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James Hargreaves

From Academic Kids

James Hargreaves (1720April 22, 1778) was a weaver and carpenter in Lancashire, England. He is credited with inventing the spinning jenny in 1764.

Along with Richard Arkwright, Hargreaves is one of the most famous names of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, yet little is known of him as a person. He lived at Blackburn, then a town with a population of about 5000, known for the production of "Blackburn greys," cloths of linen warp and cotton weft. They were usually sent to London to be printed. The demand for cotton yarn outstripped supply, and the crude one-thread spinning wheel could not keep up.

The idea for the jenny is said to have come from the inventor seeing a one-thread wheel overturned upon the floor, when both the wheel and the spindle continued to revolve. He realised that if a number of spindles were placed upright and side by side, several threads might be spun at once. This idea may have come from Hargreaves, or perhaps from Thomas Highs, who had a daughter called Jenny: the sources given below are in conflict.

Whoever the inventor was, he designed a frame, in one part of which he placed eight rovings in a row, and in another part a row of eight spindles. The result was to increase production by a factor of eight, and the number of spindles was later increased to sixteen and gradually to a hundred. However, to operate it required awkward movements, and they were often worked by children, who were better able to perform them. Hargreaves certainly developed the idea from its crude beginnings.

Opposition to the machine caused Hargreaves to leave for Nottingham, where the cotton hosiery industry benefited from the increased provision of suitable yarn. Arkwright also ended up in the town, and was even more successful. Hargreaves made jennies for a man called Shipley, and in July 1770, he took out a patent, which enabled him to take legal action against the Lancashire manufacturers who had begun using it. Although he failed in this, Hargreaves' business was carried on until his death in 1778, the year before that in which Samuel Crompton invented the spinning mule.

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