In 1793, the firm of Almy, Brown, and Slater hired local artisans and laborers to construct a wooden building suitable for manufacturing cotton thread by waterpower. Slater Mill became the first successful cotton-spinning factory in the United States. It was dedicated exclusively to the production of cotton thread until 1829, and then was continuously occupied until 1921 by various owners and renters. Through the years, Slater Mill supported many types of production and manufacture, including tools for the jewelry industry, coffin trimmings, cardboard manufacture, and bicycle sales.
In 1921, after the last private owner ceased operations, a group of local businessmen with ties to the textile industry organized the Old Slater Mill Association to purchase, restore and preserve the Slater Mill – recognized then, and now, as the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.” Restoration of the structure was completed in 1925. With the support of 62 founders – including industrial giants like Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, and Harvey Firestone – Slater Mill became one of the first operating industrial museums in the United States.
Slater Mill museum soon housed an impressive array of industrial artifacts. By the early 1950s, the museum was opened on a regular basis. In 1966, Slater Mill was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. The Sylvanus Brown House was relocated to the site in 1962, and restored along with the Wilkinson Millin the 1970s. Additional acreage was purchased, and the campus designated the Slater Mill Historic Site, and given National Historic Landmark District status.
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