Samuel Slater, an American manufacturer, born at Belper, Derbvshire, England, June 9, 1768, died at Webster, Mass., April 21, 1835. He was apprenticed to cotton spinning under Jedidiah Strutt, partner of Arkwright, and was a favorite with his master. He aided Mr. Strutt in making improvements in his mills, and gained a thorough mastery of the theory and practice of the new manufacture. In 1789 congress passed its first act for the encouragement of manufactures, and the Pennsylvania legislature offered a bounty for the introduction of the Arkwright patents. These laws met the eye of young Slater in an English journal, and he believed himself able to carry the Arkwright cotton manufacture across the Atlantic without drawings or models, the export being forbidden under severe penalties. He arrived in New York in November, 1789, and learned accidentally that Moses Brown had made some attempts at cotton spinning by machinery in Rhode Island. He wrote to Mr. Brown informing him of what he could do, and received a reply stating that these attempts had not been successful, and adding: "If thou canst do this thing, I invite thee to come to Rhode Island and have the credit and the profit of introducing cotton manufacture into America." Slater proceeded thither, and immediately entered into articles of agreement with William Almy and Smith Brown to construct and operate the new cotton-spinning machinery.
On Dec. 21, 1790, he started at Pawtucket three 18-inch carding machines, the necessary drawing heads with two rolls and four processes, the roving cases and winders for the same, and throstle spinning frames of 72 spindles. Reels were soon after made for putting the yarn into skeins, in which form it was then exclusively marketed. The first yarns made on this machinery were equal in quality to the best made at that time in England. The growth of cotton manufacture was for some time necessarily slow, as the cotton was picked by hand in families. Further progress was made some years later when yarn was dyed and distributed in families for weaving. In 1812 Slater began the erection of mills in Oxford (now Webster), Mass., adding in 1815 - '16 the manufacture of woollen cloths; and here has grown up the large establishment which still bears his name. He established in 1796, for the improvement of his workpeople, a Sunday school, which was the first or among the first in the United States.