American Industry in undoubtedly one of the strongest in the world. Numerous nations are recipients of many of our plethora of exports. From cars, to books, to corn, and everything in between. But where did this amazing system come from? Was it some aspiring urban businessman? Or maybe a tired housewife. It could have even been a son of a farmer. The system itself did not come from one person, but from a factory this person helped to build, with the blueprints in his mind. His name was Samuel Slater, and if you guessed the last choice you were correct. This man helped to lay the groundwork for America’s current, marvelous industrial system with his work in planning the textile factories. There is just one little catch to this story, however. He was not American, he was English and his ideas were stolen.
Samuel Slater was born to a yeoman and his wife in the English countryside region know as Derbyshire, on June 9, 1768. His family was comparatively wealthy to the rest of the surrounding area. This is because his father was the primary landowner in the region (Richards).
It was because of that fact that he would be given a job a the young age of 14 in a new textile mill to be built on a river running through his father’s property. Unfortunately soon after his apprenticeship started his father died in an accident on the farm, but he decided to continue with his learning, his inheritance giving him a bit of security while he was working (Samuel).
While he was working at this mill he got a good feeling for the job and was promoted to plant manager before his twentieth birthday, He continued to work there still while he became more and more familiar with the machinery and its workings. With these new skills he was able to improve on Sir Richard Awkright’s original design of the Water Frame in order to make it more efficient. While working at the plant he was so absorbed with his work that he only saw his family twice in one year on one occasion, even though they only lived a mile away from him (Welles 36).
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In the year 1789, Slater decided that he needed a little change of pace. So he decided to go to America and to start to work for a fabric company that was located in New York City. He wanted to eventually establish a factory like the one he worked at. People had been trying to do it for years in many different ways. Some would draw sketches and try to smuggle them aboard the ships, of take pieces of the actual machines themselves (The Father).
But the British government was well aware of this so they tried to everything in their power to stop it. They would often rigorously examine every passenger in hope of not letting that secret escape (Richards).
Slater knew of this, and in order to get around it he used his photographic memory. That’s right, he had a photographic memory, with it he remembered many detail of the factory back in Derbyshire. He remembered how the machines were built and what the pieces of the machines looked like. All of this is quite a magnificent thing to me especially considering that he had go on a 66 day ocean voyage while he was crossing the Atlantic. Once he arrived here he started working for a New York based clothing company, but soon heard of an Quaker named Moses Brown, this man had aspirations of building a truly successful manufacturing center (Welles).
Slater was just the man for this job. He collaborated with other local artisans, architects, and surveyors while building this new site, at The Blackstone River Valley. Around this factory many small homes were set up, this new factory was the root of the town (Bailey 317).
This occurrence, where a company sets up a large factory and a town forms around it is still evident today. This can be seen by some cities around Detroit such as Pontiac and Flint. These cities were around earlier than the companies, but the companies are responsible for populating them. Now that America could compete with England in one area, what was to stop them from doing it in another? Soon America would go on to compete with, and eventually overpower England and the rest of Europe in almost every economic category.
Born on June 9, 1768, in Derbyshire, England, Samuel Slater got involved in the textile industry at the young age of 14. Slater was apprenticed in a factory that manufactured textile machines. By age 17, Slater had been promoted to supervisor of machinery and construction in the mill. By age 21, he knew all that there was to know about textile manufacturing. Slater secretly (leaving England if you ...
Indirectly, because of Samuel Slater America is more powerful a nation than she would have been with out him. Because he felt the need to go to America to collect a bounty offered by the government, and betray his homeland, we now have one of the most stable economies found anywhere on this planet of ours. All of us could be living under drastically different circumstances had it not been for the one man and his magnificent memory.
Bailey, Thomas A., David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. Houghton Mifflin 1998.
Richards, Allen. “1768-1835: The Life of Sam Slater.” http://www.vzone.virgin.net/allen.r/slater.htm
“Samuel Slater.” W.O.O.N. Heritage. http://www.geocities.com/~woon_heritage/slaterhist.htm
“The Father of American Manufacturing.” http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Castle/8575/slater.html
Welles, Arnold. “Father of our Factory System.” American Heritage April 1958: 35-39, 90-92.