Roubaix - Encyclopedia

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ROUBAIX, a manufacturing town of northern France, in the department of Nord, 6 m. N.E. of Lille on the railway to Ghent. Pop. (1906) 119,955. Roubaix is situated about a mile from the Belgian frontier on the Roubaix Canal, which connects the lower Deule with the Scheldt by way of the Marcq and the Espierre. Tramways connect the town with Lille and with the neighbouring communes of Tourcoing (pop. 62,694), Croix (pop. 16,292) and Wattrelos (pop. 14,618), with which it unites to form one great industrial centre. The chief business of Roubaix is the woollen manufacture, but cotton, silk and other materials are also produced. The chief of these are fancy and figured stuffs for garments, velvet and upholstering fabrics. Wool-combing and wool-dressing works, spinning-mills, weaving establishments, dye-houses and printing-works occupy some 50,000 work-people, and four hundred firms act as commission agents for the sale of raw material and the other requisites for the industry. Power is supplied chiefly by steam, less than 5000 out of 28,000 looms being hand-looms. There are breweries, rubber-works, metal foundries and machinery-works in the town. Tomato and grape growing under glass for the winter market is extensively prosecuted. To maintain the high standard of artistic taste which has made the industry of Roubaix a success, schools have been multiplied. By the co-operation of the town and the state the national school of industrial arts was founded in 1883. This is a small university of art, commerce and industry, the twenty-two courses of which include all the branches of knowledge useful in any of those pursuits. Among the public institutions are the tribunal of commerce and the chamber of commerce, the exchange, a board of trade-arbitration and the establishment (bureau de conditionnement) for determining the nature and weight of silk, wool and cotton.

The prosperity of Roubaix had its origin in the first factory franchise granted in 1469 by Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, to Peter, lord of Roubaix, a descendant of the royal house of Brittany. In the 18th century Roubaix suffered from the jealousy of Lille of which it was a dependency, and it was not till the 19th century that its industries acquired real importance. The population, which in 1804 was only 8700, had risen in 1861 to 40,000, in 1866 to 65,000, and in 1876 to 83,000.

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