| Great Inventors and Their Inventions|
|by Frank P. Bachman|
|Twelve stories of great inventions, grouped under inventions of steam and electric power, inventions of manufacture and production, and in ventions of printing and communication. The final chapter introduces the famous inventors of the early twentieth century. The story of each invention is interwoven with that of the life of its inventor. Through these stories the reader learns how big things are brought about, and on the traits of mind and heart which make for success. Ages 10-14 |
THE INVENTION OF SPINNING MACHINES: THE JENNY, THE WATER FRAME, AND THE MULE
 WHILE men were working on inventions to provide power to
drive machines, and to furnish easy means of
transportation and travel, others were working on
inventions to be used on the farm, in the factory and
the home, in the production and manufacture of articles
of food, clothing, and shelter. The first of these
inventions of manufacture and production were the
THE DISTAFF AND SPINDLE
The oldest spinning machine is the distaff and spindle.
The spindle, the chief part of all machine spinning, is
a slender round piece of wood or iron about twelve
inches long, tapering toward each end. On the upper
end, there is a notch or slit in which to fasten the
thread. The distaff is a round stick, three or four
feet long. One end
 is used to hold the loose supply of wool or cotton. The
other end of the stick is held under the left arm, and
is often fastened in a girdle at the belt.
When spinning with the distaff and spindle, the spinner
pulls out from the loose wool or cotton on the distaff,
a small piece, and twists the end of it by hand. This
finished end is fastened into the notch or slit of the
spindle. The spinner sets the spindle whirling, by
rolling it between her right hand and leg, or by a
twisting motion of the hand. Then the spindle is left
to whirl as it dangles at her side. With her left hand
she holds the loose thread, and with her right hand she
draws it out to the proper size, as it is twisted by
the whirling spindle. When a thread two or three feet
long is thus properly twisted, the thread is unfastened
from the upper end of the spindle and wound on the
lower end. This process is continued until all the
material on the distaff is spun.
SPINNING WITH THE DISTAFF.
Until about the time of the Revolutionary War, all the
woolen, flax, and cotton yarn used in the world was
 thus. From such yarn were woven the clothes of peasant
and prince alike. Even to-day, women may be seen in the
Holy Land, spinning in this old-fashioned way.
THE SPINNING WHEEL
The first improvement on this ancient method was the
spinning wheel. This is a machine to whirl the spindle
by turning a wheel. When the spinning wheel is
employed, the cleaned wool or cotton is first carded,
then twisted loosely, and finally spun into yarn. The
carding is done with hand cards, big coarse nail
brushes, about twelve inches long and five inches wide.
The cotton is spread on one card and combed with
another, until the fibers all lie in one direction. It
is then taken off in fleecy rolls, about twelve inches
long and three quarters of an inch thick. These short
cardings are twisted on the spinning wheel, into a
loose thread, or roving, about the size of a
candlewick. The rovings are wound on reels or bobbins,
and finally spun into the finished yarn.
CARDING WOOL BY HAND.
The spinning wheel was a big advance over the distaff.
The spindle could be kept whirling more rapidly and
easily. The hands were free to fasten the short
cardings together and draw them into rovings, or free
to draw out the roving
 and to hold it while being twisted into yarn. One
spinner could now spin as much yarn as a half dozen had
done before. The yarn was more even, and better
Spinning wheels were to be found in most homes until
about 1840, and many are to be seen there now,
preserved as curiosities. The mother always spun enough
cotton and wool to supply the family with
"linsey-woolsey" for clothes, and with yarns for socks.
