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The "Spinning Jenny"

The Spinning Jenny

The increased speed of weaving created a new problem because it now took three spinners to keep up with one weaver. This problem was resolved in 1764, when James Hargreaves invented a new machine that was capable of spinning eight threads of cotton yarn, instead of the spinning wheel's one. The new machine was called the spinning jenny.

All this time the processes of spinning and weaving were still being carried out at home. This was possible because both the flying shuttle and the spinning jenny were small enough to be used in the cottage.

James Hargreaves (1720-1778)

For many centuries, wool and flax (used to make linen) had been changed from fibers (the raw material) to thread, or yarn, using a spinning wheel. The wheel was turned by hand or, in some cases, by using a foot peddle. The motion of the wheel turned a spindle which pulled on the fibers. This caused the fibers to be drawn out and twisted to make yarn.

James Hargreaves was a weaver who lived in Stanhill, near Blackburn in Lancashire. He was poor, uneducated and had a large family. It is said that, in 1767, one of his daughters accidentally knocked over his spinning wheel. As Hargreaves watched the overturned machine, he noticed that the spindle continued to spin, even though it had now been turned over by the fall. It occurred to him that the same wheel might be used to turn many spindles at the same time. He set about making a machine with eight spindles connected to one wheel. He called his machine the Spinning Jenny, after his daughter.

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. Hargreaves decided to move his family away from Blackburn and they settled in Nottingham. Here Hargreaves found a partner, Thomas James, and together they set up a small spinning mill.

Although he patented his invention in July 1770, Hargreaves had already given away its secrets during the six years since its conception. The Spinning Jenny had already been duplicated by others. Hargreaves never earned very much in the way of royalties and continued to work in his spinning mill until his death in 1778.

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Footnote : As far as the Open Door team can ascertain the images shown on this page are in the Public Domain.