Meshech Weare, first President of New Hampshire

June 16, 2014

 

 

Meshech Weare was an American farmer, lawyer and revolutionary statesman from Seabrook and Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. He served as the first President of New Hampshire from 1776 to 1785.

Meshech was born to Deacon Nathaniel Weare and his second wife, Mary Waite, in what was then the Third Parish, New Hampshire, on June 16, 1713. The site of the home is now in Seabrook, though the actual house burned down in the early 1900s.

Weare was baptized in modern day Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, on June 21, 1713. He was the youngest of 14 children. Some of his siblings included (in order of baptism date) Elizabeth, Abigail, Mehitable, Susanna, and Nathan.

Weare graduated from Harvard College in 1735. He originally planned to work in the Congregational ministry, but those plans were changed after his marriage to Elizabeth Shaw in 1738. He planned on improving the land he and his wife bought after their marriage, but this plan was cut short by his wife’s death. He remarried to Mehitable Wainwright in 1746. During this time he began to study law, starting with the books passed down to him from his father and grandfather, who were former lay Judges in the provincial court.

The house in which Weare lived was built in 1737 by Samuel Shaw. It was later to be visited by George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and James Monroe. The back half of the house burnt many years after Weare’s death, although the front half was saved. It still stands in Hampton Falls, next to the park named after Weare and across from the town school, Lincoln Akerman School.

Weare’s political career began in 1739 when he became a town moderator. For the next 35 years, he served in various political positions, including selectman and representative of Hampton Falls in the Assembly. He was also thrice speaker of the House of Representatives, and its clerk for eight years. In 1754, he was one of New Hampshire’s delegates to the Albany Congress.

In September of 1772, Weare served as one of the four judges in the trial of the participants in the Pine Tree Riot, an early act of rebellion against British authority in the Colonies. Although the defendants were found guilty (of assaulting a sheriff who had been enforcing laws against harvesting white pine reserved to the Crown), the light fines assessed by the court were seen as encouraging other such acts, including the Boston Tea Party.

On January 5, 1776, New Hampshire became the first American state to adopt a formal constitution. Weare was a leader in the drafting of this document, which served as the basic instrument of government for the ensuing eight years or until the adoption of a second and more permanent constitution in 1784. Under this constitution, there was no established executive, and the legislature was supreme. In practice, executive power was delegated to a Committee of Safety consisting of eight or ten legislative leaders. This committee had full power to act on behalf of the government while the legislature was not in session. After a brief interval, Weare was elected chairman of the Committee of Safety and served in this capacity throughout the Revolution.

In addition to being New Hampshire’s first “President”, Weare was chief justice of the state’s highest court the “Superior Court of Judicature” from 1776 to 1782. He also served as presiding officer of the Council, then part of the upper house of the legislature. He managed to hold that position throughout the American Revolution.

The Committee of Safety, over which Weare presided, was a most interesting governmental institution. It operated both at the state and (through a network of town committees of safety) at the local level, and was virtually a law unto itself while the legislature was not in session. Its duties included supervision and coordination of military affairs within the state, raising of recruits and supplies, regulation of the state militia, custody of prisoners of war, supervision of the entrance and clearance of vessels from Portsmouth Harbor, regulation of privateers and captured prizes, surveillance of the Loyalists, regulation of trade and currency (including prevention of counterfeiting), and supervision of price controls.

The New Hampshire town of Weare (formerly Hale’s Town or Robie’s Town) was renamed in 1764 to honor his service as the town’s first clerk.

Weare died on January 14, 1786, in Hampton Falls. His grave is located in Old Brookside Cemetery.

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Grave of Meshech Weare in Old Brookside Cemetery at Hampton Falls, New Hampshire

In Hampton Falls, a park, built in the early 2000s directly next to his house, is named for him.

References

  • Brown, Warren. History of Hampton Falls N.H. Vol. II. 1918

John Marrant: preacher, missionary, author

June 15, 2014

 

 

John Marrant was one of the first black preachers and missionaries. He wrote three books about his experiences as a preacher.

Marrant was born in New York City on June 15, 1755. Following the death of his father, he moved with his mother to Florida, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. He was able to read and spell by the age of 11. Marrant was taught how to play the French horn and violin, entertaining the local gentry at balls.[1] By the time he was thirteen, Marrant was a sought-after musician for parties and dances.

