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John Kay was born near Bury in Lancashire in about 1704.  For hundred of years, handloom weaving had been carried out on the basis of the shuttle holding the yarn that was being passed slowly and awkwardly from one hand to the other. 

In 1733, Kay patented his flying shuttle that decreased the time and effort needed for this process. Kay placed shuttle boxes at each side of the loom connected by a long board, known as a shuttle race. By means of cords attached to a picking peg, a single weaver, using one hand, could cause the shuttle to be knocked back and forth across the loom from one shuttle box to the other. 

A weaver using Kay's flying shuttle could produce wider cloth at faster rates. Some woolen manufacturers used Kay's flying shuttle but were reluctant to pay him royalties. The costs of using the courts to obtain the money owed to him nearly impoverished Kay. 

In 1753, Kay's house in Bury was attacked by  textile workers who feared that his machines would destroy their jobs. Deeply depressed about these events, John Kay left England for France where he died about 1780.






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