Counting on Customers: John Campbell, 1806-1891, Middlesex County Handloom Weaver

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Livingston-Lowe, Deborah
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University of Guelph

John Campbell (1806-1891) was one of about 370 Scottish handloom weavers who brought his technical and professional skills to Ontario in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. From 1859 to 1885, Campbell recorded customer orders for close to 54,000 yards of cloth in a 302-page account book, a document which reveals the relationship between producers and consumers in nineteenth-century rural Ontario. This thesis is a quantitative and qualitative examination of Campbell’s inputs and outputs using his account book, looms and textiles. The analysis of Campbell goes beyond the current historiography of handloom weavers by utilizing evidence from documentary sources and material culture contributing to the larger understanding of a self-employed artisan’s production. The case study of one weaver with this level of detail has not been performed to date and provides an important link for the partnership between handloom weavers and their customers. While Campbell’s customers provided a necessary infrastructure for him to operate by participating in pre- and post-weaving production, Campbell’s presence satisfied his customers’ needs not only for cloth, but a way of life that maintained economic and social stability for men and women in south-western Ontario. This thesis conveys the layers of complexity of weaver, technology and customers at the end of an era for handloom weaving in Ontario.

Canadian History, Textiles, Handloom Weaving