In 1790, Rhode Island entrepreneurs started America's Industrial Revolution. America's first factory, Slater Mill, was built in 1790 on the banks of the Blackstone River, upstream from Providence in Pawtucket. This revolutionary way of harnessing waterpower and industrial production spread quickly throughout the Blackstone Valley, down to Providence, up to Lowell, Massachusetts, and throughout the country. 

By the 1830s, the use of steam power further drove the development of industry, particularly in cities (including Providence) that lacked sufficient water for power. Providence was driven by an industry-based economy. Providence's four major areas of manufacturing — base metals and machinery, cotton textiles, woolen textiles, jewelry and silverware — had been established; they dominated the city's economy for the next century.  

By 1900, Providence was a diverse industrial, financial and transportation center. Its board of trade boasted that the Providence had the world's largest tool factory (Brown and Sharpe), file factory (Nicholson File), engine factory (Corliss Steam Engine), screw factory (American Screw), and silverware factory (Gorham Silver). The city ranked first in the in the country in manufacturing jewelry and production of woolen and worsted goods. 


Rising Sun Mills

Built by Charles Fletcher, an English immigrant who had acquired his knowledge of wool manufacturing from the famous worsted mills of Bradford England, the original National and Providence Worsted Mills were built in 1887 on the grounds of Fletcher’s first mill which had been destroyed by fire.

Located in the heart of Providence’s Textile valley, the complex consisted of eight major buildings on 10 acres which adjoined the Woonasquatucket river and the Rising Sun Mill pond. The mills were once the largest worsted wool producer in the United States capable of taking wool from its raw form through a full production process to produce fabric for overcoats, suits and cloaks. At its height in 1893 the two mills employed more than 750 people and produced more than 900,000 yards of worsted goods yearly.