Slater, Samuel

Slater, Samuel,

1768–1835, American pioneer in the cotton textile industry, b. Derbyshire, England. As an apprentice and later a mill supervisor, he gained a thorough knowledge of all the cotton-manufacturing machinery then in use. Drawn by the bounties offered for the encouragement of the textile industry in America, he left England in disguise, since the emigration of textile workers was forbidden, and reached New York in 1789. In 1790 he went to Providence, R.I., where he met Moses BrownBrown, Moses,
1738–1836, American manufacturer and philanthropist, b. Providence, R.I. He was associated with his brothers John, Joseph, and Nicholas in the family's mercantile activities before establishing (1790), with Samuel Slater, the first water-powered cotton mill
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 and contracted to reproduce the complicated machinery for the firm of Almy and Brown, to which his name was soon added. This he accomplished by a remarkable feat of memory, because all attempts to obtain English models, by purchase or smuggling, had been futile. The first mill was replaced by another in 1793, at nearby Pawtucket. In 1798 he formed an additional partnership, with his relatives by marriage, called Samuel Slater and Company, and built another mill near Pawtucket, R.I. He later established mills at Slatersville (now in the town of North Smithfield), R.I., and elsewhere in New England, becoming very prosperous. He exercised strict but paternal supervision over his employees.


See biographies by G. S. White (1836, repr. 1967) and E. H. Cameron (1960); W. R. Bagnall, Samuel Slater and the Early Development of Cotton Manufacture in the United States (1890).

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Slater, Samuel

(1768–1835) engineer, inventor; born in Belper, England. The son of a yeoman farmer, he received a modest education, then learned about advanced textile machinery as an apprentice. In 1789 he emigrated to the U.S.A. in disguise and under an assumed name, as Britain had banned the export of textile machinery or details about it. Working from memory, he built up-to-date spinning machines for a Rhode Island cotton mill (1793). He established his own manufacturing firm (1798) and he directed several large mill operations.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.