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Spinning Jenny - James Hargreaves

Spinning JennyBy Mary Bellis

Several inventions in textile machinery occurred in a relatively short time period during the industrial revolution: the flying shuttle, spinning jenny, spinning frame, and cotton gin. These inventions facilitated the handling of large quantities of harvested cotton. In 1764, a British carpenter and weaver named James Hargreaves invented an improved spinning jenny, a hand-powered multiple spinning machine that was the first machine to improve upon the spinning wheel.

James Hargreaves was born in Oswaldtwistle, England in 1720, he received no formal education and was never taught how to read or write. James Hargreaves worked as a carpenter and a weaver. Legend has it that Hargreaves' daughter Jenny knocked over a spinning wheel and as Hargreaves watched the spindle roll across the floor the idea for the spinning jenny came to him. However, that story is just a legend. Jenny was rumored to have been the name of Hargreaves' wife and that he named his invention after her.

The original spinning jenny used eight spindles instead of the one found on the spinning wheel. A single wheel on the spinning jenny controlled eight spindles which created a weave using eight threads spun from a corresponding set of rovings. Later models had up to one-hundred and twenty spindels.

Hargreaves patented a sixteen spindle spinning jenny on July 12, 1770. The courts rejected his patent application for his first spinning jenny because he had made and sold several too long before he filed for a patent. The labor saving devices threatened workers and in 1768 a group of spinners broke into Hargreaves' house and destroyed his spinning jenny machines, fearing that the machines would take work away from them.

James Hargreaves' invention did in fact decrease the need for labor. The only drawback was that his machine produced thread that was too coarse to be used for warp threads (weaving term for the the series of yarns that extended lengthways in a loom) and could only produce weft threads (weaving term for the crossways yarn).

James Hargreaves

The "Spinning Jenny" - James Hargreaves
James Hargreaves made a number of Spinning Jennies and started to sell them in the area. However, since each machine was capable of doing the work of eight people, other spinners were angry about the competition. In 1768, a group of spinners broke into Hargreaves' house and destroyed his machines.

Related Innovations
Spinning Wheel
Industrial Revolution - Timeline of the Textile Industry

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