In the 1700's, England was the world's leading colonial power. England's colonies also provided a market for manufactured products. The manufacture and export of various cloths were vital to the English economy in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution, textiles were produced under the putting-out system, in which merchant clothiers had their work done in the homes of artisans or farming families. This was called the "cottage industry." Production was limited by reliance on the spinning wheel and the hand loom; increases in output required more hand workers at each stage.
In the early 1700s, there was great demand for cotton cloth. The demand for cloth was so great that people could not supply enough cloth to satisfy demand. Invention dramatically changed the nature of textile work. In 1733 John Kay invented the Flying Shuttle, which made weaving very much faster. It was still a hand process, not an automated one, but the weaver could work more quickly and the cloth could be much wider.
This was a device that resulted in greater production from a single loom, cloth of greater width, and reduced the need for as many people to tend the looms. This was done by redesigning the mechanism which feeds out the weft, which is the thread that crosses the warp. Kay's device became immediately unpopular with weavers because of their fear of becoming unemployed. In 1755 he was attacked by a mob who destroyed one of his looms. He died a destitute man in 1764, although his flying shuttle was used widely after his death. The later invention of powered looms was made possible by the invention of the flying shuttle.
The flying shuttle was a machine that reduced weaving time by half. Now, there was a new problem as there was...