Sir Rich Arkwright

Sir Rich Arkwright was born on December 23, 1732 at Preston in the county of Lancaster. His first profession was a barber in Bolron-le-moors in 1760. Soon afterward he traveled throught the country buying human hair. At that time he had a valuable chemical secret for dying the hair to make wigs out of. Arkwright's hair was commented to be the finest hair in the country.

In 1761, Richard Arkwright married Margaret Biggins, and this marriage brought him to an aquaitance with Thomas Highs. Highs was probably one of the most important people Arkwright was to ever meet. He was the inventor of the spinning jenny and the water frame. Highs was behind the mechanical production of both of these machines, however he could now market his product due to lack of funding and ill communication skills. This is where Richard Arkwright comes in. Arkwright was highly skilled in dealing with business and other social aspects.

Arkwright sought to obtain the water frame by less than friendly means. He contacted John Kay, a former employee of Highs', to "turn brass" for him. This was all part of a clever plot to get Kay to reveal the design of Highs' water frame. Eventually, Arkwright succeded and Kay cunstructed a replica of the water frame, or otherwise known as throstle. Arkwright showed off the model to several people to seek financial aid. He eventually prevailed on Mr. Smalley to fund the project.

In April of 1768 he hired Kay and took him along with him to Nottingham where he built a factory turned by horses. On July 3, 1769, he obtained a patent for "spinning by rollers." By doing this, he solidified his hold over the water frame preventing Highs from ever gaining the immense profits made by the water frame.

In 1771, Arkwright built another factory in Cromford. The power for this factory was supplied by a water wheel instead of horses. During this time many improvements were made to shorten the process of spinning wool. Arkwright kept an eye on these improvements and eventually made a machine combining many of them into a series. These "engines," as he called them, were enough to take up another pattent on December 16, 1775. Improvements specified in the pattent were not invented by Arkwright but were actually borrowed from a number of different spinners. The spinners he borrowed the improvements continued to use their improvements even after the pattent was obtained. In 1781, Arkwright began to take action against these people for still using these improvements by suing them for pattent infringement. Unlike what would happen today, only one case was tried against Col. Mordaunt. Mordaunt's defence was that Arkwright had never specified the inventions as required by law, theref making the pattent invalid.

Soon after the trial, Arkwright published "The Case." The object of "The Case" was to obtain from the Legislature an act of Parliament to guarantee Arkwright the pattent-right which had been invalidated by the trial in 1781. In "The Case" he attributed the invention of the jenny and the water frame to James Hargrave who infact only improved on the water frame. He also cleverly omitted Highs' name from the paper, and Hargrave, who was dead, could not deny or approve of what was written.

For those of you who have been wondering all this time about what the water frame exactly is, well, it's not a drenched picture frame. It's really an improvement on a spinning machine called the spinning jenny. The jenny, however, was only able to spin transverse threads. The jenny's inventor, Highs, believed he could produce a machine that could spin cotton to a degree of hardness and fineness required for logitudinal threads which had been made from foreign linnen yarn. Highs employed Kay to make the machine by giving him a model made of wood.

The water frame required a great deal of power to operate it, and could only be used to the advantage of factories,and only by specific factories with an available water source to turn the machine because the steam engine had not been invented at this point in time. This is where it got the name of water frame. The yarn spun on the water frame is twisted much harder than yarn spun on the jenny. Because of this, it is better adapted for warps or longitudinal threads.

Highs tried to keep the water frame as secret as possible because, as was said, it was his favorite invention. He promised himself that he would take full advantage of it in the future. The spinning jenny he made public, but decided to keep the water frame secret until the time that he could raise enough money to have a factory built for it.

Richard Arkwright is due some credit, for without him, the water frame would probably had a very slow and tedious introduction, or might have perished all together. Arkwright died in Cromford in August, 1792 at age 59. He came from a very low status in live and raised himself to the highest dignity in an extensive and influent country. He was universally respected and even now is remembered.