was tried at the spinning mill of J.Monteith, of Pollokshaws, near Glasgow, answered the purpose so well that a building was erected and thirty of the looms were installed. Later, in 1800, this number was increased to 200, all of which were driven by a steam engine, and it was stated that one weaver and a boy could tend from three to five of these looms.
Austin's loom was worked by eccentrics, or cams. There was one cam on each side with "a sudden beak or projection" that drove the levers connected to the picking pegs, while other cams worked the heddles and drove the reed. The loom was also fitted with a weft stop motion and could produce more cloth than a hand loom, and worked at about sixty picks per minute. The pivoting of the slay at the bottom allowed the loom to be much more compact than previous ones.
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Further Reading
A.Rees, 1819, The Cyclopaedia: or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and Literature, London.
R.Guest, 1823, A Compendius History of the Cotton Manufacture, Manchester.
A.P.Usher, 1958, A History of Mechanical Inventions.
W.English, 1969, The Textile Industry, London.
R.L.Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester.
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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