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Image of John Marrant by an unknown engraver, published circa 1795

One evening on his way to a dance, a friend challenged him to go into a church where evangelist George Whitefield was preaching and blow his French horn to upset the meeting. As Marrant prepared to blow the horn, Whitefield announced his text from Amos 4:12: “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” Under conviction, Marrant passed out.

Over the next few days, Marrant talked with a preacher and prayed until he found relief from his guilt. However, his sister’s family did not agree with his faith. Marrant returned to his mother’s home but found only animosity at his change of life.

At fourteen, Marrant left home after disagreements with his family about his desires. He wandered in the wilderness, relying on God to feed and protect him. He was found by a Cherokee hunter and taken to a Cherokee town, where he was sentenced to death. However, he was spared, allegedly due to the miraculous conversion of the executioner.[2]

Marrant lived with the Cherokees for two years before returning to Charleston, where his own family didn’t recognize him. He continued his missionary work with slaves, despite the objection of their owners, until the start of the American Revolution.[3]

Marrant claimed that he was impressed into the Royal Navy for six years before being discharged in 1782, but official records do not show him as having served with the Navy.[4] In 1782 Marrant started training as a Methodist minister with the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, a small society of evangelical churches. He is shown on the New York City Inspection Roll of Negroes as the owner of Melia Marrant and two children, although Devona Mallory in “African American Lives” claims that these people were his family.[5]

He was ordained in 1785 and went to Nova Scotia to minister to several thousand negro Americans who had fled north during the fighting.[6]

Marrant moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1787 before returning briefly in 1788 to Nova Scotia to marry Elizabeth Herries.[7] In 1788 he became the chaplain of the African Masonic Lodge in Boston, a group active in the movement to abolish slavery.[8][9]

Marrant traveled to London in 1790, and died in the suburb of Islington on April 15, 1791.[10]

In 1785 he published A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black, with the assistance of Reverend William Aldridge, who transcribed it. This memoir proved to be very popular, going to 17 editions, although Marrant did not receive much financial benefit from it, as not all of the printings were authorized. [11]

Critics have noted that the narrative has a very different tone to his later publications. However, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has argued in The Signifying Monkey that many early African American narratives were transcribed by white editors, which would explain the different writing style.

Marrant delivered a sermon in 1789 noting the equality of men before God; it was published.[12] His final published work was a 1790 journal.

His published works were:

  • A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black, 1785
  • A Sermon Preached on the 24th Day of June 1789…at the Request of the Right Worshipful the Grand Master Prince Hall, and the Rest of the Brethren of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, 1789
  • A Journal of the Rev. John Marrant, from August the 18th, 1785, to the 16th of March, 1790

References

  1. Notable Black American Men Book II, Thomson Gale, 2006. “John Marrant”
  2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “John Marrant”
  3. Black History Review “John Marrant, America’s first black preacher 1755-1791″
  4. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “John Marrant”
  5. Notable Black American Men Book II, Thomson Gale, 2006. “John Marrant”
  6. Notable Black American Men Book II, Thomson Gale, 2006. “John Marrant”
  7. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “John Marrant”
  8. “John Marrant, America’s first black preacher 1755-1791″. Black History Review.
  9. James Sidbury Professor of History University of Texas at Austin (29 August 2007). Becoming African in America : Race and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic: Race and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic. Oxford University Press. pp. 85, 87. ISBN 978-0-19-804322-5
  10. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “John Marrant”
  11. Black History Review “John Marrant, America’s first black preacher 1755-1791″
  12. Black History Review “John Marrant, America’s first black preacher 1755-1791″

Shearjashub Bourne, Massachusetts statesman and jurist

June 14, 2014

 

 

Shearjashub Bourne (June 14, 1746 – March 11, 1806) was an American lawyer, jurist, and politician from Boston, Massachusetts. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives from March 4, 1791 to March 3, 1795. He later served as Chief Justice of the Suffolk County, Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas.

Sources


Dr. Eneas Munson, Revolutionary War physician

June 13, 2014

 

 

Doctor Eneas Munson, an American physician and businessman, served as a surgeon’s mate during the War for Independence. He was one of the few Revolutionary War veterans who lived long enough to be photographed.

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He was born in 1763, in New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, to Benjamin Munson and Abigail Punderson. He had four brothers and sisters: Abigail Munson, Benjamin Munson, Susannah Munson and Susanna Munson.

