Replica of a spinning jenny, c 1997

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
Textiles and Clothing
1990 - 1999
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

The recent replica of an ancient machine, invented in the homeland of the industrial revolution. By 1788 there were around 20,000 such jennies operating in homes in England and Scotland.

Spinning is a process whereby short strands of fibres are twisted together and drawn out to form yarn. This process was first mechanised in England, evidently prompted by the fact that the pre-industrial technique of spinning by hand failed to supply weavers with enough yarn. And so, in the 1760s, the Lancashire weaver John Hargreaves designed a device capable of spinning several strands simultaneously. To do so, he replicated the sequences of movement performed by a spinner. Legend has it that Hargreaves named the machine after his daughter, Jenny. Before it was improved further, a spinning jenny was able to deliver approximately the same performance as three handspinners.

As a machine, the jenny was designed for home use. Further developments of the spinning mechanisms soon followed, giving rise to the first mills. Around 1769 Richard Arkwright, who began life as a barber and wig-maker, developed the ‘water frame’, which made him a wealthy man. Some ten years later, Samuel Crompton followed with a further development, the spinning mule. Unlike its predecessors the spinning mule enabled the manufacture of both warp yarns and weft yarns. The ‘mule’ became the standard spinning machine in English textile mills. The secrets underlying the English mechanisms were soon spied out and, by 1784, the German merchant and industrialist Johann Gottfried Brügelmann in Ratingen started up his own production using ‘water frames’.

The vast majority of jennies were made of wood and have long since been decommissioned; only a few originals have been preserved. The Technisches Museum Wien owns two incomplete specimens. The replica is actually a working model capable of spinning yarn. It makes it possible to re-experience the satisfaction of seeing several threads form instead of one – and the sheer horror of seeing them all rip due to a mishap.

Date of origin: c 1997

Manufacturer: Institut für Technik und ihre Didaktik, University of Münster

Inv.Nr. 33817

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