James Hargreaves

James Hargreaves

English inventor
Country: Great Britain

  1. James Hargreaves: English Inventor and Pioneer of Spinning Machinery
  2. Biography
  3. The Invention of the Spinning Jenny
  4. Legal Battles and Later Years

James Hargreaves: English Inventor and Pioneer of Spinning Machinery

James Hargreaves was an English inventor and one of the three founders of mechanized spinning. In 1764, Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny, a spinning machine. Later, in 1769, Richard Arkwright invented the water frame, and Samuel Crompton combined the spinning jenny and the water frame to create the spinning mule. The demand for high-quality thread in the growing textile industry far exceeded the supply, and the solution lay in developing new, more productive and efficient spinning machine models. Samuel Crompton made a significant breakthrough in this direction, drawing inspiration from the works of James Hargreaves and Richard Arkwright.


James Hargreaves was born in Stanhill, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. He lived in the town of Blackburn, which was renowned for producing fabric made from linen and cotton. The fabric produced in Blackburn was often sent to London for further processing. The local production system faced a bottleneck in the production of cotton yarn, as the demand for it far exceeded the supply. The conventional spinning machines could not solve this problem. Hargreaves was described by his contemporaries as a stocky and sturdy man, standing at least 1.75 meters tall. He was married and, according to baptism records, was the father of at least 13 children, of whom eight survived.

The Invention of the Spinning Jenny

The idea for the spinning jenny came to Hargreaves by accident. While observing a regular spinning machine, he witnessed it falling to the ground, with the wheel and spindle still moving. Seeing this peculiar system, Hargreaves realized that several spindles installed side by side could process multiple threads simultaneously. He soon transformed this idea into reality, and the new machine indeed significantly sped up the spinning process. However, it was not a perfect solution as it was only suitable for preparing the weft, and the quality of the threads it produced was not excellent. This problem was later solved with Arkwright's spinning frame. Initially, Hargreaves made spinning jennies only for himself but later sold several models to his neighbors. Weavers were pleased with the new invention, but it was only when the prices of yarn began to decline that they realized progress did not always bring happiness. Opponents of "high technology" forced Hargreaves to move to Nottingham, where there was a strong demand for cotton stockings and a shortage of yarn. Hargreaves' spinning machine was highly valued, and it was in Nottingham that he crossed paths with Arkwright, who also demonstrated the advantages of his own invention.

Legal Battles and Later Years

Hargreaves sold his spinning machines. On June 12, 1770, he received a patent for his invention, which allowed him to sue the Lancashire manufacturers who had also adopted the new machine. Unfortunately, Hargreaves did not win the lawsuit. Together with Thomas James, Hargreaves managed a small mill in Hockley, where he also lived. He continued to run his business until his death in 1778. In 1779, Samuel Crompton, the creator of a more modern version of the spinning machine, acknowledged that he had learned to spin on Hargreaves' spinning jenny.

According to Edward Baines, a writer and biographer, the rights of Hargreaves and Arkwright to their inventions were often challenged, particularly the patents held by Arkwright. It is known that a certain Thomas Highs attempted to claim credit for both Arkwright's inventions and the spinning jenny.