George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 3 January 1797]

3. Snowing from 10 oclock until 4—Wind westerly. Went to see Davenports Duck Manufy. [18]

After the Revolution there was a continuing demand in the United States for canvas, or duck, for sails. James Davenport (d. 1797) installed in 1794 at the old Globe Mills on the Germantown Road water-powered machinery of his own invention for “spinning and weaving flax, hemp and tow” (NEEDLES description begins Samuel H. Needles. “The Governor’s Mill, and the Globe Mills, Philadelphia.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 279–99, 377-90. description ends , 298). His patent, procured in 1794 for “weaving and beating sail duck,” was the first one issued in the United States for any kind of textile machine (21st Cong., 2d sess., House Doc., No. 50, P. 140; BAGNALL description begins William R. Bagnall. The Textile Industries of the United States including Sketches and Notices of Cotton, Woolen, Silk, and Linen Manufactures in the Colonial Period. Cambridge, Mass., 1893. description ends , 222). The work was done by a few boys, one of whom could in a 10– to 12–hour day weave 15–20 yards of sailcloth or spin 292,000 feet of flax or hempen thread. According to a later newspaper advertisement, GW, accompanied by several members of Congress and others, was visiting the manufactory by invitation. After the death of James Davenport later in the year the machinery was sold and the business broken up (BISHOP description begins J. Leander Bishop. A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860. 3 vols. 1868. Reprint. New York, 1966. description ends , 2:71–72).

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