Farmer Boy, Chapter 15

Social Studies
James Hargreaves and the Spinning Jenny
James Hargreaves was born 13 December 1720 in England and grew up to be a weaver, carpenter, and inventor. At this time, the spinning wheel was the only way to turn wool into thread, but it was done by hand and made only one thread at a time. Hargreaves sat pondering one day over a faster way to spin cotton. His wife's spinning wheel toppled over, and he noticed that the spindle continued to spin upright. He realized that if a number of spindles were placed upright side by side, a number of threads could be spun by one person at one time. He named his invention after his wife Jenny. The first Spinning Jenny was completed about 1767. Hargreaves died on 22 April 1778.

Samuel Crompton and the Spinning Mule
Samuel Crompton was born 3 December 1753 in England. He was an inventor and pioneer of the spinning industry. Building on the work of James Hargreaves and Richard Arkwright, he invented the Spinning Mule. He stated he learned to spin in 1769 on a jenny that Hargreaves had constructed. He grew tired of taking so much time "mending the ever-breaking ends of his miserable yarn" that he was producing on the jenny. By the time he was 21 years old, he began to think how a better spinning machine could be made. It took him five years and all the money he had to invent the Spinning Mule, but his invention was able to spin incredibly fine threads, even nicer than what could be made by hand. Crompton died 26 June 1827.

Elias Howe and the Sewing Machine
Elias Howe, Jr., was born on 9 July 1819 in Massachusetts. He was an American farmer, mechanic, inventor, and sewing machine pioneer. Howe was not the first person to think of the idea of a sewing machine. There were already several different sewing machine designs already created, but Howe significantly refined the design concepts that came before him and was awarded the first United States patent for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. His machine contained three essential features common to most modern machines:
  1. a needle with the eye at the point,
  2. a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and 
  3. an automatic feed
Howe died 3 October 1867.

If you would like to read more about the history of spinning machines such as the Jenny and the Mule, this is a very good article:
The Invention of Spinning Machines: The Jenny, The Water Frame, and The Mule

If you would like to read more about Elias Howe's life and his invention, this is a very good article:
Elias Howe and the Invention of the Sewing Machine

Making Soap 
Mother made soft-soap. Up until the early 1900’s, making soap in United States households was a task left to women who usually made soap once a year. Combining lye, animal fats and/or vegetable oils, and water in a process known as saponification makes soaps. There are many methods of making soap, including a cold press method (using low temperatures), and the boiling or kettle method, which was used by Mrs. Wilder. First, to obtain the lye, she poured water through ashes she had saved from the winter’s fires, collecting the lye as it dripped through a hole in the bottom of the barrel. Today, lye is manufactured commercially and can be purchased at grocery and hardware stores. Next, she added the meat fats she had been saving. The fats have been rendered, which means that the fat was melted in water, and separated to remove any impurities. The kinds of fats used will change the texture and density of the soap. After the fat and lye are brought to the correct temperatures, they are poured into molds and are cured. The mixture can be poured in a large mold, such as a tub, where it will later be cut into bars, or it could be poured into individual molds. This is called basic soap. Later on, after it is cured, the soap can be grated and remelted with additives such as fragrances or colors.

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