ASME-Landmark:Wilkinson Mill


The Wilkinson Mill, situated on the west bank of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, was built between 1810 and 1811 by machinist Oziel Wilkinson. Constructed in stone rubble, three and one-half stories high, the mill played a critical role in the history of textile technology, in steam power generation, and in the development of the machine tools industry.

The Wilkinson family came to Pawtucket in the 1780s and set up a shop to forge anchors, build presses for oil works, and mold iron screws used in paper pressing machinery. The emergent textile industry needed machinery and was dependent on the skills of talented mechanics like the Wilkinsons, and when Samuel Slater built the first successful water-powered textile machinery, David Wilkinson cast the first carding and spinning machines and soon became known as a master machinist. All the turning of rollers and spindles was done with hand tools on a lathe cranked by hand power. After a period of trial and error, the machinery was successfully operated in a clothier's shop near the Pawtucket Falls in December, 1790.

Wilkinson developed a screw cutting machine, which he modified in 1806 for general industrial work, and a power loom that dominated power weaving in New England for much of the nineteenth century. Slater's success led to the building of the Old Slater Mill in 1793, the rapid growth of the American textile industry, and the introduction to America of mass production technology and the factory system. See ASME website for more information