Strutt, Jedediah

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 26 July 1726 South Normanton, near Alfreton, Derbyshire, England
d. 7 May 1797 Derby, England
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English inventor of a machine for making ribbed knitting.
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Jedediah Strutt was the second of three sons of William, a small farmer and maltster at South Normanton, near Alfreton, Derbyshire, where the only industry was a little framework knitting. At the age of 14 Jedediah was apprenticed to Ralph Massey, a wheelwright near Derby, and lodged with the Woollats, whose daughter Elizabeth he later married in 1755. He moved to Leicester and in 1754 started farming at Blackwell, where an uncle had died and left him the stock on his farm. It was here that he made his knitting invention.
William Lee's knitting machine remained in virtually the same form as he left it until the middle of the eighteenth century. The knitting industry moved away from London into the Midlands and in 1730 a Nottingham workman, using Indian spun yarn, produced the first pair of cotton hose ever made by mechanical means. This industry developed quickly and by 1750 was providing employment for 1,200 frameworkers using both wool and cotton in the Nottingham and Derby areas. It was against this background that Jedediah Strutt obtained patents for his Derby rib machine in 1758 and 1759.
The machine was a highly ingenious mechanism, which when placed in front of an ordinary stocking frame enabled the fashionable ribbed stockings to be made by machine instead of by hand. To develop this invention, he formed a partnership first with his brother-in-law, William Woollat, and two leading Derby hosiers, John Bloodworth and Thomas Stamford. This partnership was dissolved in 1762 and another was formed with Woollat and the Nottingham hosier Samuel Need. Strutt's invention was followed by a succession of innovations which enabled framework knitters to produce almost every kind of mesh on their machines. In 1764 the stocking frame was adapted to the making of eyelet holes, and this later lead to the production of lace. In 1767 velvet was made on these frames, and two years later brocade. In this way Strutt's original invention opened up a new era for knitting. Although all these later improvements were not his, he was able to make a fortune from his invention. In 1762 he was made a freeman of Nottingham, but by then he was living in Derby. His business at Derby was concerned mainly with silk hose and he had a silk mill there.
It was partly his need for cotton yarn and partly his wealth which led him into partnership with Richard Arkwright, John Smalley and David Thornley to exploit Arkwright's patent for spinning cotton by rollers. Together with Samuel Need, they financed the Arkwright partnership in 1770 to develop the horse-powered mill in Nottingham and then the water-powered mill at Cromford. Strutt gave advice to Arkwright about improving the machinery and helped to hold the partnership together when Arkwright fell out with his first partners. Strutt was also involved, in London, where he had a house, with the parliamentary proceedings over the passing of the Calico Act in 1774, which opened up the trade in British-manufactured all-cotton cloth.
In 1776 Strutt financed the construction of his own mill at Helper, about seven miles (11 km) further down the Derwent valley below Cromford. This was followed by another at Milford, a little lower on the river. Strutt was also a partner with Arkwright and others in the mill at Birkacre, near Chorley in Lancashire. The Strutt mills were developed into large complexes for cotton spinning and many experiments were later carried out in them, both in textile machinery and in fireproof construction for the mills themselves. They were also important training schools for engineers.
Elizabeth Strutt died in 1774 and Jedediah never married again. The family seem to have lived frugally in spite of their wealth, probably influenced by their Nonconformist background. He had built a house near the mills at Milford, but it was in his Derby house that Jedediah died in 1797. By the time of his death, his son William had long been involved with the business and became a more important cotton spinner than Jedediah.
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Bibliography
1758. British patent no. 722 (Derby rib machine). 1759. British patent no. 734 (Derby rib machine).
Further Reading
For the involvement of Strutt in Arkwright's spinning ventures, there are two books, the earlier of which is R.S.Fitton and A.P.Wadsworth, 1958, The Strutts and the Arkwrights, 1758–1830, Manchester, which has most of the details about Strutt's life. This has been followed by R.S.Fitton, 1989, The Arkwrights, Spinners of Fortune, Manchester.
R.L.Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester (for a general background to the textile industry of the period).
W.Felkin, 1967, History of the Machine-wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufactures, reprint, Newton Abbot (orig. pub. 1867) (covers Strutt's knitting inventions).
RLH

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

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