Controlling water power during the early years of the Industrial Revolution also meant gaining control of political, economic, and social power. Re-engineering water courses in this area often brought lawsuits and anger. In August 1792, four local citizens destroyed the partially-built dam at Slater Mill. Slater Mill's dam was completed before the courts decided whether or not it could be built. Mill investors pushed forward at the expense of fishermen, artisans, farmers, and others who depended on the natural flow of the river.
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· Power canal system as it exists today
Diverting and controlling a share of the river's power was an early priority of Samuel Slater. Oziel Wilkinson oversaw completion of Slater's dam in November 1792. The dam ensured a large, consistent 7-foot fall of water to turn the wooden water wheel.
· Wilkinson Mill Waterpower System A breast wheel derives its name from the curved structure or "breast" which holds water in the wheel buckets.
Bevel gear assembly used to transfer power to overhead line shafting.
Overhead shafts, pulleys, and belts carry power to the machines.
When the millrace gates are opened, water rushes down and fills the "buckets" of the water wheel. As the buckets fill, the water's
weight—62½ pounds per cubic foot—turns the wheel. Gears, shafts, and leather belts transmit the turning motion to machinery located throughout the building.
Water played a critical role throughout the Industrial Revolution. Improved technology brought bigger, more efficient mills—and a greater impact on the environment.