Richard Arkwright was born in Preston in 1732. Richard's parents were very poor and could not afford to send him to school and arranged for him to be taught to read and write by his cousin Ellen.
Richard became a barber's apprentice. However, he was an ambitious young man and had a strong desire to run his own company. In 1762 Arkwright started a wig-making business.
During this time, Arkwright heard about the attempts being made to produce new machines for the textile industry. Arkwright met John Kay, a clockmaker from Warrington, who had been busy for some time trying to produce a new spinning-machine with another man, Thomas Highs of Leigh. Kay and Highs had run out of money and had been forced to abandon the project.
Arkwright was impressed by Kay and offered to employ him to make this new machine. Arkwright and his team produced the Spinning-Frame. Arkwright's machine involved three sets of paired rollers that turned at different speeds. While these rollers produced yarn of the correct thickness, a set of spindles twisted the fibers firmly together. The machine was able to produce a thread that was far stronger than that made by the Spinning-Jenny produced by James Hargreaves.
In 1769 Arkwright expanded his business with the help of loans. Arkwright's Spinning-Frame was too large to be operated by hand and so the men had to find another method of working the machine. After experimenting with horses, it was decided to employ the power of the water-wheel. In 1771, Arkwright's machine now became known as the Water-Frame.
The invention of the Spinning Jenny and the Spinning Frame caused an increase in demand for cardings and rovings. Lewis Paul had invented a machine for carding in 1748. Richard Arkwright made improvements in this machine and in 1775 took out a patent for a new Carding Engine.
In Cromford there were not enough local people to supply Arkwright with the workers he needed. After building a large number of cottages close to the factory, he imported workers from all over Derbyshire. Arkwright preferred weavers with large families. While the women and children worked in his spinning-factory, the weavers worked at home turning the yarn into cloth.
Arkwright's textile factories were very profitable. He now built factories in Lancashire, Staffordshire and Scotland. In these factories he used the new steam-engine that had recently been developed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton.
Richard Arkwright's employees worked from six in the morning to seven at night. Although some of the factory owners employed children as young as five, Arkwright's policy was to wait until they reached the age of six. Two-thirds of Arkwright's 1,900 workers were children. Like most factory owners, Arkwright was unwilling to employ people over the age of forty.
Richard Arkwright died in 1792.
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