was born on June 9, 1768 in Belpre, Derbyshire, Great
Britain. He is known today as the
"Father of the American Industrial Revolution."
Slater 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 cotton.
Slater was 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.
Samuel 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 mills.
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
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 market.
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.
Rhode Island Superlatives