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Samuel Slater

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 Brown 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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