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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Industry and Technology

Textile and Leather

By John R Hume

Ballater Street In 1830 the Glasgow, and indeed the West of Scotland, economy was dominated by the cotton industry, with power spinning and, to an increasing extent, power weaving, complemented by a large hand-loom weaving industry. Spinning continued to expand until the 1840s and weaving until the 1870s. The cotton famine, which was a product of the American Civil War (1861-1865), did not help the prosperity of the cotton trades. Two large new spinning mills were built in the 1870s and 1880s, but the older mills were steadily closing as competition from Lancashire and overseas producers ate into profit margins and engineering, shipbuilding and other industries offered better returns on investment.

Templeton's Carpet Factory By 1914 only the weaving of fancy muslins and high-quality shirtings (including both pure cotton and cotton/wool fabrics) were still dynamic. In the 1850s and 1860s a few mills began making linen and jute, but their success was short-lived. Much more successful was carpet weaving, which was introduced on a large scale in about 1840 and with rising living standards became the largest single branch of the textile industry in the years before 1914 using technology imported from the United States. Cotton thread was also made in the city, but the dominance of the Paisley giants had ended that by 1914. There were two large clothing factories in the city by that time.

Calton tannery, 1895 Glasgow's leather industries were on a much smaller scale. The largest firms made leather belting for driving machinery and there was one firm specialising in tanning upholstery leather. The Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society and one other firm made shoes, but not on anything like the scale of Kilmarnock, Scotland's leading shoe-making town.

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