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A compendious history of the cotton-manufacture : with a disproval of the claim of Sir Richard Arkwright to the invention of its ingenious machinery online

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Jialional and general Importance of the Cotton Mamifacture - - - 3


Early Modes of Spinning and Weaving - - • • - - 6

Improved Methods of Management and Disposal of Manufactured Cottons - - 10

Invention of the Spinning Jenny - - - - - -.-12

Invention of the Water Frame, or Throstle - - - - - 16

The Carding Engiyie - - - - - - -'-18

Same Account of the Life of Sir Richard Arkwright - - - - 20


Mis-statements of the foregoing Fads - - - - - - 29

Invention of the Mule and Exportation of Tivist - - - - - 31


Change of Character and Manners, in the Population, superindiicid hy the extension of the Cotton
Manufacture - - - - - - -36

Mc.ial and Religious Character of Weavers - - - - - - 40


V/ii >(!(im Looyn - ....... 44

Appendix: — No. 1. Tlie Statement of Thomas Leather ... - rtii

No. 2. Certificate of the Burial of Maty Leallier - - - 54

No. 3. Evidence of Thomas Highs .... .5.5

No. 4. Evidence of Jolm Kay - . . . - 62

No. 5. Evidence of Sarah Kay - - - - - 69


In Page 20, line 10, for appaling read appalling.

In Page 20, line 23, for Aniens read Anlieus.

In Page 30, line 21, for Voila ce que Vhistoire, read Voila
c'est que c'est qne I'histoire. This observation is, in the hurry
of composition, erroneously attributed lo Louis the 14th. It
vras made by Henry the 4th of France, after the Battle of Aumalp,
where he was wounded.

la Page 41, line 9, for exhUin^ read exiiing.

In Page 11, line G, {or practise read practice.


National and General Importance of the Cotton Manufacture.

The present age is distinguished beyond all others by the i-apid progress of
human discovery. Man respired the air of his atmosphere for many ages, before
he discovered it to be a substance possessing weight and the other properties of
material bodies ; but it was reserved for our own times to ascertain that it and the
other aeriform fluids, which from their subtlety and invisibility would seem to
elude human scrutiny, were chiefly compound bodies susceptible of Analysis and
Classification. The science of Aerostation — the means of enabling miners to work
in safety in the midst of an inflammable atmosphere, and the illuminating of our
Streets and Houses with subterraneous fire, have followed. Water and Fire have
been brought to flow in peaceful association under the feet of the inhabitants of our
towns, to administer to their wants and promote their pleasures. The double con-
densing Steam Engine, and its application to Navigation, may almost claim the
merit of original inventions, and will in their consequences to Man, perhaps not be
second to the boast of former ages — the discoveries of the Magnet, of Gunpowder,
and of Printing. They have subjected to Man a Giant, by whose assistance he can
obtain the treasures of mines hitherto unapproachable by reason of subterraneous
waters — draw ponderous loads of fuel, limestone or other substances, along rail ways
without the help of beasts — set in motion machinery, to which mere human strength
was unequal — cross the seas independent, and even in despite of winds and tides, and
with a rapidity before unknown. To these might be added the Voltaic Pile,
Vaccination and others equally splendid and original.

One, however, which would seem to merit the attention of the Philosopher
from its ingenuity, the Englishman from its having brought an immense increase
of wealth and population to his territory, and all from its economizing human
labour and enabling many articles of clothing to be obtained at a less expensive