JAMES HARGREAVES AND THE
The spinning wheel, which made only one thread at a
time, was displaced by the spinning jenny, on which
twenty, fifty, a hundred, and even a thousand threads
can be spun at once. The inventor was James Hargreaves,
Hargreaves sat pondering one day over a faster way to
 spin cotton. His wife was busy in another part of the
small room. Her spinning wheel for some cause toppled
over. The spindle, which was thrown from a horizontal
to an upright position, continued to whirl. Hargreaves
saw, by one of those flashes of thought which come to
the genius, that, if a number of spindles were placed
upright side by side, and a way found to draw out the
rovings as they were twisted, a number of threads could
be spun by one pair of hands at one time. The idea of
the spinning jenny was thus born. The invention was
named jenny after Hargreaves' wife.
HARGREAVES DISCOVERS THE SPINNING JENNY.
 One person can spin with a jenny as much yarn as twenty
to a hundred can spin, using the old spinning wheel.
The yarn, too, is of better quality. Besides, boys and
girls between the ages of twelve and fourteen can
operate it even better than grown persons. The
 of the jenny thus marks the beginning of child labor in
cotton and woolen factories.
The first jenny was completed about 1767. Hargreaves
tried to keep his invention a secret, and to use it
only in his own home. But he was tempted to make a few
jennies to sell, to buy necessities for his children.
In time, the spinners learned that he had a wonderful
spinning machine with which a twelve-year-old girl
could do as much work as a dozen grown persons with the
spinning wheel. People at that time were not used to
machines. It was the age of handwork, and they had not
yet learned that machines in the end make more work and
better wages. They only saw that this invention would
lessen the number of spinners needed, and would deprive
them of work. So the spinners, who as a rule were
women, along with their husbands and friends, rose up
against the inventor. A mob broke into his house and
broke all the jennies that could be found, and
Hargreaves had to flee for his life.
To protect his invention, he took out a patent in 1770,
but this did no good. The spinning jenny was so easy to
make that the manufacturers, quick to see its merits,
made their own, and refused to pay any royalty on them.
Thus it came about that Hargreaves received nothing for
an invention which for forty years was the principal
machine used in spinning cotton yarn, and still
remains, as improved, the chief machine employed in
spinning wool. He did not, however, live and die in
poverty, as the story is often told. From a yarn
factory of which he was part owner, he made a good
living for himself and his family.
RICHARD ARKWRIGHT AND THE
Cloth is made of two kinds of thread, the warp running
lengthwise, and the woof running crosswise. Warp is a
stronger thread than woof. Neither the spinning wheel
nor the jenny made a cotton thread strong enough for
warp. The warp in all cotton cloth up to this time was
for this reason linen, and only the woof cotton. Linen
thread costs more than cotton thread, and this made
cotton cloth more expensive than if both the warp and
woof were cotton. If cotton cloth was to be cheaper, a
way had to be found to spin a cotton thread strong
enough for warp. The man who succeeded was Richard
Arkwright, also an Englishman.
ARKWRIGHT SELLING HAIR TO A WIGMAKER.
Richard Arkwright was the youngest of thirteen children
 in a poor family. If he ever went to school, it was
only for a short time. To make up for his lack of early
education, Arkwright, when more than fifty years old
and when working from five o'clock in the morning until
nine at night, took an hour each day to study English
grammar, and another hour to improve his spelling and
When a boy, he did all sorts of odd jobs, and finally
became a barber. Even as a barber, he showed that he
was a man of enterprise. The usual price for a shave
was two pence. Arkwright made his price a penny. When
the other barbers lowered their price to one penny, he
advertised "a good shave for a half penny."
By the time he was thirty, Arkwright had enough of
shaving. He took up buying and selling hair to be used
in wigs, which were stylish at the time. He went about
the country from cottage to cottage, and became an
expert in getting young girls to part with their long,
glossy locks. He also came into possession of a secret
way of dyeing hair, which added to its value. As a
dealer in hair, he gained a sort of reputation, for the
wigmakers pronounced "Arkwright's hair the best in the
As a barber and as a dealer in hair, Arkwright had a
good opportunity to talk with people about spinning,
about the lack of yarn, and about the different
spinning machines that were being invented. Whether he
got the idea from one of his customers, or from other
inventions, or whether he was wise enough to see the
need himself, at all events, he made up his mind to
invent a spinning machine. Like other inventors before
and after him, he began to neglect his regular
business. Instead of saving money, he spent more than
he earned. So before the first
 successful model was completed, he had spent all his
savings, and his family were in want.
