Frisk starts off the article by telling us that Richard Arkwright is usually credited with revolutionizing the technical basis of cotton production between 1768 and 1792, turning it from a cottage industry to a worldwide proportion. Arkwright was also called the “founding father of the Industrial Revolution” and “father of the factory system” because he created the factory system. However, evidence started to surface that challenged Arkwright achievements. The evidence showed that Arkwright’s first patent (spinning wheel) couldn’t have been made by him because he was very unlikely to have the technical skills needed to make it, because he was trained as a barber. This made people question why Arkwright had been made the Cotton King.
In 1702 Thomas Cotchett, an elderly barrister, and engineer George Sorocold, built a silk mill powered by a waterwheel. This mill is thought of being the first factory, in the sense that it was a single establishment with complex machinery, a source of power, and accommodation for a number of workers. Sir Thomas Lombe made considerable additions to this mill in 1717, which established the pattern of textile factories. This mill and later inventions (e.g. the Flying Shuttle by John Kaye) greatly helped promote the textile industry.
Soon the demand for yarn became so high that it made it impossible to meet the demands of people just by using hand labor. The 1760s was when machines started to be introduced for carding cotton. In 1761 The Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures offered 50 schillings for a successful spinning machine. At this time the highly motivated Arkwright received more education and realized that you could make a fortune for designing an efficient spinning machine. In 1768 Arkwright hired John Kaye to help him construct wooden models in an attempt to produce a workable machine. After his success Arkwright realized that his invention had a lot more potential, for example it could be used in power-driven factories. Arkwright needed to patent his idea, but he had no money, so he went out and started gathering money. Arkwright’s first backers were John Smalley and David Thornley and later Samuel Need and Jedediah Strutt were invited to this partnership. With the help of John and David they masterminded the spinning project, ensuring that it became a profitable enterprise. This group later decided to set up a water powered mill for large scale production.
Unexpected difficulties started to appear before Arkwright when he noticed that he was running short on water to power his mill. This is when Arkwright decided to investigate the possibilities of using steam power instead. Evidence indicated that a steam engine was used to drive spinning machines at Papplewick in 1788. Most of the written accounts state that Papplewick was the first textile factory to use steam power for spinning cotton.
The reason why Arkwright is acknowledged above all his peers is because he cared about his workers. Arkwright built rows of cottages for his workers to live in. A school was built for the children of his staff. Churches and Chapels were built with Sundays being free days for people to go to Church. The Greyhound inn was also created for the local community. Farms were also created so people had access to fresh vegetables. Arkwright was also very strict about using child labor. He did not employ parish apprentices, any child under the age of ten, and he didn’t let children into the mills unless they could read. However, the pressure of the parents to get their kid to work at the mill resulted in Arkwright lowering the standards, if the child would read any small words they were allowed in the mill. As a child working at the mill was very dangerous, the youngest children would go under machines in order to clean dust and dirt from the machinery, also the working conditions were not the best as it was very cramped, and this made it easier for illness to spread.
Not everyone approved of the rapid changes, and mills were frequently under attack from rioters, or Luddities as they would become known, who opposed the mechanized system because it brought unemployment to those who use to do everything by hand (doesn’t this sound familiar to today’s world?). Because of the rioters Arkwright’s mills were generally remote from towns. People also said that within an hour, loyal supporters from Arkwright’s village could gather together over 6,000 men, 1,000 guns, and several cannons. My interpretation of this article is that is showed us cotton production was like back in the day and how it much it changed society, be it good or bad.
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The link above gives you more information about Richard Arkwright. This link tells you that the reason Arkwright decided to become an entrepreneur was because his wife died, and he decided to turn his grief into ambition. We also learn what Arkwright did before he decided to develop the first spinning machine, which was creating and selling waterproof wigs. After the decline of the wig business Arkwright decided to explore the textile industry. The article then talks about his first factory, the hate people had for the spinning machine, lastly the article talks more about the business side of his life and his future.
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The link above talks more about the spinning jenny that was shortly mentioned in Frisk’s article.