What was the spinning mule?

What was the Spinning Mule?

Spinning Mule was an invention by Samuel Crompton, with significant impact on society during the Industrial Revolution. What was the significance of the spinning mule, and what were the long term effects that changed the way we worked and lived in the 19th Century? Watch the Spinning Mule operating in the video below.

None of the inventions of the industrial revolution happened in isolation, think of the industrial revolution as an explosion of ideas.

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What is the Spinning Mule
Crompton’s Spinning Mule

Who invented the Spinning Mule?

The Spinning Mule invented by a man called Samuel Crompton, born in Bolton Lancashire in 1753. Samuel lost his father when he was a young boy and had to help supplement the family income by spinning.

He used a Spinning Jenny, invented by James Hargreaves but was frustrated by its defects and as a consequence set about inventing a new spinning machine.

How did the Spinning Mule operate? The description of the Spinning Mule that follows will give you an idea of both the invention and its impact.

The result was the mule, invented between 1775 – 1779, which took the moving carriage of the Jenny and combined it with the rollers of  Arkwright’s water frame.

    • It gave greater control over the weaving process
    • Spinners could make many different types of yarn
    • Fine yarns could be spun

How big was the machine?

    • Each carriage carried 1320 spindles and was up to 46m long
    • The carriage moved back and forth 1.5m four times a minute
Watch the machine work, spinning wool at Bartlett Yarns

The spinning mule was a major step forward in the textile industry and was one of a cluster of inventions that opened the way to a mechanized way of producing cloth that would radically change the way the textile industry worked. See Hargreaves Spinning Jenny.

The spinning mule was perceived as a threat by some spinners who worked from home in a cottage industry. They saw saw an invention as an end to their livelihood. The textile work done by people up and down the country, in their own houses, was quite often the only work available when the weather was too poor or daylight hours too short to do agricultural work. Whole families would work the spinning wheels and looms. The loss of an entire families income would result in terrible hardship. The choice was grim, starve or enter the workhouse. It is no wonder then, that inventions such as the spinning mule resulted in riots including the ‘Luddite’  riots.

Find out more about the detail of the spinning mule at the Bolton Museum. Take a look at our Agricultural and Industrial Revolution Theme here