[The following passage from the Chambers 1838 Gazetteer of Scotland appears on page 479. — George P. Landow.]

Trade and Manufactures

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he origin, progress, and present state of the commerce and manufactures, on which nearly all the foregoing institutions, and the greater part of this large city depend, now require our notice. Originally, and for many ages, an episcopal city, inhabited and patronized by churchmen and religious recluses, as has been already alluded to, by the Reformation, and the force of particular circumstances, Glasgow, in the course of time, arose from small beginnings, to be the second or third manufacturing town in Great Britain, or the world. While yet under Roman Catholic domination, and so early as 1420, we find that a number of the inhabitants were engaged in the curing and export of salmon caught in the Clyde; and that upwards of a century later, in 1546, they had vessels capable of capturing English shipping.

Towards the middle of the seventeenth century, the citizens appear to have commenced a species of foreign trade upon a limited scale. They exported herrings and salmon to France, and brought back brandy, wine, and salt in return. We find them, in 1658, endeavouring to make arrangements with the magistrates of Dumbarton, for permission to construct a harbour for their commerce; but these dignitaries being unacquainted with the principles of political economy, opposed the scheme, on the ground that the great influx of mariners and others would raise the price of provisions to the inhabitants. In 1630, letter-press printing was first introduced into Glasgow. In 1667, a copartnery was entered into, to carry on the trade of whale-fishing, and along with it a manufactory of soap, and this latter establishment, the first of the kind, continued in existence till 1777. The fishing branch of the concern turned out a complete failure It would appear, however, that a spirit of trade began now to be felt, and we have a proof of the desire for traffic by the Clyde at the period of the Revolution, when in 1688 the quay of the Broomielaw was formed as a harbour to the city, at an expense of upwards of £1700 sterling.

The town had now several sugar-baking establishments, two ropeworks, and the manufacture of plaids, coarse cloths, and coarse linens was established. Until the year 1707, when the highly advantageous measure of the Union took place, the traffic carried on by export was confined to transactions with the continent of Europe, and chiefly with Holland and France, but even at the best on a very small scale. It was not till the Union took effect, that any thing like a real and advantageous system of commerce was instituted. At this auspicious epoch, Glasgow rose on the ruins of many small towns on the east coast of Scotland. As Bailie Nicol Jarvie was pleased to express himself: — " nane were keener a gainst the Union than the Glasgow folk, wi' their rabblings, and their risings, and their mobs," and none have profited to such, an extent by this judicious measure. The treaty proved highly advantageous to the western coast, while it depressed the eastern in a corresponding degree. It opened up the trade of the American and West India Colonies.

As already hinted, Glasgow chiefly traded with Maryland and Virginia — sending out the linen manufactures of Scotland, and bringing back cargoes of tobacco. At the commencement of this trade, the Glasgow merchants had no vessels of their own, but used to charter those of Bristol, Whitehaven, and other English ports. The first vessel belonging to Glasgow that crossed the Atlantic, sailed from the Clyde in the year 1718. At first, Dumbarton was the sea-port; but on some disagreement with the magistrates of that place, Greenock, on the opposite side of the Clyde, became the resort of such shipping as were too large to sail up to the city. At a subsequent period, on a similar disagreement with the magistrates of Greenock, the trade was transferred to Port Glasgow, a harbour erected for the purpose, about two miles to the east.

The institution of banking companies, while these measures were in progress, gave an impetus to the manufacturing spirit of Glasgow. Nothing can more decidedly mark the want of energy among the people at the end of the seventeenth century, than the fact, that the branch of the Bank of Scotland, planted at Glasgow in the year 1696, was withdrawn in 1697, for want of business, as were those established at Dundee, Montrose, and Aberdeen; from which the money that had been sent for circulation was returned to Edinburgh on horses' backs. In 1731, another and as unsuccessful attempt was made to establish a similar branch of the Bank of Scotland, it being withdrawn in two years; but before the middle of the century, the value of a paper currency was so fully appreciated, that native banks were successfully instituted in the town, a circumstance sufficiently proving that industry had now developed her resources.

