Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
1840 Stampless Folded Letter from Allen Slocum. - Wickford, RI
to George Dana - Horns Print Works - Pawtucket, RI
(Scroll Down for Background Information, History and Text of Letter)

The Stampless Folded Letter shown above and to the left was sent by John Slocum acting for Allen Slocum and posted at Wickford, Rhode Island. It was sent to George Dana, the agent for Horns Print Works in Pawtucket. The letter was charged at the single sheet rate of 6 cents Due established by the Postal Act of April 9, 1816; effective May 1, 1816 for distances not exceeding 30 miles. There is also a Wickford, RI script cancellation at the top left of the cover for December 21st. The letter concerns the trade or purchase of some Spinning Mules in exchange for Water Frames and also the purchase of a Lapper; the difference in spindle count to be made up in cash.

A large percentage of the Rhode Island Stampless Folded Letters from the early to mid 19th centuries deal with cotton and textile mills. The terminology used in the industry tends to be a bit confusing, thus the background information below will explain a few of the terms and relate a little of the history concerning the textile industry along with some of the early innovations used in the manufacture of textiles. The complete text of the letter is appended beneath the history and explanation.

The start of the Industrial Revolution as it relates to the textile industry began in Great Britain in 1767 where Richard Arkwright invented and perfected his water frame. The Water Frame, (so-called because the frames used water power to operate) could spin 128 threads and did not need a skilled operator, whereas the previously invented Spinning Jenny could spin a dozen threads, but needed a skilled operator. Arkwright teamed up with Jedediah Strutt in 1769 and they built their first water powered factory in 1771 on the Derwent River in Derbyshire, England. Samuel Slater, the father of the Industrial Revolution in America learned the trade when he was apprenticed to Jedediah Strutt in 1781. Slater worked for Jedediah for a period of 8 years and learned the business from the ground up, eventually becoming the Superintendent of the Mill.

Samuel Slater emigrated to America in 1789 and after being financed by Moses Brown, one of the four Brown Brothers of Providence, Rhode Island, he constructed the first modern spinning mill in Pawtucket(SEE ALSO: Rhode Island Bicentennial First Day Cover - Slater's Mill History.) Samuel Slater became known as the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution" and Rhode Island became one of the leaders in the textile industry with factories springing up throughout the state, wherever there were rivers that could supply power to the mills.

The Slocums are a well known and numerous family in the North Kingstown area and I attended High School with several members of the family. There is even a small village in the area named for the family; "Slocumville." John and Allen Slocum were partners with a Mr. Gardiner, (Slocum & Gardiner) and in 1839 they took over what later became the Hamilton Web Company in 1857 and began spinning cotton and yarns. They operated the mill for 11 years. This letter was written about 18 months after they began operation and appears to be part of their efforts to modernize the mill.


Spinning Wheel: an early machine that turned fibers into thread or yarn, which was then woven into cloth on a loom. It was most likely invented in India, reaching Europe during the Middle Ages where it replaced the ancient method of  hand spinning the fibers into yarn.

Spinning Jenny: Invented by James Hargreaves in 1764, the Jenny was the first practical application of a multiple spinning machine. The original Spinning Jenny used eight spindles instead of the one found on the spinning wheel. A single wheel on the Jenny controlled the eight spindles, which created a weave using eight threads spun from a corresponding set of rovings.  Later models had up to one-hundred and twenty spindles. The drawbacks to the Jenny were that it produced a very coarse thread and could not be used on yarns that extended lengthways on the loom, (Warp Threads). It also required a skilled operator to run the machine.

Water Frame: A machine invented by Thomas Highs and perfected by the Clockmaker, John Kay for Richard Arkwright. Arkwright is most often given credit for this invention, but in actuality he stole the idea from Highs; he was responsible, however for it's first practical large scale application. The Water Frame was powered by a water wheel and used three sets of rollers, each spinning at a faster speed than the previous, to draw out the cotton roving before the twist was imparted. The thread produced was still course, but the machine's advantage over the Jenny was that it could produce a larger quantity of threads and did not require any skill to operate.

Spinning Mule: The Spinning Mule was invented by Samuel Crompton in 1779 and was a combination of the Jenny and the Water Frame. The machine combined the moving carriage of the Jenny with the rollers of the Water Frame and produced a thread, which was both finer and stronger than that produced by the Jenny or Water Frame. The thread that was produced by the Mule is considered by most experts to be of the highest quality and comparable to hand worked yarns.

I found two definitions for Lappers, however I am still not sure which type of lapper is referred to in the letter.
Ribbon Lapper: A machine that is used to prepare laps for feeding a cotton comb and provides a uniform lap in which the fibers have been straightened as much as possible.
Sliver Lapper: A machine using a number of parallel card slivers laid side by side in a compact sheet and wound into a cylindrical package.
In Addition: A Cloth Lapper was a textile worker who folded or doubled the cloth repeatedly upon itself so that it was ready for packing.

The Complete Text of the Letter follows Below:

North Kingston   Dec. 18. 1840

Mr. George Dana  
                              Dear Sir, /    Mr. Allen was at your place a few days past to see your lapper - and while there had some conversation with you about exchanging two mules we have with you, for frames - You proposed to leave the frames to me, and as I don't know as Mr. Allen told you that I was interested in the mules - I feel some hesitation about taking the responsibility - but this I do know that there can be very little difference in the value of the mules & frames. One I conclude is about as old as the other, and therefore propose to exchange them spindle for spindle taking six of your frames and allowing you fifty cents per spindle for the extra number of spindles in the six frames over the mules. 6 of your frames at 72 spindles each are 432 spindles - two mules at 192 spindles each are 384 spindles. Excess - 48 spindles at 50 cents would be $24 - then we propose to take your lapper at 60 Dollars - giving you our note for the 24 Dollars & the 60 Dollars will be 84 Dollars payable in one year - We deliver the mules and take away the lapper at our expense which will cost us at least 30 Dollars - Could you make it convenient to call & do the mules it would suit us much better - and as what we propose without making up your mind to go through, nor for your fly out after we have delivered the mules - as it will place us in a bad situation therefore if you conclude to accept of our terms we will transfer you the mules & we will take your transfer of the frames & Lapper - Let us hear from you by return of mail ---
                                                          for Allen G. Slocum
                                                               John Slocum


Dear Sirs :

Yours Truly,     

                                                              Williams Park & Co

RI Historical Society
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