Factory. A term which originally implied the residence of factors; that is, agents or brokers whose duty was to buy or sell goods for merchants who resided elsewhere; to see them packed and shipped to the persons for whom they were bought. The modern significance of the term is a building or group of buildings appropriated solely to the manufacture of goods. The factory system has arisen from the rapid growth of the woolen and cotton industries, and the consequent subdivision of labor which rendered necessary the centralizing of various departments of manufacture. It has gradually developed to its present dimensions since the year 1770, through the invention of the humble barber of Preston, Richard Arkwright. Prior to this invention, silk, wool, linen and cotton yarns were spun by hand, a single yarn at a time, but with the invention of Arkwright's spinning frame, a vast number of threads of any degree of fineness and hardness can be spun [See Weaving, Spinning]. Instead of hand-spinning being performed by single families in isolated communities, the work was transferred to the spinning frame where large numbers of hands were employed to operate them under a single roof. Year by year new inventions and improvements upon old ones have been made, until the present day witnesses the ever-increasing tendency to combination and centralization of the weaving industry.

The tendency of the manufacturing establishments of this country to decrease in number and increase in size is strikingly demonstrated in the eleventh census bulletin on the woolen industries. From this it appears that there were 678 less woolen factories in 1890 than in 1880; and 1,579 less than in 1870. The number of factories devoted to the manufacture of wool reported in active operation in 1890 was 2,503, against 2,689 in 1880, and 3,791 in 1870. On the other hand, the capital invested in the 2,503 factories in 1890 was $314,309,044, as against $150,091,869 invested in the 2,689 in operation in 1880. In other words, while the number of mills decreased nearly one-fourth during the decade, the capital invested was nearly doubled. The increase in the number of hands employed was about 60,000; the employees numbering 161,557 in 1880, and 221,032 in 1890. The amount of wages paid increased from $47,389,087 to $76,741,266; the cost of material used from $164,371,551 to $203,095,642, and the value of the manufactured product from $267,252,913 to $338,231,109. These statistics do not include 271 idle establishments, nor those engaged in the manufacturing of shoddy, which amount to no inconsiderable item. These figures furnish a striking illustration of the tendency toward large combinations of capital in more extensive factories. The day of the small woolen mills, scattered through nearly every county in the country and manufacturing the wool clips of the immediate locality, as well as supplying the manufactured products for local consumption, is past. Whether or not the concentration of the woolen industry in fewer and larger factories is an unmixed evil, the simple fact is, that the decrease in the number of sheep kept by the small farmers east of the Mississippi, and the decay of the small woolen manufactories have gone hand in hand, and the decrease in the East has not been made good by the number of new woolen mills started in the West.

In the cotton manufacturing industry cheap coal or abundant water power is now no longer, as it once was, the first requirement of the factory owner. It is still an important one, but it has become secondary to that of cheap transportation. Cotton is cheap, bulky, heavy; fabrics and garments made of it are but one-fourth as durable as wool; there are immense quantities consumed, hence the freight charges enter more largely into the cost of manufactured cotton than is the case of woolens. There are parts of New England the water power of which is possibly great enough to supply the motive power for all the spindles and looms in the country, and yet in districts which once were centers of manufacturing industry, of large and contented communities of working people, there remain in abandoned works and deserted tenements nothing but monuments of a former prosperity. The cheap motive power is still there, but the greater desideratum of cheap transportation is lacking, and because of it poverty and ruin prevail in many of the once prosperous districts of New England. The cotton factories, contrary to the facts cited in the case of the woolen industry, are slowly and surely moving West and South, following the center of population. It is predicted that another generation will see the cotton manufactures of this country produced entirely in the Southern and Central states, on account of recently developed railroad facilities and the nearness to the raw material. The ten years between 1880 and 1890 witnessed an increase of 10,000 looms in seven Southern states, and it is estimated that these seven states produce 34 percent of all brown cotton manufactured in America.

The silk factories are located in the extreme East, and will in all probability remain permanent fixtures of the Atlantic coast, unless the time should come when the United States shall succeed in raising silk equal in quality and quantity to that now produced in Europe and Asia- an extremely unpromising conception. [See Silk] The ocean freight on raw silk from Asia is but 6 cents per pound. Compared with cotton the bulk annually consumed is insignificant, hence transportation charges enters but a small degree into the cost of the manufactured article.