On November 24, 1804, he married Sarah Sanford. The couple had nine children: Clarinda Munson, AEneas Munson, Elijah Munson, Wealthy Ann Munson, Susanna Munson, George Munson, Elihu Munson, Henry Munson and Frederick Munson.

As a teenager, Eneas helped care for the wounded in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, after the British invaded. Commissioned as a surgeon’s mate when he was 16 years old, shortly before he graduated from Yale. He extracted bullets from soldiers during battle.

In 1781 he was part of General Washington’s great sweep to Yorktown, Virginia, which led to Gen. Cornwallis’ surrender and American victory of the Revolution. During the fighting at Yorktown he was an eyewitness to actions of General Washington, General Knox, and Colonel Alexander Hamilton.

He gave up medicine after the war and became a wealthy businessman, but his family spoke of how he loved recalling the exciting days of the war, when he was a teenage officer.

Dr. Munson was known for having served as Nathan Hale’s personal tutor prior to Nathan’s entering Yale. He wrote “To the Memory of Capt. Nathan Hale” soon after Hale’s death:

“Hate of oppression’s arbitrary plan, The love of freedom, and the rights of man; A strong desire to save from slavery’s chain The future millions of the western main, And hand down safe, from men’s invention cleared, The sacred truths which all the just revered; For ends like these, I wish to draw my breath,’ He bravely cried, ‘or dare encounter death.’ And when a cruel wretch pronounced his doom, Replied, ‘Tis well, —for all is peace to come; The sacred cause for which I drew my sword Shall yet prevail, and peace shall be restored. I’ve served with zeal the land that gave me birth, Fulfilled my course, and done my work on earth; Have ever aimed to tread that shining road That leads a mortal to the blessed God. I die resigned, and quit life’s empty stage, For brighter worlds my every wish engage; And while my body slumbers in the dust, My soul shall join the assemblies of the just.”

Dr. Munson died August 22, 1852.

Sources

  1. Faces of the men who won America’s independence, Daily Mail Online, July 4, 2013
  2. Eneas Munson at WikiTree
  3. Our Bragg Family Blog

Dr. Joseph Warren, "These fellows say we won’t fight! By Heaven, I hope I shall die up to my knees in blood!"

June 11, 2014

 

 

Dr. Joseph Warren was an American doctor who played a leading role in American Patriot organizations in Boston in early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as president of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Warren enlisted Paul Revere and William Dawes on April 18, 1775, to leave Boston and spread the alarm that the British garrison in Boston was setting out to raid the town of Concord and arrest rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Warren participated in the next day’s Battles of Lexington and Concord, which are commonly considered to be the opening engagements of the American Revolutionary War.

Warren had been commissioned a Major General in the colony’s militia shortly before the June 17, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. Rather than exercising his rank, Warren served in the battle as a private soldier, and was killed in combat when British troops stormed the redoubt atop Breed’s Hill. His death, immortalized in John Trumbull’s painting, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775, galvanized the rebel forces, and he has been memorialized in many place names in the United States.

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Portrait by John Singleton Copley, c. 1765

Joseph Warren was born June 11, 1741 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, to Joseph Warren and Mary (Stevens) Warren. His father was a respected farmer who was killed in October 1755 when he fell off a ladder while gathering fruit in his orchard. After attending the Roxbury Latin School, Joseph enrolled in Harvard College, graduating in 1759, and then taught for about a year at Roxbury Latin.[1] He studied medicine and married 18-year-old heiress Elizabeth Hooten on September 6, 1764. She died in 1772, leaving him with four children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, and Richard.

While practicing medicine and surgery in Boston, he joined the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew and eventually was appointed as a Grand Master.[2] He also became involved in politics, associating with John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and other radical leaders of the broad movement labeled Sons of Liberty. Warren conducted an autopsy on the body of young Christopher Seider in February 1770, and was a member of the Boston committee that assembled a report on the following month’s Boston Massacre. Earlier, in 1768, Royal officials tried to place his publishers Edes and Gill on trial for an incendiary newspaper essay Warren wrote under the pseudonym A True Patriot, but no local jury would indict them.[3]

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Portrait from Boston Monthly Magazine, 1826

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Warren (right) offering to serve General Israel Putnam as a private before the Battle of Bunker Hill

As Boston’s conflict with the royal government came to a head in 1773-75, Warren was appointed to the Boston Committee of Correspondence. He twice delivered orations in commemoration of the Massacre, the second time in March 1775 while the town was occupied by army troops. Warren drafted the Suffolk Resolves, which were endorsed by the Continental Congress, to advocate resistance to Parliament’s Coercive Acts. He was appointed President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, the highest position in the revolutionary government.

