ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
English and American
JOSEPH WICKHAM ROE
Museum of the Peaceful Arts, City of New York,
Professor of Industrial Engineering,
New York University
First Printed in 1916
Reprinted in 1926
McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, Inc.
NEW YORK: 370 SEVENTH AVENUE
LONDON: 6 & 8 BOUVERIE ST., E. C. 4
Joseph Wickham Roe
First published May, 1916
Republished March, 1926
"Man is a Tool-using Animal. Weak in himself, and of
small stature, he stands on a basis, at most for the flattest-
soled, of some half -square foot, insecurely enough; has to
straddle out his legs, lest the very wind supplant him. Feeblest
of bipeds ! Three quintals are a crushing load for him ; the steer
of the meadow tosses him aloft, like a waste rag. Nevertheless
he can use Tools, can devise Tools: with these the granite
mountain melts into light dust before him; seas are his smooth
highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do
you find him without Tools; without Tools he is nothing, with
Tools he is all."
Carlyle: "Sartor Resartus," Chap. IV.
The purpose of this book is to bring out the impor-
tance of the work and influence of the great tool build-
ers. Few realize that their art is fundamental to all
modern industrial arts. Without machine tools modern
machinery could not be built. Little is known by the
general public as to who the great tool builders were,
and less is known of their lives and work.
History takes good care of soldiers, statesmen and
authors. It is even kind to engineers like Watt, Fulton
and Stephenson, who have conspicuously and directly
affected society at large. But little is known, even
among mechanics, of the men whose work was mainly
within the engineering profession, and who served
other engineers rather than the general public. The
lives and the personalities of men like Maudslay,
Nasmyth and Eli Whitney, can hardly fail of interest
to the mechanic of today. They were busy men and
modest, whose records are mainly in iron and steel, and
in mechanical devices which are used daily with little
thought of their origin.
In following the history of English and American
tool builders, the query arises as to whether there might
not have been important contributions to tool building
from other countries. Others have contributed to some
degree, but practically all of the creative work in tool
building has been done in these two countries. Although
the French were pioneers in many mechanical improve-
ments, they have always shown an aptitude for refine-
ments and ingenious novelties rather than for com-
mercial production on a large scale. They have
influenced other nations more through their ideas than
through their machinery. The Swiss are clever arti-
sans, particularly in fine work, but they have excelled
in personal skill, operating on a small scale, rather
than in manufacturing, Germany has, under the
Empire, developed splendid mechanics, but the princi-
pal machine tools had taken shape before 1870, when
the Empire began. The history of English and Ameri-
can tool building, therefore, covers substantially the
entire history of the art.
Almost the only book upon tool builders and their
work is Samuel Smiles' "Industrial Biography," which
is out of print and little known. It is an admirable and
interesting book, and a mine of information upon the
English tool builders down to about 1850. The writer
has used it freely and would urge those who are inter-
ested in the subject to go to it for further information
on the early mechanics. It was written, however, over
fifty years ago and contains nothing about modern
developments or about the American tool builders who
have contributed so much.
The writer has tried to trace the origin and rise of
tool building in America and to give something of its
spread in recent years. The industrial life of the
United States is so vast that a comiDrehensive history
of even a single industry, such as tool building, would
run far beyond the limits of one volume. This book,
therefore, is confined to the main lines of influence in
tool building and to the personalities and cities which
have been most closely identified mth it. The later
history of American tool building has never been
written. For this the writer has had to rely largely
upon personal information from those who are familiar
with it, and who have had a part in it.
Part of the material contained in this book has
appeared from time to time in the American Machinist,
and the writer would acknowledge his indebtedness
most of all to Mr. L. P. Alford, the editor of that jour-
nal. His help and counsel have given these pages much
of such value as they possess. So many have helped
with information, corrections and suggestions that
acknowledgments can be made only to a few. The
writer would particularly thank Mr. L. D. Burlingame,
Mr. Ned Lawrence, Mr. James Hartness, Mr. Coleman
Sellers and Mr. Clarence Bement.
If these pages serve to stimulate interest in the lives
and work of the tool builders, to whom we owe much,
they will fulfill the hope of the writer.
Sheffield Scientific School,
In reprinting this book certain minor corrections have
been made. In the later chapters references occur here
and there to the "present" condition of various plants
and firms. After careful consideration, it seems wise
to let these statements stand as they were written in
1915. Interest in this subject centers chiefly on the
early history of the plants and firms rather than on
recent changes. To revise the statements, bringing
them up to date, would add little. With the ever
shifting status of a live industry, the statements, so
revised, would remain correct for only a short time.
Therefore, when a reference is made to present condi-
X AUTHOR'S NOTE
tions it should be understood to cover those at the begin-
ning of the World War, which is a natural dividing point
in our industrial history.
The general predictions made in the last two para-
graphs of the book have been borne out by the develop-
ments in American toolbuilding since that time.
Museum of the Peaceful Arts,
City of New York,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Influence of the Early Tool Builders . 1
Wilkinson and Bramah 11
Bentham and Brunei 22
Henry Maudslay 33
Inventors of the Planer 50
Gearing and Millwork 63
Fairbairn and Bodmer 71
James Nasmyth 81
Early American Mechanics .... 109
The Rise of Interchangeable Manufac-
Whitney and North 145
The Colt Armory 164
The Colt Workman— Pratt & Whitney 173
Robbins & Lawrence 186
The Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing
Central New England 216
The Naugatuck Valley 231
The Western Tool Builders .... 261
Appendix A 281
Appendix B, The Jennings Gun . . 292
A Partial Bibliography on Tool
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Henry Maudslay Frontispiece
Fig. 1. Smeaton's Boring Machine, Car-
ron Iron Works, 1769 . . . Facing page 2
Fig. 2. French Lathes of about 1772 . . Facing page 2
Fig. 3. French Slide-Rest, 1772 . . . Facing page 6
Fig. 4. French Lathe for Turning Ovals,
1772 Facing page 6
Fig. 5. Genealogy of the Early English
Tool Builders page 7
Fig. 6. John "Wilkinson Facing page 14
Fig. 7. Wilkinson's Boring Machine . Facing page 14
Fig. 8. Eminent Men of Science Living
in 1807-8 ....... Facing page 20
Fig. 9. Sir Samuel Bentham .... Facing page 22
Fig. 10. Sir Marc Isambard Brunei . . Facing page 26
Fig. 11. Brunei's Mortising Machine . . Facing page 30
Fig. 12. Brunei's Shaping Machine . . Facing page 30
Fig. 13. French Screw-Cutting Lathe,
Previous to 1569 .... page 37
Fig. 14. French Screw-Cutting Lathe,
about 1740 page 37
Fig. 15. Maudslay 's Screw-Cutting Lathe,
about 1797 Facing page 42
Fig. 16. Maudslay 's Screw-Cutting Lathe,
about 1800 Facing page 42
Fig. 17. French Planing Machine by
Nicholas Forq, 1751 . . . Facing page 50
Fig. 18. Matthew Murray Facing page 58
Fig. 19. Richard Roberts Facing page 58
Fig. 20. Roberts' Planer, Built in 1817 . Facing page 60
Fig. 21. Roberts' Back-Geared Lathe . . Facing page 60
Fig. 22. James Nasmyth Facing page 82
xiv LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Fig. 23. First Sketch of the Steam Ham-
mer, November 24, 1839 . . Facing page 94
Fig. 24. Model of the First Steam Ham-
mer Facing page 94
Fig. 25. Sir Joseph Whitworth . . . Facing page 102
Fig. 26. Samuel Slater Facing page 122
Fig. 27. Genealogy of the New England
Gun Makers page 139
Fig. 28. The First Milling Machine, Built
by Eli Whitney about 1818 . Facing page 142
Fig. 29. Blanc hard "Gun-Stocking"
Lathe, Built in 1818 for the
Springfield Armory . . . Facing page 142
Fig. 30. Eli Whitney Facing page 152
Fig. 31. Samuel Colt Facing page 164
Fig. 32. The Colt Armory Facing page 168
Fig. 33. Root's Chucking Lathe, about
1855 Facing page 170
Fig. 34. Root's Splining Machine, about
1855 Facing page 170
Fig. 35. Francis A. Pratt Facing page 178
Fig. 36. Amos Whitney Facing page 178
Fig. 37. Genealogy of the Robbins & Law-
rence Shop page 187
Fig. 38. Robbins & Lawrence Armory,
Windsor, Vt Facing page 190
Frederick W. Howe .... Facing page 196
Richard S. Lawrence .... Facing page 196
James Hartness Facing page 198
Joseph R. Brown Facing page 202
First Universal Milling Machine,
1862 Facing page 208
Early Micrometer Calipers . . Facing page 212
Genealogy of the Worcester Tool
Builders page 223
Lucius W. Pond Facing page 228
Salmon W. Putnam .... Facing page 228
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xv
Fig. 48. Hiram "W. Hayden .... Facing page 232
Fig. 49. Israel Holmes Facing page 232
Fig. 50. Genealogy of the Naugatuck
Brass Industry page 235
Fig. 51. William Sellers Facing page 248
Fig. 52. Coleman Sellers Facing page 252
Fig. 53. William B. Bement .... Facing page 252
Fig. 54. Worcester R. Warner .... Facing page 262
Fig. 55. Ambrose Swasey Facing page 262
Fig. 56. The " Mult-au-matic " Lathe,
1914 Facing page 276
Fig. 57. Machine Tool Building Area of
the United States, 1915 . . page 279
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
INFLUENCE OF THE EARLY TOOL BUHiDERS
Well-informed persons are aware of the part which
machinery in general has had on modem industrial life.
But the profound influence which machine tools have
had in that development is scarcely realized, even by
tool builders themselves.
Three elements came into industrial life during the
latter part of the eighteenth century. First, the devel-
opment of modern banking and the stock company
brought out the small private hoards from their hiding
places, united them, and made them available for indus-
trial undertakings operating on the scale called for by
modern requirements. Second, Watt's development of
the steam engine and its application to the production
of continuous rotative motion gave the requisite source
of power. But neither the steam engine itself nor the
machinery of production was possible until the third ele-
ment, modern machine tools, supplied the means of
working metals accurately and economically.
It is well to glance for a moment at the problems
which were involved in building the first steam engine.
Watt had been working for several years on the steam
engine when the idea of the separate condenser came to
him on that famous Sunday afternoon walk on the Glas-
gow Green, in the spring of 1765, and, to use his own
words, "in the course of one or two days the invention
was thus far (that is, as a pumping engine) complete in
2 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
my mind. ' " He was a skilled instrument maker and his
first small model was fairly successful, but when he under-
took **the practice of mechanics in great," his skill and
all the skill of those about him was incapable of boring
satisfactorily a cylinder 6 inches in diameter and 2 feet
long; and he had finally to resort to one which was
hammered. For ten weary years he struggled to realize
his plans in a full-sized engine, unable to find either the
workmen or the tools which could make it a commercial
success. His chief difficulty lay in keeping the piston
tight. He "wrapped it around with cork, oiled rags,
tow, old hats, paper, and other things, but still there were
open spaces left, sufficient to let the air in and the steam
out.'" Small wonder! for we find him complaining that
in an 18-inch diameter cylinder, ''at the worst place the
long diameter exceeded the short by three-eighths of an
inch." When Smeaton first saw the engine he reported
to the Society of Engineers that ''neither the tools nor
the workmen existed that could manufacture so complex
a machine with sufficient precision.'"
Smeaton himself had designed a boring machine in
1769 for the Carron Iron Works for machining cannon,
an illustration of which is given in Fig. 1.* It consisted
of a head with inserted cutters mounted on a long, light,
overhung boring bar. The work was forced forward on
a rude carriage, as shown. The method of supporting the
cutter head, indicated in the section, shows an ingenious
attempt to obtain a movable support from an inaccurate
surface. One need hardly say that the work resulting
Fortunately, in 1774, John Wilkinson, of Bersham, hit
1 Smiles: "Boulton & Watt," pp. 97, 98. London, 1904.
2 Ibid., p. 114.
s Ibid., p. 186.
* "Engineer," London, March 4, 1910; p. 217. Drawn from the descrip-
tion given in Farey's "Treatise on the Steam Engine."
Figure 1. Smeaton's Boring Machine
Carron Iron Works, 1769
Figure 2. French Lathes of about 1772
THE EARLY TOOL BUILDERS 3
upon the idea, which had escaped both Smeaton and
Watt, of making the boring bar heavier, running it clear
through the cylinder and giving it a fixed support at
the outboard end as shown in Fig. 7. The superiority
of this arrangement was at once manifest, and in 1776
Boulton wrote that **Mr. Wilkinson has bored us several
cylinders almost without error; that of 50 inches diam-
eter, which we have put up at Tipton, does not err the
thickness of an old shilling in any part. ' '^ For a number
of years, Wilkinson cast and bored all the cylinders for
Boulton & Watt.
The importance to Boulton & Watt of the timely aid of
Wilkinson's boring machine can hardly be overestimated.
It made the steam engine a commercial success, and was
probably the first metal-working tool capable of doing
large, heavy work with anything like present-day
We hardly realize the crudity of the tools available in
the eighteenth century. In all machinery the principal
members were of wood, as that could be worked by the
hand tools then in use. The fastenings and smaller
parts only were of metal, and consisted of castings and
forgings fitted by hand. There were some lathes of the
very simplest type. Most of them were '^pole" lathes,
operated by a cord reaching from a foot treadle, around
the work itself, and up to a pole or wooden spring
attached to the ceiling. The work rotated alternately
forward and backward, and was caught with a hand tool
each time as it came forward. Two are shown in Fig. 2,
one at the back and one at the left. Only the very best
forms had continuous motion from a direct drive on the
cFarey: "Treatise on the Steam Engine," p. 328. 1827,
e Watt's beautiful parallel motion, invented in 1785, was made necessary
by the fact that there were no planers to machine a crosshead and guides.
Planers were not developed until thirty years later.
4 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
live spindle, as shown at the right of the same figure.
This figure is reproduced from the French Dictionnaire
des Sciences, published in 1772. Such lathes were almost
useless for metal cutting, as they lacked both the neces-
sary power and a holding device strong enough and accu-
rate enough to guide a tool. The slide-rest, while it had
been invented, had not been put into practical form or
come into general use. There were a few rude drilling
and boring machines, but no planing machines, either for
metal or wood. The tool equipment of the machinist,
or ** millwright," as he was called, consisted chiefly of
a hammer, chisel and file. The only measuring devices
were calipers and a wooden rule, with occasional refer-
ence perhaps to "the thickness of an old shilUng," as
above. Hand forging was probably as good as or better
than that of today. Foundry work had come up to at
least the needs of the time. But the appliances for cutting
metal were little better than those of the Middle Ages.
Such was the mechanical equipment in 1775; practi-
cally what it had been for generations. By 1850 it was
substantially that of today. In fact, most of this change
came in one generation, from about 1800 to 1840. Since
that time there have been many improvements and refine-
ments, but the general principles remain little changed.
With so wonderful a transformation in so short a time,
several questions arise almost inevitably: Where did
this development take place, who brought it about, and
why was it so rapid?
The first question is fairly simple. England and
America produced the modern machine tool. In the
period mentioned, England developed most of the gen-
eral machine tools of the present day; the boring ma-
chine, engine lathe, planer, shaper, the steam hammer
and standard taps and dies. Somewhat later, but par-
tially coincident with this, America deYfiloped the special
THE EARLY TOOL BUILDERS 5
machine tool, the drop hammer, automatic lathes, the
widespread commercial use of limit gauges, and the inter-
changeable system of manufacture.
In a generalization such as this, the broad lines of
influence must be given the chief consideration. Some of
the most valuable general tools, such as the universal
miller and the grinder, and parts of the standard tools,
as the apron in the lathe, are of American origin. But,
with all allowances, most of the general machine tools
were developed in England and spread from there
throughout the world either by utilization of their
design or by actual sale. On the other hand, the inter-
changeable system of manufacture, in a well-developed
form, was in operation in England in the manufacture
of ships' blocks at Portsmouth shortly after 1800; and
yet this block-making machinery had been running for
two generations with little or no influence on the general
manufacturing of the country, when England, in 1855,
imported from America the Enfield gun machinery and
adopted what they themselves styled the ''American'*
interchangeable system of gun making.''
The second question as to who brought this change
about is not so simple. It is not easy to assign the credit
of an invention. Mere priority of suggestion or even
of experiment seems hardly sufiicient. Nearly every
great improvement has been invented independently by
a number of men, sometimes almost simultaneously,
but often in widely separated times and places. Of
these, the man who made it a success is usually found
to have united to the element of invention a superior
mechanical skill. He is the one who first embodied the
invention in such proportions and mechanical design as
to make it commercially available, and from him its
permanent influence spreads. The chief credit is due to
» See page 139.
6 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
him because he impressed it on the world. Some exam-
ples may illustrate this point.
Leonardo da Vinci in the fifteenth century anticipated
many of the modern tools. ^ His sketches are fascinating
and show a wonderful and fertile ingenuity, but, while
we wonder, we smile at their proportions. Had not a
later generation of mechanics arisen to re-invent and
re-design these tools, mechanical engineering would still
be as unknown as when he died.
Take the slide-rest. It is clearly shown in the French
encyclopedia of 1772, see Fig. 3, and even in an edition
of 1717. Bramah, Bentham and Brunei, in England, and
Sylvanus Brown,^ in America, are all said to have
invented it. David AVilkinson, of Pawtucket, E. L, was
granted a patent for it in 1798.^° But the invention has
been, and will always be, credited to Henry Maudslay, of
London. It is right that it should be, for he first designed
and built it properly, developed its possibilities, and
made it generally useful. The modem slide-rest is a
lineal descendant from his.
Blanchard was by no means the first to turn irregular
forms on a lathe. The old French rose engine lathe,
shoAvn in Fig. 4, embodied the idea, but Blanchard accom-
plished it in a way more mechanical, of a far ^vider range
of usefulness, and his machine is in general use to this
To the third question as to why this development when
once begun should have been so rapid, there are probably
two answers. First, an entirely new demand for accurate
tools arose during these years, springing from the inven-
tions of Arkwright, "Whitney, "Watt, Fulton, Stephenson
and others. The textile industries, the steam engine,
8 American Machinist, Vol. 32, Part 2, pp. 821wand 868.
8 Goodrich: "History of Pawtucket," pp. 47-48. Pawtucket, 1876.
10 Ibid., p. 51.
o O g
.S a M
1746 - 1814
Invented Lock, Hydnau-
lie press, 4-wciy cock,
and wood working
Sir MARC I.
