Northrop single-shuttle 'S' loom, 1939.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
James H Northrop's automatic loom, developed between 1889 and 1894 and patented by the American Draper Corporation, was the most important achievement in weaving technology since the invention of the power loom in the 18th century. In the Northrop loom if the shuttle runs short of weft, a full bobbin is inserted automatically. As this type of loom requires little attention, a weaver can look after 24 looms at once and produce 7000 yards of cloth a week. The mechanical warp-stop motion, introduced in 1895 by Charles Roper, makes the loom stop automatically if a warp thread breaks so that it can be repaired before the cloth is spoilt.