Slater Mill

Black and white photograph of two story mill with tree in foreground
Old Slater Mill, circa 1950s

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Slater Mill (1793) was the first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill in the United States and the first property to be added to the National Register of Historic Places (November 1966). For more than two centuries, people have transformed Slater Mill. These workers have changed the meaning of the mill, from a place for making thread to a place for learning about the consequences of industry.

Image of a man with white hair wearing a suit
Samuel Slater

The People and the Place

Months after the start of George Washington's presidency, a second revolution was just starting along the banks of the Blackstone River.

In Providence, RI, a local merchant named Moses Brown was taking steps to invest in American manufacturing. His goal was to manage a mill where water-powered machines could spin cotton fiber into thread. Brown chose a location just north of Providence, and invested in 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 cotton and take out finished textiles, this location seemed ideal for Brown’s experiment.

Brown had one big problem. He did not have machines that worked. Through the American Revolution, the English had kept the operations of their cotton machinery a well-guarded secret. That changed with the arrival of a young and innovative Englishman.

In December 1789, Brown hired Samuel Slater, a recent immigrant from England. Slater had spent the past seven years working in an English textile mill. He rose from an apprentice to an overseer of machinery and mill construction.

Slater determined that Brown’s existing machines would not work. New machines that could card (brush) and spin the cotton would need to be made locally. For several years, Slater worked with local mechanics, like members of the Wilkinson Family, to make new machines. In December 1790, Slater got the machines running. For the first time, workers could produce thread on water powered machines in America.

Slater had spent part of his childhood in a factory. Once in Pawtucket, he hired children to sell their time and to work their new machines. These children who worked in the mill were not paid for their production but the hours spent under Slater's supervision. Eventually, entire families would work and live in places called mill villages. Here workers earned steady wages, but they lived under the constant control and manipulation of their employers. These changes marked a new age of American Industry.

Aerial photograph of Pawtucket, showing buildings including Slater Mill
Aerial Photograph of Pawtucket, circa 1913. Slater Mill and dam are located in the bottom left center of the image. Notice Slater Mill's belltower and cupola and the "Great Flume" (the raceway before elements were filled in later in the 20th century.

Slater's Mill

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 that still stands today. During the 1800s, Slater Mill was expanded six times. It remained a cotton spinning mill until 1895.

In 1921, Old Slater Mill Association was founded by local business people to restore the mill. After years of work building exhibits and extensive preservation, the mill was restored to its 1835 appearance. In time, it became a tourist destination and one of the few surviving structures from the early age of industrial development in the area.

In March, 2021, Old Slater Mill Association donated the building and surrounding property to the American people through the care and stewardship of the National Park Service. Now, we cultivate legacies of education and preservation together.

Old Slater Mill is opened seasonally. For more information on how to visit this site, please check out our Places to Go page.


People, Places and Stories

  • Pictures and Portraits of influential people of the Blackstone River Valley

    Learn more about the people who helped influence the industrialization of the Blackstone River Valley

  • Pictures of significant and influential places situated in the Blackstone River Valley

    Learn more about the significant places situated in the Blackstone River Valley that spearheaded the American Industrial Revolution

  • Pictures and portraits that represent important stories that happened in the Blackstone River Valley

    Learn about the stories that influenced the industrialization of the Blackstone River Valley

Last updated: July 13, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

67 Roosevelt Ave
Pawtucket, RI 02860



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