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Richard Arkwright's parents could not afford to send him to school, but his cousin Ellen taught him to read and write.
His second marriage to Margaret Biggins in 1761 brought a small income that enabled him to expand his barber's business. He acquired a secret method for dyeing hair and travelled around the country purchasing human hair for use in the manufacture of wigs.
By 1767, a machine for carding cotton had been introduced into England and James Hargreaves had invented the spinning jenny. With the help of a clockmaker, John Kay, who had been working on a mechanical spinning machine, Arkwright made improvements that produced a stronger yarn and required less physical labour. His new carding machine was patented in 1775.
Arkwright's fortunes continued to rise and he constructed a horse-driven spinning mill at Preston - the first of many. He developed mills in which the whole process of yarn manufacture was carried on by one machine and this was further complemented by a system in which labour was divided, greatly improving efficiency and increasing profits.
From 1775, a series of court cases challenged Arkwright's patents as copies of others work, and they were revoked in 1785. Nevertheless, Arkwright was knighted in 1786 and he had established factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland, and was a wealthy man.
He then died on the 3rd August 1792.
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