rate, has obtained comparatively little attention. While admiration has been
unboundedly lavished on other triumphs of the mind, the successive inventions and
improvements of the Machinerv employed in the Cotton Manufacture, have obtained
neither the notice which their own ingenuity, nor their national inipoitance required.
They have been the great means of increasing the population of the county of
Lancaster, in the first ten years of the present century, from 672; 73 1 to 810,539,
and, in the subsequent ten years, from that number to 1,052,859, (a rate of more
than doubling itself in half a century,) and of producing a corresponding increase
of wealth and intelligence. Under the influence of the manufacture of which they
have been the promoters, the town of Manchester has, fiom an unimportant pro-
vincial town, become the second in extent and population in England, and Liver-
pool has become in opulence, magnitude, elegance and commerce, the second
Seaport in Europe. That Liverpool is a consequence of the Cotton Manufacture,
and indebted to Manchester and its dependencies for its greatness, is evident on
general principles. The origin of a Manufacturing town is this: a Manufactory
is established, a number of labourers and artizans are collected — these have wants
which must be supplied bv the Corn Dealer, the Butcher, the Builder, the Shop-
keeper — the latter when added to the Colony have themselves need of the Draper,
the Grocer, &c. Fresh multitudes of every various trade and business, whether
conducive to the wants or luxurv of the inhabitants, are superadded, and thus is
the Manufacturing town formed. The causes of its increase and greatness rest
within itself — thev are primary and original. But the formation and increase of a
Seaport town, proceed from secondary causes. A commercial Seaport pre-supposes,
that the inhabitants of the interior have wants to be supplied through it, or that
they have a superfluity of their own productions to exchange for the commo-
dities of other nations. The Seaport may decline without injuring the Manu-
facturing town, but if the demand of the Manufacturing town for foreign produce
should diminish, or if it should no longer have productions of its own to export,
or if that commerce of which it is the cause and the nucleus, should flow into ano-
ther channel, the business of the Seaport is at an end. These two great Towns,
then, which, with their connections and dependencies, are almost an equipoize to
the Metropolis, are a consequence of the Cotton Manufacture.

The Machinery employed in the Cotton Manufacture is little known except
to the manufacturers themselves, and the History of its progressive improvements.
])erhaps, scarcely to them. For the gieatest improvements we are indebted to a
man in humble life, whose poverty and want of patronage prevented him from

either reaping the pecuniary benefit, or establishing his claims to that fame to
which his ingenuity entitled him. By borrowing his ingenious inventions the late
Sir Richard Arkwright lived to acquire a princely fortune, and died with the repu-
tation of being one of the most eminent of those individuals, who have enlarged
the resources of their native country, and made her manufactures and machinery
the wonder of surrounding nations; while the man to whose painful labours and
ingenious contrivances Sir Richard was indebted for these honours, lived in obscu-
rity, and died in indigence:

Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes,
Sic vos non vobis fertis aratra boves. — Virgil.
To him Sir Richard in his greatness held out no fostering hand — he not only

reaped the harvest himself, but assumed the reputation of having sown the grain;

and whether from shame, from vanity, or indifference, left the author of his fame

to languish in his original poverty.


Early Modes of Spinning and Weaving.

The original Mode of converting- the fleecy contents of the fruit of the
cotton tree into Thread, for the purpose of being woven into Cloth, was the
distaflf and spindle, and this mode is still used in Hindostan.* ' The distaff is a
wooden rod, with a bundle or fleece of cotton wool tied loosely round the top of it.

The spinner holds the distaff between the left arm and the body, his left
hand is nearer to the distaff than the right, the hands are kept about two inches
asunder, and pull from the fleece a continuous lock of cotton wool, the right hand
drawino- out and twisting so much of the lock as is between it and the left hand
into a fine thread, which is farther twisted by a pendent spindle, or bobbin,
which is kept constantly twirling round, and on which the thread is afterwards
wound. See plate 1.

This tedious process was the one used from the earliest ages, and might be
the occupation to which Hector sends Andromache:

'AXX' it; olxov 'mi73. ra. ffaurrji sfya xiui^f,
'lo-rov r, ■^Xaxa.-njv re, xou aa^nroAoio-i jtiXsuE
'Efysv sifAy^nxiai- — Horn. II. Lib. vi. 490.

The general likeness between a mast, which is another sense of i(rriy, and the
distaff, favours the supposition.!

