Tours of the Slater Mill Historic Site are performed by skilled, costumed interpreters. During our regular operating hours, no reservations are necessary. Tours last about 90 minutes and go through three buildings: the Slater Mill, the Sylvanus Brown House, and the Wilkinson Mill Each building features unique, exciting demonstrations conducted by our interpreters. Here's a preview of what you'll see at each building:
See the machines and processes by which raw cotton was turned into finished cloth, sparking the industrialization of American manufacturing. Slater Mill was the site of the first successful water-powered cotton spinning factory in America. Because of its success, numerous other mills copied the architectural style, management procedures, and use of women and children as mill operatives known as the Rhode Island system of manufacture.
In 1793, the firm of Almy, Brown, and Slater hired local artisans and laborers to construct a wooden building suitable for manufacturing cotton yarn by water power. The resulting 43' x 29' two story structure with attic straddled "Slater's Trench" as the enlarged building does today. Twenty-eight windows allowed sunlight into areas partioned off for spinning, storage, and carding rooms. Slater's machines produced the first cotton yarn in the new factory in August of 1793.
The Brown house is furnished as an early 19th century artisan’s home and is used to draw contrasts and parallels between life in the early 19th century and life and work after the industrial revolution. With the demonstration of hand spinning and weaving with flax and wool, the house demonstrates the shift from pre-industrial production of textiles to industrial manufacturing.
The Sylvanus Brown House was built in 1758 and moved to its present location in 1971. Sylvanus Brown was a woodworker, pattern maker (of wood patterns from which machinery were cast), a millwright and dam builder. He occupied the house between 1784 and 1824 and made patterns for Samuel Slater’s early textile machines. Slater is reputed to have spent his first night in Pawtucket in Sylvanus Brown’s House.
Built between 1810 and 1811 by Oziel Wilkinson, the rubble stone mill houses a 19th century machine shop and a working wooden water wheel that powers the machines. Watch as the Blackstone River powers our 16,000 pound water wheel, which then turns the massive gears in the machine shop above, giving real working power to everything from a lathe to a drill-press.
Oziel Wilkinson, Samuel Slater’s father-in-law, came to Pawtucket in the 1780’s. Originally a blacksmith by trade, he made nails and forged anchors. Later, he and his son David turned rollers and spindles and forged and cast the iron for Slater’s carding machine. One of David Wilkinson’s claims to fame is the invention of a screw-cutting lathe that he developed in 1794.