Cotton, a soft downy sub-stance ; the production of the gos-sypium, L. or cotton-tree, a genus of plants comprising twelve species, all of which are natives of warm climates, though four only are cul-tivated in fields to a very considerable extent. This plant is propagated by seeds, and when reared in Britain, requires to be kept in a hot-house, where it will produce both seeds and its peculiar down.
The cotton used in the manufactures of Britain, is chiefly obtained from the West Indian plantations. It is, in general;, of a pale red; but sometimes so short as to be until for spinning. None of the latter sort is exported to Europe, though it might be usefully employed with other materials in the making of hats : the small quantities collected of it, are employed for the stuffing of mattresses and pillows.
The first operation which the imported cotton undergoes, after being picked, is that of carding. This was formerly performed by the hand, with a single pair of cards, upon the knee; but, having been found a very tedious process, other methods were soon devised, for affording a quicker and more adequate supply. The earliest improvement for this purpose was made by Mr. James Hargrave, a weaver, in the vicinity of Black-burne, Lancashire: it consisted in applying two or three cards to the same board, and fixing them to a stool, or stock, whence they received the name of stock-cards.—• With these, one woman could perform twice, or three times, the former quantity of work. A still more expeditious method of carding, by means of cylindrical cards worked by the aid of machinery, was afterwards invented, and which is, at present, most generally adopted. From the contra-: dictory accounts current, respecting the original inventor, we cannot ascertain, with precision, to whom the merit of it is justly due.
The next, and most important, improvements in this extensive branch of our manufactures, were made by Mr. Archibald Ark-wright, a native of Lancashire (who has since received the honour of knighthood), and subsequently of Cromford, in the county of Derby. He first introduced bis new method of spinning cotton, in l768, for which he obtained the King'spatent in 1769; andanother in 1775, for engines so constructed as to prepare the materials for spinning. The. result of Mr. Ark- • weight's various inventions is a combination of machinery, by which cotton is carded, roved, and spun, with the utmost degree of exactness and equality.
Other machines have been contrived, and a variety of improvements made, at different times, by various mechanics and manufacturers, two of which, by the same artisan, merit particular notice.
tfce. The first is called a mule, being a kind of union of the warp-machine of Mr. ArkwRIghts, above described, with that of the woof-machine of Mr. Hargrove, for spinning. The latter process was formerly effected by the hand, upon a machine called a one-thread wheel. Being, however, found inadequate to supply the quantities demanded for weaving, various methods were invented,with a view to expedite this manufacture ; but withhttleeffect,tillMr.HARGRAVE, in the year 1767, obtained a patent for a second mechanical apparatus, by which a great number of threads might be spun at once; and which is called a jenny. This machine has since been so greatly improved, that one person may spin 100 English hanks of cotton varn per day, each of which consists of 8-10 yards. The next operation which cotton undergoes, is that of weaving it in a loom, in the same manner as flax or hemp.— See Calico.
In June, 1796, a patent was granted to Mr. Robert Miller, caico - printer, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, for a method of weaving all kinds of cotton, linen, and worsted-cloths, by means of looms worked by water ; and which may be farther facilitated by steam-engines, horses, or any other power: the weaving is performed at considerably less expence, and more expeditiously, than it can be accomplished by the hands of weavers ; the cloth thus woven is of a more regular texture, and superior to that wrought by the. hand. But, as this patent relates purely to a mechanical operation, solely calculated for manufacturers, we refer the reader to the 8th vol. of the Repertory of Arts and Manufactures.
Another patent was granted in April, 1790, to Mr. W. Nichol son, of New North-street, Red Lion-square, for his invention of a machine for printing on cotton, woollen, and other articles, in a more neat, cheap, and accurate manner than is effected by the contrivances now in use. The leading principles of this invention, appear to consist of three particu lars - 1. The manner of preparing the original models, casts, types, engravings, carvings, or sculptures from which the impression is to be made ; 2. In applying the ink, or colouring matter to such models, etc.$ 3. In taking off the impression, or transferring the ink, or colouring matter from those models, etc. to the paper, cloth, or other materials, upon which it is intended to remain. Those of our readers, who may wish farther to investigate this subject, will find an accurate and minute account in the 8th volume of the work last mentioned.
The utility of cotton is not merely confined to the manufacture of different cloths: it is also capable of being converted into hats and paper. Experiments have shewn, that, if raw cotton be beaten to a sufficient degree, and then reduced to a proper pulp, it will produce a smooth, strong, white paper, little inferior in tex-ture, to that commonly made of linen rags. - See Paper.
Cotton. - In July, 1801, a patent was granted to Mr. Anthony Bowden, for a new machine or engine designed to bat, or beat, and clean cotton. A mere description being inadequate to convey a distinct idea of Mr. B.'s contrivance, the inquisitive reader will consult the 16th vol. of the " Repertory of Arts, " etc. where his specification is illustrated by an engraving. - At present, we shall only remark, that the principle of this invention corresponds with that on which the other improved machinery of cotton-works is constructed : its chief merit consists in giving a new distribution of mechanical power, calculated to perform an operation, in preparing cotton for the manufacturer, which has hitherto been executed solely by human labour; and, as two-thirds of the number of labourers, consisting of children, instead of women or men in full strength, will thus be enabled to perform the same portion of work as formerly required a full complement of hands, such essential improvement deservedly claims attention.