The state of the Cotton Manufacture in the county of Lancaster, at the
commencement of the last century, was as follows: The warp, or longitudinal

* The superiority of texture and the durability of the India Nankeens, and Long Cloths, are owiii^
to this mode of spinning, which disposes the fibres of the cotton more evenly, and twists them more
into the body of the thread than the spinning machines do.

t For this criticism, I am indebted to my friend Mr. Littler, Solicitor, Leigh.

threads of the cloth, was linen yarn, imported in the hank or bundle, froin Ger-
many. The weaver bought it himself, and prepared it for the Loom by arrang-
ing it in parallel lines: this operation, called warping-, was done upon pegs
fastened into a wall; the warps were from twelve to twenty-five yards long, and
were warped or arranged in parallel lines, a single thread at a time, by passing
the yarn round the pegs. See plate 2. The threads were also divided into two
equal parts, each alternate thread being in the upper half of the warp, and the
other threads in the lower half, and this division, called the lesse, was carefully
preserved during the weaving, the upper half passing through one heald, and
the lower through another. The weft, or transverse threads of the cloth, was
made from Cotton, which was also bought by the weaver.

The Cotton was beaten, picked and cleaned from dirt and impurities, and
then carded, or brushed with coarse wire brushes. The carding was done by
hand cards about twelve inches long, and five inches wide; the carder holding
one in each hand. See plate 3, figure. I. The Cotton, after being picked and
cleaned, was spread upon one of these cards, and was brushed, scraped or
combed with the other, until the fibres of the cotton were all disposed in
one direction; it was then taken off in soft fleecy rolls, about twelve inches
long, and three quarters of an inch in diameter. These rolls, called card-
ings, were converted into a coarse thread or roving, by twisting one end to
the spindle of a hand wheel, turning the wheel which moved the spindle with
the right hand, and at the same time drawing out the carding horizontally with
the left. See plate 3, figure 2. The motion thus communicated to the carding
twisted it spirally; when twisted, it was wound upon the spindle, another
carding was attached to it, drawn out and twisted: thus was formed a continued
coarse thread or roving. The rovings were then taken to tlie spinner to be con-
verted into weft. The hand wheel was again used for this purpose, and the
rovings were drawn out into weft nearly in the same manner as the cardings were
made into rovings. See plate 3, figure 3.

The double operations of roving and spinning were requisite, because the
cardinofs could not at once be drawn out into a level and even thread, fine enough
for the loom; roving or coarse spinning reduced the carding to the thickness of
a quill, and the spinner afterwards drew out and twisted the roving into weft
fine enough for the weaver. The warp was placed between two beams about
five feet asunder; half way between the beams the warp passed through a frame
work of looped threads, called healds, each alternate thread of the warp going


through one heald, and the other threads through tlie other heald. The healds
were worked by two treddles, which upon one being put down by the foot,
raised one half of the healds and every second thread of the warp; the shuttle
which contained the weft was then thrown by the right hand between the threads
which were at rest, and the second or alternate threads raised by the treddie and
the healds; the shuttle was caught on the other side by the left hand, and the weft
thus transversely shot between the threads of the warp was driven by the reed
close to the cloth made by former casts of the shuttle. The other treddie was
then put down, which raised the other healds and the threads of the warp, which
had before been at rest; the shuttle was thrown by the left hand to the right,
leaving another transverse thread, which was again driven by the reed close to
the former one. See plate 4, fig. 1. In weaving cloth above thirty-six inches
broad, two men were required to one loom, because one man could not extend
his arms sufficiently to throw the shuttle through the warp from one hand to
the other; two were consequently necessary, one on each side of the loom, to
receive and throw back the shuttle. The goods thus manufactured were called
Fustians, and were sold in the grey by the weavers to the Manchester merchants.
It was not until 1740, that the Manchester merchants began to give out
warps and raw cotton to the weavers, receiving them back in clotii, and paying
for the carding, roving, spinning and weaving. After the fustians were manu-
factured the merchants dyed them, and then carried them to the principal towns
in the kingdom on pack-horses, opening their packs and selling to the shop-
keepers as they went along.

In 1733 a Mr. Wyatt, of Litchfield, invented a machine for spinning cot-
ton, and two factories were built and filled with his machines, one at Birming-
ham, and one at Northampton. Both these undertakings failed; the machines
have long ago perished, and no model or description of them remains. We
find no farther attempts to spin by machines until 1764.