In mid-April 1775, Warren and Dr. Benjamin Church were the two top members of the Committee of Correspondence left in Boston. On the afternoon of April 18, the British troops in the town mobilized for a long-planned raid on the nearby town of Concord, and already before nightfall word of mouth had spread knowledge of the mobilization widely within Boston. It had been known for weeks that General Gage in Boston had plans to destroy munitions stored in Concord by the colonials, and it was also known that they would be taking a route through Lexington. Warren received the additional information from a highly placed informant that the troops also had orders to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Warren sent William Dawes and Paul Revere on their famous “midnight rides” to warn Hancock and Adams in Lexington about the approaching troops. The historian of colonial America, David Hackett Fischer, finds strong, but inconclusive, evidence that Warren’s highly placed informant was none other than Margaret Gage, the wife of General Thomas Gage.[4]

Warren slipped out of Boston early on April 19, and during that day’s Battle of Lexington and Concord, he coordinated and led militia into the fight alongside William Heath as the British Army returned to Boston. When the enemy were returning from Concord, he was among the foremost in hanging upon their rear and assailing their flanks. During this fighting Warren was nearly killed, a musket ball striking part of his wig. When his mother saw him after the battle and heard of his escape, she entreated him with tears again not to risk life so precious. “Where danger is, dear mother,” he answered, “there must your son be. Now is no time for any of American’s children to shrink from any hazard. I will set her free or die.” He then turned to recruiting and organizing soldiers for the Siege of Boston, promulgating the Patriots’ version of events, and negotiating with Gen. Gage in his role as head of the Provincial Congress.

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The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull

Warren was appointed a Major General by the Provincial Congress on June 14, 1775. He arrived where the militia was forming and asked where would the heaviest fighting be and Putnam pointed to Bunker Hill. He volunteered as a private against the wishes of General Israel Putnam and Colonel William Prescott, who requested that he serve as their commander. Since Putnam and Prescott were more experienced with war he declined command. On June 17, 1775, he was among those inspiring the men to hold rank against superior numbers. Warren was known to have repeatedly declared of the British: “These fellows say we won’t fight! By Heaven, I hope I shall die up to my knees in blood!”[5] He fought in the redoubt until out of ammunition, and remained until the British made their third and final assault on the hill to give time for the militia to escape. He was killed instantly by a musket ball in the head by a British officer (possibly Lieutenant Lord Rawdon) who recognized him. His body was stripped of clothing and he was bayoneted until unrecognizable, and then shoved into a shallow ditch.

British Captain Walter Laurie, who had been defeated at Old North Bridge, later said he “stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel into one hole, and there he and his seditious principles may remain.”[6] His body was exhumed ten months after his death by his brothers and Paul Revere, who identified the remains by the artificial tooth he had placed in the jaw.[7] This may be the first recorded instance of post-mortem identification by forensic odontology. His body was placed in the Granary Burying Ground and later (in 1825) in St. Paul’s Church before finally being moved in 1855 to his family’s vault in Forest Hills Cemetery.

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Warren’s statue in front of the Roxbury Latin School

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Warren’s grave in Forest Hills Cemetery

There are at least three statues of Joseph Warren on public display. Two are in Boston—one in the exhibit lodge adjacent to the Bunker Hill Monument, the other on the grounds of the Roxbury Latin School. The third is in a small park on the corner of Third and Pennsylvania avenues in Warren, Pennsylvania, a city, borough, and county all named after the general.

At the time of Warren’s death, his children were staying with his fiancée, Mercy Scollay. She continued to look after them, gathering support for their education from Mercy Otis Warren, Benedict Arnold, and even the Continental Congress. Joseph’s younger brother, John Warren, served as a surgeon during the Battle of Bunker Hill and the rest of the war and afterwards founded Harvard Medical School.