44 NEW MACHINES.
BLOCK MCHRY- 1800-08
1771 - I83I
Slide rest for metal work. Block machinery,
Flour, Sawmill and Mint mach'ry, Punches,
Mill and Marine 5+eam Engines, Fine screw
cutting-Laid basis for La+he, Planer and 5lotter
Planer 1820 and 1824
Manufactured Taps and Dies
Standard Screw Threads
builder of the
Figure 5. Genealogy op the Early English
8 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
railways, and the scores of industries they called
into being, all called for better and stronger means of
production. While the rapidity of the development was
due partly to the pressure of this demand, a second ele-
ment, that of cumulative experience, was present, and
can be clearly traced. Wilkinson was somewhat of an
exception, as he was primarily an iron master and not a
tool builder, so his relationship to other tool builders is
not so direct or clear. But the connection between Bra-
mah, Maudslay, Clement, Whitworth and Nasmyth, is
shown in the ** genealogical' ' table in Fig. 5.
Bramah had a shop in London where, for many years,
he manufactured locks and built hydraulic machinery
and woodworking tools. Maudslay, probably the finest
mechanician of his day, went to work for Bramah when
only eighteen years old and became his foreman in less
than a year. He left after a few years and started in
for himself, later taking Field into partnership, and
Maudslay & Field's became one of the most famous shops
in the world.
Sir Samuel Bentham, who was inspector general of the
British navy, began the design of a set of machines for
manufacturing pulley blocks at the Portsmouth navy
yard. He soon met Marc Isambard Brunei, a brilliant
young Royalist officer, who had been driven out of France
during the Revolution, and had started working on block
machinery through a conversation held at Alexander
Hamilton's dinner table while in America a few years
before. Bentham saw the superiority of Brunei's plans,
substituted them for his own, and commissioned him to
In his search for someone to build the machinery,
Brunei was referred to Maudslay, then just starting in
for himself. Maudslay built the machines, forty-four in
all, and they were a brilliant success. There has been
THE EARLY TOOL BUILDERS 9
considerable controversy as to whether Bentham or
Brunei designed them. "While Maudslay's skill appears
in the practical details, the general scheme was undoubt-
edly Brunei's. In a few of the machines Bentham 's
designs seem to have been used, but he was able enough
and generous enough to set aside most of his own designs
for the better ones of Brunei.
Of the earlier tool builders, Maudslay was the greatest.
He, more than any other, developed the slide-rest and
he laid the basis for the lathe, planer and slotter. His
powerful personality is brought out in Nasmyth's auto-
biography written many years later. Nasmyth was a
young boy, eager, with rare mechanical skill and one
ambition, to go to London and work for the great Mr.
Maudslay. He tells of their meeting, of the interest
aroused in the older man, and of his being taken into
Maudslay's personal office to work beside him. It is a
pleasing picture, the young man and the older one, two
of the best mechanics in all England, working side by
side, equally proud of each other.
Joseph Clement came to London and worked for
Bramah as chief draftsman and as superintendent of
his works. After Bramah 's death he went to Maudslay's
and later went into business for himself. He was an
exquisite draftsman, a fertile inventor, and had a very
important part in the development of the screw-cutting
lathe and planer. Joseph Whitworth, the most influen-
tial tool builder of the nineteenth century, worked for
Maudslay and for Clement and took up their work at the
point where they left off. Under his influence machine
tools were given a strength and precision which they had
never had before. Richard Roberts was another pupil
of Maudslay's whose influence, though important, was
not so great as that of the others.
We have an excellent example of what this succession
10 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
meant. Nasmyth tells of the beautiful set of taps and
dies which Maudslay made for his own use, and that he
standardized the screw-thread practice of his own shop.
Clement carried this further. He established a definite
number of threads per inch for each size, extended the
standardization of threads, and began the regular manu-
facture of dies and taps. He fluted the taps by means of
milling cutters and made them with small shanks, so that
they might drop through the tapped hole. Whitworth,
taking up Clement's work, standardized the screw
threads for all England and brought order out of chaos.
Some account of the growth of machine tools in the
hands of these men mil be given later. Enough has been
said here to show the cumulative effect of their experi-
ence, and its part in the industrial advance of the first
half of the nineteenth century. Similar successions of
American mechanics will be shown later.
Writing from the standpoint of fifty years ago. Smiles
quotes Sir William Fairbairn: " 'The mechanical opera-
tions of the present day could not have been accom-
plished at any cost thirty years ago ; and what was then
considered impossible is now performed mth an exacti-
tude that never fails to accomplish the end in view. * For
this we are mainly indebted to the almost creative power
of modern machine tools, and the facilities which they
present for the production and reproduction of other
"SmOes: "Industrial Biography," p. 399.
WILKINSON AND BRAMAH
In the previous chapter it was stated that John Wil-
kinson, of Bersham, made the steam engine commercially
possible by first boring Watt's cylinders with the degree
of accuracy necessary, and that his boring machine was
probably the first metal-cutting tool capable of doing
large work with anything like modern accuracy.
Although Wilkinson was not primarily a tool builder but
an iron master, this achievement alone is sufficient to
make him interesting to the tool builders of today.
He was born in 1728. His father made his financial
start by manufacturing a crimping iron for ironing the
fancy ruffles of the day. John Wilkinson first started a
blast furnace at Belston and later joined his father in an
iron works the latter had built at Bersham, near Chester.
By developing a method of smelting and puddling iron
with coal instead of wood-charcoal, he obtained an
immense commercial advantage over his rivals and soon
became a powerful factor in the iron industry. Later, he
built other works, notably one at Broseley, near Coal-
brookdale on the Severn.
One of the important branches of his work was the
casting and finishing of cannon. It was in connection
with this that he invented the boring machine referred
to. He bored the first cylinder for Boulton & Watt in
1775. Farey, in his ''History of the Steam Engine,"
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
In the old method, the borer for cutting the metal was not
guided in its progress/ and therefore followed the incorrect
form given to the cylinder in casting it ; it was scarcely insured
that every part of the cylinder should be circular; and there
was no certainty that the cylinder would be straight. This
method was thought sufficient for old engines; but Mr. Watt's
engines required greater precision.
Mr. "Wilkinson's machine, which is now the common boring-
machine, has a straight central bar of great strength, which
occupies the central axis of the cylinder, during the operation
of boring; and the borer, or cutting instrument, is accurately
fitted to slide along this bar, which, being made perfectly
straight, serves as a sort of ruler, to give a rectilinear direction
to the borer in its progress, so as to produce a cylinder equally
straight in the length, and circular in the circumference. This
method insures all the accuracy the subject is capable of ; for if
the cylinder is cast ever so crooked, the machine will bore it
straight and true, provided there is metal enough to form the
required cylinder by cutting away the superfluities.^
Wilkinson's relations with Boulton & Watt became
very intimate. He showed his confidence in the new
engine by ordering the first one built at Soho to blow the
bellows of his iron works at Broseley. Great interest was
felt in the success of this engine. Other iron manufac-
turers suspended their building operations to see what
the engine could do and Watt himself superintended
every detail of its construction and erection. Before it
was finished Boulton wrote to Watt :
Pray tell Mr. "Wilkinson to get a dozen cylinders cast and
bored from 12 to 50 inches in diameter, and as many condensers
of suitable sizes; the latter must be sent here, as we will keep
them ready fitted up, and then an engine can be turned out of
1 See Pig. 1.
2Farey: "Treatise on the Steam Engine," p. 326. 1827.
WILKINSON AND BRAMAH \^^ '''^;'^, ''^
hand in two or three weeks. I have fixed my mind upon making \V^. ^ ^'//
from 12 to 15 reciprocating, and 50 rotative engines per annum.^
This letter is interesting as showing Boulton's clear
grasp of the principles of manufacturing. Later, when
Boulton & Watt were hard pressed financially, Wilkin-
son took a considerable share in their business and when
the rotative engine was developed he ordered the first
one. He consequently has the honor of being the pur-
chaser of the first reciprocating and the first rotary
engine turned out by Watt. Later, when Watt was edu-
cating his son to take up his work, he sent him for a
year to Wilkinson's iron works at Bersham, to learn
Fig. 7, taken from an old encyclopedia of manufactur-
ing and engineering, shows the boring machine used for
boring Watt's steam cylinders.
On two oaken stringers SS, frames FF were mounted
which carried a hollow boring bar A driven from the
end. The cylinder to be bored was clamped to saddles,
as shown. The cutters were carried on a head which
rotated with the bar and was fed along it by means of an
internal feed-rod and rack. In the machine shown the
feeding was done by a weight and lever which actuated
a pinion gearing with the rack R, but later a positive feed,
through a train of gears operated by the main boring-bar,
was used. Two roughing cuts and a finishing cut were
used, and the average feed is given as %6 inch per revo-
lution. While this machine may seem crude, a compari-
son with Smeaton's boring machine, Fig. 1, will show
how great an advance it was over the best which preceded
Wilkinson was a pioneer in many lines. He built and
3 Smiles: "Boulton & Watt," p. 185. London, 1904,
14 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
launclied the first iron vessel and in a letter dated July
14, 1787, says :
Yesterday week my iron boat was launched. It answers all
my expectations, and has convinced the unbelievers who were
999 in a thousand. It wiU be only a nine days wonder, and then
be like Columbus's egg.*
In another letter written a little over a year later, he
There have been launched two Iron Vessels in my service since
Sept. 1st : one is a canal boat for this [i.e., Birmingham] naviga-
tion, the other a barge of 40 tons for the River Severn. The last
was floated on Monday and is, I expect, at Stourport with a
loading of bar iron. My clerk at Broseley advises me that she
swims remarkably light and exceeds my expectations.^
In 1788 William Symington built and ran a steam-
operated boat on Dalswinton Loch in Scotland, which was
a small, light craft with two hulls, made of tinned sheet-
iron plates.^ It has been erroneously claimed that this
was the first iron boat. It was at best the second.
Although of no commercial importance, it is of very great
historical interest as it antedated Fulton's ''Clermont"
by many years.
Twenty-three years later, in 1810, Onions & Son of
Broseley built the next iron boats, also for use upon the
Severn. Five years later Mr. Jervons of Liverpool built
a small iron boat for use on the Mersey. In 1821 an
iron vessel was built at the Horsley works in Stafford-
shire, which sailed from London to Havre and went up
the Seine to Paris.^ Iron vessels were built from time to
*"Beitrdge sur GeschicMe der Technik und Industrie," 3 Band. S.
227. Berlin, 1911.
5 Ihid., 3 Band. S. 227.
8 Autobiography of James Nasmyth, p. 30. London, 1883.
7SmUes: "Men of Invention and Industry," pp. 51-52, New Tork,
Figure 6. John Wilkinson
Figure 7. Wilkinson's Boring Machine
Used for Machining the Cylinders of Watt Engines
WILKINSON AND BRAMAH 15
time after that, but it was fully twenty-five years before
they came into general use.
With Abraham Darby, 3d, Wilkinson has the honor
of having built, in 1779, the first iron bridge, which
spanned the Severn at Broseley. This bridge had a span
of 100 feet 6 inches, and a clear height of 48 feet, and
is standing today as good as ever.* He invented also the
method of making continuous lead pipe.
He was a man of great ability, strong and masterful.
Boulton wrote of him to Watt :
I can't say but that I admire John Wilkinson for his decisive,
clear, and distinct character, which is, I think, a first-rate one
of its kind.^
There is a note of qualification in the last clause. With
all his admirable qualities Wilkinson was not always
amiable and he was in constant feud with the other
members of his family. He became very wealthy, but his
large estate was dissipated in a famous lawsuit between
Forceful and able as Wilkinson was, another man,
Joseph Bramah, living in London about the same time,
had a much more direct influence on tool building. Bra-
mah was a Yorkshire farmer's boy, born in 1748, and
lame.^° As he could not work on the farm he learned
the cabinet maker's trade, went to London, and, in the
course of his work which took him into the well-to-do
houses about town, he made his first successful inven-
tion — the modern water-closet. He patented it in 1778
and 1783, and it continues to this day in substantially the
8 Smiles: "Industrial Biography," p. 119. Boston, 1864. Also, Beitrage,
etc., 3 Band. S. 226.
9 Smiles: "Boulton & Watt," p. 438. London, 1904.
10 The best account of Bramah is given in Smiles' "Industrial Biog-
raphy," pp. 228-244. Boston, 1864.
16 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
same form. Li 1784 he patented a lock, which was an
improvement on Barron's, invented ten years before,
and was one of the most successful ever invented. For
many years it had the reputation of being absolutely
unpickable. Confident of this, Bramah placed a large
padlock on a board in his shop window in Piccadilly and
posted beneath it the following notice :
' * The artist who can make an instrument that will pick
or open this lock shall receive two hundred guineas the
moment it is produced."
Many tried to open it. In one attempt made in 1817,
a clever mechanic named Russell spent a week on it and
gave it up in despair. In 1851 Alfred C. Hobbs, an
American, mastered it and won the money. He was
allowed a month in which to work and the Committee of
Referees in their report stated that he spent sixteen days,
and an actual working time of fifty-one hours, in doing
it. This gave Hobbs a great reputation, which he en-
hanced by picking every other lock well known in Eng-
land at that time, and then showing how it was done.
This started up the liveliest kind of a controversy and
gave everyone a chance to write to the Times. They all
began first picking, then tearing each other's locks.
Headlines of ''Love (Hobbs?) Laughs at Locksmiths,"
* * Equivocator " and other like terms appeared."
It was finally recognized that any lock could be picked
by a skillful mechanic with a knowledge of locks, if he
were given time enough. The old Bramah lock, made, by
the way, by Henry Maudslay himself, did not fare so
badly. Hobbs had unmolested access to it for days with
any tools he could bring or devise ; and though he finally
opened it, a lock probably sixty years old which could
11 Price : ' ' Fire and Thief -proof Depositories, and Locks and Keys. ' *
WILKINSON AND BRAMAH 17
stand such an assault for fifty hours was secure for all
When Bramah began manufacturing the locks he found
almost immediately that they called for a better quality
of workmanship than was available, with even the best
manual skill about him. A series of machine tools had
to be devised if they were to be made in the quantities
and of the quality desired. He turned first to an old
German in Hoodie's shop who had the reputation of
being the most ingenious workman in London ; but while
he, with Bramah, saw the need, he could not meet it.
One of his shopmates, however, suggested a young man
at the "Woolwich Arsenal named Henry Maudslay, then
only eighteen years old.
Bramah sent for him and Maudslay soon became his
right-hand man, and was made superintendent of the
works at nineteen. The work of these two men in devel-
oping the tools needed laid the foundation for the stand-
ard metal-cutting tools of today. The most important
improvement was the slide-rest. Nasmyth later said that
he had seen the first one, made by Maudslay, running in
Bramah 's shop and that '4n it were all those arrange-
ments which are to be found in the most modern slide-
rest of our own day" (i.e., fifty years later). Other
parts of the metal-cutting lathe also began to take shape ;
it has been said that parts of the lock were milled on a
lathe with rotary cutters, and that the beginnings of the
planer were made. How much of this work was Bramah 's
and how much Maudslay 's it would be hard to say.
Bramah was a fertile, clever inventor ; but Maudslay was
12 Anyone who is interested can find an account of the affair in Price 'a
"Fire and Thief -proof Depositories, and Locks and Keys," published in
1856, and Mr. Hobbs has given his own personal account of it, explaining
how the work was done, in the Trans, of the A. S. M. E., Vol. VT, pp. 248-
18 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
the better general mechanic, had a surer judgment and
a greater influence on subsequent tool design.
About this time Bramah invented the hydraulic press.
As he first built it, the ram was packed with a stuffing-
box and gland. This gripped the ram, retarded the
return stroke, and gave him a lot of trouble until Mauds-
lay substituted the self-tightening cup-leather packing
for the stuffing-box, an improvement which made the
device a success.
Bramah 's restless ingenuity was continually at work.
He invented a very successful beer-pump in 1797, the
four-way cock, a quill sharpener which was in general
use until quills were superseded by steel pens, and he
dabbled with the steam engine. He was a bitter oppo-
nent of Watt and testified against him in the famous suit
of Boulton & Watt against Hornblower. He maintained
the superiority of the old Newcomen engines and said
that the principle of the separate condenser was falla-
cious, that Watt had added nothing new which was not
worthless, and that his so-called improvements were
* * monstrous stupidity. ' '
In 1802 Bramah obtained a patent for woodworking
machinery second only in importance to that granted
Bentham in 1791. Like Bentham, he aimed to replace
manual labor "for producing straight, smooth, and par-
allel surfaces on wood and other materials requiring
truth, in a manner much more expeditious and perfect
than can be performed by the use of axes, saws, planes,
and other cutting instruments used by hand in the ordi-
nary way." His tools were carried in fixed frames and
driven by machinery. In his planing machine, one of
which was running in the Woolwich Arsenal for fifty
years, the cutter-head, which carried twenty-eight tools,
was mounted on a vertical shaft and swept across the
work in a horizontal plane. He used this same method
WILKINSON AND BRAMAH 19
in planing the metal parts for his locks, which corre-
sponds, of course, to our modern face-milling. He pro-
vided for cutting spherical and concave surfaces and
used his device for making wooden bowls.
In 1806 he devised an automatic machine which the
Bank of England used many years in numbering their
banknotes, eliminating error and saving the labor of
Maudslay was in his employ from 1789 to 1797. He
was getting as superintendent 30s. ($7.50) a week. A
growing family and *'the high cost of living" rendered
this insufficient and he applied for more. He was
refused so curtly that he gave up his position and started
in for himself in a small workshop on Oxford Street in
London. Later he took Field in as partner under the
firm name of Maudslay & Field.
In 1813 Bramah engaged another man who later had
a great influence, Joseph Clement. Clement soon became
his chief draftsman and superintendent. Salaries had
gone up somewhat by that time and he had an agree-
ment for five years starting on the basis of three guineas
a week with an advance of four shillings each year. At
Bramah 's death not long after, his sons took charge of
the business, and soon grew jealous of Clement's influ-
ence. By mutual consent the contract was terminated and
he went at once to Maudslay & Field as their chief drafts-
man. Later he, too, set up for himself and had an impor-
tant part in the development of the screw-cutting lathe,
the planer and standard screw threads. Whitworth was
one of his workmen and Clement's work on taps and
dies formed the basis of the Whitworth thread.
Bramah died in 1814, at the age of sixty-six. He was
a man of widely recognized influence, a keen and inde-
pendent thinker, a good talker, and, though it might not
appear from what has been said, a cheery and always
20 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
welcome companion. He left a reputation for absolute
business integrity and the quality of his workmanship
was unrivaled until his later years, when he was equaled
only by those he had himself trained. He gave the world
some great and valuable devices and paved the way for
others. His influence on modern tools can probably
never be accurately judged, but Smiles ' tribute to him is
as true today as when it was written, two generations
From his shops at Pimlico came Henry Maudslay, Joseph
Clement, and many more first-class mechanics, who carried the
mechanical arts to still higher perfection, and gave an impulse
to mechanical engineering the effects of which are still felt in
every branch of industry.^'
Bramah had an invincible dislike for sitting for his
portrait and consequently none exists. A death-mask
was made by Sir Francis Chantrey, who executed the
Watt statue in Westminster Abbey, but it was unfortu-
nately destroyed by Lady Chantrey. The complete cata-
log of the National Portrait Gallery in London" gives
Bramah 's name. The reference, however, directs one to
Walker's famous engraving of the ''Eminent Men of
Science Living in 1807-1808," which shows about fifty
distinguished scientists and engineers grouped in the
Library of the Royal Institution. This engraving is the
result of four years' careful study. It was grouped by
Sir John Gilbert, drawn by John Skill, and finished by
William Walker and his mfe. Bramah 's figure, No. 6,
appears in this group, but with his hack turned, the only
one in that position. It is a singular tribute to Bramah 's
influence among his generation of scientists that this pic-
ture would have been considered incomplete without him.
