Happy Independence Day: History of Machine Tools From 1776 – 2013
History of Machine Tools From 1776 – 2013
As the United State of America celebrates Independence Day on the 4th of July, it’s important to observe its history. This annual holiday is a celebration of our independence from Great Britain in 1776. The key document which made this possible was the Declaration of Independence signed by our founding fathers.
In honor of the national holiday, we are will be taking a look at machine tools used in 1776. Looking at the history will help us to understand how machinery has advanced to what it is today.
Machinery in the 18th Century
In the 1700’s, wooden plows were used as the primary method of farming. These early machines were powered by horses or by oxen. Other farming tools included hand tools such as hoes for cultivating, sickles for cutting of grain and flails used for threshing.
Other farming machines were developed during this era including the cradle and scythe. Other machinery inventions include the cotton gin and the very first cast iron plow.
Machine tool development boomed during in the 18th century due to the industrial revolution. While the industrial revolution was primarily in England, America was just as responsible for it. The difference was that in England, there was an abundance of skilled workers, which began using machines to make their work more precise. During this time, America was sparsely populated, but had a huge demand for rapid and simple means of production.
Thus, newly developed machines were used by Americans to make workers more productive.
Machine Tool Evolution
Americans were responsible for solving the issues of mass production and speed during the industrial revolution. In 1798, American Eli Whitney used his “Uniformity-System” of production using inter-changeable parts to produce 10,000 army muskets for the U.S. government.
He was able to prove the workability of the inter-changeable parts concept to President John Adams. He showed President Adams that a whole working musket could be created from randomly selected parts. Whitney then took action by single handedly designing and building all machinery required to produce these weapons. Not one single worker entered the factory until he was finished.
He was also responsible for the invention the first milling machine in 1818. Later that year, Thomas Blanchard invented a rifle stock turning machine, which was used to create duplicate parts.
Other Americans responsible for inventions of new machinery include: Elias Howe and Isaac Singer who developed the sewing machines, Cyrus McCormack who created the harvester and Henry Ford who produced the first automobile.
The first boring machine was developed by James Watt as a way to bore the first steam engine. Many more machines were developed using Whitney’s example of interchangeable parts and mass production.
Independence day marked the start of a machinery development boom for Americans with their new-found freedom. Several centuries have passed since this important point in U.S. history and the development of more advanced and more productive machinery has followed suit.
As demand for the production and construction of products and buildings has consistently increased, American ingenuity has continued to respond with amazing machine tools.