The Jacquard Machine

There is a wealth of information out there about Jacquard.  I hope you enjoy this little piece.

The Jacquard Machine

“Philadelphia is not only the largest and most important textile manufacturing city of the world, but at the same time produces the more intricate (fancy) constructed fabrics met with in the market.”  And thus begins a multi- page article in Posselt’s Journal 1909. “As will readily understood, manufacturing more particularly these complicated fabric structures in consequence made Philadelphia the home of figured weaving ,i.e., the Home of the Building of Jacquard Machines in this country.” (1)

The Jacquard machine is the invention of Joseph Marie Jacquard, born in Lyons, France, in 1752, the son of silk weavers.  Jacquard’s invention in itself was based on improvements of older inventions by Buchon, Falcon and du Vancanson.  Intricate weaving at the time was a very laborious practice, often using young children to raise the harness so individual threads could show through to the front of the weaving.  Jacquard sought to automate the process.  He combined the best parts of other inventions and by 1804, using punched cards, succeeded in building a practical machine.  For the next six years, he was hounded by weavers who were afraid his invention would deprive children of an opportunity to work for the family.  The opposition was so violent, he fled Lyons in fear of losing his life.  The Conseil des Prodhommes (Industrial Tribunal) broke up his machines in public places.  Many years later, the value of his invention was recognized and a monument erected on the site of the original destruction.  A statue erected in his honor stands in Calais and has a sample punched card to the rear at his feet. (be sure to scan down to the second image at this site)  (1, 2)  statue 

As Philadelphia developed into the textile capital of the United States in the 19th century, manufacturers sought machines that would improve productivity.  The Jacquard invention was manifested in weaving machines by Thomas H. Halton who began building these machines in Philadelphia in 1876 on Delaware Avenue near Schackamaxon Street in his home.  He soon made a name for himself and expanded the business several times.  He died in 1898 and was succeeded by his sons, Thomas H., Jr. ,and James D., who continued the business as Thomas Halton’s Sons.  A large four-story plant was constructed in 1899 at Allegheny Avenue and “C” Street. (1)

Posselt’s 1909 article details some of the inventions and machines available.  One of the agents listed is Mr. O.H. Robbins of Charlotte, NC. who was also a Mill Engineer or designer (1) 

A scale model of the original jacquard machine can be seen at the Northampton Silk Project  web site. (3)



  1. Posselt’s Journal. 1909. “Philadelphia – The Textile City.”
  2. Web information Joseph Marie Jacquard statue Calais, France.
  3. Peter Metzke who suggested this article.