Cottage Industry

Gabriela Villa Nova Silva & Lauren Gutierrez

Define

An industry whose labor force consists of family units or individuals working at home with their own equipment.

Cause

The cottage industry was developed to take advantage of the farmers' free time and use it to produce quality textiles for a reasonable price. To begin the process, a cloth merchant from the city needed enough money to travel into the countryside.

Characteristics

Cottage industries developed in cities around 1870, resulting in the harsh tenement housing system. Immigrant families lived and worked in these crowded, unsafe apartment buildings. They worked for extremely low wages, usually making garments. This system lasted until around 1920, when better management of factories made home-produced goods less competitive.

Significance

Cottage industry proved to be profitable for the urban merchants, since they could sell the finished cloth for far more than they paid the farmers to make it. The cottage industry helped to prepare the country for the Industrial Revolution by boosting the economy through the increase of trade that occurred as the country became well-known overseas for its high-quality and low-cost exports. Previously, tradesmen had done all the manufacturing themselves, so the idea of subcontracting was new and appealing. The cottage industry was also a good source of auxiliary funds for the rural people. However, many farming families came to depend on the enterprise, when industrialization and the Agricultural Revolution reduced the need for farm workers, many were forced to leave their homes and move to the city.