Born 1743 Died 1823
Edmund Cartwright, younger brother of Major John Cartwright, was born at Marnham, Nottinghamshire, on the 24th of April 1743, and educated at Wakefield grammar school. He began his academical studies at University College, Oxford, and in 1764 he was elected to a fellowship at Magdalen. In 1770 he published Armine and Elvira, a legendary poem, which was followed in 1779 by The Prince of Peace. In 1779 he was presented to the rectory of Goadby Marwood, Leicestershire, to which in 1786 was added a prebend in the cathedral of Lincoln. He took the degree of D.D. at Oxford in 1806.
He would probably have passed an obscure life as a country clergyman had not his attention been accidentally turned in 1784 to the possibility of applying machinery to weaving. The result was that he invented a powerloom, for which he took out a patent in 1785; it was a rude contrivance, though it was improved by subsequent patents in 1786 and 1787, and gradually developed into the modern power-loom. Removing to Doncaster in 1785, he started a weaving and spinning factory; it did not, however, prove a financial success, and in 1793 he had to surrender it to his creditors. A mill at Manchester, in which a number of his machines were installed, was wilfully destroyed by fire in 1791. In 1789 he patented a wool-combing machine, for which he took out further patents in 1790 and 1792; it effected large economies in the cost of manufacture, but its financial results were not more satisfactory to its inventor than those of the power-loom, even though in 1801 parliament extended the patent for fourteen years.
In 1807 a memorial was presented to the government urging the benefits that had been conferred on the country by the power-loom, and the House of Commons voted him £10,000 in 1809. He then purchased a small farm at Hollander, near Sevenoaks, Kent, where he spent the rest of his life. He died at Hastings on the 30th of October 1823. Other inventions of Cartwright's included a cordelier or machine for making rope (1792), and an engine working with alcohol (1797), together with various agricultural implements.
Being the entry for CARTWRIGHT, EDMUND in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.