The Invention of the Spinning Jenny
It is unclear from the records remaining whether it was Hargreaves intention to employ children on his spinning jenny. An earlier version, however, based on a similar principle, patented by Richard Haines, claimed to be made specifically with the employment of the young, sick and elderly in mind. He proposed that his machine, if placed in a Working-Almshouse for the manufactury of linen cloth, would provide "employment for the weakest people, viz. women and children and decrepit or aged people" (465). These Working-Almshouses would relieve parish rates "since now the Parishes need not so much fear a charge, knowing a Means how to employ all their Children, as fast as they come to be five or six years old" (469). Therefore, it seems at least plausible that a spinning engine like the jenny, which worked on the principle of multiplying the actions of the spinning wheel, could be worked by children. This view is strengthened by statements made by several of Hargreaves' contemporaries. John Aikin seems almost apologetic in his confirmation of the employment of children on the jenny in 1795 in his Description of the Country from 30 to 40 miles round Manchester. Apparently having some preference for adult spinners he observes that, "At first, it is true, jennies containing at most twelve spindles were worked by children of nine to twelve years of age; but these machines were soon displaced by larger jennies both because the latter proved cheaper and also because the spinning done by children was unsatisfactory when a higher level of quality in yarns began to be expected" (quoted in Chapman 1904:54). John Kennedy, in a paper entitled "Observation on The Rise and Progress of the Cotton Trade in Great Britain" that he read before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester in 1815, stated that youths worked the jenny. Kennedy was particularly knowledgeable about spinning machinery since he began his career as a machine-maker and mule spinner and later built three cotton mills with his partners Sanford and McConnell. In tracing the improvements in machinery, he said. "This was followed by another machine, called the Spinning Jenny, invented in 1767 by Mr. Hargreaves, of Blackburn; by means of which a young person could work ten or twenty spindles at once" (9). By the end of the eighteenth century, Marsden published a book on cotton spinning ( 1884) in which he draws an important distinction between Hargreave's original jenny and the improved versions with 120 spindles, "Hargreaves' jennies were generally worked by women and children, as also were Arkwright's water frames. The successive improvements and enlargements, however, began to make them complicated and cumbrous for females to handle, and hence necessitated a change in this respect" (224-225).