Northrop, James H.

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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fl. 1890s Keighley, Yorkshire, England
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English-born American inventor of the first successful loom to change the shuttles automatically when the weft ran out.
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Although attempts had been continuing since about 1840 to develop a loom on which the shuttles were changed automatically when the weft was exhausted, it was not until J.H.Northrop invented his cop-changer and patented it in the United States in 1894 that the automatic loom really became a serious competitor to the ordinary power loom. Northrop was born at Keighley in Yorkshire but emigrated to America, where he developed his loom. In about 1891 he appears to have been undecided whether to work on the shuttle-changing system or the copchanging system, for in that year he took out three patents, one of which was for a shuttle changer and the other two for cop-changers.
A communication from W.F.Draper, Northrop's employer, was used in 1894 as a patent in Britain for a cop-or bobbin-changing automatic loom, which was in fact the Northrop loom. A further five patents for stop motions were taken out in 1895, and yet another in 1896. In one shuttle-box, a feeler was pushed through a hole in the side of the shuttle each time the shuttle entered the box. When the cop of weft was full, the loom carried on working normally. If lack of weft enabled the feeler to enter beyond a certain point, a device was activated which pushed a full cop down into the place of the old one. The full cops were contained in a rotary magazine, ready for insertion.
The full Northrop loom comprised several basic inventions in addition to the cop-changer, namely a self-threading shuttle, a weft-fork mechanism to stop the loom, a warp let-off mechanism and a warp-stop motion. The Northrop loom revolutionized cotton weaving in America and the Northrop system became the basis for most later automatic looms. While Northrop looms were made in America and on the European continent, they never achieved much popularity in Britain, where finer cloth was usually woven.
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Further Reading
W.A.Hanton, 1929, Automatic Weaving, London (describes the Northrop loom and has good illustrations of the mechanism).
W.English, 1969, The Textile Industry, London (explains the Northrop system). C.Singer (ed.), 1958, A History of Technology, Vol. V, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
RLH

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

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