The thread they produced was coarse and lacked strength, making it suitable only for weft, but it was a step in the right direction.
The jenny's fame spread quickly, and even manufacturer Robert Peel - grandfather of the future prime minister - invested in some for his nearby Brookside Mill. In fact, there is evidence to indicate that Peel had more to do with the gestation of Hargreaves's machine than he admitted, and it is possible that he not only helped with its construction, but was also involved with the original idea.
You would have thought that neighbours would have jumped at the chance to buy one of Hargreaves's jennies, or even to make one of the simple machines for themselves to increase their production and their profits. But that wasn't what happened.
Hargreaves's growing success sparked jealousy and fear among his neighbours and, in 1768, an irate mob gathered at Blackburn's market cross and marched to Stanhill, where they smashed the frames of 20 machines he was building for Peel in a barn. The machine breakers then marched on to Brookside Mill and finally to Hargreaves's home at Ramsclough. Here, if reports are to be believed, one of the rioters placed a hammer in Hargreaves's hands and forced him to destroy his own machinery.
This was too much for Hargreaves. He fled to Nottingham, where there was less suspicion of new technology, and opened a small mill in partnership with a man called Thomas James. He continued to develop the jenny, finally taking out a patent in 1770. But he had left it too late. In Lancashire, carpenters were knocking up copies of the jenny by the hundred while other were improving on the original, increasing the number of threads to 80 and beyond.
All Hargreaves's effort and determination were of no avail. His machinery destroyed, his patent ignored, he died in obscurity in
By the time of his death, more than 20,000 spinning jennies were in use. But the machine was never more than a stepping stone to the mechanisation of spinning. Within five years, Arkwright had the water frame in mass operation and in the following years Crompton married the best parts of the two machines to produce his hybrid mule, which would quickly take over
There is another sad postscript to the story. Two of Hargreaves's daughters ended their lives in penury in Salford, forced to rely on help from Joseph Brotherton, minister of that city's Bible Christian Church. Brotherton had made enough money from his jenny-equipped Salford textile mill to retire at the age of 36.