One of the earliest textile factories in Baltimore, the Powhatan Cotton Works was built by the Baltimore Manufacturing Company along the Gwynns Falls, six miles from the city and started production in 1811.
On January 7, 1814, the United States Patent Office granted John H. Guiramand a patent for his new design for a power loom. Born in Lyon, France, John Guiramand, known as Jean Pierre Morel de Guiramand, moved to the French colony of Saint-Domingue. When the Haitian Revolution began in 1791, Guiramand joined hundreds of white French colonists in fleeing the island and moving to Southern American cities like Baltimore.
In 1814, Guiramand’s work was part of a wave of invention sweeping the growing American textile industry. Between 1810 and 1820 alone, the U.S. Patent Office recorded thirty-eight patents for power looms. First invented in 1784, the power loom connected traditional textile looms to water wheels (and later steam engines) to speed up the weaving process. Like many other American “inventors” in early 1800s, Guiramand may have closely copied his design on models already in use in France or England. In February 1814, Guiramand advertised the “New Invented & Patented Loom” in the American and Commercial Daily Advertister boasting:
“[Guiramand] has invented a loom, which although extremely simple possesses greater advantages than any heretofore known… A child 10 or 12 years old, may learn to use it in a couple of hours.”
Unfortunately, the exact nature his invention remains a bit obscure: the first 10,280 patents issued between 1790 and 1836 burned up in an 1836 fire and only around 2,800 of those lost have ever been recovered.