This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Spinning. The operation of drawing out raw fiber (after having been carded or combed) and twisting it into threads, either by the hand or machinery. Until about 250 years ago the rude method of spinning still employed in India and Egypt was the only one known in Europe or America. For 4,000 years the same simple instruments, worked in almost precisely the same manner, had been used without a thought of improvement. In 1620 an Englishman conceived the idea of the spinning wheel which then superseded distaff and spindle. The spinning wheel when first invented was the same in construction as it is to-day, consisting of a wheel, band and spindle, and driven either by hand or treadle. There were two kinds of spinning wheels in common use, the large wheel for spinning wool or cotton and the small wheel for spinning flax. By the spinning wheel only one thread could be produced at a time, and the most arduous toil could not reel off more than a pound in a day. After the introduction of cotton in England, and as the demand for cheap cotton fabrics increased, several efforts were made to facilitate the process of spinning yarns, and in 1767 James Hargreaves, a weaver of Blackburn, England, produced the spinning-jenny. The idea of the jenny first occurred to him from seeing a spinning wheel overturned upon the floor, where both the wheel and spindle continued to revolve. The spindle was thrown from a horizontal into an upright position, and the thought seems to have struck him that if a number of spindles were placed upright, and side by side, several threads might be spun at once. He contrived a frame with eight spindles, which would thus produce eight threads at one time. For a time he kept his invention a secret, and utilized it only for the production of yarn by himself and his family. But the fact soon being noised abroad, the shortsighted cry that increased production would restrict employment was raised. A mob broke into his house, destroyed his machine, and he suffered subsequently so much and such bitter persecution that he was compelled to leave the place. In 1770 a patent was procured for the jenny, but upon attempting afterwards to defend it against infringement it was found that Hargraves had, previous to this date, manufactured and openly sold similar machines, and in consequence the attorney engaged gave up the actions, despairing of procuring a verdict. Thus the invention was thrown open to the world, and became generally adopted without Har-graves deriving any material benefit from it; although he did not share the common lot of unfortunate inventors and die in poverty. The original jenny of eight spindles had been doubled in power by the time the patent was taken out; it quickly held from twenty to thirty spindles, and has even been made with as many as 240. The spinning jenny was subsequently improved upon and largely superseded by Crompton's mule jenny. Probably no inventive contrivance has been offered to the cotton trade more important than the mule. Samuel Crompton of Bolton, England, completed in 1779 his invention of the mule jenny, in perfecting which he had been engaged several years. But this machine, possessing great merits and advantages, did not come into general use, nor was its value known, until after the expiration of Arkwright's patent for the spinning-frame. It is said Crompton's machine took its name from being a "cross" between the spinning jenny and the spinning frame, the mule jenny being in fact a compound of the spinning-frame and Hargraves spinning-jenny both in its structure and operation. Arkwright's spinning-frame was patented in 1769. At the present time there are two kinds of machines in use for spinning wool and cotton - throstles and mules. The throstle, which is an extension of Arkwright's original spinning-frame, is employed for spinning warps and sewing thread. It produces a yarn with a closer fiber and harder twist than that spun upon the mule, and also stronger and more even than mule yarn. Mule yarn is softer and more wooly in texture than throstle yarn, and can be spun much finer, because the tension is not so great. The mule-frame is also employed for spinning "woolen" yarns on the same principle of spinning fine counts of cotton yarn, while the throstle is used for spinning "worsted" yarns. Mule yarn is used for weaving muslins and the finest kinds of cotton goods. As it requires much less power to run the same number of mule spindles than throstles, the manufacturer spins every kind of yarn he possibly can upon the mule; but it will only produce the softest kind of thread. The yarn spun upon the throstle has its fiber closer twisted than that spun upon the mule, and is more esteeemd for certain purposes, especially for making thread and "worsteds," than the latter. Throstle yarn is stronger and more even than mule yarn, and better adapted for warps; but the range is limited, the counts seldom exceeding No. 40's, though throstles are made capable of spinning yarns up to 80's and 100's. The reason is that the fine thread has not the strength to stand the "drag" or tension required in the hard-twisting of the yarn on the bobbin. The mule on the other hand, will spin both warp and weft, and as high as No. 100's, or more, while still finer numbers can be spun by hand mules. [See Yarn, Hank]