Samuel Slater and Moses Brown Change America

This week the week of December 20, 1825, we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Slater Mill. Have you ever wondered how much Samuel Slater’s first mill has really changed what America is today? Well, using an article published by this newspaper 25 years ago and other researched infor- mation I’m sure you’ll be able to make that decision on your own. I’ll start by filling you in on Slater’s background.

            Samuel Slater was born on June 9, 1768. As a young man Slater appren- ticed in one of Arkwright’s mills. He soon learned that some Americans were willing to pay a bounty of 100 English pounds to the designer of a cloth-making machine. Knowing this, Slater memor- ized the design of Arkwright’s machines. Using a false name Slater traveled to America, thinking it held golden opportunities. He left on September 1, 1789 and Slater arrived in New York the following November. Slater soon found that a man named Moses Brown wanted to build a mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In December 1790 Slater and Brown were ready to start their mill using waterpower of a nearby stream. This mill had two wheels and 72 spindles turning out cotton thread. The first cotton yarn made in America (also in this particular mill) was produced on December 20. 1790.

            As the years went by, changes were made. But not before the surround- ing town expanded and many families began to give up farm work to be paid money to work in mills. Slater’s wife, Hannah Slater, came up with a new way to make stronger thread and that changed


the mill itself. Soon, there were and still are many children working in the New

England mills. In the winter of 1790 the first nine children workers were hired.

At first this seemed brutal to the community then was thought of as a working and educational experience as it is now. This is and was no time for schooling besides, kids did some things better than adults and vise versa. Thousands of children under sixteen worked in mills but most children are between seven and twelve years old. The children worked 13 to 14 hours a day and were paid 80 cents to a dollar and 40 cents. Mill owners have always tried to hire whole families but often hired children first, there are 55% of the mill workers being children and the other 45% being adults. Many times there would be 28n looms in one room and 14 girls spinning with both hands. Each spinner is to turn out 14 pounds of thread a day. There is a punishment of the “whipping room” where children working too slow are sent.  Now, how would you like to work in a mill?

            In 1793 the Slater Mill was 29 feet by 42 feet and 2 ½ stories high. This wonderful building was and still is made of wood. The work is not only done in the mill, last year they added the Sylvus Brown House. This small building is where a loom and other small hand tools used to make cloth are stored. It is also the location where women and children do the slow tidious work of cleaning and carding wool, spinning yarn and weaving cloth.

            Because Slater and Brown started the mill in 1790, the Lowell mill was built farther north and is where the Lowell Girls are becoming so popular from.

That concludes the facts I wanted to give you before I leave you with onelast question. How much do you feel Samuel Slater has changed America?



1)     Who is Samuel Slater’s wife?

2)     Why were children sent to the ‘whipping room’?

3)     Coming to America, what did Slater think America was?

4)     When did the mill open?

5)     Who hired Samuel Slater to design the mill?

6)     How old were the children that worked in the mill?