The diffusion of paper money, on just regulations, promoted commerce and manufactures; and these, when once firmly based, operated in establishing a real instead of a fictitious capital. Some danger ensued at first, from a mania which arose in favour of paper notes. It appears that before the end of fifteen years from the establishment of a native bank, notes were issued by merchants in Glasgow for so low a value as one penny; but on arriving at this pitch, an act of parliament arrested the evil, and placed banking operations on that very secure footing on which they yet fortunately rest.

The manufacture of lawns, cambrics, and other articles of similar fabric was introduced into Glasgow about the year 1725, and continued as the staple manufacture, till superseded by the introduction of muslins. In 1732, the manufacture of inkle wares was introduced by Mr. Alexander Harvey, who brought away from Haarlem two inkle looms and a workman at the risk of his life. About the same time the manufacture of delf was introduced, but it ultimately languished. The first printfield belonging to the city was fitted up at Pollockshaws, about the year 1742, by Messrs. Ingram and Company. While thus the manufacture of goods was gradually established, and rising into consequence, the trade of Glasgow with America became of the highest importance. It would appear, that shortly after the first native vessel sailed from the port, in 1718, for America, the trade in the article of tobacco was so great, that it excited the malevolent envy of the merchants of London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Whitehaven, who accused the Glasgow merchants of infringing on the revenue laws, and of dealing unfairly, because of their selling at lower prices than themselves. On an examination by the Lords of the Treasury, it was ascertained that the complaints and charges were groundless, and proceeded from a "spirit of envy," yet, such was the influence of the English traders, that they procured various restrictions to be imposed on the trade of Glasgow, which it did not get the better of till 1735. After this, the traffic in tobacco from Virginia and Maryland to the Clyde, rose to greater eminence than ever, Glasgow being the mart for that article, and the chief medium through which the farmers general of France received their supplies.

Between 1760 and 1770, a new system of trade with America was instituted, which proved highly advantageous. In that decade, a great number of young men from every part of Scotland sailed for the colonies; and instead of their former method of barter, most of the merchants of the city had warehouses established in the New World, under the management of a son, a brother, or a patron. Such a plan extended the operations of the tobacco merchants of Glasgow in no inconsiderable degree; and before the unfortunate war which ended in a separation of the American Colonies from the mother countiy, the colonial trade of Glasgow had attained its greatest height. Some idea may be formed of its extent, when it is mentioned, that out of every 90,000 hogsheads of tobacco imported into Britain at this time, Glasgow engrossed 57,000. The annual exports were from 35,000 to 45,000 hogsheads; and in the year immediately preceding the disruption of the colonies, the amount was 57,143 hogsheads; only from 1200 to 1300 hogsheads of the annual imports being sold for home consumption. This trade, while it continued, engrossed almost the whole capital and commercial enterprise of Glasgow. Very little other foreign trade was attempted; and any manufactures that were carried on, were chiefly of articles adapted to the demands of the Virginia market. Indeed, supplying that state with European goods, and taking off the produce of its soil in return, became, in a great degree, a monopoly in the hands of the Glasgow merchants. Under these circumstances, the war with the Americans was attended with the most disastrous effects. Long credits had usually been given to the colonists, and when hostilities commenced, many of these debts remained unpaid; the ruin of many of the merchants followed, and a general consternation prevailed.

Although the commerce of Glasgow was thus checked, luckily the spirit which had raised and carried it on was not extinguished; the merchants began to look for new objects whereon to exercise their industry, and in a short time found means to extend their commerce to the West Indies. "The interruption which the intercourse with America met with in 1775," says Cleland, "forced the trades of Glasgow to turn to other objects the enterprise and capital which the commerce with that country had till then nearly wholly engrossed; they now began more generally to direct their attention to manufactures; and the discovery then made by Mr. Arkwright, of the improved process for spinning cotton-wool, led, in a few years after this period, to attempts, by the different manufacturing towns of the kingdom, to bring the manufacture of muslins into this country. The cambric and linen manufacturers of Glasgow embarked in the undertaking, and, aided by the facility which a similarity of the fabrics afforded, were successful beyond their most sanguine expectations — the late Mr. James Monteith of Anderston being the first manufacturer who warped a muslin web in Scotland. The progress of the cotton manufacture at Glasgow after this was rapid; a number of spinning works were established, and most of the different fabrics of cotton cloth were executed. Dying and printing of linen and cotton cloths, a branch of manufacture which had been going on for some time on a limited scale, was more widely extended, and furnished employment to a large amount of capital. A number of other manufactures of linen, woollen, iron, and of other articles subsidiary to more important branches, were prosecuted on a smaller or greater scale, and continued to extend as the general commerce of the city advanced.

