Kelly, William

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 1790s Lanark, Scotland
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Scottish pioneer in attempts to make Crompton 's spinning mule work automatically.
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William Kelly, a Larnack clockmaker, was Manager of David Dale's New Lanark cotton-spinning mills. He was writing to Boulton \& Watt in 1796 about the different ways in which he heated the mills and the New Institution. He must also have been responsible for supervising the millwrights' and mechanics' shops where much of the spinning machinery for the mills was constructed. At one time there were eighty-seven men employed in these shops alone. He devised a better method of connecting the water wheel to the line shafting which he reckoned would save a quarter of the water power required. Kelly may have been the first to apply power to the mule, for in 1790 he drove the spinning sequence from the line shafting, which operated the gear mechanism to turn the rollers and spindles as well as draw out the carriage. The winding on of the newly spun yarn still had to be done by hand. Then in 1792 he applied for a patent for a self-acting mule in which all the operations would be carried out by power. However, winding the yarn on in a conical form was a problem; he tried various ways of doing this, but abandoned his attempts because the mechanism was cumbersome and brought no economic advantage as only a comparatively small number of spindles could be operated. Even so, his semi-automatic mule became quite popular and was exported to America in 1803. Kelly was replaced as Manager at New Lanark by Robert Owen in 1800.
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Bibliography
1792, British patent no. 1,879 (semi-automatic mule).
Further Reading
R.L.Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester (includes Kelly's own account of his development of the self-acting mule).
H.Catling, 1970, The Spinning Mule, Newton Abbot (describes some of Kelly's mule mechanisms).
J.Butt (ed.), 1971, Robert Owen, Prince of Cotton Spinners, Newton Abbot (provides more details about the New Lanark mills).
RLH

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

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