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Flat belts on flat pulleys or drums were the most common method during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The belts were generally tanned leather or cotton duck impregnated with rubber.
The distance depended on the weight of the shaft and the number of pulleys.
The shafts had to be kept aligned or the stress would overheat the bearings and could break the shaft.
The shafts were suspended by hangers with bearings at certain intervals of length.
In the earliest applications power was transmitted between pulleys using loops of rope on grooved pulleys.
This method is extremely rare today, dating mostly from the 18th century.
This arrangement was often used near machines to provide a means of shutting the machine off when not in use.
Usually at the last belt feeding power to a machine, a pair of stepped pulleys could be used to give a variety of speed settings for the machine.