Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • James Hargreaves spinning jenny of 1764
    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.

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  • James Hargreaves spinning jenny of 1764
    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)

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