Bigelow, Erastus Brigham

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 2 April 1814 West Boyleston, Massachusetts, USA
d. 6 December 1879 USA
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American inventor of power looms for making lace and many types of carpets.
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Bigelow was born in West Boyleston, Massachusetts, where his father struggled as a farmer, wheelwright, and chairmaker. Before he was 20, Bigelow had many different jobs, among them farm labourer, clerk, violin player and cotton-mill employee. In 1830, he went to Leicester Academy, Massachusetts, but he could not afford to go on to Harvard. He sought work in Boston, New York and elsewhere, making various inventions.
The most important of his early inventions was the power loom of 1837 for making coach lace. This loom contained all the essential features of his carpet looms, which he developed and patented two years later. He formed the Clinton Company for manufacturing carpets at Leicester, Massachusetts, but the factory became so large that its name was adopted for the town. The next twenty years saw various mechanical discoveries, while his range of looms was extended to cover Brussels, Wilton, tapestry and velvet carpets. Bigelow has been justly described as the originator of every fundamental device in these machines, which were amongst the largest textile machines of their time. The automatic insertion and withdrawal of strong wires with looped ends was the means employed to raise the looped pile of the Brussels carpets, while thinner wires with a knife blade at the end raised and then severed the loops to create the rich Wilton pile. At the Great Exhibition in 1851, it was declared that his looms made better carpets than any from hand looms. He also developed other looms for special materials.
He became a noted American economist, writing two books about tariff problems, advocating that the United States should not abandon its protectionist policies. In 1860 he was narrowly defeated in a Congress election. The following year he was a member of the committee that established the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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Further Reading
National Cyclopedia of American Biography III (the standard account of his life). F.H.Sawyer, 1927, Clinton Item (provides a broad background to his life).
C.Singer (ed.), 1958, A History of Technology, Vol. V, Oxford: Clarendon Press (describes Bigelow's inventions).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Erastus — may refer to: * Erastus of Corinth, Corinth s director of public works (Romans verse 16:23), disciple of Paul (2 Timothy 4:20) * Erastus Brigham Bigelow (1814–1879), American inventor of weaving machines * Erastus Corning (1794–1872), American… …   Wikipedia

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