Spinning Mule

In 1775 Samuel Crompton produced his Spinning Mule, so called because it was a hybrid that combined features of two earlier inventions, the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame. The mule produced a strong, fine and soft yarn which could be used in all kinds of textiles, but was particularly suited to the production of muslins.

Crompton was too poor to apply for a patent and so he sold the rights to a Bolton manufacturer. The first mules were hand-operated and could be used at home. By the 1790s larger versions were built with as many as 400 spindles. David Dale was quick to see the potential of the mule and purchased several for his factory in New Lanark, Scotland.

The Spinning Mule could also be driven by the new steam engines that were being produced by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. A large number of factory owners purchased Crompton's mules, but because he had sold the rights for his machine, he made no money from these sales.

Drawing of the Spinning Mule (1823)
Drawing of the Spinning Mule (1823)
© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Edward Baines, The History of the Cotton Manufacture (1835)

The water-frame spun twist for warps, but it could not be advantageously used for the finer qualities, as thread of great tenuity has not strength to bear the pull of the rollers when winding itself on the bobbins. This defect in the spinning machinery was remedied by the invention of another machine, called the Mule, from its combining the principles of Arkwright's water-frame and Hargreaves's jenny. Like the former, it has a system of rollers, to reduce the roving; and, like the latter, it has spindles without bobbins to give the twist, and the thread is stretched and spun at the same time by the spindles, after the rollers have ceased to give out the rove. The distinguishing feature of the mule is, that the spindles, instead of being stationary, as in both the other machines, are placed on a moveable carriage, which is wheeled out to the distance of fifty-four or fifty-six inches from the roller-beam, in order to stretch and twist the thread, and wheeled it again to wind it on the spindles.

(2) Richard Guest, History of Cotton Manufacture (1823)

The Mule is a compound of the Jenny and the Water Frame, from which circumstances it derives its name, and was invented in 1775, by Samuel Crompton, of Bolton-le-Moors. In this machine, the roving passes from the back part through rollers to the spindles, which are placed in front on a moveable frame. As the spindles revolve, this frame recedes from the rollers, somewhat faster than they give out the roving. The first pair of rollers draw the roving from the bobbin, the second pair draw it out and lengthen it, as in the Water Frame, and the pull of the spindles as the frame recedes, stretches it still finer. When a certain quantity of roving is giving out, the rollers stop and shut fast the roving, as the clove does in the Jenny, the spindles still continuing to revolve and the frame to recede, drawing out the roving to the fineness required and giving it the necessary twist, the yarn is then wound upon the spindles by returning the frame to the first position.