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Mss:442 1793-1926 S631

Slater Family. Slater Family Business Records, 1793-1926 (inclusive): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:442 1793-1926 S631
Repository: Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Creator: Slater family
Title: Slater family business records
Date(s): 1793-1926 (inclusive)
Quantity: 246 Linear Feet (1153 volumes, 85 boxes, 1 carton)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: 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.


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

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.

Conditions Governing Access:

Appointment necessary to consult collection.

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.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Slater Family Collection, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.

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.

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:

Scope and Content Note:

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.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Textile industry—New England.
Cotton manufacture—Rhode Island.
Cotton manufacture—Massachusetts.
Wool industry—Rhode Island.
Wool industry—Massachusetts.
Iron industry and trade—Rhode Island.
General stores—Rhode Island.
Industries—Rhode Island—Providence.
Industries—Rhode Island.
Manufactures—Rhode Island—North Providence.
Manufactures—Rhode Island—Slatersville.
Manufactures—Massachusetts—South Oxford.
Manufactures—Rhode Island—Smithfield (Town).
Manufactures—Rhode Island—Warwick.
Account books.
Textile workers.
New York (N.Y.)—Commerce.
Bradford, E. S.
Jones, D. W.
Rawson, Rufus.
Slater, Samuel, 1768-1835.
Slater, John, 1776-1843.
Slater, Horatio Nelson, 1808-1888.
Slater, John Fox, 1815-1884.
Slater, John, 1805-1838.
Slater family.
Tenney, John W.
Wilson, James.
Almy, Brown and Slater.
Booth and Slater.
Crompton Print Works.
Chase Mills.
Collins Brothers.
Dudley Manufacturing Company.
H. N. Slater Mills.
H. N. Slater Manufacturing Company.
J. & W. Slater.
Phoenix Thread Mill.
Providence Iron Foundry.
Robinson and Thayer.
S. Slater & Sons.
S. & J. Slater.
Samuel Slater and Sons.
Slater and Howard.
Slater and Kimball.
Slater and Robinson.
Slater and Tiffany.
Slater and Wardwell Company.
Slater Woolen Company.
Sutton Manufacturing Company.
Steam Cotton Manufacturing Company.
Union Mills.
Webster Cotton Company.
Webster Mills.
Webster Woolen Company.
Slater Mill Historic Site.