13 Smiles : ' ' Industrial Biography, ' ' p. 244.
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WILKINSON AND BRAMAH 21
As no portrait of him existed he was included, but with
his face turned away. The figure was drawn in accord-
ance with a description furnished by Bramah's grandson,
E. H. Bramah.
The engraving includes many other men of interest
whose names are indicated. Some of them have already
been considered; others, while famous as engineers,
worked in fields other than the one we are considering.
BENTHAM AND BRUNEL
In the genealogical table shown in Fig. 5, Sir Samuel
Bentham and Sir Marc I. Brunei are indicated as having
originated the famous ''Portsmouth Block Machinery,"
which was built by Maudslay and which first gave him
his reputation as a tool builder. "While Bentham was
primarily a naval administrator and Brunei a civil engi-
neer, they were among the first to grasp the principles
of modern manufacturing and embody them successfully.
Both were men of distinction and each had an interesting
Samuel Bentham, Fig. 9, was a brother of Jeremy
Bentham, the famous English publicist and writer on
economics, and a step-brother of Charles Abbott, speaker
of the House of Commons. He was born in 1757, went
to the Westminster School, and later was a naval appren-
tice in the Woolwich Arsenal. His tastes and his train-
ing led him toward the administrative and constructive
work of the navy, and for this he had the best education
available at that time. He went to sea after a final
year at the Naval College at Portsmouth; and in 1780,
in consequence of his abilities, was sent by Earl Howe,
then first Lord of the Admiralty, to visit the various
ports of northern Europe. He went through the great
ports of Holland and the Baltic, eastward to St. Peters-
burg, and was introduced at the Russian court by the
The Russians took to him kindly, as he was handsome.
Figure 9. Sir Samuel Bentham
From an Old Miniature
BENTHAM AND BRUNEL 23
tall, and distinguished in manner, inspired confidence,
and made and held friends. He was well received by the
Empress Catherine, and soon became a favorite of Prince
Potemkin. He traveled over a greater part of the empire
from the Black Sea to the Arctic and as far east as
China, examining mining and engineering works. On
his return to St. Petersburg he fell in love with a wealthy-
heiress of the nobility. The parents objected; but
though the empress, who was interested, advised an
elopement, he gave it up as dishonorable and went away
to Critcheff in southern Eussia as a lieutenant-colonel
of engineers in the Russian army. While there he took
charge of Potemkin 's grossly mismanaged factories in
order to put them on a sound basis, an undertaking sug-
gestive of the twentieth-century efficiency engineer. In
this he was not wholly successful. In 1787 he built and
equipped a flotilla of ships, and in the following year dis-
tinguished himself in a naval battle with the Turks, in
which John Paul Jones was also engaged. One of
the vital elements in the fight was the use of the large
guns built by Bentham, which fired shells for the first
time in naval warfare. Nine Turkish ships were burned
or sunk and 8000 men were killed or taken prisoners.
For his part in this battle Bentham was knighted and
made a brigadier-general.
There were few skilled artisans in Russia and almost
none available in the southern provinces — a Danish brass
founder, an English watchmaker and two or three ser-
geants who could write and draw were all he had. This
set Bentham at work on the problem of ** transferring
skill* * by means of machines, so that unskilled workmen
might be made to produce the same results as skilled
While Bramah and Maudslay were working in Lon-
24 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
don on their metal-cutting tools for making locks, Ben-
tham, in Russia, was thinking out substantially the same
problem in woodworking machinery. He returned to
England in 1791 and that year took out his first patent.
Certain suggestions which he made to the Admiralty
about the introduction of machinery into the dockyards
led to his making an extended inspection of the dockyards
throughout the kingdom, and he reported that immense
savings were possible. The office of inspector general
was created for him and authority given him to put his
recommendations into effect.
For the next eighteen years he served the British navy.
When he took hold it was honeycombed with inefficiency
and worse. His business-like methods, his skill as an
engineer and naval designer, and his fearless integrity
were elements in the preparedness of the British navy
in the Napoleonic wars. He was an intrepid enemy of
red tape and graft and soon made cordial enemies ; but
he was a good fighter, with no weak spots in his armor,
and it took many years to bring him down. In 1805
he was sent to St. Petersburg, and kept there on various
pretexts for two years. It was remarked by some about
the Admiralty office, that so high was their opinion of
his talents they would be glad to give him £6000 ($30,-
000) a year if by that means they would never see him
again. He returned in 1807 to find his office abolished
and its functions transferred to a board, of which he was
made a member at an increased salary. Here his power
was diluted somewhat, but even this solution was too
strong and he was retired on a pension in 1812. For the
next fifteen years he lived in retirement in France. The
years abroad softened the rancor of his enemies and
from his return to England in 1827 until his death, Ben-
tham was in frequent and friendly consultation with the
BENTHAM AND BRUNEL 25
navy officials. Bentham may well be considered as one
of the first and greatest of ' ' efficiency experts. ' '^
The patent of 1791 referred to is not important, but
it was followed by another in 1793 in which was set
forth the whole scheme of woodworking machinery which
had been maturing in Bentham 's mind. This has been
characterized as one of the most remarkable patents ever
issued by the British Patent Office. More than fifty
years after, one of the Crown judges said of it in sum-
ming up a case before him involving woodworking ma-
chinery, that *'the specification of his (i.e., Bentham's)
patent of 1793 is a perfect treatise on the subject ; indeed,
the only one worth quoting that has to this day been
written on the subject. ' '
Jeremy Bentham had revolutionized the prison system
of England, and had introduced the system of labor in
penitentiaries which has become an essential element
in all modern penal systems. Woodworking was the most
available field of work, but the greater part of the pris-
oners were of course unskilled, and Samuel Bentham
was called upon to devise machines to meet the need.
The two brothers established a factory and began mak-
ing woodworking machinery for the prisons and dock-
The work for the dockyards soon took definite form.
Pulley blocks formed one of the important supplies of
the navy. A single full-rigged frigate used about 1500
and the Admiralty were purchasing at that time about
100,000 yearly. This formed a large business in itself
and one in which the interchangeability that Bentham
1 See the biography of Bentham, by William Lucas Sargant : ' ' Essays
of a Birmingham Manufacturer," Vol, I, No. V. London, 1869. Also,
"Memoirs of the late Brigadier-General Sir Samuel Bentham," by Mary
S. Bentham, in "Papers and Practical Illustrations of Public Works."
26 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
was continually urging was especially desirable. On
Bentham's recommendation, a government factory or-
ganized on a manufacturing basis and utilizing machin-
ery had been begun at Portsmouth and a few machines
of his design already installed, when Brunei, who Y-^d
been working independently on block machinery, was
introduced to him.
Marc Isambard Brunei, Fig. 10, was a Norman French-
man, born in 1769, who was the despair of his father
because he would not study to be a priest and would per-
sist in drawing and in making things. As a family
compromise he received a naval training and served as
an officer for six years. In 1793, his ship being paid
off, he was in Paris. His outspoken loyalty in one of
the cafes on the very day when Louis XVI was sentenced
to the guillotine brought down upon him the anger of
the republicans present. He escaped in the confusion,
spent the night in hiding, and leaving Paris early the
next morning, made his way to Rouen. Here he hid for
a time with M. Carpentier, the American consul, in whose
home he met a young English girl whom he afterwards
married. Six months later he sailed from Havre on a
forged passport, under the nose of a frigate searching
for suspects, and landed in New York only to find a
French republican squadron lying in port. As he was
personally known to many of the officers and in danger
of being recognized, arrested and condemned as a
deserter, he left the city at once and went to Albany in
the vague hope of finding M. Pharoux, a friend who was
undertaking the survey of a large tract of wild land in
the Black River valley, east of Lake Ontario. Brunei
found him by good chance, joined the party, and soon
became its real leader. They showed the capacity, which
the French have always had, of working in friendly
relationship with the Indians, and their work was sue-
Figure 10. Sir Marc Isambard Brunel
From a Photograph by Walker, Ltd., of the Portrait in the N.\tional
BENTHAM AND BRUNEL 27
cessfuUy accomplished. Fifty years later there were
still traditions among Indians in the valley of a wonderful
white man named **Brune."
Brunei remained in America for over five years and
was naturalized as a citizen in 1796. During this time
he was engaged on the Hudson-Champlain canal and
various river improvements. He was a friend of Major
L 'Enfant, who planned the city of Washington and he
submitted one of the competitive designs for the original
Capitol. He also designed and built the old Park Theater
in New York, which was burned in 1821. He was ap-
pointed chief engineer of New York, built a cannon
foundry and had a part in planning the fortifications of
the Narrows in New York harbor.
He was gay, refined and a favorite among the emigres
who enlivened New York society in the closing years of
the eighteenth century. It was at Alexander Hamilton's
dinner table that the first suggestion of the block
machinery came to him. He had been invited to meet a
M. Delabigarre, who had just arrived from England.
M. Delabigarre had been describing the method of mak-
ing ship's blocks and spoke of their high and increasing
cost. Brunei listened with attention and then pointed
out what he considered the defects of the method and
suggested that the mortises might be cut by machinery,
two or three at a time. The shaping machine he after-
ward used was conceived while he was at Fort Mont-
gomery in the highlands of the Hudson. Brunei left
America for England early in 1799 and remained in
England the rest of his life. His marriage soon after his
arrival to Miss Kingdom, the girl whom he had met
at Rouen, doubtless gives the reason for this change.
Two months after reaching England, he took out a
patent for a writing and duplicating machine and he also
invented a machine for twisting cotton thread. Mean-
28 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
time he was working on the drawings for a complete set
of block machinery, and by 1801 he had made a working
model of the mortising and boring machines. He offered
his plans to Fox & Taylor, who held the navy contract
for blocks. Mr. Taylor wrote in reply that his father
had spent many years developing their existing methods
of manufacture and they were perfectly satisfied with
them. He added, ' ' I have no hope of anything better ever
being discovered, and I am convinced there cannot. ' '
Brunei, through introductions brought from America,
then laid his plans before Lord Spencer, of the Admir-
alty, and Sir Samuel Bentham. Bentham, as we have
seen, was already working on the same problem. He saw
at once the superiority of Brunei's plans and, with the
freedom from jealousy and self-interest which charac-
terized his whole career, he recommended their adoption,
with the result that Brunei was commissioned to build
and install his machines.
About sixty years ago there was a sharp controversy
over the origin of this Portsmouth machinery. Partisans
of Bentham and Brunei each claimed the entire credit
for all of it. The fact is that some of Bentham 's
machines were used for the roughing out, but all the
finishing work was done on Brunei's, and there is little
doubt that the definite plan of operations and all the
more intricate machines were his. Bentham conceived
the enterprise and had it well under way. His broad-
minded and generous substitution of Brunei's plans for
his own was quite as creditable to him as the execution
of the whole work would have been.
While Brunei was a clever and original designer, he
was not a skilled mechanic. His plans called for a large
number of refined and intricate machines which were
wholly new and he no sooner began actual work than he
felt the need of a mechanic capable of building them.
BENTHAM AND BRUNEL 29
Maudslay had just started in for himself and was work-
ing in his little shop on Oxford Street, with one helper.
M. Bacquancourt, a friend of Brunei's, passed his door
every day and was interested in the beautiful pieces of
workmanship he used to see from time to time in the
shop window. At his suggestion Brunei went to Mauds-
lay, explained to him his designs, and secured his help.
There could hardly have been a better combination than
these two men. Maudslay 's wonderful skill as a
mechanic and his keen, practical intuition supplied the
one element needed and together they executed the entire
set of machines, forty-four in all.^
The machinery was divided into four classes.
First. Sawing machines, both reciprocating and cir-
cular, for roughing out the blocks.
Second. Boring, mortising, shaping and ''scoring"
machines for finishing the blocks.
Third. Machines for turning and boring the sheaves,
for riveting the brass liner and finish-facing the sides.
In the larger sizes small holes were drilled on the joint
and short wire pins riveted in to prevent slipping
between the liner and block.
Fourth. The iron pins on which the sheaves turned
were hand forged in dies, turned and polished.
In addition to these there were several machines for
forming ''dead eyes," or solid blocks without sheaves,
used in the fixed rigging. A detailed description of the
entire set would be too long. A brief description of one
or two of the machines will serve to give some idea of
2 For a description of the Portsmouth Block Machinery, see Tomlinson 'b
"Cyclopedia of Useful Arts," Vol. I, pp. 139-146. London, 1852. Also,
Ure 's ' ' Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines, ' ' Vol. I, pp. 398-402 ;
Seventh Edition. London, 1875; and Eees' "Cyclopedia," article "Ma-
chinery for Manufacturing Ship's Blocks."
30 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Fig. 11 is taken from an old wood-cut of the mortising
machine.^ A model of it is shown in the background of
the portrait of Brunei in the National Gallery, repro-
duced opposite page 26. A pulley and flywheel are con-
nected by a cone clutch M to a shaft D. At the front end
of this a crank and connecting-rod drive the reciprocat-
ing cutter head from a point a. The chuck carrying the
block, movable forward and baclrvvard on guides, was
operated by the feed screw R, a cam, and the ratchet
motion shown. A system of stops and weighted levers
on the side threw out the ratchet feed at the end of the
cut, and the carriage was returned by hand, using the
crank r. The crosshead had two guiding points, a double
one below the driving point and a single one above it at
F, and made 150 strokes per minute. The chuck could
take either one or two blocks at a time.
Fig. 12 shows the shaping machine.* Ten blocks were
chucked between two large, circular frames, the same
working points being used as in the last machine. The
principle of establishing and adhering to working points
seems to have been clearly recognized. A cutter g was
moved across the face of the blocks as they revolved, its
motion being governed by the handles I and G and a
former i. One side of each of the ten blocks was thus
finished at a time. The blocks were then indexed 90° by
revolving the bevel K, which turned the wormshafts d
and rotated all the chucks simultaneously. The blocks
were then faced again in their new positions and the
operation continued until the four sides were finished.
The strong curved bars at the top were provided to pro-
tect the workman in case one of the blocks should let
go. As the momentum of the frame and blocks was con-
3 Tomlmson : ' ' Cyclopedia,' ' Vol. I, p. 141.
4 Ihid., Vol. I, p. 144.
BENTHAM AND BRUNEL 31
siderable, a spring brake was provided between the bear-
ing and bevel-gear to bring them to rest quickly.
Another well-designed machine *' scored" the outside
of the blocks for the ropes or straps. Two disks with
inserted steel cutters grooved the blocks which were
chucked on a swinging frame. The depth and path of
cut were governed by a steel former against which a
roller on the cutter shaft bore. In the metal working
machines, under the fourth group, cutters were used in
which a short, round bar of tempered steel was held by
a binding screw in a holder of the lathe-tool type. From
the sketch of it shown by Holtzapffel, the whole device
might almost be used as an advertisement for a modern
tool-holder for high-speed steel cutters.
Enough has been said to show that these machines
were thoroughly modern in their conception and con-
stituted a complete range of tools, each performing its
part in a definite series of operations. By this machinery
ten unskilled men did the work of 110 skilled workmen.
When the plant was in full running order in 1808 the
output was over 130,000 blocks per year, with a value of
over $250,000, an output greater than that previously
supplied by the six largest dockyards. It continued for
many years to supply all the blocks used by the Royal
Navy, and was in fact superseded only when wooden
blocks themselves largely made way for iron and steel
Brunei devised other woodworking tools, but none so
successful as these. He started a mill at Battersea
which burned down; his finances became involved and
he was thrown into prison for debt. He was freed
through a grant of $25,000 which friends secured from
the government. His later work was in the field of civil
engineering — the most famous work being the Thames
32 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
tunnel. He was given the Legion of Honor in 1829, was
knighted in 1841, and died in 1849.'
His son. Sir Isambard K. Brunei, was also one of
the foremost engineers of England, a bridge and ship
builder, railway engineer and rival of Robert Stephen-
son. At the age of twenty-seven he was chief engineer
of the Great Western Railway, and built the steamer
** Great Western" to run from Bristol to New York as
an extension of that railway system. This was the first
large iron ship, the first regular transatlantic liner, and
the first large steamship using the screw propeller. Its
success led to the building of the ''Great Eastern" from
his designs. This ship was about 700 feet long and for
nearly fifty years was the largest one built. She was a
disastrous failure financially and after a varied career,
which included the laying of the first transatlantic cable,
she was finally broken up. Brunei was a strong advo-
cate of the broad gauge and built the Great Western sys-
tem with a 7-foot gauge, which was ultimately changed
to standard gauge. While a number of his undertakings
were failures financially, his chief fault seems to have
been that he was in advance of his generation.
6 For fuller information, see the biography of Sir Marc Isambard Brunei
by Richard Beamish, F.R.S. London, 1862.
We have mentioned Henry Maudslay frequently. In
fact, it is hard to go far in any historical study of
machine tools without doing so.^
Maudslay was born in Woohvich in 1771. He was the
son of an old soldier working in the arsenal, and had but
little schooling. At twelve he was at work in the arsenal,
first as a ** powder monkey" filling cartridges, later in
the carpenter shop and smithy. Young as he was, he
soon became the leader among the workmen. He was a
born craftsman and his skill was soon the pride of the
whole shop. To dexterity he added an intuitive power
of mechanical analysis and a sense of proportion pos-
sessed by few men, and from the beginning he showed
a genius for choosing the most direct and simple means
for accomplishing his purpose. He was a great favorite
among his fellows from his fine personal appearance, his
open-heartedness and complete freedom from conceit.
In the chapter on Bramah we have seen how Bramah,
seeking someone to help him devise tools to manufacture
his locks, turned first to an old German mechanic in
Hoodie's shop. One of the hammer men in Hoodie's
shop suggested Haudslay, apologizing for his youth, but
adding that "nothing bet him." "When Bramah saw
Haudslay, who was only eighteen, he was almost ashamed
to lay his case before him. Haudslay 's suggestions,
iPor best accounts of Maudslay, see SmUes' "Industrial Biography,"
Chap. XII, and "Autobiography of James Naamyth. "
34 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
however, were so keen and to the point that the older
man had to admit that the boy's head at least was old
enough. He adopted the suggestions and offered him a
job in his shop at Pimlico, which Maudslay gladly
accepted. As he had served no apprenticeship, the fore-
man had doubts of his ability to work among experienced
hands. Without a moment's hesitation Maudslay
pointed to a worn-out bench vice and asked whether he
could take his rank among the other workmen if he could
fix it as good as new before the end of the day. He was
told to go ahead. He resteeled and trued the jaws, filed
them up, recut and hardened them, and before the time
set had it together, trimmer and in better shape than any
of its neighbors. It was examined, admired and accepted
as his diploma as a journeyman.
