Monday, February 27, 2012

TWiNE Meeting at Slater Mill

BlackstoneRiver A small group of TWiNE members met on February 25th at Slater Mill Historic Site, in Pawtucket, RI.

Slater Mill is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, on the mighty Blackstone River. 

I was the head tour guide for a brief time, 27 years ago, and I have always loved the Mill. To find out more about it, read David Macaulay’s fabulously illustrated book Mill.

IMG_2456 After our lunch and our meeting and “show and tell,” we took a tour of the three buildings:

Sylvanus Brown House, a 1758 colonial home, where people processed, spun and wove their own wool and linen. This building was moved to the Historic Site in 1962. 

The loom in the house could have been owned by the family, or it could have been set up by an itinerant weaver, who went around to different homes, to weave with the wool and linen that the family had been spinning all year.SylvanusBrownLoom

It  took about 3 months to card and spin enough yarn to weave fabric for one set of clothes. Most people could only afford to have 2 sets of clothes, one for every day, and one for Sundays and holidays.

Wilkinson Mill, a 19th century, water powered machine shop, with many significant machines, including my favorite: WilkinsonScrewCuttingLathe

this screw cutting lathe, invented by the renowned American inventor David Wilkinson, when he was just 23 years old, was designed to cut screws that were all identical.

This was an important step in the development of interchangeable parts.

Slater Mill, the first cotton spinning mill in America, was built in 1793. Samuel Slater had been an apprentice in a spinning mill in England, but his ambition drove him to set out for the new world, with the plans for the newest spinning machines in his head. IMG_2457England  was determined to keep this new technology to itself, and Slater would have been arrested and charged with treason if he had been caught leaving the country with plans. SlaterMillThrostle

A few of the machines in the mill are the cotton gin, a bale breaker, spinning throstle, a mule spinner, a narrow fabric jacquard loom, and my favorite, the hand cranked maypole braider.

An extra bonus was the fiber sculpture “Weaving the Blackstone,” by Donald Gerola, a self described “Wind Sculptor.” It is made of colored ropes that intertwine across the river. SMillSculptureI plan to go back and see it at night sometime, when it apparently looks like a  laser light show. Here it is in a youtube interview with the artist.