Samuel Slater (June 9,1768 – April 21, 1835) was an early American industrialist popularly known as the "Founder of the American Industrial Revolution" because he brought British textile technology to America. A native of England, he trained as an engineer and violated a British emigration law in 1789 that was designed to keep manufacturing technology within the country when he left for New York in disguise. He soon found work in Rhode Island replicating British factory equipment for a textile mill, and earned the owner's backing to design and build the first water powered mill in the United States.
Read the Memoir for Samuel Slater, the Father of American Manufactures, by George White, free from googlebooks.com. Slater established tenant farms and towns around his textile mills such as Slatersville, Rhode Island. Due to his technical knowledge from Britain, he became a full partner and eventually went into business for himself and grew wealthy. By the end of Slater's life he owned thirteen spinning mills.
Samuel Slater was born in Belper, Derbyshire, England. In 1782, Slater was apprenticed to a local factory master, Jedediah Strutt, who had been doing business with Samuel's father. Originally Strutt had requested an older sibling but his father recommended Samuel instead because of his aptitude with mechanics. As a partner of Richard Arkwright, Strutt was a pioneer in the use of the new British textile technology, and he is believed to have passed along the trade secrets to Slater over the course of the next seven years apprenticeship.
After the apprenticeship neared its end (around the time when Slater was 22), he began to recognize that the English textile factory was not so good. At this point, the desperate American textile industry was offering bounties of ₤100 to people with British technological knowledge. These had been offered because all attempts to obtain English models, by purchase or smuggling, had been futile. In November 1789, carrying his technical knowledge with him in his memory and despite the fact that England outlawed the emigration of engineers in an effort to keep trade secrets inside the nation, Slater left England for New York disguised as a farmer.
Life in America
In 1789, a Quaker merchant by the name of Moses Brown had decided to start his own textile factory in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and hired his son-in-law, William Almy, and nephew, Smith Brown, to operate the mill. Housed in a former fulling mill, Almy & Brown, as the company was to be called, set about to make and sell cloth spun on spinning wheels, jennies, and frames.Operational challenges with the frames led Brown to seek out someone with experience with textile mills and the ability to reproduce Arkwright's machine. Slater offered his services and was put to work duplicating British factory equipment. After he proved his competency, Brown provided the funds to build a mill on the Blackstone River based on the Arkwright designs in his photographic memory. During construction, Slater made some adjustments to the designs to fit the needs of America. The result would be the first successful water-powered textile mill in America. Samuel's wife, Hannah Slater, also invented a type of thread made of cotton. Slater's machinery carded cotton and spun it into thread.
After creating this mill, he put the principles of management in place that would lead to success. The first children workers were hired in 1790. Slater first attempted to populate the mill with women and children from far away, but that fell through due to the closeknit framework of the New England family. He then started tenant farms near his mills and brought in whole families, creating entire towns.
In 1793, now partners with Almy and Brown, Slater constructed a new mill for the sole purpose of textile manufacture under the name Almy, Brown & Slater. This mill, known today as Slater Mill, still stands and operates as a museum dedicated to preserving the history of Samuel Slater and his contribution to American industry.
In 1798 Samuel Slater split from Almy and Brown to build his own larger mill in partnership with his brother John, which he called the White Mill. Slater estimated his wealth at close to one million dollars, and at the time of his death, he owned all thirteen textile mills. He later died on April 21, 1835 in Webster, Massachusetts. He is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Webster.