Slater, Samuel

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 9 June 1768 Belper, Derbyshire, England
d. 21 April 1835 USA
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Anglo-American manufacturer who established the first American mill to use Arkwright's spinning system.
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Samuel's father, William, was a respected independent farmer who died when his son was aged 14; the young Slater was apprenticed to his father's friend, Jedediah Strutt for six and a half years at the beginning of 1783. He showed mathematical ability and quickly acquainted himself thoroughly with cotton-spinning machinery made by Arkwright, Hargreaves and Crompton. After completing his apprenticeship, he remained for a time with the Strutts to act as Supervisor for a new mill.
At that time it was forbidden to export any textile machinery or even drawings or data from England. The emigration of textile workers was forbidden too, but in September 1789 Slater left for the United States in disguise, having committed the details of the construction of the cotton-spinning machinery to memory. He reached New York and was employed by the New York Manufacturing Company.
In January 1790 he met Moses Brown in Providence, Rhode Island, and on 5 April 1790 he signed a contract to construct Arkwright's spinning machinery for Almy \& Brown. It took Slater more than a year to get the machinery operational because of the lack of skilled mechanics and tools, but by 1793 the mill was running under the name of Almy, Brown \& Slater. In October 1791 Slater had married Hannah Wilkinson, and in 1798 he set up his own mill in partnership with his father-in-law, Orziel Wilkinson. This mill was built in Pawtucket, near the first mill, but other mills soon followed in Smithville, Rhode Island, and elsewhere. Slater was the Incorporator, and for the first fifteen years was also President of the Manufacturer's Bank in Pawtucket. It was in his business role and as New England's first industrial capitalist that Slater made his most important contributions to the emergence of the American textile industry.
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Further Reading
G.S.White, 1836, Memoirs of Samuel Philadelphia (theearliestaccountofhislife). Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. XVII. Scientific American 63. P.E.Rivard, 1974, Samuel Slater, Father of American Manufactures, Slater Mill. D.J.Jeremy, 1981, Transatlantic Industrial Revolution. The Diffusion of Textile
Technologies Between Britain and America, 1790–1830s, Oxford (covers Slater's activities in the USA very fully).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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