His mills at New Lanark in Scotland were a shining example of what could be achieved when a cotton master treated his workers as people rather than robots.
Dale was born in Stewarton, Ayr, in 1739, the son of a grocer, and served an apprenticeship to a weaver. He set up his own import business in Glasgow in 1763, and four years later married the daughter of a Royal Bank of Scotland director. He became the bank's first Glasgow agent in 1783 and this led to a meeting in 1784 with Richard Arkwright, who was being given the freedom of Glasgow.
The pair formed a short-lived business partnership to build
Dale was a religious man, having been a founder member of a dissenting sect known as the Old Scotch Independents in 1768, and he put his Christianity into practice at New Lanark, providing work and homes for Highlanders who had been evicted by The Clearances, and employing hundreds of Edinburgh and Glasgow pauper children, for whom he provided homes and education.
Dale retired in 1799 after selling the business to his son-in-law Robert Owen, who continued and expanded his ideas. He died in 1806.