Samuel Slater was born in Derbyshire, England on June 9, 1768. The same year Richard Arkwright patented his spinning machine. Slater became involved in the textile industry in 1783, when he was apprenticed to a local factory master, Jeremiah Strutt. Slater, a gifted cotton mechanic and spinner, was promoted to supervisor of machinery and mill construction. On completion of his six year apprenticeship, Samuel had a thorough knowledge of the British textile industry, operation of the machinery and the processes involved.
Believing that the textile industry in Britain had reached its peak, and after learning that America was offering bounties for textile information Slater emigrated secretly in 1789 to America. Since it was illegal at the time to export anything to America relating to machinery, including engineers, Slater smuggled plans in hopes of making his fortune in America's infant textile industry. Slater brought with him the secret of making cotton thread quickly and cheaply by machines. He would later reconstruct from memory Richard Arkwright's spinning machine. Slater arrived in New York in 1789 after sailing to the "New World" for sixty-six days. When he arrived, America was trying to create its own industries, apart from England. Slater took a job at a local jenny workshop in New York, the New York Manufacturing Company.
It was not long before he learned of experimental work of Moses Brown and William Almy in Pawtucket, Rhode Island with more advanced machines than the spinning jennys used in New York. The great Quaker patron of Rhode Island, Moses Brown, was trying to spin thread with English equipment. He was looking for someone to reproduce Arkwright's designs. After visiting the small mill building, rented from Ezekiel Carpenter, Samuel saw that there were many improvements that could be made to the equipment and offered his services. He told Brown to start from scratch with an American designed, American built, spinning machine based on British models for a share of the enterprise. Brown agreed and Slater went to work. What Slater provided was a sturdy, reliable and home-grown version of Arkwright's English mill. Not the original as some have claimed it to be.
Samuel's aim was to maximize the output from the machinery and develop the market place in order to sell all the yarn that could be produced. Prior to this, the philosophy of Almy and Brown was to produce only to order. By 1792, Samuel Slater had proved, through the use of his management techniques, that he could make spinning a profitable business. This led to the building of a mill specifically for this purpose. This became the first successful U.S. cotton spinning mill.
Samuel Slater was the founder of the American cotton textile industry in America. While others with textile manufacturing experience had emigrated before him, Slater was the first who knew how to build as well as operate textile machines. The 1793 opening of Samuel Slater's cotton mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the first successful water-powered textile mill, ushered in a historical phenomenon now known as America's Industrial Revolution. Along the banks of the Blackstone River, for which the region is named, dozens of factories sprung up, employing generations of working-class families and drawing thousands of immigrants from around the world. Many serve today as factory outlet stores, art studios and artists' lofts.
In 1797 Samuel Slater broke away from Brown and Almy and built his own larger mill on the side of the river, the White Mill. Over the next ten years the cotton industry really took off; over eighty mills rose from American soil; all owing their existence to Samuel Slater.