Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kennedy, John (1769-1855)

KENNEDY, JOHN (1769–1855), cotton-spinner and inventor, third son of Robert Kennedy, was born at Knocknalling, Kirkcudbrightshire, on 4 July 1769. He was educated at the village school of Dalry, and he also had the advantage of an occasional tutor during the winter months. He lost his father early, and at the age of fourteen was sent by his mother to Chowbent, Lancashire, and apprenticed to William Cannan, the son of a neighbour, who had established himself there as a machine-maker. The machinery made at that time was limited to carding-frames, Hargreaves's jennies, and Arkwright's water-frames, all employed in cotton-manufacture. At the end of his apprenticeship in February 1791 he removed to Manchester, as partner with Benjamin and William Sandford and James m'Connel, machine-makers and mule-spinners, and the firm for many years were the sole makers of Crompton's ‘mule.’ Kennedy introduced several ingenious improvements for the spinning of fine yarns, including the ‘jack frame.’ As a spinner he was successful, and realised a considerable fortune. He was a friend of James Watt and many other scientific men of his day, and was a cordial supporter of every improvement in mechanical science. He was an active member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, which he joined in 1803, and contributed four papers to its ‘Memoirs:’ 1. ‘On the Rise and Progress of the Cotton Trade,’ 1815. 2. ‘On the Poor Laws,’ 1819. 3. ‘Observations on the Influence of Machinery on the Working Classes,’ 1826. 4. ‘Memoir of Samuel Crompton,’ 1830. These papers he reprinted for private circulation in 1849, with an appendix containing autobiographical particulars of his early life, and notes of a tour on the continent.

He married Mary, daughter of John Stuart of Manchester, and died at Ardwick Hall, Manchester, on 30 Oct. 1855, aged 86, leaving one son, John Lawson Kennedy, and several daughters, and was buried at Rusholme Road cemetery, Ardwick, Manchester.

[Memoir by Sir W. Fairbairn in Memoirs of Manchester Lit. and Phil. Soc. 3rd ser. vol. i. 1862; Kennedy's Early Recollections, 1849; Smiles's Industrial Biography, 1863, p. 317; Burke's Landed Gentry, 6th edit. i. 897; communications from J. L. Kennedy, esq.]

C. W. S.