His advancement was rapid, and in about a year, while
still only nineteen, he was made general foreman and
maintained his leadership without the slightest difficulty.
He remained with Bramah for eight years, during which
time the two laid the foundation for many of the modern
machine tools, more especially the slide-rest and screw-
cutting lathe. We have already considered Maudslay 's
work done in connection with Bramah and little need be
added here in regard to it. During this time Bramah
invented the hydraulic press, but the cup-leather pack-
ing which is so essential a part of it was suggested by
He left the Pimlico shop because Bramah would not
give him more than 30 shillings ($7.50) a week, and vnth.
a single helper started a little blacksmithing and jobbing
shop on his own account near Wells and Oxford streets
His first customer was an artist who gave him an order
for an iron easel. Business prospered and he found
plenty of work. His reputation was established, how-
HENRY MAUDSLAY 35
ever, in connection with the Portsmouth block machinery,
which was described in the last chapter. The building
of this machinery occupied about eight years, from
1800 to 1808. The design was substantially Brunei's, but
Mr. Nasmyth says that ''every member of it was full
of Maudslay's presence and the mechanical perfection
of its details, its practicability and adaptability show his
handiwork at every turn."
Soon after this work was undertaken, Maudslay moved
his shop to Margaret Street, near Cavendish Square.
During the building of the block machinery Maudslay
had met Joshua Field, who had been engaged as a drafts-
man in the Portsmouth dockyards under Sir Samuel
Bentham and had worked with him in the development
of the machinery. Field was transferred to General
Bentham 's office at the Admiralty in 1804, and a year
later joined Maudslay. Five years later they moved to
Lambeth on the south side of the Thames and bought an
old riding school on Westminster Road on what was for-
merly a swampy marsh. Here the firm of Maudslay &
Field continued its long and famous career. Few firms
have influenced mechanical development more, and for
many years it was one of the leading machine shops of
the world. Here Maudslay did his life work as one of
the leaders in the development not only of machine tools
but of the steam engine, both stationary and marine.
After his death in 1831 the business was continued by
Mr. Field, who outlived him many years, and by Mauds-
lay's son and grandson, both of whom were fine mechan-
ics and men of great influence.
It was in connection with the slide-rest and screw-
cutting lathe that Maudslay is best known. Too much
value cannot be placed on the slide-rest and its combina-
tion with a lead screw, operated by change gears. It is
36 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
used in some form in almost every machine tool and is
one of the great inventions of history.
Like most of the great inventions, it was the work of
many men. In crude applications, parts of it date back
to the Middle Ages. Leonardo da Vinci caught an ink-
ling of it. French writers in the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries describe and illustrate devices which
involve the parts of it. Fig. 13, reproduced from an
illustration in the old work of Besson, first published in
1569,^ shows a lead screw. The copy from which this
illustration was taken is printed in Latin and is in the
Astor library. New York. The upper shaft had three
drums; the middle one carried the rope which was
manipulated by the operator. Of the drums at the ends,
the one at the left operated a lead screw and the one on
the right, the piece being cut. The two outer weights
held the follower up against the lead screw. The cutting
was, of course, intermittent, as in all the earlier types
of lathes. The idea of the lead screw occurs in other
French works of the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
turies. In the lathe shown in Fig. 14, from a French
book published in 1741,^ gears instead of ropes were used
to connect the rotation of the lead screw with that of the
work, but if the idea of change gears was contemplated,
it was not developed.
The slide-rest was also known. An illustration of a
French slide-rest, published long before Maudslay's
time, is reproduced in Fig. 3. In Bramah^s original
"slide-tool," the tail-stock and slide-rest were com-
2 * ' Des Instruments Mathematiques et Mechaniques, ^c, Inventies par
Jacques Besson." First Latin and French Edit., 1569. Plate 9. Two
later editions were published at Lyons, one in 1578 and one in 1582. The
same copper plates were used in the three editions.
3 Holtzapffel: "Turning and Mechanical Manipulation," Vol. II, p. 618.
Figure 13. French Screw-Cutting
Lathe, Previous to 1569
Figure 14. French Screw-Cutting Lathe, about 1740
38 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
bined.* It was made abont 1795 by Maudslay while still
his foreman. How much of the design was Bramah's
and how much Maudslay 's we cannot tell. It was a light,
flimsy affair and very different from the slide-rests
Maudslay was making only a few years later.
In none of these was the slide-rest combined with
change gears and a power-driven lead screw. It was this
combination which formed Maudslay 's great contribu-
tion, together with improvements in proportion and in
mechanical design which raised the device from an
ingenious but cumbersome mechanical movement to an
instrument of precision and power. Jesse Ramsden, a
famous instrument maker, is said to have made a small
lathe in 1775, which had change wheels and a sliding
tool holder moved by a lead screw. The writer has been
unable to find any illustration or description of it, and
if such a lathe existed, it certainly did not exert a very
wide influence. The combination was anticipated in
Bentham's famous patent of 1793. In this patent Ben-
tham says: ''When the motion is of a rotative kind,
advancement (of the tool) may be provided by hand, yet
regularity may be more effectually insured by the aid of
mechanism. For this purpose one expedient is the con-
necting, for instance, by cogged wheels, of the advancing
motion of the piece with the rotative motion of the tool. ' '^
This patent contained no drawings, and the suggestion
was not, so far as is known, embodied in any definite
Many men were working at the problem of generat-
ing an accurate screw thread. The use of dies was quite
well known, but their design and workmanship was of
the crudest order and their product of the same charac-
■* Buchanan : * ' Practical Essays on Mill Work and Other Machinery. ' '
London, 1841. Volume of Plates.
6 See the British patent records. Patent No. 1951, dated April 23, 1793.
HENRY MAUDSLAY 39
ter; and they were inadequate for the making of any
large threads. Holtzapffel's book on ** Turning and
Mechanical Manipulation," published in London, 1847,
describes some of the attempts of the earlier mechanics
to devise other means.* At the famous Soho works in
Birmingham a workman by the name of Anthony Robin-
son cut a screw 7 feet long and 6 inches in diameter with
a square, triple thread. After the cylinder had been
turned, paper was cut and fitted around it, removed,
marked in ink with parallel oblique lines, then replaced
on the cylinder and the lines were pricked through with
a center punch. The paper was again removed and dots
connected by fine lines with a file. The alternate spaces
between the lines were then cut out with a chisel and
hammer and smoothed by filing. A block of lead and tin,
as a temporary guide nut, was then cast around the par-
tially formed screw. Adjustable cutters were fixed upon
this guide nut and it was used as a kind of tool-holding
slide-rest, being rotated around the screw by hand levers,
thereby cutting the finished thread. In other words, a
lead screw was cut on the piece itself and the temporary
nut was used as a tool holder to finish the work.
One method used for some purposes was to coil two
wires around a core in close contact with each other.
One of these was then removed, leaving a space corre-
sponding to the hollow of the thread. The core and
remaining wire were then dipped in melted tin and
soldered together. In some cases they were actually used
in this form as the desired screw thread. In others, the
helical wire was used to guide a sleeve nut which con-
trolled a tool used to cut a thread located farther up on
the length of the core.
Another method resorted to was that of grooving a
smooth cylinder by a sharp-edged cutter standing at the
« Holtzapffel. Vol. II, pp. 635-655.
40 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
required pitch angle and relying on the contact of the
knife-edge to produce the proper traverse along the cyl-
inder as it was rotated, thus developing the screw. This
method is not so crude as it seems and was one of those
used by Maudslay himself. He also used a flat steel
tape wound about a cylindrical bar, but he found the
inclined knife method more satisfactory. The device
which he used was a mechanism of considerable refine-
ment. He employed cylinders of wood, tin, brass and
other soft metals accurately mounted to revolve between
centers. The hardened knife was crescent-shaped,
nearly fitting the cylinder, and fixed at the required
angle with great precision by means of a large graduated
wheel and tangent screw. A chasing tool carried by a
small, adjustable slide cut the thread as the stock moved
forward under the incisive action of the inclined knife
edge. Hundreds of screws, both right and left, were
made by this device, and their agreement with each other
is said to have been remarkable. This was the way in
which Maudslay generated his first lead screws.
With the best of the screws so obtained Maudslay
made the first screw-cutting lathe a few years prior to
1800, shown in Fig. 15,^ which had two triangular bars
for a bed, and was about three feet long. The head-
stock carried a live spindle, which was connected with a
lead screw by a pair of gears, and a slide-rest ran upon
the triangular bars under control of a lead screw having
four square threads per inch. In this machine he at
first used different lead screws for different pitches.
The inner end of the lower spindle in the headstock had
a two-jawed driving device, which might be disconnected
and into which various lead screws might be fitted.
Later he added change gear wheels.
t No. 1601 in South Kensington Museum, London. Cat, M, E, Collec-
tion, Part II, p, 266,
HENRY MAUDSLAY 41
The great idea of using a single lead screw for various
pitches, by means of change gears, was Maudslay's own.
Fig. 16 shows how rapidly the idea was developed.* This
machine, built about 1800, is distinctly modern in appear-
ance. It has a substantial, well-designed, cast-iron bed,
a lead screw with 30 threads to the inch, a back rest
for steadying the work, and was fitted with 28 change
wheels with teeth varying in number from 15 to 50, The
intermediate wheel had a wide face and was carried on
the swinging, adjustable arm in order to mesh with
wheels of various diameters on the fixed centers. Sample
screws having from 16 to 100 threads per inch are
shown on the rack in front. Both of these lathes are
now in the South Kensington Museum in London. With
lathes of this design, Maudslay cut the best screws which
had been made up to that time. One of these was 5 feet
long, 2 inches in diameter, with 50 threads to the inch,
and the nut fitted to it was 12 inches long, thus engaging
600 threads. ''This screw was principally used for
dividing scales for astronomical and other metrical pur-
poses of the highest class. By its means divisions were
produced with such minuteness that they could only be
made visual by a microscope."^
Some idea of how far Maudslay was in advance of his
time is shown by the fact that the wooden pole-lathes
in Fig. 2 represent fairly the state of the art at that
time. This form had been in use in many countries for
centuries. One of these wooden lathes, built in 1800, the
same year as Maudslay 's lathe. Fig. 16, is also in the
South Kensington Museum, and was in use as late as
8 No. 1602 in South Kensington Museum, London. Cat. M. E. Collec-
tion, Part II, pp. 266-267.
» * * Autobiography of James Nasmyth^ ' ' p. 140. London, 1883.
42 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
1879. Similar lathes are said to be still used by chair
makers in certain portions of England."
About 1830, shortly before his death, Maudslay
designed and constructed a lathe with a face-plate 9 feet
in diameter operating over a pit 20 feet deep. This
lathe had a massive bed and was used to turn flywheel
rims. It was fitted with a boring bar and was capable of
boring steam cylinders up to 10 feet in diameter. We
regret that no picture of this lathe is available. It would
be interesting as it would show in a striking way the
development of the slide-rest and lathe in the hands of
this great mechanic.
Maudslay 's work on the screw thread was not confined
to the lathe. He improved the system of taps and dies
whereby they were made to cut the threads instead of
squeezing them up, and he introduced the use of three
or more cutting edges.^^ He made the first move toward
the systematizing of thread sizes and made a series of
taps from 6 inches in diameter, for tapping steam pistons,
down to the smallest sizes used in watch work. The
diameters of these taps varied by eighths and sixteenths
of an inch, and their threads were determined by the
respective strengths of each screw. He established for
his own use definite standard pitches. Many copies of
these threads found their way to other shops and influ-
enced the construction of similar tools elsewhere. In
fact, Holtzapffel says: ''I believe it may be fairly
advanced, that during the period from 1800 to 1810, Mr.
Maudslay effected nearly the entire change from the old,
imperfect, accidental practice of screw making to the
modern, exact, systematic mode now generally followed
by engineers; and he pursued the subject of the screw
10 No. 1596 in South Kensington Museum, London. Cat. M. E. Collec-
tion, Part II, p. 264.
11 Holtzapflfel, Vol. II, p. 646.
Figure 15. Maudslay's Screw-Cutting Lathe
Figure 16. Maudslay's Screw-Cuttixg Lathe
HENRY MAUDSLAY 43
with more or less ardour, and at an enormous expense,
until his death. '"^
While we would not detract from the ingenuity of
others who conceived the idea of the slide-rest and lead
screw, enough has been given to show that no other
mechanic of his day appreciated their possibilities as he
did, and none embodied them in forms as useful. The
fact that for many years the slide-rest was popularly
known as ''Maudslay's go-cart" indicates that his con-
temporaries recognized him as its originator.
The business at Lambeth grew steadily until it
employed several hundred men, and embraced the mak-
ing of saw- and flour-mills, mint machinery and steam
engines of all kinds. With his keen mechanical intui-
tion he saw that the cumbersome wooden walking beam
characteristic of the Newcomen and Watt engines was
unnecessary. He therefore dispensed with it and drove
direct from the engine crosshead to the crank, thus mak-
ing the first direct-acting engine, which held the market
for a long time. He built the first marine engines in
England, and his leadership in that field was unchal-
lenged for many years. Another of his inventions was
the punching machine for punching boiler plates and
iron work. His influence was felt in many directions in
the field of machine design. He was the first to point
out the weakness of the clean, sharp corners in castings
which were so prized at that time, and advocated the use
of fillets, showing that they greatly increased the
To the end of his life he retained his personal dex-
terity at both the anvil and the bench. One of his
greatest delights was to go into the shop and ''have a
go " at a piece of work which his workmen found impos-
sible to do. One of his old workmen, years afterward,
12 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 647.
44 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
speaking in kindling pride of him, said : * * It was a pleas-
ure to see him handle a tool of any kind, but he was quite
splendid with an 18-inch file." Nasmyth confirms this,
saying: **To be permitted to stand by and observe the
systematic way in which Mr. Maudslay would first mark
or line out his work, and the masterly manner in which
he would deal with his materials, and cause them to
assume the desired forms, was a treat beyond all expres-
sion. Every stroke of the hammer, chisel, or file, told as
an effective step towards the intended result. It was a
never-to-be-forgotten lesson in workmanship, in the most
exalted sense of the term. ... No one that I ever met
with could go beyond Henry Maudslay himself in his
dexterous use of the file. By a few masterly strokes he
could plane surfaces so true that when their accuracy
was tested by a standard plane surface of absolute truth
they were never found defective; neither convex nor
concave nor 'cross-winding,' — that is, twisted.""
Whitworth is usually credited with having been the
originator of the method of making plane surfaces three
at a time, using them to correct each other. Nasmyth,
however, says that Maudslay used this method and that
surface plates so made were in daily use in his shop.
His testimony is so clear that it is given in full: "The
importance of having Standard Planes caused him [i.e.,
Maudslay] to have many of them placed on the benches
beside his workmen, by means of which they might at
once conveniently test their work. Three of each were
made at a time so that by the mutual rubbing of each on
each the projecting surfaces were effaced. When the
surfaces approached very near to the true plane, the
still projecting minute points were carefully reduced by
hard steel scrapers, until at last the standard plane sur-
face was secured. When placed over each other they
13 "Autobiography of James Nasmyth," pp. 147-148, London, 1883.
HENRY MAUDSLAY 45
would float upon the thin stratum of air between them
until dislodged by time and pressure. When they
adhered closely to each other, they could only be sepa-
rated by sliding each off each. This art of producing
absolutely plane surfaces is, I believe, a very old mechan-
ical 'dodge.' But, as employed by Maudslay's men, it
greatly contributed to the improvement of the work
turned out. It was used for the surfaces of slide valves,
or wherever absolute true plane surfaces were essential
to the attainment of the best results, not only in the
machinery turned out, but in educating the taste of his
men towards first-class workmanship."^* Whitworth's
later success with the generation of plane surfaces seems
clearly to be a refinement and outgrowth of Maudslay's
Maudslay's standard of accuracy carried him beyond
the use of ordinary calipers, and he had a bench microm-
eter of great accuracy which he kept in his owm work-
shop and always referred to as "The Lord Chancel-
lor." It was about 16 inches long and had two plane
jaws and a horizontal screw. The scale was graduated
to inches and tenths of an inch; and the index disk on
the screw to one hundred equal parts. Speaking from
the standpoint of fifty years ago, Nasmyth says: '*Not
only absolute measure could be obtained by this means,
but also the amount of minute differences could be ascer-
tained with a degree of exactness that went quite beyond
all the requirements of engineering mechanism ; such, for
instance, as the thousandth part of an inch."^®
Maudslay's record, as left behind him in steel and iron,
would give him a secure place in engineering history, but
his influence as a trainer of men is quite as great. He
loved good work for its own sake and impressed that
i*Ihid., pp. 148-149.
i5Z6id., p. 150.
46 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
standard on all in his employ. Clement, Eoberts, Whit-
worth, Nasmyth, Seaward, Muir and Lewis worked for
him, and all showed throughout their lives, in a marked
way, his influence upon them. Other workmen, whose
names are not so prominent, spread into the various
shops of England the methods and standards of Mauds-
lay & Field (later Maudslay, Sons & Field) and made
English tool builders the leaders of the world for fifty
J. G. Moon, who afterwards became manager of James
Watt & Company of Soho, the successor of Boulton &
Watt, was apprenticed to Maudslay, Sons & Field and
gives the following picture of the shop at the zenith of
There were not more than perhaps a dozen lathes in use there,
with cast-iron box beds such as we now know; but nearly all
the lathes had been constructed by the firm itself and were made
without a bed, the poppet or back center and the slide-rest being
supported on a wrought-iron triangular bar, varying in size
from, say, 3-in. to 6-in. side. This bar was supported on cast-
iron standards, and reached from the fixed lathe head to the
length required of the "bed." If the lathes were self-acting,
there were two such triangular bars with the guide screw run-
ning between them. The advantage of these lathes was great,
for if a large chuck job was on hand, the bars could be with-
drawn from the fixed head, supported on standards, and any-
thing that would miss the roof or swing in a pit beneath could
There was one screwing machine or lathe which all apprentices
in the vice loft (as the fitting shop in which the writer was
apprenticed was called) had to work during their curriculum —
this was a small double-bar lathe with a guide screw between.
