Highs, Thomas

Highs, Thomas
fl. 1760s England
English reedmaker who claimed to have invented both the spinning jenny and the waterframe.
The claims of Highs to have invented both the spinning jenny and the waterframe have been dismissed by most historians. Thomas Highs was a reedmaker of Leigh, Lancashire. In about 1763 he had as a neighbour John Kay, the clockmaker from Warrington, whom he employed to help him construct his machines. During this period they were engaged in making a spinning jenny, but after several months of toil, in a fit of despondency, they threw the machine through the attic window. Highs persevered, however, and made a jenny that could spin six threads. The comparatively sophisticated arrangements for drawing and twisting at the same time, as depicted by Guest (1823), suggest that this machine came after the one invented by James Hargreaves. Guest claims that Highs made this machine between 1764 and 1766 and in the following two years constructed another, in which the spindles were placed in a circle. In 1771 Highs moved to Manchester, where he constructed a double jenny that was displayed at the Manchester Exchange, and received a subscription of £200 from the cotton manufacturers. However, all this occurred after Hargreaves had constructed his jenny. In the trial of Arkwright's patent during 1781, Highs gave evidence. He was recalled from Ireland, where he had been superintending the building of cotton-spinning machinery for Baron Hamilton's newly erected mill at Balbriggan, north of Dublin. Then in 1785, during the next trial of Arkwright's patent, Highs claimed that in 1767 he had made rollers for drawing out the cotton before spinning. This would have been for a different type of spinning machine, similar to the one later constructed by Arkwright. Highs was helped by John Kay and it was these rollers that Kay subsequently built for Arkwright. If the drawing shown by Guest is correct, then Highs was working on the wrong principles because his rollers were spaced too far apart and were not held together by weights, with the result that the twist would have passed into the drafting zone, producing uneven drawing.
Further Reading
R.Guest, 1823, A Compendious History of the Cotton-Manufacture: With a Disproval of the Claim of Sir Richard Arkwright to the Invention of its Ingenious Machinery, Manchester (Highs's claim for the invention of his spinning machines).
R.S.Fitton, 1989, The Arkwrights, Spinners of Fortune, Manchester (an examination of Highs's claims).
R.L.Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester (discusses the technical problems of the invention).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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