The manufacturers of Glasgow, who, till this period, had principally looked for a vent for their goods to the demands of their own export merchants, now began to open a more extensive sale to London and other parts of England; and going over to the continent, formed connexions with almost every country in Europe." By the exertions of the trustees for encouraging the manufacture of linen in Scotland, this branch of trade, which they introduced into Lanarkshire, and particularly into Glasgow, about the year 1725, continued in a thriving condition till near the end of the century, when it declined very rapidly in favour of the cotton trade, and has eventually been settled in Fife and Forfarshire.

The increase of commerce and manufactures gave rise, in 1783, to a society, entitled, "The Chamber of Commerce," the intentions of which were to unite the interests of the merchants and manufacturers, and by establishing a public fund, to give strength and efficacy to those measures which might tend to the public good. The result is, that nowhere are opportunities of advancing the interests of the community more promptly seized than at Glasgow.

To enumerate minutely the various steps by which the city of Glasgow became a great manufacturing and trading capital, would be impossible within the limits of an article like the present; among other circumstances conducive to this end not already mentioned, may be stated the introduction of steam power into mechanical processes, which is unquestionably one of the most splendid events connected with the manufactures of the city. The first person who invented a machine, applicable to any useful purpose, wherein steam was the agent of movement, was a Captain Savory, who obtained a patent about the year 1696, for an engine to lift water from mines. There were subsequent improvements on the machines of Savory, by Mr. Newcomen of Dartmouth, and by Mr. Beighton, the latter, in 1717, bringing the lifting engine into a form in which it has continued without any material change till the present day.

The great improvement on the steam engine, was, however, reserved for James Watt, who was born at Greenock, on the 19th of January, 1736. Having received the rudiments of his education in that town, Mr. Watt came to Glasgow in 1752, where he remained for two years, and then went to London, in pursuit of his business, as a philosophical instrument maker. In 1757 he returned to Glasgow, and commencing business on his own account, was constituted philosophical instrument maker to the university, a circumstance which laid the foundation of after intimacy with the celebrated professors Robert Simpson, Adam Smith, Dr. Black, Dr. Dick, Mr. John Robison, and other distinguished persons. The attention of the young artist was first directed to the consideration of the properties of steam, by the accidental circumstance of Mr. John Anderson, professor of natural philosophy, sending a small model of Newcomen's steam engine to his workshop to be repaired; the cylinder of this toy being not more than one inch and a half diameter, and the boiler little more than the size of a teakettle. In contemplating the principles of this machine, Mr. Watt thought it capable of improvement, and immediately setting his mind to work on it, he commenced a series of experiments in an apartment in the delf-work near the harbour of the Broomielaw, but without any particular success. His friend Dr. Black having introduced him to Dr. Roebuck, who had recently founded the Carron iron works, a connexion was formed in 1769, on which Mr. Watt departed from Glasgow for Kinneil House, near the Carron works, where he made a small engine in one of the apartments in the offices of that mansion. The cylinder was of block tin, eighteen inches in diameter, and it is remarkable, that at the very first experiment, at a coal mine, the engine exceeded his utmost expectation; whereupon he procured a patent "For saving steam and fuel in Fire Engines." Soon after this Dr. Roebuck's affairs becoming embarrassed, the connexion was abandoned, and in 1775, he formed a beneficial connexion with Mr. Boulton of Soho, a gentleman of high character and enterprising spirit, after which they commenced the business of making steam-engines.