The fixed head was on the right of the operator, and the lathe
was worked by hand by means of a wheel very much like a
miniature ship's steering wheel. This wheel was about 2-ft.
diameter, with handles round the rim, and we apprentices were
HENRY MAUDSLAY 47
put at this machine to develop the muscles of the right arm. The
advantages of having the fixed head on the right (instead of
on the left, as in an ordinary lathe) was that in cutting a right-
hand thread the tool receded away from the start and ran off
the end, and thus prevented a "root in," which might happen
if, whilst pulling at the wheel, you became absorbed in the dis-
cussion of the abilities of a music-hall "star" or other equally
interesting topics with a fellow-apprentice.
The writer remembers using a pair of calipers at that time,
whose "points" were about I/2 in. wide for measuring over the
tops of a thread. These were stamped "J. Whitworth, 1830,"
and formerly belonged to the great screw-thread reformer.
Nearly all the bar lathes were driven by gut bands, and one can
remember gut bands of 1-in. diameter being used.
Most of the planing machines were made and supplied by
Joseph Whitworth & Co., and the tool boxes were of the "Jim
Crow" type, which used to make a half -turn round by means
of a cord when the belt was shifted at the end of each stroke,
thus cutting each way. The forerunner of this used to interest
the writer — a machine in the vice loft that was variously called
a shaping machine and a planing machine. It was driven by
means of a disc about 3-ft. diameter, with a slot down the disc
for varying the stroke. A connecting rod from the disc to the
tool box completed this portion of the machine. The tool box
was supported and kept true by two cylindrical bars or guides
on each side, so that the whole arrangement was like the cross-
head of an engine worked by disc and connecting rod. On the
top of the tool box was fixed a toothed sector of a wheel, and at
the end of each stroke this sector engaged with a rack, and in
this way the tool box took a half-turn and was ready for cutting
on the return stroke. The writer understands that it was from
this machine that Whitworth developed his "Jim Crow" tool
There was also a huge shaping machine, whose stroke was
anything up to about 6 ft., which was simply a tool box fixed on
the end of a large triangular bar of about 12-in. side with the
"V" downwards. To the back of the bar was attached a rack,
48 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
and this, gearing with a pinion, gave the motion. It was a great
fascination to watch this ponderous bar with its tool box slowly
coming forward out of its casing and taking immense cuts.
Another machine tool that also used to interest the writer was
a machine for turning the crank pins of very large solid cranks,
the crank pins being about 18-in. to 20-in. diameter, and the
crank shafts about 24-in. to 30-in. diameter. These immense
crank shafts used to be set in the center of the machine, and
the tool would travel round the crank pin until the work was
completed, the feed being worked by means of a ratchet actuated
by leaden weights falling to and fro as the machines slowly
Maudslay was a large man, over 6 feet 2 inches in
height, with a large, round head, a wide forehead, a
good-humored face, and keen, straightforward eyes.
His ringing laugh and cordial manner made friends
everywhere and his kindliness and unvarying integrity
held them. It will repay anyone who cares to do so to
look up the account of him as given in the ''Autobiog-
raphy of James Nasmyth," who went to Maudslay as a
young man and worked beside him as his private assist-
ant. In reading this affectionate account one can easily
see why Maudslay influenced those about him so deeply
and why he raised the standard of his craft. Like
Nasmyth and many other great mechanics, Maudslay
became interested in astronomy, and at the time of his
death he was planning to build a 24-inch reflecting tele-
scope for his own use. He patented but few inventions,
and relied rather upon his reputation and workmanship
to protect him. He was full of quaint maxims and
remarks, as true today as then, the outcome of keen
observation and wide experience. He used to say:
** First get a clear notion of what you desire to accom-
plish and then in all probability you will succeed in doing
i« Junior Institution of Engineers, pp. 167-168. London, 1914.
HENRY MAUDSLAY 49
it. " * * Keep a sharp lookout upon your material. * * * * Get
rid of every pound of material you can do without; put
to yourself the question, 'What business has this to be
there?' " ''Avoid complexities. Make everything as
simple as possible."
His shop was the pride of the country, and Nasmyth
tells of the intimate visits of Faraday, Bentham, Brunei,
Chantrey the sculptor. Barton of the Royal Mint, and
Bryan Donkin the engineer, who used to call and chat
with him while he worked at his bench.
No better tribute to Maudslay and his influence can
be given than that of Nasmyth, who said that his "useful
life was enthusiastically devoted to the great object of
producing perfect workmanship and machinery; to him
we are certainly indebted for the slide-rest and indirectly
so for the vast benefits which have resulted from the
introduction of so powerful an agent in perfecting our
machinery and mechanism generally. The indefatigable
care which he took in inculcating and diffusing among his
workmen and mechanical men generally, sound ideas of
practical knowledge and refined views of constructions,
has and ever will continue to identify his name with
all that is noble in the ambition of a lover of mechani-
cal perfection. The vast results which have sprung
from his admirable mind, are his best monument and
eulogium. ' "^
17 T. Baker: "Elements of Mechanism," p. 232. Second Edition with
remarks by James Nasmyth. London, 1858-1859.
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER
In almost no case is the crediting of invention more
diflBcult than in that of the planer. Not only was this
tool the product of many men but no single man stands
out clearly as Maudslay, for instance, does in the devel-
opment of the lathe. The invention of the metal planer
has been claimed in England on behalf of Spring of
Aberdeen, James Fox, George Rennie, Matthew Murray,
Joseph Clement and Richard Roberts. The planer was
in use in the United States so early that it may also have
been invented independently in this country, though,
without doubt, later than in England.
With the planer as with the lathe, the French were the
pioneers. Plumier, a French writer on mechanical sub-
jects, published in 1754 a description of a machine which
had been used for some years, consisting of two parallel
bars of wood or iron connected at their extremities. The
article to be planed was fixed between them, and a frame
guided between the same bars was moved lengthwise by a
long screw and carried a tool which took a planing cut
from the work. The machine was intended for orna-
menting the handles of knives and was said by Plumier
to have been an English invention. A planing machine
invented in 1751 by Nicholas Forq, a French clock maker,
for the purpose of planing the pump barrels used in the
Marly water works to supply the fountains at Versailles,
is shown in Fig. 17. These pump barrels were made up
of wrought iron staves bound together by hoops. There
.\rtlivi-; KDK i'LA>'l?fO ilROiV.
NOTE. — The spots on the photograph were the yelloiv stains of age on the original plate
Figure 17. French Planing Machine by Nicholas Forq, 1751
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER 51
were quite a number of these barrels from 10 inches to
4 feet in diameter and from 7 feet to 10 feet long. The
illustration, taken from Buchanan's ''Mill Work," pub-
lished in 1841,^ is not complete, as it lacks the carriage
carrying the planing tool which was not shown on the
original drawing. The general construction of the
machine however is quite clear. The built-up barrel is
shown in place. The cutter was carried backward and
forward between two parallel iron bars set horizontally
through the cylinder. Either the tool or the pump barrel
must have been given a rotative feed. Its action was
therefore equivalent to planing on centers, and it is said
to have done this fairly large work in a satisfactory
Bentham described a planer in his well-known patent
of 1793 and Bramah in his patent of 1802. Matthew
Murray is said to have built one in 1814 to machine the
faces of D-slide valves, which were originally invented
by Murdock in 1786 but improved by Murray in 1802.
Eichard Roberts built a planer in 1817 which is, without
doubt, the earliest planer now in existence. It is in the
South Kensington Museum in London and a picture of it
is given in Fig. 20.^ It will be seen that the modern
planer design was already beginning to take shape. The
chisel and file marks on the bed and ways indicate that
it was itself made without the use of a planer. It had
vertical and horizontal feeds, an angular adjustment and
separate tool-feed for the head, and a hinged clamp for
the tool to allow it to lift on the return stroke. The table,
which was hand-operated through a chain drive, was 52
inches long by 11 inches wide.
George Rennie built a planer in 1820 with a movable
1 Buchanan: "Practical Essays on Mill Work and Other Machinery."
London, 1841. Volume of Plates.
2 No. 1619. Cat. M. E. Collection, Part II, p. 272.
52 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
bed operated by a screw and furnished with a revolving
cutting tool.^ James Fox built one in 1821, capable of
planing work 10 feet, 6 inches long, 22 inches wide, and
12 inches deep, to plane the bars of lace machines.
Joseph Clement made his first planer in 1820 to plane
the triangular bars of lathes and the sides of weaving
looms. Some years later he built his ''great planer," a
remarkable machine from both a mechanical and a finan-
cial standpoint. A very full description of it was given
by Mr. Varley in the ''Transactions of the Society of
Arts" in London in 1832,* illustrated by a set of copper
plates made from Clement's own drawings. Clement's
reputation of being the most expert draftsman of his
day is well borne out by these drawings. In this planer
two cutting tools were used, one for the forward and
one for the return stroke. The bed ran on rollers,
mounted on a concrete foundation, which were said to
have been so true that "if you put a piece of paper under
one of the rollers it would stop all the rest." It was
fitted with centers and was used for planing circular,
spiral and conical work as well as flat work. It took
in work 6 feet square and was hand-driven. The cutting
speed must have been low, for "the power of one man
was sufficient to keep it in motion for ordinary work,
though two were employed to make long and full cuts
both ways." For more than ten years it was the only
one of its size and it ran for many years night and day
on jobbing work, its earnings forming Clement's princi-
pal income. Smiles says that his charge for planing
was 18 shillings, or $4.32, per square foot, which
amounted to about £10 per day of twelve hours, or, with
two shifts, to about $100 a day.^ On this basis he must
3 Buchanan, p. xlii.
* Vol. XLIX, p. 157.
B Smiles : ' ' Industrial Biography, ' ' p. 306, Boston, 1864.
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER 53
have macMned an average of about 11 square feet in
By 1840 the design of the planer had become fairly
well settled and its use general. In America, planers
were built by Gay, Silver & Company of North Chelms-
ford, Mass., as early as 1831. Pedrick & Ayer of Phila-
delphia are also said to have built a planer at about the
same time. The early American tool builders will be
taken up in a later chapter.
Little is known of the personalities and histories of
some of these men, such as Spring of Aberdeen. Spring's
name is mentioned by Smiles in his ** Industrial Biog-
raphy"® as one of the inventors of the planer, but no
further reference is made to him.
James Fox was the founder of a well-known firm of
machine-tool builders in Derby. He was originally a
butler, but his mechanical skill turned him toward the
design and building of lace machinery. The gentleman
in whose employ he had served furnished him with the
means of beginning business on his own account, and he
soon obtained work from the great firms of Arkwright
and Strutt, the founders of modern cotton manufacture.
His planer, built about 1814, was used in the manufac-
ture of this machinery. It is described by Samuel Hall,
a former workman under Fox, as follows : "It was essen-
tially the same in principle as the planing machine now
in general use, although differing in detail. It had a
self-acting ratchet motion for moving the slides of a
compound slide-rest, and a self-acting reversing tackle,
consisting of three bevel wheels, one a stud, one loose
on the driving shaft, and another on a socket, with a
pinion on the opposite end of the driving shaft running
on the socket. The other end was the place for the
driving pulley. A clutch-box was placed between the
54 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
two opposite wheels, which was made to slide on a
feather, so that by means of another shaft containing
levers and a tumbling ball, the box on reversing was
carried from one bevel-wheel to the opposite one. ' " This
planer was in regular use as late as 1859. The driving
and reversing mechanism described above is almost
exactly that used on Clement's great planer, built a dozen
years later. Fox is said to have also invented a screw-
cutting machine, an automatic gear cutter and a self-
acting lathe, but the evidence in regard to their dates is
George Eennie was the brother of Sir John Rennie.
They succeeded to the business founded by their father,
the elder John Rennie, one of Watt's best-known work-
men and next to Murdock the most important of his
assistants, who built the Albion Flour Mills in Black
Friars, where one of the first rotative engines was
installed about 1788. The mill was a great success until
it burned down a few years later. John Rennie 's con-
nection with it established his reputation and he shortly
after started out for himself as a millwright and founded
the business which his two sons carried on for many
years and which had a great influence throughout all
England. Sir William Fairbairn w^as one of those who
worked for George Rennie and furnishes another exam-
ple of the cumulative influence of a succession of strong
Matthew Murray was born at Stockton about 1765.
He w^as apprenticed to a blacksmith and soon became an
expert mechanic. He married before his term of appren-
ticeship expired and as it was difficult to find sufficient
work near Stockton, he left his wife behind him as soon
as he was free and set out for Leeds with his bundle
7 Ibid., p. 315.
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER 55
on his back. He obtained employment with, a John
Marshall who had begun the manufacture of flax machin-
ery near Adel. Murray suggested improvements which
brought him a present of £20 and rapid promotion until
he soon became the first mechanic in the shop. He sent
for his wife and settled down in Leeds, remaining with
Mr. Marshall for about twelve years. He formed a
partnership with James Fenton and David Wood and
started an engineering and machine-building factory at
Leeds in 1795. Here he began the manufacture of steam
engines and soon established a high reputation, pushing
Boulton & Watt hard. Murdock was sent down to Leeds,
called on Murray, was received cordially, and was shown
freely over the entire work. On visiting the Soho works
a short time afterward Murray was received cordially by
Murdock, and was invited to dinner but was told that
there was a rule against admitting anyone in the trade to
the works. Under the circumstances Murray was indig-
nant and declining the invitation to dinner left without
further delay. A little later Boulton & Watt attempted
to ''plug him up" by buying the property adjoining his
factory, and this tract of land remained vacant for over
50 years. He improved the D-slide valve and did much
work toward simplifying the design of the steam engine.
The flat surfaces required in this type of valve led to the
building of his planer. Mr. March, a well-known tool
manufacturer of the next generation, went to work for
Murray in 1814. Mr. March said the planer was in use
at that time. ''I recollect it very distinctly," he con-
tinues, ''and even the sort of framing on which it stood.
The machine was not patented, and like many inventions
in those days it was kept as much a secret as possible,
being locked up in a small room by itself, to which the
ordinary workmen could not obtain access. The year
in which I remember it being in use was, so far as I am
56 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
aware, long before any planing machine of a similar kind
had been invented. ' '®
Like many of the owners of that time Murray lived
directly opposite his works and he installed in his house
a steam heating apparatus which excited much wonder
and which must have been one of the first in use. He
built the first locomotive which was put to successful
commercial use. Trevithick had invented a steam road-
engine with a single steam cylinder and a large flywheel,
which had attracted considerable attention, but was
wholly impracticable. It was important, however, as it
had one of the first high-pressure engines, working above
atmospheric pressure. In 1811 Blenkinsop of Leeds,
taking his idea from Trevithick, had a number of loco-
motives built to operate a railway from the Middletown
collieries to Leeds, a distance of Si/o miles. Blenkinsop
was not a mechanic and the work was designed and exe-
cuted by Matthew Murray. Murray used two steam cyl-
inders instead of one, driving onto the same shaft with
cranks set at right angles, and therefore introduced one
of the most important features of modern locomotive
design. These engines were in daily use for many years
and were inspected by George Stephenson when he began
his development of the locomotive. Murray's design
formed the basis from which he started. The engines,
however, were operated by a cog-wheel driving onto a
continuous rack laid along the road bed. It was not until
a number of years later that Hedley and Stephenson
established the fact that the wheel friction of smooth
drivers would furnish adequate tractive power. The old
Blenkinsop engines, as they were called, hauled about
thirty coal wagons at a speed of 3i/4 miles an hour.
Murray's most important inventions were connected
with the flax industry and for these he obtained a gold
8 Ihia., p. 316.
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER 57
medal from the Society of Arts. At the time they were
developed, the flax trade was dying. Their effect was to
establish the British linen trade on a permanent and
secure foundation. All the machine tools used in his
establishment were designed and built by himself and
among these was the planer which was unquestionably
one of the earliest built. He made similar articles for
other firms and started a branch of engineering for which
Leeds became famous. He was a frank, open-hearted
man, and one who contributed greatly to the industrial
supremacy of England.
Joseph Clement was born in Westmoreland in 1779."
His father was a weaver, a man of little education but
of mental ability, a great lover of nature and something
of a mechanic. Joseph Clement himself had only the
merest elements of reading and writing. He started in
life as a thatcher and slater, but picked up the rudiments
of mechanics at the village blacksmith shop. Being
grateful to the blacksmith, he repaid him by making for
him a lathe which was a pretty creditable machine. On
this he himself made flutes and fifes for sale and also a
microscope for his father to use in his nature studies. As
early as 1804 he began to work on screw cutting and
made a set of die-stocks, although he had never seen any.
He worked in several small country shops, then in
Carlisle and in Glasgow, where he took lessons in draw-
ing from a Peter Nicholson and became one of the most
skillful draftsmen in England. Later he went to Aber-
deen and was earning three guineas ($15) a week design-
ing and fitting up power looms. By the end of 1813 he
had saved £100. With this he went to London, meaning
sooner or later to set up for himself. He first worked
for an Alexander Galloway, a ward politician and trades-
The best information on Clement comes from Smiles ' ' * Industrial Biog-
raphy," Chap. XIII.
58 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
man who owned a small shop. Galloway was a slovenly-
manager and left things to run themselves. When
Clement started in he found the tools so poor that he
could not do good work with them, and immediately set
to work truing them up, to the surprise of his shop-
mates who had settled down to the slipshod standards of
the shop. Seeing that Clement was capable of the highest
grade work, one of his shopmates told him to go to Bra-
mah's where such workmanship would' be appreciated.
He saw Bramah and engaged to work for him for a
month on trial. The result was so satisfactory that he
signed an agreement for five years, dated April 1, 1814,
under which he became chief draftsman and superin-
tendent of the Pimlico works. Clement threw himself
eagerly into the new work and took great satisfaction in
the high quality of work which was the standard in
Bramah 's establishment. Bramah was greatly pleased
with him and told him, *'If I had secured your services
five years since I would now have been a richer man by
many thousands of pounds." Bramah died, however,
within a year and his two sons returning from college
took charge of the business. They soon became jealous
of Clement's influence and by mutual consent the agree-
ment signed with their father was terminated. Clement
immediately went to Maudslay & Field's as chief drafts-
man and assisted in the development of the early marine
engines which they were building at that time. In 1817
he started in for himself in a small shop in Newington,
with a capital of £500 and his work there until his death
in 1844 is of great importance.
As already pointed out, he had been working for many
years on the problem of screw cutting. Maudslay had
carried this to a more refined point than any other
mechanic. Profiting by Maudslay 's experience, Clement
began the regular manufacture of taps and dies in 1828,
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER 59
using the thread standards developed by Mandslay as
his basis. He introduced the tap with a small squared
shank which would fall through the threaded hole and
save the time of backing out. He is said to have been
one of the first in England to employ revolving cutters,
using them to flute his taps. While he may have used
such cutters, he was certainly not the first to do so, as
they were in use in France at least thirty years earlier.
