Samuel Slater was
born on June 9, 1768 in Belpre, Derbyshire, Great
Britain. He is known today as the
"Father of the American Industrial
gained a thorough knowledge of cotton manufacturing while serving as
an apprentice in England to Jedediah Strutt and Richard Arkwright. He
immigrated to the United States in 1789, attracted by the bounties
offered there for workers that were skilled in the manufacturing of
forced to keep his knowledge and skills a secret from authorities,
however, because at the time emigration of textile workers and the
export of drawings of textile machinery were forbidden by British law.
In 1793 with his detailed knowledge of textile machinery and backing
from the Rhode Island firm of Almy and Brown, Slater constructed his
version of Arkwright's spinning and carding machinery in Pawtucket,
RI. This was the first successful cotton mill in the United States. He
subsequently established a number of other plants in New England and
founded the town of Slatersville, R.I.
Slater died on April 21, 1835 in Webster, Massachusetts.
The original Slater Mill was
built in 1793, it's dimensions were 29 feet by 42 feet. Constructed
of wood, it resembled a period farmhouse and the long narrow shape of
the building facilitated the transfer of power from the water wheel to
the textile machinery. The basic design of the Slater Mill was
repeated throughout Rhode Island and New England on later cotton
The Old Slater Mill is now used
as a museum that showcases the history of textile manufacturing in
America. There are 24 machines in the mill built between 1775 and 1922
which demonstrate the process of turning cotton into cloth. The Mill
also includes a small movie theater and film history of the city of
Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Slater and his brother
established the town of Slatersville on the Branch River in North
Smithfield, RI. The town included the Slatersville Mill; the largest
mill in the country during that time. The town contained tenement
houses for workers, the mill owner's home and a company store.
Slater's cotton mills began the
Industrial Revolution in America. This was a dramatic
change in which machinery replaced hand tools, steam power replaced
human power and unskilled workers replaced skilled workers.
Another result of this
revolution was that Cotton became the King of
Southern Cash Crops leading to even harsher conditions and
restrictions for African Americans. Slavery became even more
institutionalized as way of life in the deep south where the Cotton
Plantations depended on slave labor to harvest and get the crop to
Another type of slavery became
endemic in the North. The Slater Mill used child labor as did most
textile mills of the time. The children ranged from 7 to 12 years of
age and by 1830 over fifty-five percent of Rhode Island's mill workers
were children. Their average wage was less than a dollar a week.