Spinning mills

Spinning mills were introduced to the United States in 1790 by English-born mechinist and businessman Samuel Slater (1768–1835). The twenty-one year old had worked as a textile laborer for more than six years in an English mill, where he learned about the workings of a cotton-spinning machine invented (1783) by Richard Arkwright (1732–92). The British considered the Arkwright mill the cornerstone of their booming textile industry and laws prevented anyone with knowledge of the mill from leaving the country. Eager to seek his own fortune, Slater disguised himself in 1789 to evade the authorities and sailed from England to recreate the spinning mill in America.

Arriving in Providence, Rhode Island, Slater formed a partnership with the textile firm Almy and Brown. From memory Slater began building a spinning mill based on the Arkwright machine. The spinning mill debuted December 20, 1790, in the village of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where the wheels of the mill were turned by the waters of the Blackstone River. The machine was a success and soon revolutionized the American textile industry, which had previously relied on cottage workers (the putting-out system) to manufacture thread and yarn.

Slater's innovation earned him the title "Father of American Manufactures" from President Andrew Jackson (1829–37), as well as the title "father of the American textile industry." He was credited with spawning the factory system in the United States. Within the first three decades of the 1800s, New England became the center of the nation's textile industry: the region's ample rivers and streams provided the necessary water power and the commercial centers of Boston and New York City readily received the finished products. Labor proved to be in ample supply as well: Because mill machinery was not complicated, children could operate it (and often did). Slater hired children ages seven to 14 to run the mill—a practice that other New England textile factories also adopted. The Jefferson Embargo of 1807, which prohibited importing textiles, also aided the industry. New England's mills provided the model for the American factory system. Slater had helped bring the Industrial Revolution to America.

Slater eventually broke away from Almy and Brown to open Samuel Slater & Company at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He later operated mills in Connecticut and New Hampshire. The Pawtucket mill where he demonstrated his innovation is now the Slater Mill Historic Site and has been called the Cradle of American Industry.