Arkwright's machine, patented in 1769, spun cotton,
flax, or wool. Pairs of rollers drew out the rovings,
and flying spindles did the rest. The machine is called
the water frame because it was first driven by water
power, but a better name is the roll-drawing spinning
ARKWRIGHT'S FIRST SPINNING FRAME.
His invention was even a greater one than Hargreaves'.
 The water frame spun such a strong thread that it could
be used for warp. Cloth could now be made for the first
time entirely of cotton, and it was not long before
English calicoes made their appearance. The thread was
also so strong that it could be used for knitting
cotton socks. Hargreaves' spinning jenny was suited
only to spin thread from rovings, while the rovings had
to be twisted on the spinning wheel. But the water
frame twisted the rovings as well as spun the
finished yarn. The water frame thus did away with the
spinning wheel in factories, but not with the spinning
jenny. The spinning jenny continued to be used to make
the softer threads for woof, while the
 water frame was employed to twist rovings and to spin
the harder and stronger yarns.
ARKWRIGHT WATER FRAME.
Like Hargreaves, Arkwright received next to nothing for
an invention which is busy to-day the world over,
spinning the warp for the cloth used by millions of
But he did not stop with the water frame. He went on
and on, making one invention after another, until he
had a number of machines, best described by calling
them a cotton-yarn factory. The uncleaned cotton was
put into the first of these, and it came out of the
last, the water frame, as snow-white, well-twisted
Arkwright was not only a great inventor, but he proved
to be a good business man. For a time, he made little
from his inventions or from a cotton manufactory of
which he was part owner. It was not long, however,
before wealth began to flow his way. He finally became
one of the most important cotton-mill owners in
England, and for a number of years controlled the
market price of cotton yarn. Shortly before his death
he was made a knight.
SAMUEL CROMPTON AND THE
The spinning jenny spun good woof. The water frame spun
good warp. But neither of these inventions spun yarn
fine enough to weave muslin. All the muslin of the day
came from India. The Hindu spinners were so skillful
that they could make the very finest yarn, even on the
spinning wheel. The spinning machine which broke
India's hold on the muslin trade was the mule, invented
in 1779 by Samuel Crompton, another Englishman.
From early childhood Samuel helped his widowed
 mother, who supported her only son and her two
daughters by keeping a cow or two, by having a good
garden, and by spinning and weaving. Samuel's "little
legs became accustomed to the loom almost as soon as
they were long enough to touch the treadles." Yet he
went to school regularly, and was given a good
education. Going to school did not, however, relieve
him from a certain amount of spinning and weaving each
day. His mother was in her way loving and kind, but woe
unto Samuel if his daily amount of spinning and weaving
was not done.
Whether or not the eight-spindle jenny used by Samuel
was a poor one, much of his time was taken up in
"mending the ever-breaking ends of his miserable yarn."
To escape the reproach of his exacting mother, it kept
him forever busy to do the allotted stint of spinning
 Then, too, Samuel was an excellent workman. It may be
that he longed to weave cloth as beautiful and delicate
as the muslins of India. At any rate, by the time he
was twenty-one years of age, he began to think how a
better spinning machine than the jenny could be made.
Most inventors are inspired by the hope that from their
inventions they will gain both fame and wealth. From
childhood, Crompton had been much alone. Spinning and
weaving was not then, as now, done in big factories. He
knew very little about the world, and less about how
valuable a great invention might be.
Crompton worked on the new machine from the time he was
twenty-one until he was twenty-six. He says: "The next
five years had this . . . added to my labor
as a weaver . . . , a continuous endeavor
to make a more perfect spinning machine. Though often
baffled, I as often renewed the attempt, and at length
succeeded to my
 utmost desire, at the expense of every shilling I had
in the world." It might be added, at the expense also
of the good will of his neighbors.
