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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:442 1793-1926 S631

Slater family business records

Samuel Slater (1768-1835) and his partners established the first cotton mill in the United States in 1791 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Later, Samuel Slater, his brother, and their children established a series of cotton and woolen mills in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The collection includes general accounting records, production records, and letters representing Slater family interests, mainly in textile manufacturing.

Dates

  • 1793-1926 (inclusive)

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Extent

246 linear feet (1153 volumes, 85 boxes, 1 carton)

The Slater family business records date from 1793 to 1926, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1812 to 1884. The records contain a wide variety of formats, including ledgers, daybooks, cash books, journals, account books, blotters, invoices, contracts and legal papers, promissory notes, bills, receipts, correspondence, payrolls and receipts for wages, time and wage books, consignment records, agents' sales reports, orders-to-pay, purchase records, production journals, agreements, freight records and receipts, bale books, rent books, memoranda, tax returns, inventories, statements and reports, certificates of stock, print books containing cloth samples, blueprints and insurance policies. These materials document the business of twenty-seven companies owned and operated by the Slater family.

The collection consists of bound volumes and boxes of unbound material.

Historical Note:

Samuel Slater (1768-1835) was born at Belper in Derbyshire, England in 1768. At the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to Jedediah Strutt, who owned several local textile factories. Slater learned to manage the daily operations of a cotton manufacturing factory. Most notably, he became familiar with the latest technological advancements in textile machinery. In 1789, Slater disguised himself as a farmhand and secretly emigrated to the United States. It was illegal under British law for mechanics with Slater's skills to leave the country. However, Slater took the risk, confident that his knowledge of cotton manufacture would be in high demand in the United States.

After arriving in New York, Samuel Slater soon came in contact with members of the Brown family of Providence, Rhode Island. The Browns, a wealthy and influential merchant family, began a small textile manufacturing operation in Rhode Island in 1788. However, due to its small scale and outdated equipment, the venture proved unsuccessful. Samuel Slater was advised to contact Moses Brown, and upon meeting, the men agreed to a partnership. In April 1790, Samuel Slater entered into an agreement with the mercantile firm of Almy & Brown (Moses Brown's son-in-law, William Almy, and cousin, Smith Brown.) Slater would design and build the equipment necessary to establish an operating cotton mill. The partnership would be known as Almy, Brown & Slater.

Slater set about building new carding engines, roving frames, and spinning machines. By December 1790, Almy, Brown & Slater was ready to begin manufacturing operations, producing cotton yarn. By 1793, the partnership built a mill at Pawtucket Falls on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, beginning the development of the factory system of manufacturing in the United States.

The relationship between Slater and the Browns was occasionally fractious, but it endured until 1829. Samuel Slater also considerably expanded his own investment in mill operations, often partnering with family members or former employees. In 1800, he joined with his father-in-law and two brothers-in-law to build and operate the "White Mill," a spinning factory on the Pawtucket River at Rehobeth, Mass. In 1806, Samuel Slater, William Almy, Smith Brown, and Slater's younger brother, John, built a factory in northern Rhode Island at what would become the town of Slatersville. In 1812, he entered a partnership with Bela Tiffany, an employee, to build a mill at Oxford (now Webster), Mass. This factory became Slater & Tiffany. During the 1810s, 1820, and 1830s, Slater ands his partners built, bought, or acquired interest in factories in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Samuel Slater's three sons, George Slater, John Slater II, and Horatio Nelson Slater, became increasingly involved in the operations of the family business. In 1829, the same year that Slater ended his business relationship with Almy and Brown, he formed a family partnership called S. Slater & Sons. Samuel Slater died in 1835. His sons continued to run the businesses that Slater founded through the rest of nineteenth century.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged into the following series:
  1. Series A:Slater and Howard, 1815-1828
  2. Series B: Dudley Manufacturing Company, 1827-1841
  3. Series C: Webster Woolen Mills, 1830-1869
  4. Series D: Slater Woolen Company, Webster, Massachusetts, 1866-1903
  5. Series E:Slater Woolen Company, Providence Office, 1876-1878
  6. Series F: Slater Woolen Company, New York Office, 1866-1880
  7. Series G: Almy, Brown and Slater, North Providence, Rhode Island, 1793-1833
  8. Series H:Slater & Tiffany, Oxford, Massachusetts, 1812-1843
  9. Series I: Slater & Kimball, South Oxford, Massachusetts, 1827-1839
  10. Series J: Phoenix Thread Mill, Webster, Massachusetts, 1834-1860
  11. Series K:Union Mills, Webster, Massachusetts, 1827-1884
  12. Series L: Webster Cotton Company, 1869-1879
  13. Series M: H. N. Slater Manufacturing Company, Webster, Massachusetts, 1871-1890
  14. Series N:H. N. Slater Mills, Webster, Massachusetts, 1870-1915
  15. Series O: Webster Mills, Webster, Massachusetts, 1876-1884
  16. Series P: Sutton Manufacturing Company, Wilkinsonville, Massachusetts, 1830-1896
  17. Series Q:Providence Iron Foundry, 1817-1835
  18. Series R: Steam Cotton Manufacturing Company, Providence, Rhode Island, 1824-1839
  19. Series S: Slater, Wardwell and Company, Providence, R.I., 1827-1837
  20. Series T:S. and J. Slater, Providence, Rhode Island, 1834-1867
  21. Series U: Slatersville Manufacturing Company, 1833
  22. Series V:Samuel Slater and Sons, Providence, Rhode Island, 1829-1900
  23. Series W: S. Slater & Sons, Inc., Webster, Massachusetts, 1878-1926
  24. Series X: Crompton Print Works, Warwick, Rhode Island, 1860-1864
  25. Series Y: Samuel Slater & Sons, New York Office, 1863-1880
  26. Series Z: Slater & Robinson, Webster, Massachusetts, 1852-1864
  27. Series AA: John & William Slater, Slatersville, Rhode Island, 1854-1900