Mr. Watt made three great improvements on the steam-engine; the first being the condensation in a separate vessel, which increased the original powers of the engine, giving to the atmospheric pressure and to the counter weight their full energy, while, at the same time, the waste of steam was greatly diminished; second, the employment of steam pressure instead of that of the atmosphere, by which a still farther diminution of the waste was accomplished, this was fertile in advantages, as it rendered the machine more manageable, particularly by enabling the operator at all times, and without trouble, to suit the power of the engine to its load of work, however variable and increasing; and the third improvement was the double impulse, which may be considered the finishing touch to the engine, by which its action is rendered equally uniform with the water wheel. Mr. Watt's last visit to his friends in Glasgow was in the fall of 1817, and on the 25th of August, 1819, the life of this happy and useful man came to a peaceful close, at his seat at Heathfield, Staffordshire, leaving a son and several grandchildren.

The first steam-engine erected in Glasgow for spinning cotton, was put up in January 1792, in Messrs. William Scott and Co.'s (afterwards Tod and Stevenson's) cotton mill, Springfield, nearly opposite what is now the steam boat quay; and this was seven years after Messrs. Boulton and Watt put up their first steam engine for spinning cotton, in Messrs. Robinson's mill, at Papplewick.

Such was the manner in which the use of steam power in manufactures commenced in Glasgow, and since the comparatively recent date of 1792, such has been the increase of machines of this kind, that by a computation in 1825, there were then 176 engines employed within two miles of the cross, having the power of 2970 horses, and in the proprietory of 149 manufacturers. The horse-power was thus distributed :

Engines employed in Horse-power.
Spinning cotton893
Weaving 665
Raising water 262
Bleaching, dyeing, printing and discharging 206
Calendering 154
Founding 124
Distilling 119
Engine making 37
Snuff making 22
Fire-brick making 19
Sugar Refining 18
Lamp-black making 18
Twisting yarn 18
Smith work 18
Grinding drugs 18
Coach making 12
Glass grinding 12
Grinding malt and pumping worts 20
Grinding colours 14
Veneer sawing 10
Tambouring 10
Cutting and turning wood 18
Wool carding 8
Pottery 7
Singeing muslins 6
Gas 4
Coppersmith 4
Tanning 4
Total 2970

The above exhibits the horse-power employed in spinning and weaving in Glasgow and its suburbs, but gives no idea of the power employed in the cotton trade by Glasgow manufacturers a t a greater distance than two miles from the cross. Reckoning the above 176 engines, along with 18 employed in adjacent collieries, having 2970 horse-power, seven in stone quarries with 39 horse-power, 68 in steam-boats with 1926 horse -power, and one in Clyde Iron Works with 60 horse-power, there will be found a total of 310 engines having 6406 horse-power; the average power of engines being 20 664/1000. Since the period at which the above computation was made, there has been a very great increase in the number of engines, and in their varieties of application.

Before the use of steam came into notice, spinning works were established at a distance from the town for the convenience of water for machinery; as the Ballindalloch and Deanston mills in Stirling and Perthshire; the Catrine mills in Ayrshire; the Lanark mills; and the Rothesay mills in Bute; all the property of houses in Glasgow. No positive estimate of the cotton manufacture has been given, but we learn that there were some years since eighteen works for weaving by steam-power, which contained 2800 looms, producing about 8400 pieces of cloth weekly. There are now about thirty. The number of hand-looms employed by the manufacturers of Glasgow at the same time appears to have been 32,000.

The following goods are now manufactured in and exported from Glasgow. Cambrics; clear lawns; checks of every kind, and of every material; gauzes, botb of thread and silk; handkerchiefs of linen, cotton, and silk; printed linens and calicoes; threads, tapes, and ribbons; ropes; combs of horn and ivory; inkles, to a vast amount; ironmongery; steam-engines and other machinery; leather; gloves; small wares; hats; jewellery; saddlery; shoes; soap; tobacco and snuff; refined sugar; types for printing; pins; ship anchors and similar articles; brass work; brushes; glass; British spirits, ale and beer.

