Worksheets and No Prep Teaching Resources
Worksheets and No Prep Teaching Resources
A New Nation

Samuel Slater and the Spinning Machine

Samuel Slater and the Spinning Machine
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.36

     challenging words:    banned, carding, carpentry, economic, loom, mercantile, partnership, prosperous, supervisor, colonial, history, design, fairly, reproduce, slave, spinner
     content words:    Samuel Slater, Rhode Island, New England

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Samuel Slater and the Spinning Machine
By Jane Runyon

1     Take a step back into history. Winter is coming in 1770, and your mother wants to make sure your clothing will keep you warm during the cold months. When you try on your best shirt, you find that you have grown right out of it. You must have a new shirt. Where do you go to find it? Do you go to the nearest mall? Do you have a choice of color and style? Of course you don't. Shopping was different in those days.
2     Most towns had only one place to go for supplies. This shop was often called a mercantile. You could find anything from knives to seeds or flour to bonnets in this small store. Most of these supplies had been shipped to the colonies from Europe. British merchants bought the supplies in European countries and brought them to the colonies on their own ships. They sold the supplies to colonial merchants for a profit. The colonial merchant sold the goods to the colonists and made a small profit himself. All of these profits added to the cost of shipping the goods sometimes made the cost of the items hard to afford. To bring the cost down, many colonists decided to produce their own goods. Growing food and using natural resources, such as wood for carpentry items and ships, was fairly easy to do. One of the harder items to supply was cloth and textile products.
3     Do you know how a shirt was made in those days? Let's see what it would take to make a cotton shirt. A farmer would grow the cotton plants. The fibers from the mature plant would be picked, probably by a slave. The fibers would be cleaned and all the seeds taken out. Then the fibers would be placed on a block with spikes sticking out from one side. Another block that looked the same was used to comb the fibers straight. This step is called carding. These fibers were twisted together by a spinning wheel into a long thread. These threads were then used on a machine called a loom. They were woven into a large piece of fabric. This fabric was then cut into a pattern. The pieces of the pattern were sewn together to make a shirt. All of these steps were accomplished by a single person working with his or her hands. Each of these steps took a great deal of time. Families who did this kind of work were said to work in cottage industries.

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