Detail of a plate from John James, History of the Worsted Manufacture in England, London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1857
Engraved by W. Willis
Thomas J. Watson Library (156.4 J23)
Invented in the 1760s by James Hargreaves, a handloom weaver from Lancashire, the spinning jenny was one of the first power spinning machines for cotton. Although still reliant on human operation, the spinning jenny greatly increased production speed. By turning a single wheel, the weaver could spin eight threads at once. Later improvements increased the number to eighty threads. Innovations such as Hargreaves' spinning jenny and the water frame were replaced with the use of James Watt's rotary steam engine in cotton mills. By the nineteenth century, rapid manufacture and lowered cost led cotton textiles to overtake wool as the largest manufacturing industry in Britain.