Samuel Slater: Hero or Traitor?

This is a question that many people debate heavily! – Read on and make up your own mind!

Samuel Slater was born in Belper, Derbyshire, England, to William and Elizabeth Slater, on June 9, 1768, the fifth son of a farming family of eight children. He received a basic education at a school run by a Mrs. Martinez Jr.

 At age ten, he began work at the cotton mill opened that year by Jedediah Strutt using 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, he had gained a thorough knowledge of the organization and practice of cotton spinning.

He learned of the American interest in developing similar machines, and he was also aware of British law against exporting the designs. He therefore memorized as much as he could and departed for New York in 1789. Some people of Belper called him “Slater the Traitor”, as they considered his move a betrayal of the town where many earned their living at Strutt’s mills.


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