Strange sounds were heard coming from Crompton's home.
Lights were seen at all hours of the night. The rumor
went about that the house was haunted. It was soon
discovered that Crompton was the ghost. But when
relieved of their fears of a ghost, the neighbors found
that they had in their midst a "conjuror," the term of
contempt applied to an inventor. So Crompton became an
object of suspicion.
Hardly was the first mule completed, when the
anti-machine riots of 1779 broke out. Mobs of spinners
and weavers went about crying, "Men, not machines."
Rioters went everywhere, destroying all the jennies and
water frames they could lay their hands on, especially
all jennies having more than twenty spindles. The usual
number was eighty. Crompton knew that his invention
would arouse the rioters even more than the jenny or
the water frame. Fearing that they would destroy it, he
took it to pieces and hid it in the garret of his
workroom. There it lay for weeks, before he had courage
to bring it down and put it together. He now learned
for the first time what his machine would do. After a
little practice, he could spin yarn on it fine enough
for the most delicate muslin.
His invention is called the mule, because it combines
in one machine the best points in Arkwright's water
frame and the best points in Hargreaves' spinning
Be-  fore this, the greatest length of yarn ever spun from a
pound of cotton was less than 70,000 yards. With the
mule, it was possible to spin, from a single pound of
cotton, a thread 300,000 yards in length.
Crompton's only idea in inventing the mule, as stated
before, was to make a machine for his own use. The way
before him now seemed clear, and he married. For a few
months he prospered, and he and his wife were happy.
But such a valuable invention could not be kept a
secret long. Crompton's yarn was the finest that came
to the market, and he received the highest price for
His neighbors began to ask, "How can Sam Crompton make
such fine yarn? He must have a new kind of spinning
machine." Some of them went to his home to see.
Crompton, of course, tried to keep them from learning
about his invention. He wanted to be let alone, so
that he might reap the fruits of his labor. He even
went so far as to put a special lock on his workroom,
and to put screens at the windows. But his neighbors
were not to be outdone. They called at unexpected
times. They even brought ladders and looked over the
screens. One fellow, it is said, lay in the loft
overhead for days, and peeped down through a knot hole.
 This spying almost drove Crompton mad. He even thought
of breaking his invention to pieces. "A few months
reduced me," he afterwards wrote, "to the cruel
necessity either of destroying my machine altogether or
of giving it up to the public. It was not in my power
to keep it and work it. To destroy it, I could not
think of that; to give up that for which I had labored
so long was cruel. I had no patent nor the means of
purchasing one. In preference to destroying it, I gave
it to the public."
To induce him to do this, some manufacturers promised
to raise a liberal purse. The total subscription
amounted to only about three hundred and thirty
dollars, but no sooner was the invention made public
than the subscriptions stopped. Worse still, some of
the subscribers refused to pay what they had promised.
Crompton scarcely received enough to make him a new
mule, for he had given up to the manufacturers the one
he was working with, to be used by them as a model in
The first mule was a crude affair, and had not more
than twenty or thirty spindles. Mules of to-day are
among our most beautifully constructed machines, and
some of them carry a thousand spindles. The mule, like
the jenny, was first worked by a spinner, but to-day
they are self-acting, that is, they work themselves.
The mule as thus improved is the most wonderful of all
spinning machines, and is used the world over, to spin
both the warp and the woof of all the finer kinds of
cotton goods, and the woof of the coarser cotton cloth.
Crompton did not go wholly unrewarded, however. In part
payment for the benefits of his invention, Parliament
voted him twenty-five thousand dollars. But this was
 soon wasted by his sons in business. A few years before
his death he almost came to want. Some admiring friends
then raised by private subscription a fund which gave
him an annual income of three hundred dollars. Without
this, he would probably have died in poverty.
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