How did The Spinning Jenny get its name, and exactly what is a spinning jenny?
When Sarah and Sharon were deciding on a name for their venue, Sharon said, “We wanted something that gave tribute to the area, and we thought it sounded fun.”
The Spinning Jenny is certainly fun and whimsical, but just how does that name give tribute to Greer and the surrounding communities? To answer that, we need to quick look at Greer’s past and just what it the world that has to do with something called a spinning jenny.
South Carolina is well known for it’s rich history in the textile industry. According to David L. Carlton, South Carolina’s involvement in textile production began just after close of the Revolutionary War, fueled at first by small mills in the Spartanburg, Greenville, and Pendleton areas. At this time, major textile production was still centered in New England, but these small textile mills would sow the seeds of South Carolina’s future dominance of the textile industry.
Carlton also states that by the late 19th century, the expanding railway system coupled with low labor costs and improvements in weaving technology (along with lax labor laws) allowed South Carolina’s textile mills to dominate their New England competitors. By the early 20th century, South Carolina became a major world textile center. According to GreerStation.com, “Within 100 miles of the county seat of Greenville, there were over 400 mills in 1930. In Greenville County alone there were 35 mills.”
This textile boom had a significant impact on Greer. According to GreerStation.com, it’s “industry and commerce focused on supporting textiles.” GreerStation.com states that architecture of many of Greer’s commercial buildings is a direct result of it’s role in supporting the textile industry. As Greer’s textile related businesses grew, older wooden buildings were replaced by the now familiar brick buildings, which were better suited to the needs of those business.
Even though competition from overseas textile industries has seen South Carolina’s textile mills all but disappear, Greer’s textile-rich history is still felt and seen by its residents and visitors. And it was to this history that Sharon and Sarah wanted to pay tribute.
And that’s where the name “The Spinning Jenny” comes in. According to Wikipedia, the spinning jenny was invented by James Hargreaves in 1764 during the early Industrial Revolution. You may be familiar with a spinning wheel. A spinning wheel was used to stretch wool or cotton and spin it into thread or yarn to be made into fabric. The spinning jenny is basically an improved spinning wheel. Spinning wheels only had one spindle for stretching the wool or cotton. The spinning jenny had eight spindles. This meant that the production of thread or yarn could be increased to, quite literally, industrial proportions, at least by late 18th century standards.
The invention of the spinning jenny brought textile production into the industrial age. The machines that spun the thread and yarn needed to feed South Carolina’s growing textile industry in the late 19th and early 20th century here in America were based on the concept of the original spinning jenny.
The Spinning Jenny is a fun name that aptly pays homage Greer’s textile heritage. So the next time you’re visiting The Spinning Jenny, you’ll know how it got its name.