We do not pretend to know the etymology of this word, but believe we can explain its meaning or application of which few have any knowledge outside of those who understand the trick of the trade. Woolen fabrics furnished for soldiers' wear have been the means of giving the defenders of the country an idea of the thing represented by shoddy. In many instances, a whole corps have found their coats on their backs dropping to pieces after a few days' wear, showing their worthlessness for ordinary use of the garments allowed to be imposed upon them by the carelessness or fraud of inspectors. These frail textures owe their rottenness to the liberal mixture owe their rottenness to the liberal mixture in the fabric of an article called "shoddy," which is a discovery of a recent period, and may be ranked, we suppose, among the "latest modern improvements"
The raw material for shoddy is old rags. Woolen rags that were once consigned to the manure heap furnish this material. When the new demand for them first arose, the price was about $5 per ton; since then it has advanced. They are collected and assorted, and then baled for manufacture into carpets, shawls, tinsey and black cloths. Selected rags, thus baled, when of the best description, are worth over $100 a ton. The assorters sell to the shoddy manufacturer. This agent in the process of making old garments into new takes these rags and passes them through a "rag machine," which is a cylinder armed with teeth that, revolving at high speed, pulls them to pieces, reducing them to wool, and freeing them from dust. It is now shoddy, and in this state is saturated with oil or milk, and frequently scoured in heaters, in combination with some chemicals. The process completed, the shoddy is ready for manufacture into cloth. For this purpose it is mixed with new wool in as large proportions as possible. White is used in blankets and light colored goods, and the dark descriptions for coarse cloths, carpets, etc. The "shoddy" is the product of soft woolens, but the hard or black cloths when treated in a similar manner produce "mungo," which is used extensively in superfine cloths, which have a finish that may deceive a good judge. It is used largely in felted fabrics.
The shoddy parts of a garment made of the mixed material give way very soon, rubbing out of the cloth. It accumulates between it and the lining. Formerly it was largely imported from England. After a while, the demand for it here was found to be so good that machines were sent over for its manufacture here. In New York there are six shoddy mills.
As we have intimated, the impositions of contractors in palming shoddy uniforms on the volunteers, left the soldiers, after a few days trial of the rotten fabrics, almost naked. It is probable that the shoddy fraud was carried to a more outrageous excess in these instances than in ordinary dealings. But it is believed that a large proportion of the cloths sent to market in ordinary times is, so to speak, adulterated by this base-born material, and that fortunes are made and pockets pickets picked through its instrumentality to an extent of which the cheated community of shoddy cloth wearers have no idea.