The Cotton Industry in the United States of America
Raw cotton found its way into New England from the West Indies by the middle of the 17th century. Lack of labour and capital investment delayed the start of the industry. A cotton mill was set up in Rhode Island in 1790. Englishman Samuel Slater supplied the technical know-how and the venture was a success.
It wasn't until the war of 1812, when the supply of cotton goods from Britain was cut off, that investment in the American industry really began. Improvements to machinery were carried out and by the 1820s practically all the cloth woven in America was done on power looms.
Two further factors boosted the industry. The production of cotton from the southern states was increasing bringing down the cost of raw materials and the population of the country was growing and becoming wealthier, creating a bigger demand for cotton goods.
The cotton industry in America was concentrated in New England and in particular Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The industry seems to have avoided some of the abuses and unhealthy conditions that characterised the industry in England. The exploitation of pauper children from the workhouses was not a feature of the American experience.
The Civil War in 1860 made it impossible to obtain raw materials and the industry stagnated. Recovery was rapid after 1865 and the industry continued to develop and expand.