Believe it or not, screen printing has been around almost as long as imperial China. The earliest records of screen printing come from the Song Dynasty in around 960 CE. While these methods were rudimentary, at best, the were quickly adopted and refined by Japanese and other asian cultures. However, the practice of screen printing did not make it to Europe until the late 1700's. Then, in 1907, a man by the name of Samuel Simon popularized a style of printing that utilized silk screens. This is why the term screen printing and silk screening are often interchanged.
From there, an industry was born. Printers began experimenting with different inks and techniques, all of which resulted in different styles of printing. Throughout this developmental process, many of the techniques were heavily guarded as they were deemed trade secrets.
Finally, American entrepreneur and inventor, Michael Vasilantone, would develop a rotary screen printing machine which rapidly expanded companies production capabilities. Since then, this original rotary design has been automated to such an extent that some machines can produce thousands of garments in an hour.