In 1738 Mr. John Kay, a native of Bury, in Lancashire, but at that time
residing at Colchester, invented a new mode of throwing the shuttle. By this
invention the lathe was extended a foot on each side of the warp, in which
foot an impetus was given to the shuttle, by means of the picking peg held by
the weaver in his right hand, which drove it across the warp and back again,
without being thrown by the workman's hands. See plate 4, fig. 2 and 3.
This plan of throwing the shuttle, the one now in use, enabled the weaver to
make nearly double the quantity of cloth he could have made on the old system,

and enabled one man to weave the widest cloth. Mr. Kay brought this ingeni-
ous invention to his native town, and introduced it among the woollen weavers
in the same year, but it was not much used among the cotton weavers until 1760.
In that year Mr. Robert Kay, Of Bury, son of Mr. John Kay, invented the drop
box, by means of which the weaver can at pleasure use any one of three shut-
tles, each containing a different coloured weft, without the trouble of taking
them from and replacing them in the lathe. About this time, also, the warping
mill was introduced into the cotton manufacture. The warping mill is a prisma-
tic reel about six yards in circumference, and six or seven feet in height. This
reel is turned round on a vertical axis by a band, from a pully or wheel, which
is turned by the warper. The bobbins which contain the yarn are placed on a
frame a yard or two distant from the reel, and the threads from them pass
through a slide which moves perpendicularly up and down an upright piece of
wood; this slide is suspended by a cord coiled round the axis of the reel. After
dividing, crossing, and wrapping the threads round wooden pins placed at the
top of the reel, the reel is turned, the slide descends by the uncoiling of the
cord from the axis, and the threads are wound about the reel. When one hun-
dred, or one hundred and twenty yards, according to the length of the warp
required, are wound upon the reel, the threads are crossed and wrapped round
other wooden pins placed at the bottom of the reel. The reel is then turned the
contrary way, the cord coils round the axis, the slide ascends, and the threads
are again wound about tlie reel. These operations are repeated until the requi-
site number of threads are arranged upon the reel. See plate 5.


Improved Methods of Management and Disposal of Manufactured Goods.

About 1750 there arose a second rate class of merchants, called Fus-
tian Masters; these resided in the country and employed the neighbouring
weavers, and the mode of conducting the manufacture at that time was as
follows : — The master gave out a warp and raw cotton to the weaver, and
received them back in cloth, paying the weaver for the weaving and spinning;
the weaver, if the spinning was not done by his own family, paid the spinner
for the spinning, and the spinner paid the carder and rover.*

* The weft spun in 1760 was of six different qualities, six-penny, eight-penny, ten-penny, fifieeii-
peuny, eighteen-penny, and two shillings, so called from the price per pound paid for the weaving.
The six-penny was about five hanks to the pound, the eight-peuny about six, and the ten-penny about
eight hanks to the pound; the fifteen-penny, eighteen-peuny, and two shillings, were about eleven, thir-
teen and sixteen hanks to the pound. A hank is eight hundred and forty yards. These wefts were
made into goods called pillows, chains, thieksetts, barragons and denims.

The weaving of a piece containing twelve pounds of eighteen-penny weft, occupied 1 m ^

a weaver about fourteen days, and he received for the weaving j

The spinning of the weft at nine-pence per pound, amounted to - - 9

The picking, carding, and roving at nine-pence per pound, amounted to - 9

il 16

Thus when the weaver took home the piece, he received thirty-six shillings, out of which he paid
the spinner eighteen shillings, the spinner paying nine shillings for the carding and roving. A weaver
required three grown persons to supply him with weft. There were also finer qualities of weft spun for
cotton velvets, some as tine as forty hanks to the pound. Forty hanks wtft sold for six shillings per
pound, including carding, roving and spinning;.

In nr.O, Oats were 2s. per bushel, 45 lbs.
Wheat was 5s. do 70 lbs.

Meal 20s. per load.

Jannock, 15 lbs. for 13d.


The Master attended the weekly market at Manchester, and sold his pieces in
the grey to the Merchant, who afterwards dyed and finished them. Instead of tra-
velling with their goods on pack-horses, the Merchants or their Travellers now rode
from town to town, carrying with them patterns or samples, and on their return
home the goods sold during the journey were forwarded by the carriers' waggons.

