— Thomas Jefferson's Monticello —
Jefferson introduced mechanized cloth production to his plantation when trade embargoes and looming war cut off the supply of imported British cloth. In 1811, he hired William McLure, a free white artisan and "a very ingenious man," to build textile machinery and train enslaved people at Monticello in its use. McLure set up more efficient spinning jennies and looms with flying shuttles in what Jefferson called "my little factory." the Herns, Gillettes, and other enslaved families produced enough coarse cloth for as many as 140 slaves on the plantation. After McLure left in 1814, the textile workshop moved from an outlying farm to this building, and was supervised by Jefferson's daughter, Martha Randolph.
Panel 2Spinners & Weavers
In 1815, a dozen enslaved women, girls, and boys made cloth from wool, cotton, and hemp here. Randall and John Hern, Israel Gillette, and Isaiah prepared the fibers for spinning, combing out dirt and knots with hand cards, or cranking a mechanical wood carder. Randall and John's mother, Cretia Hern, spun cotton on a jenny with 24 spindles. Isabel, Agnes Gillette, and Nanny Granger spun hemp, while Harriet Hemings operated a 12-spindle machine for wool. Eliza (10) transferred spun yarn from the spindles to the shuttles of the looms for Mary Hern and Dolly, who each wove four yards of cloth per day.
Hargreaves Spinning Jenny
by Abraham Rees, The Cyclopedia,
in 1819. after experimenting with newer spinning machinery, Jefferson settled on a jenny patented in Britain in 1770 by James Hargreaves because it was "simpler & better than all the improved machines."
Loom with fly shuttle,
invented 1733, illustrated in The Compendious History of the Cotton Manufacture,
Panel 3I make in my family 2000 yds. of cloth a year, which I formerly bought from England, and it only employs a few women, children & invalids who could do little in the farm.
Thomas Jefferson, 1815
"Spinning,Weaving," Jefferson's Farm Book.
Jefferson tallied the projected totals of cotton wool, or hemp that his ensalved textile workers would card, spin, or weave per day. Workdays were based on sunlight and varied from nine hours in January to 13 hours in July.
1811, At Monticello, sheep like these provided wool for use in the textile workshop on Mulberry Row.
Panel 4"Workmen's House"
Built in 1776, this stone structure served as living quarters for free or enslaved workers until 1814. During the building and remodeling of the main house (1769-83 and 1796-1809), skilled white workers lived here, including brickmasons Hugh Chisholm and Richard Richardson and joiners James Dinsmore, John Holmes, James Oldham, and John Nilson. Between the two construction periods, enslaved house servants, principally members of the Hemings family, lived here.
Jefferson's 1770 design for a stone house differed from the building constructed ca. 1776.