Foreign spirits, especially West India rum, are imported and exported to different places in Britain to a great extent; and Highland whisky being transferred thither for c onveniency by the distillers, is in the same way sent by agents to all parts of the united kingdom. The more closely that the amount of trade and manufactures of Glasgow is examined, the more obvious does it seem that the town is the best adapted in Scotland for an extensive commerce. It is situated in the immediate vicinity of one of the richest coal and mineral fields in the island; is surrounded by an extensive well-cultivated district of country, abundantly productive in grain, cattle, and other means of support for a very dense population. On the one side it communicates by canals with coal and mineral districts, and with the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh; as well as by commodious roads for land carriage : on the other, it has a river navigable upwards from the sea, a distance of fifty miles, by which it has an opportunity of sending out and receiving vessels engaged in traffic with all parts of the world.

Aided by these advantages of local situation, and a course of prosperous industry, Glasgow has in the space of seventy years raised itself to a distinguished pre-eminence in Scotland, and been constituted the second manufacturing town in Britain, being surpassed only by Manchester. Though in many respects analogous to the latter city, it will be seen that the sources of its wealth are not precisely the same. The manufactures of Glasgow are now much the same as those produced at Manchester and its neighbourhood, but it differs considerably in the matter of foreign trade. While Manchester adheres chiefly to the manufacture and sale of cotton goods, and leaves foreign trade in a great measure to Liverpool. Glasgow, in a certain degree, combines the character of these places. The Clyde, at Glasgow, is a river of no great magnitude, although certainly larger than the Irwell a short way below Manchester; it is also better adapted for navigation. At an enormous expense, first and last, the Clyde has been deepened below Glasgow, both by scooping the mud from its bottom, and by narrowing and straightening its course.* Though for seven or eight miles below the city it is only capable of allowing two vessels of moderate size to pass each other, it can safely bring up and carry down vessels of about 300 tons burden. When ships are of a greater magnitude their cargoes are rapidly floated down or up by lighters or steam-boats, to and from Port Glasgow or Greenock; and the way in which the quays of these latter ports are built on the deep waters of the Clyde, permits the lighters to deliver or take on board goods without any delay. Like London, therefore, Glasgow possesses the advantage of being its own seaport, and the entrepot of commerce to a wide district of country around.


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he early institution of banks in Glasgow, and their effects, have been already stated, and a specification may now be made of the different establishments. The first native bank opened in Glasgow was established in 1749, under the firm of the Ship Banking Company, which is still in existence, having notes with the figure of a ship upon them, issued in the name of Carrick, Brown, and Company. The Glasgow Arms Bank was instituted in 1753, and has since been withdrawn. The Thistle Bank was established in 1761, and some time afterwards the Glasgow Merchant Bank, and Messrs. Andrew, George, and Andrew Thomson's Bank were formed. The two latter have also since been withdrawn. In 1809 the Glasgow Banking Company was formed, and in 1830 the Glasgow Union Bank was established on a very broad basis of copartnery, and with every probability of success. In 1783 a branch of an Edinburgh company, the Royal Bank of Scotland, was established in Glasgow, being the only branch of that institution. It has been exceedingly successful in business; indeed it is said to turn over more money than the mother establishment. There are now also branches in Glasgow of the Bank of Scotland, British Linen Company, Commercial Banking Company, and of the Dundee, Greenock, Leith, Paisley, Perth, Renfrew, Ayr, &c. Banks. A Savings or Provident Bank was established in 1815, and has been of much benefit to the working classes.

Insurance Companies

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he citizens of Glasgow have not been fortunate in the establishment of Insurance Companies against damage by fire, &c. After the withdrawal of various native institutions of this kind, the West of Scotland Fire and Life Insurance Company was at length established with success. There are many branches of companies belonging to London, Edinburgh, and other places.


Chambers, Robert. The Gazetterr of Scotland. Glasgow: Blackie and Son, 1838. Internet Archive online version digitized with funding from National Library of Scotland. Web. 30 September 2018.

Last modified 1 October 2018