Through exclusive interviews and newly unearthed historical footage, relive a key part of American history with season one of Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village, premiering Friday, September 16 on WSBE Rhode Island PBS.
Centering on the Ocean State's unique role in industrialization, the miniseries follows the village's historical trajectory from its founding in the 19th century to its modern role in the North Smithfield area.
More than a decade in the making, Slatersville: Americ's First Mill Village became the unexpected life's work for award-winning filmmaker and Slatersville native Christian de Rezendes. As the director, producer, and editor, he interviewed more than 140 people for the series, and the film crew scanned more than 13,000 images and uncovered materials once unavailable even to historians.
In five episodes, Slatersville: America's First Mill Village covers the village's history, from the early days of the Slater family to the ruinous influence of John Whipple Slater.
The series airs Fridays at 8 p.m., beginning September 16 on WSBE Rhode Island PBS, live streams at the same hour at watch.ripbs.org/livestream, and after broadcast, on Video On Demand. To learn more about Slatersville: America's First Mill Village, visit the official website for the series here.
Episode 1: The Mental Smugglers - September 16 at 8 p.m.
Our story begins in Belper, England, the birthplace of Samuel Slater, who is known as the “Father of the industrial revolution” in America but a traitor to his native land. After the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council connects with folks in the Derwent Valley, Belper artists who were once less than familiar with Samuel Slater find ways to creatively rediscover his story, while researchers dig up long-lost information on the man they label “Slater the Traitor.” After Samuel makes his way to America, he establishes a partnership with Moses Brown and William Almy in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and sends for his brother John with plans for greater expansion.
Episode 2: Controlling No Man’s Land - September 23 at 8 p.m.
When brothers Samuel and John find a location in northern Rhode Island to create and control their own village, they transform the landscape by building a whole new mill, utilizing water power from the Branch River, constructing houses, and forcing those in an agricultural lifestyle to conform to their time-punching needs for manufacturing. John’s wife Ruth plays a prominent role over the villagers. Through houses of worship, rules of temperance, and child labor, they struggle to control the lives of their rebellious workforce.
Episode 3: The Great Change - September 30 at 8 p.m.
As factory life establishes a profound ripple effect throughout the Blackstone Valley and beyond, one of its most massive by-products is found in Lowell, Massachusetts, where Slatersville native Dr. Elisha Bartlett becomes the city’s first Mayor. Following his life in politics, Dr. Bartlett writes prolifically about medicine, poetry, and teaching, becoming one of the world’s most respected doctors of the era. As brothers Samuel and John, and his wife Ruth, approach the ends of their lives, their excruciating hardships of loss are felt, as their village must adapt to changing times. As French-Canadians immigrate to the neighboring city of Woonsocket during the Civil War, their population spills into Slatersville, transforming its community into a foreign-sounding and multi-cultured village.
Episode 4: Conscience Money - October 7 at 8 p.m.
After William Smith Slater and John Fox Slater have spent decades building their family fortunes in the second generation, the brothers make conscious decisions on the distribution of their wealth for both family and country. Their presence is largely felt between Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island, and Jewett City and Norwich, Connecticut. The lives of their own children are heavily considered, while the education of African Americans following the Civil War is systematically weighed. Despite the controversial means by which they built their estates, they each execute constructive paths for their monies to be spent, the ripple effects of which are still felt today throughout America.
Episode 5: The World According to Uncle Johnny - October 14 at 8 p.m.
Upon inheriting his father’s fortune, John Whipple Slater, owner of Slatersville, becomes an absentee landlord and embarks on extravagance. His excursions on multiple grand tours, big spending, and bad behavior make the national headlines, while his nephew Rufus Waterman III is invited to take over the family business and manage a mounting pile of problems on the home front. Through Rufus’s thorough record keeping of diary entries and family letters (hidden for over seven decades), this period is dramatically reconstructed. With dying relatives, striking workers, and negligent supervisors, the village descends into chaos and ruin as the Slater and Waterman families struggle to hold onto the foundation built by their fathers, leaving the future of Slatersville in peril.
WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits high-definition (HD) programming over the air on digital 36.1; Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; Comcast 819HD and Verizon FiOS 18 / 518HD; DirecTV 36, Dish Network 36. Rhode Island PBS is now available to subscribers of YouTubeTV. The full schedule is available to live stream for free within the broadcast viewing area at watch.ripbs.org/livestream. An expansive catalog of PBS series, documentaries, and specials is available to Rhode Island PBS members through Rhode Island PBS Passport.