Slater Mill

Slater Mill as seen from the Park
Slater Mill as seen from the Park

Providence merchant Moses Brown wanted to build water-powered machines to spin cotton fiber into thread. He rented a workspace next to the Pawtucket Falls. With a source of waterpower, a community of tool and machine makers already living there, and the ability for ships to bring in raw cotton and take out finished textiles, this location seemed ideal for Brown’s experiment.

The one thing Brown needed was someone who knew how English textile machines worked.Then in December 1789, Brown hired Samuel Slater. Slater was a recent immigrant from England. He had spent seven years working in an English textile mill. He rose from an apprentice to an overseer of machinery and mill construction.

Portrait of Samuel Slater and a Diagram of a Water Powered Mill
Portrait of Samuel Slater and a Diagram of a Water Powered Mill

Slater determined that Brown’s machines would not work. Slater worked with local mechanics, like the Wilkinson Family, to make new machines. In 1790 Slater got the machines running. Thread was produced on water powered machines for the first time in America. A new age of American Industry had begun.

In 1793 the firm of Almy, Brown and Slater replaced their experimental workshop with a new mill. Known as the Slater Mill, it was the first water powered textile mill in America. The original mill was six windows wide and two and ½ stories tall. It makes up the core of the building you see today. Slater Mill was expanded six times in the 1800s.The building remained a cotton spinning mill until 1895.

Evolution of Slater Mill (4 images 1793, 1850, 1890 and 1925)
The evolution of Slater Mill.  The top images are artist renditions of the mill from 1793 and 1850.  The bottom pictures are from 1890 and 1925.  In 1925 the mill was restored to its current state which was its 1832 appearance.
Old Slater Mill Association was founded in 1921 to preserve and restore the mill. The site became a tourist destination. Old Slater Mill Association renovated and restored the building in 1923. The mill was restored to its 1835 appearance. Today you can visit the mill to learn more about its place in American History.

Last updated: July 17, 2021

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