General Gage reportedly said Warren’s death was equal to the death of 500 men. It encouraged the revolutionary cause because it was viewed by many Americans as an act of martyrdom. Fourteen states have a Warren County named after him. Additionally, Warren, Pennsylvania, Warren, Michigan,[8] Warren, New Jersey, Warren County, New Jersey, Warrensburg, New York, Warrenton, Virginia, Warren, Maine, Warren, Massachusetts and 30 Warren Townships are also named in his honor. Boston’s Fort Warren, started in 1833, was named in his honor. Five ships in the Continental Navy and United States Navy were named Warren in his honor.

American actor Walter Coy played Dr. Warren in the 1957 film Johnny Tremain.[9]

Footnotes

  1. Frothingham, Richard (1865). Life and Times of Joseph Warren. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company. pp. 12–13 http://books.google.com/books?id=stOQHgg8k3gC&pg=PA1&dq#PPA12,M1. The book’s description of “the grammar school in Roxbury” appears to indicate Roxbury Latin School
  2. http://www.mwsite.org/papers/JosephWarren.html
  3. Forman 2011
  4. Fischer 1994, p. 95-97
  5. Tourtellot 1959, p. 213
  6. Fischer 1994
  7. Boston 1775: Sumner letter
  8. Romig, Walter (1986). Michigan Place Names. Walter Romig. p. 582
  9. “Walter Coy”. Internet Movie Data Base. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0185341/

Bibliography

  • Cary, John (1961) Joseph Warren: Physician, Politician, Patriot. University of Illinois Press.
  • Fischer, David Hackett (1994). Paul Revere’s Ride. Oxford University Press
  • Forman, Samuel A. (October 2011) Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty. Pelican Publishing. ISBN 1455614742; ISBN 978-1455614745
  • Hardman, Ron; Hardman, Jessica (2010). Shadow Fox: Sons of Liberty. Fox Run Press. ISBN 978-0981960708
  • None. Joseph Warren. Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies 1928-1936. Included in the database, U.S. History in Context (formerly History Resource Center: U.S.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group
  • Tourtellot, Arthur Bernon (1959). Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0393320565
  • Wilson, James Grant; John Fiske, editors. 1887-1889. Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company

Dr. John Morgan, co-founder of the first American medical school

June 10, 2014

 

 

Doctor John Morgan was co-founder of the Medical College at the University of Pennsylvania, the first medical school in Colonial America; and he served as the second “Chief physician & director general” of the Continental Army (an early name for the U.S. Army Surgeon General). He also founded the American Philosophical Society in 1766 in Philadelphia.

The first son of Evan Morgan, an immigrant from Wales, and Joanna Biles, Morgan was born in Philadelphia on June 10, 1735. After a classical education at Nottingham Academy in Chester County, he graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1757.[1][2]

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Portrait of Dr. John Morgan (1764) courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

He fought for the British during the Seven Years War, commissioned as a lieutenant and serving as a surgeon on the western frontier. After that he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he earned his degree in 1763. He did some touring in Europe, studying medical practice in Paris and visiting Italy. During this time, he was elected to the Royal Academy of Surgery at Paris in 1764 and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and of London in 1765.[1]

That year with Dr. William Shippen, another Edinburgh graduate, Morgan co-founded the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) Medical School, the first medical school in North America.

During the American Revolution, the Congress named Morgan in 1775 as director-general of the army’s hospital, then located in Boston. The task was enormous; establishing and organizing a medical service was hampered by logistics, a shortage of supplies, an outbreak of smallpox, and a lack of understanding of health issues by the Congress, military authorities and rank and file soldiers. Every problem was blamed on the director-general, and Morgan’s old rival Shippen was quick to take advantage of the situation to unseat Morgan. First Shippen took over medical operations east of the Hudson, and then in 1777 he replaced Morgan entirely. Two years later Morgan succeeded in obtaining vindication from Congress; after formally charging Shippen with fraud and speculation in hospital supplies, Shippen was court-martialed and resigned in 1781.

Morgan by this time was in poor health and exhausted by the long feud with Shippen. He had not taught classes since 1775, and now became more retiring. Morgan died in Philadelphia on October 15, 1789, at age 53.

Morgan was active in many Philadelphia institutions and organizations. He was a founding member of the American Philosophical Society in 1766, a member of the Medical staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital from 1773 to 1783, one of the original fellows of the Philadelphia College of Physicians, and also a member of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting the Culture of Silk. Although born to a Quaker mother and Baptist father, he became a vestryman and warden of the Anglican Christ Church. Morgan was also well-known for his significant collections of European art and of paleontological specimens, collected by his brother George in Ohio.