He did important work in developing the screw-cutting
lathe, again improving upon Maudslay's work and
increasing the accuracy of the device. He was given a
number of gold medals for various improvements in it,
as well as for his work on the planer. We have already
referred to his ''great planer" and will only say here
that of those who contributed to the early development
of this machine none have had a greater influence. He
executed the work on Charles Babbage's famous calcu-
lating machine, which attracted so much attention eighty
years ago and was probably the most refined and intri-
cate piece of mechanism constructed up to that time.
Clement was a rough and heavy-browed man, without
polish, who retained until the last his strong Westmore-
land dialect. At no time did he employ over thirty work-
men in his factory, but they were all of the very highest
class. Among them was Sir Joseph Whitworth, who
continued his work on screw threads and brought about
the ganeral use of what is now known as the Whitworth
Richard Roberts, the last of those mentioned as
inventors of the metal planer, was born in Wales in 1789.
Like most of the early mechanics he had little or no
education, and as soon as he was strong enough he began
work as a laborer in a quarry near his home. His
mechanical aptitude led him into odd jobs and he soon
became known for his dexterity. He finally determined
60 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
to become a meclianie and worked in several sliops in
the neighborhood. He was employed for a time as pat-
tern maker at John Wilkinson's works at Bradley, and
is one of the few links between Wilkinson, who made the
first modern metal-cutting tool — his boring machine —
and the later generation of tool builders.
He drifted about, a jack-of-all-trades — turner, mill-
wright, pattern maker and wheelwright — to Birming-
ham, Liverpool, Manchester and finally up to London,
where, after being with Holtzapffel for a short time, he
found work with Maudslay in 1814 and remained with
him several years. His experience here was valuable as
he came in contact with the best mechanical practice.
The memoir of Roberts in the "Transactions of the
Institution of Civil Engineers"" states that he worked
on the Portsmouth block machinery, but this could
hardly have been true, as that machinery was in opera-
tion by 1808. He ceased roving and did so well that he
determined to return to the North and begin business
He started at Manchester in 1817 and there he spent
the best years of his life. Few inventors have been more
prolific or more versatile. Within a year or two he had
made one of the first planers, already described; had
invented the back-geared headstock, having the cone
pulley running loose upon the main spindle," sho^vn in
Fig. 21, and made other improvements in the screw-cut-
ting lathe; invented the first successful gas meter and
built gear-cutting, broaching and slotting machines and
an improved beam-scale. Holtzapffel says: ''Probably
no individual has originated so many useful varieties of
drilling machines as Mr. Richard Roberts." Through-
out his book he frequently illustrates and describes tools
10 Vol. XXIV, p. 536. 1864.
11 Ibid., p. 537.
Figure 20. Roberts' Planer, Built in 1817
Figure 21. Roberts' Back-Geared Lathe
INVENTORS OF THE PLANER 61
and macliinery designed by Roberts, crediting him with
the invention of the slotter and key-seater, which he
thinks was an outgrowth of Brunei's mortising machine,
Fig. 11. Eoberts' punching and shearing machinery was
the standard for that time.^^
By 1825 his reputation had so increased that his firm,
Sharp, Roberts & Company, was asked by a committee
of the cotton manufacturers of Manchester to undertake
the development of an automatic spinning mule. The
spinners were the highest paid labor in Lancashire tex-
tile industry, but they were difficult to work with and
prone to strike on a moment's notice, closing the mills
and throwing other workmen out of employment. The
operators asked Roberts repeatedly to help them but he
gave them no encouragement, as the problem was con-
ceded to be difficult and he said he was not familiar with
textile machinery. He had been thinking over the prob-
lem, however, and the third time they called on him he
said that he now thought he could construct the required
machinery. The result was the invention in 1825 of his
delicate and complex automatic spinning mule in which
hundreds of spindles "run themselves" with only the
attention of a few unskilled helpers to watch for broken
threads and mend them. This was one of the great tex-
tile inventions and has had an enormous influence on the
development of the cotton industry. The next year,
1826, he went to Miilhouse in Alsace and laid the founda-
tion of modern French cotton manufacture. Later he
invented and patented a number of other important
With the development of the railway his firm began the
manufacture of locomotives. They built more than 1500,
and established a reputation equal to that of Stephenson
12 Holtzapffel : "Turning and Mechanical Manipulation," Vol. II, pp.
568, 900, 920-922. London, 1847.
62 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
& Company in Newcastle. The engines were built inter-
changeably to templates and gauges, and Roberts' works
were one of the first in England to grasp and use the
modern system of interchangeable manufacture.
In addition to all that has been mentioned, he invented
the iron billiard table, a successful punching and shear-
ing machine, the most powerful electro-magnet then
made, a turret clock, a cigar-making machine and a sys-
tem of constructing steamships and equipping them with
twin screws having independent engines.
With a wonderful mechanical genius, he was lacking in
worldly wisdom and was a poor business man. He sev-
ered his connection with Sharp, Eoberts & Company,
became involved financially and finally died at London in
1864 in poverty. At his death a popular subscription,
headed by Sir "William Fairbairn and many of the nobil-
ity, was started to provide for his only daughter as a
memorial of the debt which England owed him. The
memoir of him in the * ' Transactions of the Institution of
Civil Engineers" closes mth the following words: "The
career of Mr. Roberts was remarkable, and it should be
carefully written by some one who could investigate
impartially the numerous inventions and improvements
to which claim could justly be laid for him, and who, at
the same time, would, with equal justice, show where his
inventions have been pirated." It is a great pity that
this was never done.
He was a rugged, straightforward, kindly man, of
great inventive power. He improved nearly everything
he touched or superseded it entirely by something better,
and neither his name nor his work should be forgotten.
GEARING AND MILLWORK
By 1830 the use of machine tools was becoming gen-
eral ; they were being regularly manufactured and their
design was crystallizing. It was the period of archi-
tectural embellishment when no tool was complete with-
out at least a pair of Doric columns, and planers were
furnished in the Greek or Gothic style. As the first
machine frames were made of wood, much of the work
probably being done by cabinet makers, it was natural
that they should show the same influence that furniture
did. It took several generations of mechanics to work
out the simpler lines of the later machines.
The application of scientific forms for gear teeth came
at about this time with the general development of the
machine tool. The suggestion of the use of epicyclic and
involute curves is much older than most of us realize.
The first idea of them is ascribed to Roemer, a Danish
mathematician, who is said to have pointed out the
advantages of the epicyclic curve in 1674. De la Hire,
a Frenchman, suggested it a few years later, and went
further, showing how the direction of motion might be
changed by toothed wheels. On the basis of this, the
invention of the bevel-gear has been attributed to him.
Willis,' however, has pointed out that he missed the
essential principle of rolling cones, as the conical lantern
wheel which he used was placed the wrong way, its apex
pointing away from, instead of coinciding with, the
1 * * Principles of Mechanism, ' ' p. 49. London, 1841.
64 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
intersection of the axes. De la Hire also investigated
the involute and considered it equally suitable for tooth
outlines. Euler, in 1760, and Kaestner, in 1771,
improved the method of applying the involute, and
Camus, a French mathematician, did much to crystallize
the modern principles of gearing. The two who had the
most influence were Camus and Robert Willis, a pro-
fessor of natural philosophy in Cambridge, whose name
still survives in his odontograph and tables. All of the
later writers base their work on the latter 's essay on
*'The Teeth of Wheels, '' which appeared originally in
the second volume of the ''Transactions of the Institu-
tion of Civil Engineers," 1837. Willis' ''Principles of
Mechanism," published in 1841, which included the
above, laid down the general principles of mechanical
motion and transmission machinery. In fact, many of
the figures used in his book are found almost unchanged
in the text-books of today. Smeaton is said to have first
introduced cast-iron gears in 1769 at the Carron Iron
Works near Glasgow, and Arkwright used iron bevels
in 1775. All of these, except the last two, were mathe-
maticians ; and no phase of modern machinery owes more
to pure theory than the gearing practice of today.
Camus gave lectures on mathematics in Paris when
he was twelve years old. At an early age he had attained
the highest academic honors in his own and foreign
countries, and had become examiner of engines and pro-
fessor in the Royal Academy of Architecture in Paris.
He published a "Course of Mathematics," in the second
volume of which were two books, or sections, devoted
to the consideration of the teeth of wheels, by far the
fullest and clearest treatment of this subject then pub-
lished. These were translated separately, the first
English edition appearing in London in 1806, and the
GEARING AND MILLWORK 65
second in 1837.^ In these the theory of spur-, bevel-,
and pin-gearing is fully developed for epicycloidal teeth.
In the edition of 1837, there is an appendix by John Haw-
kins, the translator, which is of unusual interest. He
gives the result of an inquiry which he made in regard
to the English gear practice at that time.^ As the edi-
tion is long since out of print and to be found only in the
larger libraries, we give his findings rather fully. His
inquiries were addressed to the principal manufacturers
of machinery in which gearing was used, and included,
among others, Maudslay & Field, Rennie, Bramah, Clem-
ent, and Sharp, Roberts & Company. To quote Hawkins :
A painful task now presents itself, which the editor would
gladly avoid, if he could do so without a dereliction of duty;
namely, to declare that there is a lamentable deficiency of the
knowledge of principles, and of correct practice, in a majority
of those most respectable houses in forming the teeth of their
Some of the engineers and millwrights said that they followed
Camus, and formed their teeth from the epicycloid derived from
the diameter of the opposite wheel. . . .
One said, "We have no method but the rule of thumb;"
another, "We thumb out the figure;" by both which expres-
sions may be understood that they left their workmen to take
their own course.
Some set one point of a pair of compasses in the center of a
tooth, at the primitive circle (pitch-circle), and with the other
point describe a segment of a circle for the off side of the next
tooth. . . . Others set the point of the compasses at different
distances from the center of the tooth, nearer or farther off ;
also within or without the line of centers, each according to
some inexplicable notion received from his grandfather or picked
up by chance. It is said inexplicable, because no tooth bounded
2 "A Treatise on the Teeth of Wheels." Translated from the French
of M. Camus by John Isaac Hawkins, C.E. London, 1837.
3 /bid., p. 175.
66 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
at the sides by segments of circles can work together without
such friction as will cause an unnecessary wearing away.
It is admitted that with a certain number of teeth of a cer-
tain proportionate length as compared with the radii, there may
be a segment of a circle drawn from some center which would
give "very near" a true figure to the tooth; but "very near"
ought to be expunged from the vocabulary of engineers and
millwrights; for that "very near" will depend on the chance of
hitting the right center and right radius, according to the diam-
eter of the wheel, and the number of teeth; against which
hitting, the odds are very great indeed.
Among the Mathematical Instrument Makers, Chronometer,
Clock and Watch Makers, the answers to the inquiries were, by
some, "We have no rule but the eye in the formation of the
teeth of our wheels;" by others, "We draw the tooth correctly
on a large scale to assist the eye in judging of the figure of the
small teeth;" by another, "In Lancashire, they make the teeth
of watch wheels of what is called the bay leaf pattern ; they are
formed altogether by the eye of the workman ; and they would
stare at you for a simpleton to hear you talk about the epicycloi-
dal curve. ' ' Again, ' ' The astronomical instrument makers hold
the bay leaf pattern to be too pointed a form for smooth action ;
they make the end of the tooth more rounding than the figure of
the bay leaf. ' '
It is curious to observe with what accuracy the practiced eye
will determine forms. . . . How important it is, then, that these
Lancashire bay leaf fanciers should be furnished with pattern
teeth of large dimensions cut accurately in metal or at least in
cardboard; and that they should frequently study them, and
compare their work with the patterns. These Lancashire work-
men are called bay leaf fanciers, because they cannot be bay
leaf copiers; since it is notorious that there are not two bay
leaves of the same figure.
Hkwkins then describes a method of generating cor-
rectly curved teeth, or rather of truing them after they
had been roughly formed, devised by Mr. Saxton of
GEARING AND MILLWORK 67
Philadelpliia, "who is justly celebrated for his exces-
sively acute feeling of the nature and value of accuracy
in mechanism ; and who is reputed not to be excelled by
any man in Europe or America for exquisite nicety of
workmanship." By this method the faces of the teeth
were milled true by a cutter, the side of which lay in a
plane through the axis of a describing circle which was
rolled around a pitch circle clamped to the side of the
gear being cut. It is by this general method that the
most accurate gears and gear cutters are formed today.
While he by no means originated the system, Hawkins
seems first to have grasped the practical advantages of
the involute form of teeth. Breaking away from the
influence of Camus, the very authority he was translat-
ing, who seems to have controlled the thought of every-
one else, Hawkins writes the following rather remarkable
Siace M. Camus has treated of no other curve than the epi-
cycloid, it would appear that he considered it to supersede all
others for the figure of the teeth of wheels and pinions. And
the editor must candidly acknowledge that he entertained the
same opinion until after the greater part of the foregoing
sheets were printed off; but on critically examining the proper-
ties of the involute with a view to the better explaining of its
application to the formation of the teeth of wheels and pinions,
the editor has discovered advantages which had before escaped
his notice, owing, perhaps, to his prejudice in favor of the epi-
cycloid, from having, during a long life, heard it extolled above
all other curves ; a prejudice strengthened too by the supremacy
given to it by Be la Hire, Doctor Robison, Sir David Brewster,
Dr. Thomas Young, Mr. Thomas Reid, Mr. Buchannan, and
many others, who have, indeed, described the involute as a curve
by which equable motion might be communicated from wheel to
wheel, but scarce any of whom have held it up as equally eligible
*Ihid., pp. 160 et seq.
68 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
with the epicycloid; and owing also to his perfect conviction,
resulting from strict research, that a wheel and pinion, or two
wheels, accurately formed according to the epicycloidal curve,
would work with the least possible degree of friction, and with
the greatest durability.
But the editor had not sufficiently adverted to the case where
one wheel or pinion drives, at the same time, two or more wheels
or pinions of different diameters, for which purpose the epi-
cycloid is not perfectly applicable, because the form of the tooth
of the driving wheel cannot be generated by a circle equal to
the radius of more than one of the driven wheels or pinions.
In considering this case, he found that the involute satisfies all
the conditions of perfect figure, for wheels of any sizes, to work
smoothly in wheels of any other sizes; although, perhaps, not
equal to the epicycloid for pinions of few leaves.
With Joseph Clement, he experimented somewhat to
determine the relative end-thrust of involute and
cycloidal teeth, deciding that the advantage, if any, lay
with the former. He details methods of laying out
involute teeth and concludes :
Before dismissing the involute it may be well to remark that
what has been said respecting that curve should be considered as
a mere sketch, there appearing to be many very interesting
points in regard to its application in the formation of the teeth
of wheels which require strict investigation and experiment.
It is the editor's intention to pursue the inquiry and should
he discover a clear theory and systematic practice in the use of
the involute, he shall feel himself bound to give his views to the
public in a separate treatise. He thinks he perceives a wide
field, but is free to confess that his vision is as yet obscure. What
he has given on the involute is more than was due from him, as
editor of Camus, who treated only of the epicycloid, but the
zeal of a new convert to any doctrine is not easily restrained.
So far as the writer knows this is the first real appre-
ciation of the value of the involute curve for tooth out-
GEARING AND MILLWORK 69
lines, and Hawkins should be given a credit which he
has not received,'^ especially as he points the way, for
the first time, to the possibility of a set of gears any one
of which will gear correctly with any other of the set.
It was thought at that time that there should be two
diameters of describing circles used in each pair of gears,
each equal to the pitch radius of the opposite wheel or
pinion. This gave radial flanks for all teeth, but made
the faces different for each pair. The use of a single
size of describing circle throughout an entire set of
cycloidal gears, whereby they could be made to gear
together in any combination, was not known until a little
Professor Willis seems to be the first to have pointed
out the proper basis of this interchangeability in cycloidal
gearing. With the clearness which characterized all
his work he states: ''If for a set of wheels of the
same pitch a constant describing circle be taken and
employed to trace those portions of the teeth which pro-
ject beyond each pitch line by rolling on the exterior
circumference, and those which lie within it by rolling on
its interior circumference, then any two wheels of this set
will work correctly together. . . . The diameter of the
describing circle must not be made greater than the
B John Isaac Hawkins was a member of the Institution of Civil Engi-
neers. He was the son of a watch and clock maker and was born at
Taunton, Somersetshire, in 1772. At an early age he went to the United
States and "entered college at Jersey, Pennsylvania, as a student of medi-
cine, ' ' but did not follow it up. He was a fine musician and had a marked
aptitude for mechanics. He returned to England, traveled a great deal
on the Continent, and acquired a wide experience. He was consulted
frequently on all kinds of engineering activities, one of them being the
attempt, in 1808, to drive a tunnel under the Thames. For many years
he practiced in London as a patent agent and consulting engineer. He
went to the United States again in the prosecution of some of his inventions,
and died in Elizabeth, N, J., in 1865. From a Memoir in the "Transac-
tions of the Institution of Civil Engineers," Vol. XXV, p. 512. 1865.
70 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
radius of the pitch-circle of any of the wheels. . . .
On the contrary, when the describing circle is less in
diameter than the radius of the pitch-circle, the root
of the tooth spreads, and it acquires a very strong
form. . . . The best rule appears to be that the diameter
of the constant describing circle in a given set of wheels
shall be made equal to the least radius of the set. ' '® This
practice is standard for cycloidal gearing to this day.
In his '* Principles of Mechanism," Willis did the work
on involute gearing which Hawkins set before himself;
and also describes **a different mode of sizing the teeth"
which had **been adopted in Manchester," for which he
suggests the name ''diametral pitch. "^
« Willis: "Principles of Mechanism," Articles 114-116. London, 1841.
See also "Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers," Vol. II,
7 Diametral pitch, which is credited to John George Bodmer, was long
known as * ' Manchester pitch. ' '
FAIRBAIRN AND BODMER
With the improvement in machinery came improve-
ment in millwork and power transmission. We quote
in the next chapter Nasmyth's description of the mill-
work of his boyhood.^ Two of the mechanics most influ-
ential in the change from these conditions were Sir
William Fairbairn and his younger brother, Sir Peter
Fairbairn. They were born in Scotland but spent their
boyhood in poverty in the neighborhood of Newcastle,
in the same village with George Stephenson.
Sir William Fairbairn went to London in 1811 and
obtained work with the Rennies. The shop, however,
was filled with union men who set their shoulders against
all outsiders. After struggling for a foothold for six
weeks, he was set adrift, almost penniless, and turned
his face northward. He obtained odd jobs in Hertford-
shire as a millwright, and returned again to London in
a few weeks, where he finally found work and remained
for two years, most of the time at Mr. Penn's engine
shop in Greenwich. In the spring of 1813 he worked his
way through southern England and Wales to Dublin,
where he spent the summer constructing nail-making
machinery for a Mr. Robinson, who had determined to
introduce the industry into Ireland. The machinery,
however, was never set at work owing to the opposition
of the workmen, and the trade left Ireland permanently.
