Mechanical weaving loom, c 1910

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
Textiles and Clothing
1910 - 1919
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

‘With not a tear in their sad eyes, / they sit at the loom and grind their teeth’ – such is the drastic description Heinrich Heine gives of the miserable situation of hand loom weavers in Silesia in 1844.

In weaving, two or more yarn systems (warp and weft) are interlaced at right angles, creating a textile fabric. Weaving was not mechanised as quickly as spinning was. In England in 1785 Edmund Cartwright took out a patent on a mechanical weaving loom. Many minor improvements followed. By 1830 there were around 100,000 mechanical weaving looms in operation in Britain. In the Habsburg monarchy the first mechanisms of this type began operating a few years later. They were located mainly in Lower Austria, Vorarlberg and Bohemia.

But for the longest time mechanical looms remained expensive and were susceptible to breaking down. What’s more, their output was not that much faster than that of home weavers working at their looms. While hand spinning disappeared relatively quickly from the market once the first spinning machines came onto the market, hand weavers in many regions were able to continue working for decades to come. Nonetheless many saw the mechanised looms as a threat and their already precarious wages in jeopardy.

Among the drawbacks of mechanical looms was the fact that they required intensive maintenance. Broken threads had to be repaired, and weaving shuttles containing the weft yarn had to be replaced by hand. Around 1890 the English-born mechanic James Henry Northrop began to develop automatic reshuttling looms in the US. He also designed and built a workable warp stop motion, which stopped the machine whenever a thread broke. Northrop’s machines were simple to operate and were soon in widespread use. By 1904 there were more than 100,000 looms of this type in operation in US mills, and weaving rooms containing more than 1,000 looms were no rarity.

Manufacturer: Ungarisch-Amerikanische Northrop-Webstuhl und Textilfabriks AG

Date of origin: c 1910

Inv.Nr. 12485/1

Member of