Notes

  1. “John Morgan (1735–1789)”, Archives, University of Pennsylvania, accessed 29 January 2011
  2. Morgan, John (1907). The journal of Dr. John Morgan of Philadelphia. Pennsylvania: J.B. Lippincott. p. 18.

References

  • “John Morgan (1735–1789) founder of American medical education.”, JAMA (November 15, 1965) 194 (7), 1965: 825–6, doi:10.1001/jama.194.7.825, PMID 5321359

Samuel Slater, Father of the American Industrial Revolution

June 9, 2014

 

 

Samuel Slater was an early English-American industrialist known as the “Father of the American Industrial Revolution“, a phrase coined by Andrew Jackson, or the “Father of the American Factory System” because he brought British textile technology to America. He learned textile machinery as an apprentice to a pioneer in the British industry. He brought the knowledge to America where he designed the first textile mills, went into business for himself and grew wealthy. By the end of Slater’s life he owned thirteen spinning mills and had established tenant farms and towns around his textile mills such as Slatersville, Rhode Island.

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Samuel Slater (1768–1835) popularly called “The Father of the American Industrial Revolution”

Samuel Slater was born in Belper, Derbyshire, England June 9, 1768, the fifth son of a farming family of eight children. Samuel received a basic education at a school run by a Mr. Jackson in Belper.[2] At age ten he began work at the cotton mill opened that year by Jedediah Strutt utilizing the water frame pioneered by Richard Arkwright at nearby Cromford Mill. In 1782, his father died and his family indentured Samuel as an apprentice to Strutt. Slater was well-trained by Strutt, and by age 21 had gained a thorough knowledge of the organization and practice of cotton spinning. Hearing of the American interest in developing similar machines, and aware of British laws against exporting the designs, he memorized as much as he could and departed for New York in 1789.

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Slater Mill

In 1789, leading Rhode Island industrialist, Moses Brown moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in partnership with his son-in-law, William Almy, and cousin, Smith Brown,[2] to operate a mill. Housed in a former fulling mill near to the Pawtucket Falls of the Blackstone River, Almy & Brown, as the company was to be called, set about to make and sell cloth spun on spinning wheels, jennies, and frames, using water power. In August, they acquired a 32 spindle frame “after the Arkwright pattern” but this was no more successful. It was at this point a letter arrived from Slater offering his services.

Slater realized that nothing could be done with the machinery as it stood, convincing Brown of the worth of his opinion. He was able to promise “If I do not make as good yarn, as they do in England, I will have nothing for my services, but will throw the whole of what I have attempted over the bridge”[3] In 1790 he signed a contract with a Brown to replicate the British designs. The deal that was struck allowed Slater the funds to build the water frames and associated machinery, with a half share in their capital value and the profits derived from them. By December the shop was operational with ten to twelve workers. Despite shortages of tools and skilled mechanics, by 1791 Slater had some machinery in operation. In 1793 Slater and Brown opened their first factory in Pawtucket.

Slater knew the secret of Arkwright’s success – namely that account had to be taken of varying fiber lengths – but he also understood Arkwright’s carding, drawing, and roving machines, plus the experience of blending the whole into a continuous production system. During construction, Slater made some adjustments to the designs to fit local needs. The result was the first successful water-powered roller spinning textile mill in America. Samuel’s wife, Hannah (Wilkinson) Slater, also invented a type of cotton sewing thread, becoming in 1793 the first American woman to be granted a patent.[4]

After creating this mill, he put the principles of management in place that he had learned from Strutt and Arkwright. They would lead to success by teaching people to be skilled mechanics.

Slater drew on his British village experience to create a factory system called the “Rhode Island System,” based upon the customary patterns of family life in New England villages. Children aged 7 to 12 were the first employees of the mill; Slater personally supervised them closely. The first child workers were hired in 1790.[5] From his experience in Milford it is highly unlikely that Slater resorted to physical punishment, relying on a system of fines. Slater first tried to staff his mill with women and children from far away, but that fell through due to the close-knit framework of the New England family. He then brought in whole families, creating entire towns.[6] He provided company-owned housing nearby, along with company stores; he sponsored a Sunday School where college students taught the children reading and writing.

