Top - an early Northrop loom.     Bottom - Northrop's
    bobbin battery, a main feature of the Northrop loom.
    As the bobbin in the shuttle ran out of thread, a new
    bobbin from the bobbin battery pushed the empty
    bobbin out of the shuttle and took its place.


      Did you know that the world famous Northrop Automatic Loom -- the loom that made
    Draper Corporation, the loom that made Hopedale, had its beginning in the hen house
    of Jimmy Northrop's farm somewhere near the Hopedale-Mendon town line?

      From the  History of the Northrop Loom as given in the 1904 Draper catalog, Labor
    Saving Looms, we read this statement.  "On March 5, 1889, Mr. Draper [George Otis
    Draper, son of General William Draper] drove to his farm (Northrop's) and saw a rough
    wooden model of his idea, which was set up in this hen-house."

      Perhaps it could be said at this point, the time had arrived for an automatic loom.  In
    1888, Mr. William F. Draper, Jr. (another son of the general), heard of a loom invention
    in Providence, and saw the inventors and their device, which was an automatic shuttle-
    changer.  He reported that the idea was interesting, but, in his opinion, not practical.  
    Draper then had a thorough investigation made of the patent situation involved and as a
    result decided to give it a trial.

      On Dec. 10, 1888, it was voted to allot $10,000 and assign the project to Mr. Alonzo E.
    Rhoades of designing a shuttle-changing loom, which was to follow later.

      Mr. Rhoades, by the way, was still living and working when I started to work in the
    drafting room of Draper Corporation.  When any of us had occasion to go into the model
    room, if he wasn't there, he would soon appear, having, we always guessed, a signal
    arrangement between the door of the model room and his office.

      That Mr. Rhoades lost no time in designing a shuttle-changing loom is proved by the
    fact that by Feb. 28, 1889, he had such a loom ready to start.  This loom, after being
    reconstructed from new parts during the next few months, though not changed in
    principle, ran with good success.  Some 12 years later, for purposes of litigation, the
    same loom was started up and ran for days under the eye of a patent expert to his
    complete satisfaction.

                                                        James H. Northrop

      Leaving the Rhoades loom at this point and returning to the "History of the Northrop
    Loom," it is of interest to note that one James H. Northrop, an important figure in  
    Hopedale-Draper history, was born May 8, 1857, in Keighley, England.  He became an
    expert mechanic and factory foreman in his own country, before coming to America
    where he landed in May 1881, finally drifting into Hopedale where he became employed
    as an expert on metal patterns.  His invention of the Northrop Spooler Guide brought him
    to the notice of his employers who asked him to see what he could do by way of an
    automatic knot tier for spoolers.

      Although he did invent such a device it did not appear commercially practical.  He
    became discouraged and left the shop to take up farming.  He soon tired of this and got
    a job in the shop as a mechanic at $2 per day.

                                                  Northrop Filling Changer

      Northrop, who had noted the Rhoades shuttle-changer progress, expressed the belief
    to Mr. George Otis Draper, who had just entered the firm of George Draper & Sons, that
    if given a chance he (Northrop) could put a shuttle-changer on a loom in one week's
    time, that could be made in quantities for a cost of $1 each.  It was at this time,  March 5,
    1889, Mr. Draper drove to his farm and saw a rough model of his idea, which was set up
    in his hen-house.

      At Mr. Draper's recommendation, the firm ordered another loom for experiments, and
    after its arrival Mr. Northrop was started on April 8, to work out his scheme.  By May 20
    he had concluded that his first idea was not practical, and meanwhile having thought of
    another idea, he asked for an extension of time, until July 4, in which to perfect it.  On
    July 5, the completed loom was running, and as it seemed to have more advantages
    than the Rhodes loom the weaver was taken off and given the Northrop loom instead.

      On Oct. 24, a loom with new construction, from revised patterns, was running at the
    Seaconnet Mill in Fall River, and more looms of the same kind were started up there at

      Mr. Northrop had, however, meanwhile thought out his idea of changing filling in the
    shuttle, some of the parts of such a mechanism taken shape as early as October.  The
    development at our works continued so favorably that by April of 1890 a lot of filling
    changing looms were started in the same Seaconnet Mill, the shuttle changing looms  
    having been changed back to common looms, in view of the additional advantages of
    the filling-changing loom.

      As of 1900, "We have now sold over 60,000 Northrop looms.  We are shipping 1500 a
    month and enlarging our works to increase that output.  We are employing 2500 men
    and shall greatly increase this force when new shops are ready.  And what does all this
    mean?  Simply that the success of the Northrop loom is astounding even those who
    have held their faith.

      "The steady progress of the Northrop loom is a certain evidence of its merit.  Adverse
    criticism has often killed a good idea in its infancy while its strength was not equal to the
    struggle.  We escaped the fate that many prophesied.  Our loom has passed the trial
    stage." Milford Daily News

                                                    James Henry Northrop

     "Jimmy" Northrop, as he was familiarly and fondly known around our Hopedale shops,
    was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, England, May 8, 1856.  With a trade and some
    experience as a mechanic, he came to America at the age of 25 and worked for a time in
    Boston and Woonsocket.

      Coming to Hopedale to work in one of the shops of George Draper & Sons, he showed
    ability as an inventor by developing the Northrop Spooler Guide.

      Desire for outdoor life, ever a passion with him, led to an unsuccessful trial of poultry

      Back in the shop at Hopedale, he found the effort to develop an automatic loom in its
    early stages with the Rhoades shuttle-changing device.  He set to work by himself on the
    same problem, and ultimately both the Rhoades and Northrop shuttle-changers were
    patented.  The Northrop device was given a mill trial in October 1889.

      Meanwhile he invented a self-threading shuttle and shuttle spring jaws to hold a
    bobbin by means of rings on the butt.  This paved the way to his filling-changing battery
    of 1891 -- the basic feature of the Northrop loom.

      With development of a workable warp stop motion by other members of the Draper
    organization and marketing of the first Northrop looms in 1894, the stage was set for the
    revolution in weaving that has saved our textile manufacturers and the public millions of
    dollars and led to better wages and working conditions in the industry.

      By 1898, with over a hundred patents to his credit and the Northrop loom successfully
    launched, his great longing for an outdoor life led to retirement at the age of 42.  Buying
    a fruit farm at Santa Ana, California, he spent the second 42 years of his life as a
    gentleman farmer and at his favorite sport offishing.

      He is survived by his widow, who was Emily Driver of Keighley, five daughters, two
    grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  Cotton Chats, December 1940.  

    James Northrop died in Santa Ana, California on December 12, 1940.

Bringing Northrop looms back to life - Peter Eaton          Michael Masterson     

Northrop looms sold by 1914   

               Draper Menu                       Inventors of Hopedale                             HOME

World Famous Northrop Loom
Had Its Roots At Small Farm
in Hopedale Area

By Peter Hackett

From Labor Saving Looms, 1904.

    It appears that this newspaper clipping tells us where Northrop lived
    when he was in Mendon. The Trask home was on Trask Road, which
    is off of Hopedale Street in Mendon. It's at the bottom of the hill
    between the Hopedale-Mendon town line at Freedom Street at one
    end, and the intersection at North Avenue at the other end.

                                   Bringing Northrop looms back to life - Peter Eaton          Michael Masterson     

Northrop looms sold by 1914   

                             Draper Menu                       Inventors of Hopedale                             HOME