18th Century Textile Inventions

18th Century Textile Inventions
Rachel Jackson: Science, Medicine, Inventions and tech

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: 2-3 days

Required Documents
18th Century Clothing
Textile Notes Work Sheet


Rachel Jackson, the wife of President Andrew Jackson, was born in 1767 before the United States of America existed. She lived in a rural part of the Colony of Virginia in a small log cabin. Life for Americans in rural areas could be difficult. They had to be responsible for making everything they needed for daily life including basic things such as soap, and clothes. From the time of her birth in 1767 to her death in 1828, Rachel Jackson would have seen dramatic changes in the process of making cloth and clothing. It is likely that her family wove their own cloth and sewed their own clothes early in her life. By the time of her death however, cloth was being mass produced in the United States. This lesson will take a look at the changes in this process due to inventions and industrialization.


1. The students will be able to define the following vocabulary terms: Textile, Industrial Revolution, Flying Shuttle, Spinning Jenny, spinning frame, spinning mule, power loom, and cotton gin.

2. The students will create a timeline of developments in the manufacture of textiles in the United States.

3. The students will create an informational writing sample that describes the changes in textile manufacture during the 18th century.

Materials Required:

Textile Notes Worksheet; PDF of "18th Century Clothing;" Poster board; Computer with Internet connection; Paper and pencil and/or word processing program.


1. The teacher will begin the lesson with a discussion about clothing.  The discussion should begin by asking simple questions such as, What kind of cloth are your clothes made of? Where do we get cloth from?  Then the questions should spiral to more difficult ones, such as How is cloth made from materials such as cotton and wool?  The teacher should then finish the discussion by asking the students if they are aware of what type of machines make thread into cloth? The teacher will then explain that the class is going to learn how cloth was made and how the process changed during the 18th century.

2. After the introductory discussion, the teacher will explain to the class that there will be three parts to this project.  First, the students will be split into small groups in order to conduct research into the process of textile making, for which they will use computers and the Internet as well as printed material to gather specific information.  This information will be compiled on a Guided Note Taking Worksheet.  All the information can be gained from two sources: the PDF that goes with this lesson, entitled 18th  Century Clothing, and the website listed below that is a Timeline of Clothing and Textile Technology. The definitions from the Wikipedia article are somewhat complex, so depending on the ability and grade level of the class, the teacher may want to assist the class in obtaining this information.  This could be done by creating flashcards or simply conducting the research as a whole class.

3. Once the groups (or class) have gathered the information on the Textile Notes Work Sheet, it will be time to use this information to create a timeline of developments in the manufacture of textiles in the United States. This can also be done in small groups.  The students will include the following inventions on the timeline: flying shuttle, spinning jenny, spinning frame, spinning mule, power loom, and cotton gin.  Each will have a short description of its function.  If a printer is available the students may even print images of each invention to be included with each timeline entry. 

4. The final component is an essay that documents the development of textile manufacturing in the 18th century. This will be an individual component of the lesson.  Each student must compose an informational writing product based on the notes they took on the textile making process.  The directions are as follows: Write an informational essay that documents the development of textile production in the 1700s. Be sure to include the process by which cloth was created prior to the industrial Revolution and the inventions that led to mass production of textiles and textile products, with a brief explanation of each.


Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended in several ways. Students could conduct deeper research into the various technologies developed to make textiles. Students could also build basic looms and actually use yarn or thread to weave their own cloth. Ideas to do this can be found at the following website; Weaving with a Simple Homemade Loom.

Sources & Resources:


Timeline of Clothing and Textiles Technology

Steam and Textile Inventions

Textile Industry History

18th Century Clothing

Early Industrialization

First Ladies Library Biography of Rachel Jackson

Credits:  This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.