Fairbairn went from Dublin to Liverpool and pro-
1 See page 85.
72 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
ceeded to Manchester, the city to which Nasmyth, Rob-
erts, Whitworth and Bodmer all gravitated. He found
work with an Adam Parkinson, remaining with him for
two years as a millwright, at good wages. ''In those
days," wrote Fairbairn, ''a good millwright was a man
of large resources ; he was generally well educated, and
could draw out his own designs and work at the lathe;
he had a knowledge of mill machinery, pumps, and
cranes, could turn his hand to the bench or the forge
with equal adroitness and facility. If hard pressed, as
was frequently the case in country places far from towns,
he could devise for himself expedients which enabled
him to meet special requirements, and to complete his
work without assistance. This was the class of men
with whom I associated in early life, — proud of their
calling, fertile in resources, and aware of their value in
a country where the industrial arts were rapidly develop-
ing. ' '^
In 1817 Fairbairn and James Lillie, a shopmate,
started out as general millwrights. They hired a small
shed for 12 shillings a week and equipped it ^vith a lathe
of their own making, to turn shafts, and **a strong
Irishman to drive it." Their first order of importance
came from Mr. Adam Murray, a large cotton spinner,
who took them over his mill and asked them whether
they were competent to renew his main drive. They
boldly replied that they were willing and able to execute
the work, but were more than apprehensive when Mr.
Murray told them he would call the next day and look
over their workshop to satisfy himself. He came, pon-
dered over "the nakedness of the land," ''sized up" the
young partners and told them to go ahead. Although a
rush job, the work was done on time and so well that
Murray recommended the new firm to Mr. John Kennedy,
2 "Useful Information for Engineers, Second Series," p. 212.
FAIRBAIRN AND BODMER 73
the largest cotton spinner in the kingdom. For his
firm, MacConnel & Kennedy, Fairbairn & Lillie equipped
a large, new mill in 1818, which was an immediate suc-
cess and at once put the struggling partners in the front
rank of engineering millwrights.
''They found the machinery driven by large, square
cast-iron shafts on which huge wooden drums, some of
them as much as four feet in diameter, revolved at the
rate of about forty revolutions a minute; and the coup-
lings were so badly fitted that they might be heard
creaking and groaning a long way off. . . . Another
serious defect lay in the construction of the shafts, and
in the mode of fixing the couplings, which were constantly
giving way, so that a week seldom passed without one
or more breaks-down.'"
Fairbairn remedied this by the introduction of
wrought-iron shafts, driven at double or treble the speed,
and by improving and standardizing the design of pul-
leys, hangers and couplings. In the course of a few years
a revolution was effected, and by 1840 the shafting speeds
in textile mills had risen to from 300 to 350 revolutions
William Fairbairn 's influence was felt in many ways.
His treatise on ''Mills and Millwork" and numerous
papers before the learned societies were authoritative
for many years. He improved the design of water-
wheels, and was one of the first to undertake iron ship-
building as a special industry. He established a plant
at Millwall, on the Thames, "wh^re in the course of
some fourteen years he built upwards of a hundred and
twenty iron ships, some of them above two thousand
tons burden. It was, in fact, the first great iron ship-
building yard in Britain."* To facilitate the building
3 Smiles: "Industrial Biography," p. 389.
*Ibid., p. 394.
74 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
of his iron ships he invented, about 1839, improved rivet-
ing machinery. With Robert Stephenson he built the
Conway and Britannia Tubular Bridges. Probably no
man in England did so much to extend the use of iron
into new fields, and his formulas for the strength of
boilers, tubing, shafting, etc., were standard for years.
Like Nasmyth, William Fairbairn has left an autobiog-
raphy which gives a full account of his career. It is
not, however, so well written or so interesting. He died
in 1874, at the age of eighty-five, loaded with every honor
the nation could bestow.
His younger brother. Sir Peter Fairbairn, of Leeds,
was apprenticed to a millwright while William was a
journeyman mechanic in London. A few years later he
became foreman in a machine shop constructing cotton
machinery, and for ten years he worked in England,
Scotland and on the Continent, wholly on textile machin-
ery. In 1828 he came to Leeds, in the first flush of its
manufacturing prosperity. Mr. Marshall, who had
helped Matthew Murray, gave him his start and encour-
aged him to take over the Wellington Foundry, which,
under Fairbairn 's management, was for thirty years one
of the greatest machine shops in England. To the manu-
facture of textile machinery he added that of general
machinery and large tools for cutting, boring, rifling,
planing and slotting. He had a great reputation in his
day, but his work seems to have been more that of a
builder of standard tools than an originator of new tools
Charles Holtzapffel, another well-known engineer of
that generation, was the son of a German mechanic who
came to London in 1787. He received a good education,
theoretical as well as practical, and became a skilled
mechanician and a tool builder of wide influence. His
principal book, ** Turning and Mechanical Manipula-
FAIRBAIRN AND BODMER 75
tion/' published in 1843 in three volumes, is an admirable
piece of work. Covering a field much wider than its
title indicates, it is the fullest and best statement of the
art at that time ; and scattered through it there is a large
amount of very reliable mechanical history.
By 1840 the number of men engaged in tool building
was increasing rapidly, and it is impossible to consider
many English tool builders who were well known and
who did valuable work, such as Lewis of Manchester,
B. Hick & Son of Bolton, and others. One noteworthy
man, however, ought to be mentioned — John George
Bodmer, who was neither an Englishman, nor, primarily,
a tool builder.^ He was a Swiss who worked in Baden
and Austria, as well as in England, and his fertile inge-
nuity covered so many fields that a list of the subjects
covered by his patents occupy six pages in the ' ' Transac-
tions of the Institution of Civil Engineers. ' '
Bodmer was born at Zurich in 1786. After serving his
apprenticeship he opened a small shop for millwright
work near that city. A year or so later he formed a
partnership with Baron d'Eichthal and with workmen
brought from St. Etienne, France, he started a factory
in an old convent at St. Blaise, in the Black Forest, first
for the manufacture of textile machinery and later, in
1806, of small arms.
*' Instead of confining himself to the ordinary process
of gim-making by manual labour, Mr. Bodmer invented
and successfully applied a series of special machines
by which the various parts — more especially those of the
lock — were shaped and prepared for immediate use, so
as to insure perfect uniformity and to economise labour.
Amongst these machines there was also a planing
machine on a small scale; and Mr. Bodmer has been
6 For a ' ' Memoir ' ' of Bodmer see ' ' Transactions of the Institution of
CivU Engineers," Vol. XXVIII, p. 573. London, 1868.
76 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
heard to observe how strange it was that it should not
have occurred to him to produce a larger machine of the
same kind, with a view to its use for general purposes. "°
He does not seem to have used the process of milling
until much later. Bodmer was thus among the first to
discern and to realize many of the possibilities of inter-
changeable manufacture, Eli Whitney having begun the
manufacture of firearms on the interchangeable basis
at New Haven, Conn., about 1800, only a few years
before. Why Bodmer 's attempt should have failed of the
influence which Whitney's had is not quite clear. A
possible explanation may lie in the fact that the use of
limit gauges does not seem to have been a part of Bod-
mer 's plan. This use was recognized by the American
gun makers as an essential element in the interchange-
able system almost from the start.
Bodmer was appointed, by the Grand Duke of Baden,
director of the iron works and military inspector with
the rank of captain and for a number of years much of
his energy was given to the development of small arms
and field artillery. He invented and built a 12-pound
breech-loading cannon in 1814, which he had tested by
the French artillery officers. It failed to satisfy them,
and was sent a few years later to England, where it was
decently buried by the Board of Ordnance.
The following year he built a flour-mill at Zurich for
his brother. Instead of each set of stones being driven
by a small waterwheel, all the machinery connected with
the mill was driven by a single large wheel through mill
gearing. The millstones were arranged in groups of four.
**Each set could be started and stopped separately, and
was besides furnished with a contrivance for accurately
adjusting the distance between the top and bottom
stones. By means of a hoist of simple construction, con-
e Ibid., p. 576. (The italics are ours.)
FAIRBAIRN AND BODMER 77
sisting in fact only of a large and broad-flanged strap-
pulley and a rope-drum, both mounted on the same
spindle (the latter being hinged at one end, so that it
could be raised and lowered by means of a rope), the
sacks of grain or flour could be made to ascend and to
descend at pleasure, and the operatives themselves
could pass from one floor to any other by simply tight-
ening and releasing the rope/ The shafting of this mill
was made of wrought iron, and the wheels, pulleys,
hangers, pedestals, frames, &c., of cast iron, much in
accordance with modern practice."^ This was several
years before Fairbairn and Lillie began their improve-
ments at Manchester.
Bodmer went to England for the first time in 1816
and visited all the principal machine shops, textile mills
and iron works. He returned in 1824 and again in 1833,
this time remaining many years. On his second trip he
established a small factory for the manufacture of textile
machinery at Bolton, in which was one of the first, if not
the first, traveling crane.^ At the beginning of his
last and long residence in England, Bodmer appointed
Sharp, Roberts & Company makers of his improved cot-
ton machinery, which they also undertook to recommend
and introduce. This arrangement was not successful, and
a few years later, in partnership with Mr. H. H. Birley,
Bodmer started a machine shop and foundry in Man-
chester for building machinery.
Nearly all of the machinery for the Manchester plant
was designed and built by Bodmer himself and it forms
the subject of two remarkable patents, granted, one in
1839 and the other in 1841.^° The two patents cover in
7 Apparently the modern belt conveyor.
8 "Memoir," p. 579.
9 Ibid., p. 581.
10 The first of these is described in the American Machinist of March
13, 1902, p. 369.
78 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
reality nearly forty distinct inventions in machinery and
tools ' ' for cutting, planing, turning, drilling, and rolling
metal," and '' screwing stocks, taps and dies, and cer-
tain other tools." ''Gradually, nearly the whole of
these tools were actually constructed and set to work.
The small lathes, the large lathes, and the planing, drill-
ing, and slotting machines were systematically arranged
in rows, according to a carefully-prepared plan; the
large lathes being provided, overhead, with small travel-
ing cranes, fitted with pulley-blocks, for the purpose of
enabling the workmen more economically and conven-
iently to set the articles to be operated upon in the
lathes, and to remove them after being finished. Small
cranes were also erected in sufficient numbers within
easy reach of the planing machines, &c., besides which
several lines of rails traversed the shop from end to
end for the easy conveyance on trucks of the parts of
machinery to be operated upon. ' "^ There were, in addi-
tion to these, however, ''a large radial boring machine
and a w^heel-cutting machine capable of taking in wheels
of 15 feet in diameter, and of splendid workmanship,
especially in regard to the dividing wheel, and a number
of useful break or gap-lathes, were also constructed and
used with advantage. It is especially necessary to men-
tion a number of small, 6-inch, screwing lathes, which,
by means of a treadle acting upon the driving gear
overhead, and a double slide-rest — one of the tools
moving into cut as the other was withdrawn, — screw
cutting could uninterruptedly proceed both in the for-
ward and in the backward motion of the toolslide, and
therefore a given amount of work accomplished in half
the time which it would occupy by the use of the ordinary
""Memoir," p. 588,
FAIRBAIRN AND BODMER 79
means. Some of the slide-lathes were also arranged for
taking simultaneously a roughing and finishing cut.""
The latter part of Bodmer's life was spent in and near
Vienna, working on engines and boilers, beet sugar
machinery and ordnance; and at Zurich, where he died
in 1864, in his seventy-ninth year.
Bodmer does not seem to have originated any new
types of machine tools, with the exception of the vertical
boring-mill, which he clearly describes, terming it a
** circular planer." It was little used in England, and
has been considered an American development.
It is hard now to determine how far Bodmer has influ-
enced tool design. It was much, anyway. Speaking of
the patent just referred to, John Richards, who has him-
self done so much for tool design, says, "Here was the
beginning of the practice that endured." He has
described some of Bodmer's tools in a series of articles
which show a standard of design greatly in advance of
the practice of his time." Another writer says of Bod-
mer, **He seems always to have thoroughly understood
the problems he undertook to solve." ''One is lost in
admiration at the versatility of the inventive genius
which could at any one time — and that so early in the his-
tory of machine design — evolve such excellent concep-
tions of what was needed in so many branches of the
Bodmer was elected a member of the Institution of
Civil Engineers in 1835, and his standing among his
contemporaries is shown by the fact that thirty-five
pages in the "Transactions" of the Institution for 1868
are given to his memoir. For a foreigner to have won
12 Ibid., p. 597-598.
13 American Machinist, Vol. XXII, pp. 352, 379, 402, 430, 457, 478, 507,
531, 559, 586, 607, 637.
1* Ibid., Vol. XXV, p. 369.
80 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
respect and distinction in the fields of textile machinery,
machine tools and steam engines in England, where all
three originated, was surely ''carrying coals to New-
castle." Not only did he succeed in these fields, but
he invented the traveling crane, the chain grate for boil-
ers, the Meyer type of cut-off valve gear, the rolling of
locomotive tires, and introduced the system of diametral
pitch, which was long known as the ''Manchester pitch,"
from its having originated in his plant at Manchester.
Though Bodmer was never regularly engaged in the
building of machine tools, his contribution to that field
is far too great to be forgotten.
We know more of the life of Nasmyth than of any
of the other tool builders. Not only did Smiles give an
account of him in ''Industrial Biography,"^ but for-
tunately Nasmyth was induced in later life to write his
recollections, which were published in the form of an
autobiography, edited by Smiles.^ With the exception
of Sir William Fairbairn, he is the only great engineer
who has done this. His intimate knowledge of the rise
of tool building, the distinguished part he himself had
in it, and his keen and generous appreciation of others,
make his record valuable. We have already quoted him
in connection with Maudslay, and wherever possible will
let him tell his own story.
Unlike most of the early mechanics, James Nasmyth
came from a family of distinction dating from the thir-
teenth century. They lost their property in the wars of
the Covenanters and his direct ancestors took refuge in
Edinburgh, leaving their impress on the city as the
arcnitects and builders of many of its most famous and
beautiful buildings. Alexander Nasmyth, the father of
James, was a well-known artist, the founder of the
Scotch School of Landscape Painting, and a friend of
Burns, Eaeburn and Sir Walter Scott. He was a land-
scape architect and enough of an engineer to be included
1 "Industrial Biography," Chap. XV. Boston, 1864,
2 "James Nasmyth, Engineer, An Autobiography,'' edited by Samuel
Smiles. London, 1883.
82 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
in Walker's engraving of ''The Eminent Men of
Science Living in 1807-1808," reproduced in Fig. 8. He
invented the *' bow-string" truss in 1794, the first one of
which was erected over a deep ravine in the island of
St. Helena, and also the setting of rivets by pressure
instead of hammering. This last, by the way, was the
result of trying to do a surreptitious job on Sunday
without outraging the fearsome Scotch ''Sawbath."
Alexander Nasmyth was one of the six men on the first
trip made on Dalswinton Loch, October 14, 1788, by the
steamboat built by Symington for Patrick Miller. This
was the second trip of a steam-propelled vessel, the first
one being that of John Fitch on the Delaware, August
22, 1787. It was an iron boat with double hulls and made
about five miles an hour. It barely escaped being the
first iron vessel, as "Wilkinson's iron boat on the Severn
was launched less than a year before. The picture of
this trial trip which has come do^vn to us was made by
Alexander Nasmyth at the time.^
James Nasmyth was born in 1808, the tenth in a family
of eleven children. Like all of his brothers and sisters,
he inherited his father's artistic tastes. If he had not
been an engineer he would probably have become dis-
tinguished as an artist. He was ambidextrous, and to
the end of his life his skill with his pencil was a constant
source of pleasure and convenience. The notebook in
which the later record of his mathematical ideas is con-
tained, is crowded with funny little sketches, landscapes,
little devils and whimsical figures running in and out
among the calculations. The leaf in this book on which
he made his first memorandum of the steam hammer is
shown in Fig. 23. In 1817, Watt, then in his eighty-first
year, visited Edinburgh and was entertained at the
Earl of Buchan's, where Alexander Nasmyth met him
3 Ihid., pp. 28-31.
Figure 22. James Nasmyth
from an etching by paul rajon
JAIVIES NAS]\IYTH 83
at dinner. Watt delighted all with his kindly talk, and
astonished them with the extent and profundity of his
information. The following day Watt visited Nasmyth
to examine his artistic and other works. James
Nasmyth, a nine-year-old boy, returning from school,
met him at the doorstep as he was leaving, and never
forgot the tall, bent figure of ' ' the Great Engineer. ' '
Nasmyth 's father had a private workshop which was
well equipped for those days. Nasmyth played there
from childhood and had mastered the use of all the tools
while still a schoolboy. ''By means of my father's excel-
lent foot lathe," he says, *'I turned out spinning tops
in capital style, so much so that I became quite noted
amongst my school companions. They would give any
price for them. The peeries were turned with perfect
accuracy, and the steel shod, or spinning pivot, was cen-
tered so as to correspond with the heaviest diameter at
the top. They could spin twice as long as the bought
peeries. When at full speed they would 'sleep,' that
is, turn round without a particle of waving. This was
considered high art as regarded top-spinning."* He
established a brisk business in these, in small brass
cannon, and especially in large cellar keys, which he
converted into a sort of hand cannon, with a small touch-
hole bored into the barrel and a sliding brass collar
which allowed them to be loaded, primed, and then car-
ried around in the pocket.
He haunted all the shops and foundries in the neigh-
borhood, making friends with the skilled workmen and
absorbing the mysteries of foundry work, forging,
hardening and tempering, and those arts which were
handed down from man to man. Speaking of Patter-
son's old shop, Nasmyth says: "To me it was the most
instructive school of practical mechanics. Although I
* Tbid., p. 89.
84 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
was only about thirteen at the time, I used to lend a
hand, in which hearty zeal made up for want of strength.
I look back on these days, especially to the Saturday
afternoons spent in the workshops of this admirably con-
ducted iron foundry, as a most important part of my
education as a mechanical engineer. I did not read
about such things; for words were of little use. But I
saw and handled, and thus all the ideas in connection
with them became permanently rooted in my mind. . . .
''One of these excellent men, with whom I was fre-
quently brought into contact, was William Watson. He
took special charge of all that related to the construc-
tion and repairs of steam engines, waterwheels, and
millwork generally. He was a skillful designer and
draughtsman and an excellent pattern maker. His
designs were drawn in a bold and distinct style, on large
deal boards, and were passed into the hands of the
mechanics to be translated by them into actual work."®
After telling of various workmen, Nasmyth says:
"One of the most original characters about the foundry,
however, was Johnie Sjmie. He took charge of the old
Boulton & Watt steam engine, which gave motion to
the machinery of the works. . . . Johnie was a complete
incarnation of technical knowledge. He was the Jack-
of-all-trades of the establishment; and the standing
counsel in every out-of-the-way case of managing and
overcoming mechanical difficulties. He was the super-
intendent of the boring machines. In those days the
boring of a steam engine cylinder was considered high
art in excelsis! Patterson's firm was celebrated for the
accuracy of its boring.
