Samuel Slater

Samuel Slater builds spinning mills.

Samuel Slater - Mill
A mill was built by Samuel Slater on the Blackstone River. LOC

Samuel Slater, who was born on June 9, 1768, has been called both the "Father of American Industry" and the "Founder of the American Industrial Revolution." Slater built several successful cotton mills in New England and established the town of Slatersville, Rhode Island.

Coming to America

Benjamin Franklin and the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and Useful Arts offered cash prizes for any inventions that improved the textile industry in America.

In Milford, England, there was a young man named Samuel Slater, who, on hearing that inventive genius was rewarded in America, decided to emigrate. Samuel Slater at the age of fourteen had been apprenticed to Jedediah Strutt, a partner of Richard Arkwright. Slater had been employed in the counting-house and the textile mill and knew a lot about the textile business.

Samuel Slater Scofflaw

Slater defied the British law against the emigration of textile workers in order to seek his fortune in America. He landed in New York in 1789, and wrote to Moses Brown of Pawtucket, offering his services as a textile expert. Brown invited Samuel Slater to Pawtucket to see whether he could run the spindles that Brown had bought from the men of Providence. "If thou canst do what thou sayest," wrote Brown, "I invite thee to come to Rhode Island."

Success

Arriving in Pawtucket in January 1790, Samuel Slater pronounced the machines worthless, but convinced Almy and Brown that he knew the textile business, and they made him a partner.

Without drawings or models of any English textile machinery, he proceeded to build machines, doing much of the machine work himself. On December 20, 1790, Samuel Slater had built carding, drawing, and roving machines, and two seventy-two spindled spinning frames. A water-wheel taken from an old mill furnished the power.

Slater's new machinery worked and worked well.

Spinning Mills

This was the birth of the spinning industry in the United States. The new textile mill dubbed the "Old Factory" was built at Pawtucket in 1793. Five years later Samuel Slater and others built a second mill, and in 1806, after Samuel Slater was joined by his brother, he built another.

Workmen came to work for Samuel Slater solely to learn about his machines, and then left him to set up textile mills for themselves. Mills were built not only in New England but in other States. By 1809, there were sixty-two spinning mills in operation in the country, with thirty-one thousand spindles; twenty-five more mills were building or projected, and the industry was firmly established in the United States.

The yarn was sold to housewives for domestic use or else to professional weavers who made cloth for sale. This industry continued for years, not only in New England, but also in those other parts of the country where spinning machinery had been introduced.

Personal Life

In 1791, Samuel Slater married Hannah Wilkinson; she invented two-ply thread, becoming in 1793 the first American woman to receive a patent.​ ​Samuel and Hannah had 10 children together, although four died during infancy.

Hannah Slater died in 1812 from complications of childbirth, leaving Samuel Slater with six young children to raise.

Slater married for a second time in 1817, to a widow, Esther Parkinson. 

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