By Mary Bellis
In 1768, Richard Arkwright invented the spinning frame that could produce stronger threads for yarns. The first models were powered by waterwheels so the device came to be first known as the water frame. It was the first powered, automatic, and continuous textile machine and enabled the move away from small home manufacturing towards factory production. Arkwright built his first textile mill in Cromford, England in 1774. Richard Arkwright was successful, however, he later lost his patent rights for the spinning frame and that opened the door for a proliferation of textile mills.
Samuel Slater 1768-1835
On December 20, 1790, water-powered machinery for spinning and carding cotton was set in motion in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Based on the designs of English inventor Richard Arkwright, a mill was built by Samuel Slater on the Blackstone River. The Slater mill was the first American factory to successfully produce cotton yarn with water-powered machines. Slater was a recent English immigrant who apprenticed Arkwright's partner, Jebediah Strutt.
Samuel Slater had evaded British law against emigration of textile workers in order to seek his fortune in America. Considered the father of the United States textile industry, he eventually built several successful cotton mills in New England and established the town of Slatersville, Rhode Island.
Water Frame - Richard Arkwright
Richard Arkwright set out to design and produce a much larger spinning machine.
Richard Arkwright - Cotton King
The father of the factory system was Richard Arkwright.
Richard Arkwright - Spinning Frame
Richard Arkwright's Spinning Frame was too large to be operated by hand and so the men had to find another method of working the machine. After experimenting with horses, it was decided to employ the power of the water-wheel.
Samuel Slater designed his mill to push the limited resources of early America to their very edge.
The Story of Samuel Slater
Samuel Slater has been called both the "Father of American Industry" and the "Founder of the American Industrial Revolution."
Spinning frame from Slater Mill, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1790
Photo of the original spinning frame built by Samuel Slater for use in his mill.
Industrial Revolution - Timeline of the Textile Industry
Library of Congress