James Hargreaves (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny, which greatly multiplied the output of spinners and initiated a period of rapid growth in the textile industry which marked the onset of the British Industrial Revolution.
Very little of the early life of James Hargreaves is known. Not even an approximate date of his birth has been recorded, but he is thought to have been born in Blackburn, Lancashire. It also appears that he was employed from 1740 to 1750 as a carpenter and handloom weaver at Standhill, a town near Blackburn. The first certain record of Hargreaves’ life is his employment in 1760 by Robert Peel, an experienced spinner and calico printer in Blackburn and the grandfather of statesman Sir Robert Peel. Peel wished to have an improved machine for carding, the process of disentangling fibers prior to spinning.
In about 1760, the English weaving industry, centered in Lancashire, faced a crisis because spinners could not produce enough thread to satisfy weavers’ needs and permit their businesses to operate profitably. This imbalance had been caused by the introduction in the 1750’s of John Kay’s “flying shuttle,” which greatly facilitated weaving. Adding to the crisis was the fact that fabrics could not be made from cotton alone because of the lack of sufficiently strong cotton fibers. One indication of the industry’s determination to overcome these problems is that...
(The entire section is 1608 words.)
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