Provenance:

Gift of S. Slater and Sons, Inc., 1916-1953

Existence and Location of Copies

Vol. G1 Almy, Brown and Slater daybook: Almy & Brown's Account with Spinning Mills, 1793-1804 is available as a digital surrogate. Vol. G1 is also available on microfilm (1 reel, 35 mm.) for use in the Historical Collections Reading Room, Baker Library. Order no. 67-0269.

Vol. G3 Almy, Brown and Slater daybook, February 1799-January 1815 is available as a digital surrogate.

Vol. I3 Slater & Kimball—Agreements with help, 1827-1839; includes prices of help, account of stock as of April 1,1827, is available on microfilm (1 reel, 35 mm.) for use in the Historical Collections Reading Room, Baker Library. Order no. 71-7459.

Vol. K30 Union Mills petty ledger, 1840-1843 (village accounts, rents, etc.) and Vol. K87 Union Mills rent book, 1849-1861 (partial) are available on microfilm (1 reel, 35 mm.) for use in the Historical Collections Reading Room, Baker Library. Order no. 71-0899.

Vol. H60 Slater & Tiffany Invoices and stock on hand—1834-1838 (1812-1843) is available on microfilm (1 reel, 35 mm.) for use in the Historical Collections Reading Room, Baker Library. Order no. 71-2923.

Related Materials

Records related to the Slater family and their business concerns can be found at numerous other repositories, including the American Antiquarian Association in Worcester, Mass.; the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence; the Slater Mill Historic Site library in Pawtucket, R. I.; and the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Processing Information

Processed: 2007-2009

By: Kristy Sharpe, Laura Morris, and Tim Mahoney

The Slater family collection was first arranged for research use in 1930. The processors chose to list the family's woolen manufacturing operations first (Series A to F); followed by the cotton manufacturing concerns (Series G to AA.) The records for each mill are then arranged chronologically. However, it should be noted that the records of Samuel Slater's earliest endeavors can be found in Series G: Almy, Brown and Slater.

The collection was reprocessed during 2007 to 2009. The original 1930s series arrangement was retained, but each series was assigned a unique letter. This is intended to help prevent confusion when collection materials are ordered and retrieved, and later when they are cited for publication. During the reprocessing project, unbound manuscripts were rehoused in appropriate acid-free folders and boxes. Oversized materials were removed and placed in flat boxes; separation sheets were placed to indicate the new location.

During the reprocessing, several volumes were identified as missing. The collection records first note the absence of these volumes in 1975. The missing volumes are Webster Woolen Mills C76, Slater Woolen Company D15 and D25, Slater & Tiffany H8, H10, H73, H74, H78, H79, H81, H83, H86, H92, H93, and H94. Slater & Kimball I3 is also missing, but a microfilm version is available. The inventory below contains further information about each of these volumes.
Link to catalog
Title
Slater Family. Slater Family Business Records, 1793-1926 (inclusive): A Finding Aid
Author
Baker Library
EAD ID
bak00045

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

Contact:
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