Believing that textile industry in England had reached its peak, Slater emigrated secretly to America in 1789 in hopes of making his fortune in America's infant textile industry. Forbidden to take out of the country any plans, specifications or drawings, young Slater carried in his head the plans for the construction of Arkwright's spinning machinery, the invention which revolutionized the textile industry and which was so closely guarded by Great Britain. 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. Slater was invited to Providence by Moses Brown, founder of Brown University, and in Jan. 1790, with Messrs. Almy and Brown, constructed the necessary machinery in Pawtucket, mainly by his own hands, and began the spinning of cotton. At the end of 20 months, they had several thousand pounds of yarn on hand, in spite of every effort to weave and sell it. With funding from Providence investors and assistance from skilled local artisans, he built the first successful water powered textile mill in Pawtucket in 1793.
By the time other firms entered the industry, Slater's organizational methods had become the model for his successors in the Blackstone River Valley. Later known as the Rhode Island System, it began when Slater enlisted entire families, including children, to work in his mills. These families often lived in company owned housing located near the mills, shopped at the company stores and attended company schools and churches. While not big enough to support the large mills which became common in Massachusetts, the Blackstone River's steep drop and numerous falls provided ideal conditions for the development of small, rural textile mills around which mill villages developed.
Slater married into the Wilkinson
family of Pawtucket and it was shortly afterward that his attention was
called to "Oxford South Gore" on account of superior water power
obtainable from the great lake that was there. Lyman and Bela Tiffany,
who were employed by Mr. Slater, lived in Wales and as they passed through
this section their attention was attracted to the lake and its great possibilities
for water power.
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