Tours of Slater Mill are led by trained professional interpreters, well-versed in the narrative of Slater Mill, and the history of the Blackstone Valley. Reservations are not required during regular museum operating hours. Tours last about 90 minutes, and include three historic structures in which period demonstration are conducted. Here’s a preview:
SLATER MILL (1793)
In 1793, the firm of Almy, Brown, and Slater hired local artisans and laborers to construct a wooden structure suitable for the manufacture of cotton thread. The result was a 43′ x 29′ two-story mill, powered by water flowing from the Blackstone River. Here Samuel Slater’s machines produced the first cotton thread in August of 1793. Slater Mill was the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in America. Because of its success, numerous mills were developed in nearby areas that copied its style and management protocols, including the construction of “mill villages,” and the employment of entire families (men, women and children) as mill operatives. This became known as the “Rhode Island System” of manufacture.
SYLVANUS BROWN HOUSE (1758)
Relocated from its original site on Mauran Street in 1971, the Sylvanus Brown House is a typical artisan cottage of the period. Sylvanus Brown was a woodworker, pattern maker, millwright and dam builder who occupied the house from 1784 to 1824, and made patterns for Samuel Slater’s early textile machines. Slater is reputed to have spent his first night in Pawtucket in this house. Today the house is furnished to represent an early 19th c. artisan’s home. Its exhibition serves to draw comparisons between early 19th c. agrarian life, and the subsequent livelihood typical after the American Industrial Revolution. Pre-industrial home based textile production, including manual spinning and weaving, are demonstrated here.
WILKINSON MILL (1810)
Oziel Wilkinson’s rubble stone mill offers a look at water power in action. It is one of the only successful operating exhibits of its kind in America today. The 16,000 pound water wheel turns as water from the Blackstone River flows in through the mill race, which in turn powers the shafts that turn the gears and run the machinery in the 19th c. machine shop above. Wilkinson came to Pawtucket in the 1780s. A blacksmith by trade, Wilkinson manufactured nails and forged anchors. He and his son David forged and cast the iron for Samuel Slater’s carding machine. David became known for his invention of a screw-cutting lathe in 1794. Samuel Slater became family to the Wilkinsons when he married Oziel’s daughter Hannah.