This practise, far more commodious than the nide and inconvenient mode of
carrying their merchandize from town to town, has become general, not only in
this, !)ut in every other business; and it may now be asserted, that the whole of the

internal wholesale trade of England is carried on by Commercial Travellers they

pervade every town, village and hamlet in the kingdom, carrying their samples and
patterns, and taking orders from the retail tradesmen, and afterwards forwarding the
goods by waggons, or canal barges, to their destination;— they form more than
one half of the immense number of persons who are constantly travelling through
the country in all directions, and are the principal support of our Inns, the neatness
and comfort of which are so much celebrated throughout Europe. The com-
mercial travellers are in a great measure the causes of this neatness and comfort,
for they soon find out the best houses of entertainment; and, being gregarious,
the news is readily communicated, and the best houses of course become more fre-
quented: a circumstance which excites emulation among the Innkeepers. These
travellers are a body of men exhibiting intelligence and acuteness, combined, in
many instances, with self-conceit and the superficial information acquired by reading

Malt, was 23s. per load,
A Goose, 15(1.

Cheese, il per lb.

Beef, 2d. per lb.

A Neck of Mutton, 9d.
Land let for 40s. or 45s. the Cheshire acre, and a weaver's cottage, with a two-loom shop, for 40s.
or -jOs. per annum.


Invention of the Spinning Jenny.

About 1760 the Manchester Merchants began also to export Fustians in con-
siderable quantities to Italy, Germany, and the North American Colonies, and the
cotton manufacture continued to increase until the spinners were unable to supply
the weavers with weft. Those weavers whose families could not furnish the neces-
sary supply of weft, had their spinning done by their neighbours, and were obliged
to pay more for the spinning than the price allowed by their masters; and even with
this disadvantage, very few could procure weft enough to keep themselves constantly
employed. It was no uncommon thing for a weaver to walk three or four miles in
a morning, and call on five or six spinners, before he could collect weft to serve
him for the remainder of the day ; and when he wished to weave a piece in a shor-
ter time than usual, a new ribbon, or gown, was necessary to quicken the exertions
of the spinner. It is evident that an important crisis for the Cotton Manufacture of
Lancashire was now arrived. It must either receive an extraordinary impulse, or, like
most other human affairs, after enjoying a partial prosperity, retrograde. The spin-
ners could not supply weft enough for the weavers. The first consequence of this
would be to raise the price of spinning. In the then state of manners and prejudices,
when the facilities of communication between places were less, and the population
generally possessed with much gi-eater antipathy to leaving their native place than
at present, this inducement would have failed to bring together a sufficient number
of hand spinners, and a farther rise in the price of spinning must have been the
consequence. This would have rendered the price of the manufactured cloth too
great to have been purchased for home or foreign consumption, for which its cheap-
ness most of course have been the principal inducement.

In this strait a means of obviating the difficulty was found in a quarter where
it could have been least expected. A reed maker, of the name of Thomas Highs,
residing in the town of Leigh, in Lancashire, one forenoon in the year 1763 or 4,


being in the house of one of his neighbours, whose son, a weaver, had coine home
after a long, ineffectual search for weft, was, by the circumstance, roused to consider
Avhether a machine could not be invented to produce a more plentiful supply of weft.
He engaged one Kay, a clock maker, to make him the wheels and other apparatus
of his machine, and they worked together in a garret in Highs' house. The cham-
ber door was kept locked, and they worked at over hours with gi-eat assiduity and
perseverance for several months. All their trouble and pains were, however, abor-
tive, and one Sunday evening, in a fit of despondency, they threw the machine
through the garret window, into the yard. — During their labours they were often
jeered by their neighbours with enquiries for weft, and after the catastrophe of the
garret window, the derision broke out without restraint. Kay was asked what
wages his master gave him for making spinning wheels, to which he replied, that
he had done with spinning; and then joined in the laugh with his neighbours.
Highs was not so easily discouraged; his persevering mind, though foiled, was not
suhdued. He took the broken wheels once more to his garret, and after another
effort produced the ingenious machine known by the name of the Spinning Jenny,

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