Jacquard, Joseph Marie (1752-1834), a French weaver, noted as the inventor of the Jacquard loom attachment by which many fancy effects in the weaving of textile fabrics, especially large and elaborate figures such as appear in damask, were able to be produced automatically. Jacquard was the son of a poor silk weaver of Lyons, whom he assisted in his work. On his father's death Jacquard set up a silk factory, which was
unsuccessful because the proprietor spent his time in trying to improve the processes in use. After serving as a soldier in the Revolution Jacquard returned to Lyons. His first invention was a loom for the weaving of nets, which he was led to make by reading in an English newspaper that a prize had been offered by the Society of Arts for such a machine. Jacquard made no attempt to obtain the prize, but the fact of his invention became known. He was sent to Paris, where Bonaparte advanced the means to continue his experiments.
In 1801 Jacquard exhibited a loom for weaving figured silk. The weavers of Lyons, thinking their bread and butter endangered by the new machine, mobbed the inventor and broke up his invention. Jacquard describes the occurrence himself. "The iron was sold for old iron, the wood for kindling, while I was delivered over to universal ignominy." After a long struggle against prejudice, ignorance, and poverty, Jacquard sold his rights to the French government and ended his days in comfort. Before his death he had the gratification of seeing his invention in extensive use throughout the textile manufacturing districts of Europe and America. In 1840 a statue was erected in Lyons to Jacquard's memory on the very spot where his loom had been destroyed.
The Jacquard attachment could be applied to almost any loom. It is regarded as the most important apparatus ever adapted to weaving since it made possible the automatic production of all varieties of pattern weaving. It involves many fine mechanical details, but if the action of the ordinary loom is understood, the fundamental principle of the "Jacquard" is comparatively simple. The purpose of the appliance is to make possible the raising of each warp thread independently of the others. It will be seen that, in producing a pattern in a fabric of one color, the warp threads, instead of being raised and lowered in two sets, as in plain weaving, must be raised and lowered in such numbers and at such intervals as will produce the pattern indicated. That is, the figure in any particular design must appear in parallel threads on a ground of threads running at right angles or obliquely to the thread of the figure. In the Jacquard appliances a wire is attached to each warp thread. Each wire passes through a horizontal needle, and, above this, is hooked to a lifting bar. The needles meet a perforated cylinder and pass through the perforations, and, if there were nothing more, the warp threads would all be lifted with the action of the loom; but this cylinder bears a series of cards, hooked together at the corners and moving as an endless chain. These cards are perforated according to the pattern to be worked out, some of the needles, therefore, meeting perforations which correspond to those in the cylinder, act as usual. Others meet the cards where they are not perforated and are driven back in such a manner as to detach their particular wires from the lifting bar, and the warp threads attached to these wires are not lifted.
It will be seen that the preparation of these perforated cards was the really slow and difficult part of the process. A new set had to be prepared for each new pattern. Sometimes several weeks were occupied in the preparation of cards for a new design. A single piece of silk damask exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair by the Philadelphia Textile School required 28,320 cards to form the design. These cards, if placed end to end, would extend a distance of seven and a quarter miles.