This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Mitts. A sort of glove without fingers, or with very short fingers. Mitts sometimes cover the hand only, and sometimes the forearm to the elbow. A common material is black and colored lace; they are also knitted of silk of various colors. They were especially worn by women during the early part of this century, the fashion dying out about 1830. Then the custom slumbered for 50 years, and was revived in 1880, or thereabouts, since which time they have formed a staple and constant article of dry goods throughout the entire country. Mitts are principally made of silk and on account of the high protective tariff on manufacturers of silk goods, are largely made in this country. Several domestic manufacturers have grown rich beyond expectation by making this class of goods, and so thoroughly have they adapted themselves to supply every imaginable want of the trade in color, length and texture that the domestic productions entirely surpass the imported goods. [See Gloves]
There are some romantic facts related to the early history of mitt manufacturure. "About the year 1700 open-work mitts and gloves and hose ornamented with eyelet holes made by using the work-needle or hand-ticklers, and which had also been embroidered by hand, were imported into England. These were quickly imitated there, but still by hand. The later introduction of an improvement on the hosiery frame by Strutt led to many attempts to make these eyelet ornaments on a like principle (that is, by machine-knitting). These efforts were generally carried on with much mystery, for the profit anticipated from success was very great, as the wages obtained by hands making such work were from $1.25 to $1.75 per day if diligent, at a time when meat was only 4 cents a pound, and bread in proportion. Amongst these experimenters was a stocking-knitter named Butterworth. He successfully overcame all obstacles, and succeeded in knitting lace mitts by machinery, but was obliged to confide his plan to a machinist named Betts, before he could get the necessary machinery constructed. Eventually a supply of cash became necessary, and was obtained from one Shaw, when the original inventor was deliberately set aside. Further funds becoming requisite to procure a patent, the aid of John Morris, a hosier of Nottingham, was procured, and the parties proceded to take out a patent. Betts then, in the absence of Shaw, for a large sum of money, made over the entire interest in the patent to Morris. Shaw was so chagrined by the transfer to Morris without any renumeration to himself that he proceded to Holland to set up the manufacture there. He visited Brussels, Lille and Valenciennes, but met with no encouragement. At the latter city he saw a widow making mitts and handkerchiefs in imitation of
Spanish open-work by the new method, by which she was then making silk mitts with comparative ease and rapidity; and he found that they could be thus produced at a lower cost than with the Butterworth machine. He brought the widow and her plan to England, and as the apparatus cost little, he soon made great progress in its use. But Morris, having plenty of funds, succeeded in vastly improving his machine, and completely ruined Shaw by lowering the prices on the goods; and so this tale of double-dealing and fraud was brought to a close."