In 1793, now partners with Almy and Brown, Slater constructed a new mill for the sole purpose of textile manufacture under the name Almy, Brown & Slater. It was a 72-spindle mill; the patenting of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin in 1794 ensured ample supplies of cotton from the South. Slater also brought the Sunday School system from his native England to his textile factory at Pawtucket, and hence to America.

In 1798 Samuel Slater split from Almy and Brown and formed Samuel Slater & Company in partnership with his father-in-law Oziel Wilkinson to develop other mills in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.[7]

In 1799 he was joined by his brother, John Slater, from England, a wheelwright who had spent some time studying the latest English developments and might well have gained experience of the spinning mule.[2] He put him in charge of his own larger mill which he called the White Mill.[8]

By 1810 Slater held part ownership in three factories in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In 1823, he bought a mill in Connecticut. He then built factories that made textile machinery used by many of the region’s mills, and formed a partnership with his brother-in-law to produce iron for use in machinery construction. Slater spread himself too thin, and was unable to coordinate or integrate his many different, spread out business interests. He refused to go outside his family to hire managers and after 1829 he made his sons partners in the new umbrella firm of Samuel Slater and Sons. His son Horatio Nelson Slater completely reorganized the family business, introduced cost-cutting measures, and gave up old-fashioned procedures, thereby making the firm one of the leading manufacturing companies in the United States.

Slater also hired recruiters to search for families willing to work at the mill. He also used means of advertisement to get more families into his business.

By 1800 the success of the Slater mill had been duplicated by other entrepreneurs; by 1810 Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin reported the U.S. had some 50 cotton-yarn mills, many of them started in response to the Embargo of 1807 that cut off imports from Britain. The War of 1812 sped up the process of industrialization; when it ended in 1815 there were within 30 miles of Providence 140 cotton manufacturers employing 26,000 hands and operating 130,000 spindles. The American textile industry was launched.

In the eighteen-teens, Francis Cabot Lowell built a profitable cotton-to-cloth textile mill in Waltham, Massachusetts. By 1826, although Lowell had died, the Waltham System had proven so successful that the town of Lowell, Massachusetts, the first to use the system on a large scale, was founded by his partners in his honor. Lowell would be the model for textile towns for many decades to follow.

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Grave site of Samuel Slater, Webster, Massachusetts

Slater died on April 21, 1835 in Webster, Massachusetts, a town that he founded and had become a town three years earlier in 1832 and was named after his friend Senator Daniel Webster. At the time of his death, he owned thirteen mills and was worth a million dollars. His original mill, known today as Slater Mill, still stands and operates as a museum dedicated to preserving the history of Samuel Slater and his contribution to American industry.

Footnotes:

  1. Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xiii, ISBN 9780806518008, OCLC 33818143
  2. Everett et al. (Slater Study Group) (2006) “Samuel Slater – Hero or Traitor?” Milford, Derbyshire: Maypole Promotions
  3. White, G.S., (1836) Memoir of Samuel Slater, Philadelphia: reprinted Augustus M. Kelly, 1967 in Everett et al. (Slater Study Group)
  4. History Detectives: Women inventors
  5. Samuel Slater and Moses Brown Change America
  6. No. 384: Samuel Slater
  7. Tucker (1984)
  8. Tucker (2008) p 102

Sources:

  • Cameron, Edward H. Samuel Slater, Father of American Manufactures (1960) scholarly biography
  • Conrad, Jr., James L. “‘Drive That Branch': Samuel Slater, the Power Loom, and the Writing of America’s Textile History,” Technology and Culture, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 1–28 in JSTOR
  • Everett et al. (Slater Study Group) (2006) “Samuel Slater – Hero or Traitor?” Milford, Derbyshire: Maypole Promotions. Formative years in Derbyshire.
  • Tucker, Barbara M. “The Merchant, the Manufacturer, and the Factory Manager: The Case of Samuel Slater,” Business History Review, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 297–313 in JSTOR
  • Tucker, Barbara M. Samuel Slater and the Origins of the American Textile Industry, 1790-1860 (1984)
  • Tucker, Barbara M. and Kenneth H. Tucker. Industrializing Antebellum America: The Rise of Manufacturing Entrepreneurs in the Early Republic (2008)
  • White, George S. Memoir of Samuel Slater: The Father of American Manufactures (1836, reprinted 1967)

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