*'I owe Johnie Syme a special debt of gratitude, as
it was he who first initiated me into that most impor-
tant of all technical processes in practical mechanism —
B Hid., p. 92.
JAMES NASMYTH 85
the art of hardening and tempering steel."® From
another of his friends, Tom Smith, Nasmyth picked up
the rudiments of practical chemistry, as it was then
Traveling with his father from time to time, he had
good opportunities for meeting many distinguished
engineers and of visiting the great iron works, the most
famous of which was the Carron Iron Works. *'The
Carron Iron Works," he writes, ''are classic ground to
engineers. They are associated with the memory of
Roebuck, Watt, and Miller of Dalswinton. For there.
Roebuck and Watt began the first working steam engine ;
Miller applied the steam engine to the purposes of navi-
gation, and invented the Carronade gun. The works
existed at an early period in the history of British iron
manufacture. Much of the machinery continued to be
of wood. Although effective in a general way it was
monstrously cumbrous. It gave the idea of vast power
and capability of resistance, while it was far from being
so in reality. It was, however, truly imposing and
impressive in its effect upon strangers. When seen par-
tially lit up by the glowing masses of white-hot iron,
with only the rays of bright sunshine gleaming through
the holes in the roof, and the dark, black, smoky vaults
in which the cumbrous machinery was heard rumbling
away in the distance — while the moving parts were dimly
seen through the murky atmosphere, mixed with the
sounds of escaping steam and rushes of water ; with the
half-naked men darting about with masses of red-hot
iron and ladles full of molten cast-iron — it made a
powerful impression upon the mind.*"
By the time he was seventeen Nasmyth had become a
skilled model maker. While he was still attending lec-
8 IMd., p. 93,
7 Ibid., p. 109,
86 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
tures in the Edinburgh School of Arts and in the Uni-
versity, he had built up quite a brisk business in engine
models, for which he charged £10 each. He made his
brass castings in his own bedroom at night, arranging
a furnace in his grate. He had a secret box of mould-
ing sand and rammed his patterns gently so as not to
awaken his father who slept below. In the morning the
room would be all clean and gave no indication that it
was serving for a foundry as well as a bedroom, and
by some miracle he managed to complete his practical
education without burning down the house. In 1827,
when he was nineteen, he built a steam road carriage
which ran about the streets of Edinburgh for many
months, but the condition of the Scotch roads was such
as to make a machine of this kind almost useless. When
he went to London he broke it up, and sold the engine
and boiler for £67.
From inspecting the engines constructed by different
makers, Nasmyth became impressed with the superiority
of those turned out by the Carmichaels of Dundee. **I
afterwards found," he writes, ''that the Carmichaels
were among the first of the Scottish engine makers who
gave due attention to the employment of improved
mechanical tools, with the object of producing accurate
work with greater ease, rapidity, and economy, than
could possibly be effected by the hand labor of even the
most skillful workmen. I was told that the cause of the
excellence of the Carmichaels* work was not only in the
ability of the heads of the firm, but in their employment
of the best engineers ' tools. Some of their leading men
had worked at Maudslay's machine shop in London, the
fame of which had already reached Dundee, and Mauds-
lay's system of employing machine tools had been
imported into the northern steam factory.'" These
8 Ihid., p. 123.
JAMES NASMYTH 87
reports built up an ambition, which developed into a pas-
sion, to go to London and work in Maudslay 's shop under
''this greatest of mechanics."
Consequently, in the spring of 1829, he went with his
father to London and made application to Maudslay to
work with him as an apprentice. Maudslay told them
in the friendliest way, but unmistakeably, that he had
had no satisfaction from gentleman apprentices and
that he had definitely settled that he would never employ
one again. He showed them about his shop, however,
and began to melt when he saw the boy's keen interest
and intelligent appreciation of everything about him.
Nasmyth had brought with him some of his drawings
and one of his engine models. At the end of the visit
he mustered courage to ask Maudslay if he would look
at them. The next day Maudslay and his partner looked
them over. *'I waited anxiously. Twenty long minutes
passed. At last he entered the room, and from a lively
expression in his countenance I observed in a moment
that the great object of my long cherished ambition had
been attained! He expressed, in good round terms, his
satisfaction at my practical ability as a workman engi-
neer and mechanical draughtsman. Then, opening the
door which led from his library into his beautiful private
workshop, he said, 'This is where I wish you to work,
beside me, as my assistant workman. From what I have
seen, there is no need of an apprenticeship in your case. "
*'Mr. Maudslay seemed at once to take me into his
confidence. He treated me in the most kindly manner —
not as a workman or an apprentice, but as a friend. I
was an anxious listener to everything that he said ; and
it gave him pleasure to observe that I understood and
valued his conversation. The greatest treat of all was
in store for me. He showed me his exquisite collection
9 Ibid., p. 129.
88 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
of taps and dies and screw-tackle, which he had made
with the utmost care for his own service. They rested
in a succession of drawers near to the bench where he
worked. . . .
''He proceeded to dilate upon the importance of the
uniformity of screws. Some may call it an improve-
ment, but it might almost be called a revolution in
mechanical engineering which Mr. Maudslay introduced.
Before his time no system had been followed in propor-
tioning the number of threads of screws to their diame-
ter. Every bolt and nut was thus a specialty in itself,
and neither possessed nor admitted of any community
with its neighbors. To such an extent had this practice
been carried that all bolts and their corresponding nuts
had to be specially marked as belonging to each
other. . . .
"None but those who lived in the comparatively early
days of machine manufacture can form an adequate idea
of the annoyance, delay, and cost of this utter want of
system, or can appreciate the vast services rendered to
mechanical engineering by Mr. Maudslay, who was the
first to introduce the practical measures necessary for
There was no place in all England where Nasmyth
could have learned more. He was in close personal con-
tact with one of the best mechanics in the world. He
had Maudslay 's warmest personal interest and heard
all the discussions of the engineers and famous men who
used to come to the workshop. ''Among Mr. Mauds-
lay's most frequent visitors was Gen. Sir Samuel Ben-
tham, Mr. Barton, director of the Royal Mint, Mr. Bryan
Donkin, Mr. Faraday, and Mr. Chantrey, the sculptor.
As Mr. Maudslay wished me to be at hand to give
him any necessary assistance, I had the opportunity of
iolbid., pp. 131-132.
JAMES NASMYTH 89
listening to the conversation between him and these dis-
tinguished visitors. Sir Samuel Bentham called very
often. He had been associated with Maudslay during
the contrivance and construction of the block machinery.
He was brother of the celebrated Jeremy Bentham, and
he applied the same clear common sense to mechanical
subjects which the other had done to legal, social and
"It was in the highest degree interesting and instruc-
tive to hear these two great pioneers in the history and
application of mechanics discussing the events connected
with the block-making machinery. In fact, Maudslay 's
connection with the subject had led to the development
of most of our modern engineering tools. They may
since have been somewhat altered in arrangement, but
not in principle. Scarcely a week passed without a visit
from the General. He sat in the beautiful workshop,
where he always seemed so happy. It was a great treat
to hear him and Maudslay fight their battles over again,
in recounting the difficulties, both official and mechanical,
over which they had so gloriously triumphed.""
While with Maudslay, Nasmyth designed and built an
index milling machine for finishing the sides of hexagon
nuts. After Maudslay 's death in 1831, he remained a
few months with Mr. Field to finish some work in hand,
and then left to start in business for himself. Nasmyth
speak'^ in the kindliest terms of Mr. Field, and doubtless
would have had more to say about him if his relationship
with Maudslay had not been so close.
Joshua Field was a man to be appreciated. He was
a draftsman at the Portsmouth dockyard when the
block machinery was being built, and showed so clear a
grasp of the work in hand that Bentham had him trans-
ferred to the Admiralty at Whitehall. In 1804 he left
11 Hid., pp. 151-152.
90 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
the service and went to Maudslay's, when he was at
Margaret Street and employed about eighty men. He
rose steadily, was taken into partnership in 1822, at the
same time as Maudslay's eldest son, and was the senior
partner after Maudslay's death when the firm was at
the height of its long prosperity. He was one of those
consulted in the laying of the Atlantic cable and in the
designing of machinery for doing it.
"Mr. Field was one of the founders of the Institution
of Civil Engineers, the origin of which was very humble.
About the year 1816, Mr. Henry Robinson Palmer, who
was then a pupil of the late Mr. Bryan Donkin, sug-
gested to Mr. Field the idea of forming a society of
young engineers, for their mutual improvement in
mechanical and engineering science; and the earliest
members were Mr. Henry Robinson Palmer, Mr. William
Nicholson Maudslay, and Mr. Joshua Field. To these
three were shortly added Mr. James Jones, Mr. Charles
CoUinge, and Mr. James Ashwell. They met occasionally
in a room hired for the purpose, and to them were soon
attracted others having the same objects in view. Mr.
Field was the first chairman of the Institution, being
elected to that post on the sixth of January, 1818. Sub-
sequently he became, in 1837, a vice-president, an office
he filled until he was elected president in 1848, and in
1849, and he continued to the last to be an active member
and warm supporter of the Institution. ' '^^ Mr. Field did
everything in his power to give Nasmyth a start, allowing
him to make the castings for some machine tools which
he proposed to finish later for use in his own plant.
Nasmyth returned to Edinburgh and took temporary
quarters in a little outbuilding 16 feet by 24 feet, within
a few minutes' walk of his father's home. He hired one
12 Memoir, in ' * Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers, ' ' VoL
XXIII, p. 491. 1863.
JAMES NASMYTH 91
mechanic, Archie Torry, who remained with him the rest
of his life and became one of his principal foremen. His
power plant consisted of one husky laborer who turned
a crank. Together they finished up the castings brought
from Maudslay & Field 'Sj making first a lathe, then a
planer 20 inches by 36 inches, and with these a few bor-
ing and drilling machines. He carried the expense of
this by doing some work for an enthusiastic inventor
of a wonderful rotary steam engine. Nasmyth honorably
informed the inventor that his machine would not work,
but as the inventor was bent on spending his money,
Nasmyth executed the work for him, and the proceeds
enabled him to build his machinery.
In a few months he was ready to begin. He went to
Liverpool and Manchester looking for a location, and
soon made many powerful friends in both cities. In
1831 he rented a single floor in Manchester, 27 feet by
130 feet, with power, and ten days later Archie followed
with the tools. It was a particularly fortunate time and
place for starting such an enterprise. The success of the
Liverpool & Manchester Eailway, just opened, created
a great demand for locomotives and for machine tools.
Orders came in fast, and the planer especially was busy
all the time. If its profits were anything like those of
Clement 's planer, it must have been a very heavy earner.
As the business grew, Nasmyth added more tools, always
making them himself and steadily improving their
design and construction.
He soon outgrew his quarters; and in 1836 he secured
land at Patricroft, a mile or so outside of the city,
admirably located between the new railway and the
Bridgewater Canal, and built a new plant which he called
the Bridgewater Foundry. In the new foundry he used
the first worm-geared tilting pouring-ladle. As it elimi-
nated a common and very dangerous source of accidents,
92 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
lie refrained from patenting it and in a short time its
use was universaL He formed a partnership with Hol-
brook Gaskell, who took the business end of the enter-
prise, and the firm of Nasmyth & Gaskell had a very-
prosperous career until, sixteen years later, Mr. Gaskell
was forced to retire on account of ill health.
Nasmyth built machine tools of all kinds. In 1836 he
invented the shaper which was long known as
** Nasmyth 's Steel Arm."
Descriptions and illustrations of some of Nasmyth 's
tools may be found at the end of his autobiography,"
in Buchanan's ''Mill Work,"" and in the American
Machinist ^^ He patented but few of his inventions,
relying for protection mainly upon the reputation which
he soon established. ''In mechanical structures and
contrivances," he says, "I have always endeavored to
attain the desired purpose by the emplojTnent of the
fewest parts, casting aside every detail not absolutely
necessary, and guarding carefully against the intrusion
of mere traditional forms and arrangements. The latter
are apt to insinuate themselves, and to interfere with
that simplicity and directness of action w^hich is in all
cases so desirable a quality in mechanical structures.
Plain common sense should be apparent in the general
design, as in the form and arrangement of the details ;
and a character of severe utility pervade the whole,
accompanied with as much attention to gracefulness of
form as is consistent with the nature and purpose of
the structure. "^^ This was written in later life. While
his later work was in thorough conformity with these
principles, it was some time before he freed himself
13 p. 400 et seq.
14 Volume of Platea.
IB Oct. 14, 1909, p. 654.
16 Autobiography, p. 439.
JAMES NASMYTH 93
from the tradition of Greek style in macliine frames.
He was one of those, however, who led the way into the
more correct practice indicated above, though he was
probably not so influential in this direction as Whitworth.
His greatest invention unquestionably was that of the
steam hammer, which came about in an interesting way.
He had built a number of locomotives for the Great
Western Eailway. This railway operated a line of
steamers from Bristol to New York and was planning
a ship larger and faster than any then built, to be called
*^The Great Britain." It was to be a side-wheeler and
the plans called for a large and heavy paddle shaft, 30
inches in diameter. Mr. Humphries, its designer, wrote
to Nasmyth asking for help, saying so large a shaft could
not be forged with any of the hammers then in use.
Nasmyth saw at once the limitations of the prevailing
tilt hammer — which was simply a smith's hand hammer,
enlarged, with a range so small that it ** gagged" on
large work, — and that the design of large hammers must
be approached in an entirely new way. "The obvious
remedy was to contrive some method by which a pon-
derous block of iron should be lifted to a sufficient height
above the object on which it was desired to strike a blow,
and then to let the block fall down upon the forging, guid-
ing it in its descent by such simple means as should give
the required precision in the percussive action of the
falling mass. Following up this idea," he writes, ''I
got out my * Scheme Book,' on the pages of which I gen-
erally thought out, with the aid of pen and pencil, such
mechanical adaptations as I had conceived in my mind,
and was thereby enabled to render them visible. I then
rapidly sketched out my steam hammer, having it all
clearly before me in mind's eye. In little more than
half an hour after receiving Mr. Humphries 's letter
narrating his unlooked-for difficulty, I had the whole con-
94 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
trivance, in all its executant details, before me in a page
of my Scheme Book, a reduced photograph copy of which
I append to this description. (See Fig. 23.) The date of
this first drawing was the twenty-fourth of November,
1839. . . .""
**Rude and rapidly sketched out as it was, this, my
first delineation of the steam hammer, will be found to
comprise all the essential elements of the invention.^^
Every detail of the drawing retains to this day the form
and arrangement which I gave to it forty-three years
ago. I believed that the steam hammer would prove
practically successful ; and I looked forward to its general
employment in the forging of heavy masses of iron. It
is no small gratification to me now, when I look over my
rude and hasty first sketch, to find that I hit the mark
17 Ihid., p. 240.
18 Compare Nasmyth 's sketch, Fig. 23, with Fig. 24, which was taken
from the model of his first hammer now in the South Kensington Museum
(Exhibit No. 1571). The description of it in the catalog is as follows:
"It consists of a base plate with a large central opening through which
projects the top of the anvil, so that a blow on the anvil is not transmitted
to the base plate. On the plate are secured two standards which form
guides for the hammer-head or tup, and also support an overhead cylinder,
the piston of which is connected with the tup by a piston rod passing
through the bottom of the cylinder. Steam is admitted to this cylinder
by a stop valve in the form of a slide, and then by a slide valve on the
front of the cylinder, which by a hand lever can be moved so as to let
steam in below the piston and so raise the heavy tup. When it is lifted
to a height proportionate to the energy of the blow required, the steam
is by the slide valve permitted to escape and the hammer falls upon the
forging placed on the anvil. The cylinder is therefore only single-acting,
but the top is closed, and a ring of holes communicating with the exhaust
pipe is provided at a little distance down inside. In this way an air cushion
is formed which helps to start the piston downwards when a long stroke
is being taken, and also the steam below the piston is permitted to escape
when the tup has been lifted as high as it can safely go. Soon after its
invention the steam hammer was greatly increased in power by accelerating
the fall of the tup by admitting steam above the piston in the downstroke
and so changing it into the usual double-acting steam hammer." Cat.
Machinery Collection, Part II, p. 255,
JAMES NASMYTH 95
so exactly, not only in the general structure but in the
details; and that the invention as I then conceived it
and put it into shape, still retains its form and arrange-
ments intact in the thousands of steam hammers that are
now doing good service in the mechanical arts throughout
the civilized world. ' ""
The shaft, however, was never built. Screw propul-
sion was just coming into use; the design of the vessel
was changed, and the whole scheme lapsed. A year or
so later, M. Schneider, the French iron master of
Creuzot, and his engineer, M. Bourdon, visited Bridge-
water while Nasmyth happened to be away. Mr. Gaskell,
after taking them about the plant, showed them the
Scheme Book and pointed out the sketch of the hammer,
telling them of the purpose for which it was intended.
They were impressed with it and took careful notes and
sketches of its details. Nasmyth was informed of their
visit upon his return, but knew nothing of their having
taken sketches of the hammer.
In 1842 Nasmyth visited France, and was cordially
received at Creuzot and shown about the works. ''On
entering," he writes, "one of the things that particu-
larly struck me was the excellence of a large wrought-
iron marine engine single crank, forged with a remark-
able degree of exactness in its general form. I observed
also that the large eye of the crank had been punched
and drifted with extraordinary smoothness and truth.
I inquired of M. Bourdon 'how that crank had been
forged?' His immediate reply was, 'It was forged hy
your steam hammer!' . . . He told me . . . that he had
taken careful notes and sketches, and that among the
first things he did after his return to Creuzot was to
put in hand the necessary work for the erection of a
steam hammer. . . . M. Bourdon conducted me to the
19 Autobiography, p. 242.
96 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
forge department of the works, that I might, as he said,
'see my own child'; and there it was, in truth — a thump-
ing child of my brain. ' '^^ Fortunately it was still time to
save his patent rights. He moved rapidly and in June,
1842, two months after his visit to Creuzot, a patent was
obtained.^\ The steam hammer soon found its way into
all the large shops of the world and greatly increased
Nasmyth's already comfortable fortune. Nasmyth trans-
ferred his United States patent to S. V. Merrick of
Philadelphia, who introduced the hammer into the
American iron works.
Besides work on the hammer and machine tools,
Nasmyth made a number of inventions of interest.
While still with Maudslay he invented the flexible shaft
made of a coiled spring, and speaks with amusement at
his finding the same idea in a dental engine many years
later credited as an American invention. He invented
the ball-and-socket joint for shafting hangers and also
the single wedge gate valve. His steam piledriver, an
adaptation of the steam hammer, was the invention in
which he seems to have taken the most satisfaction. He
was working out a method of puddling iron with a blast
of steam when he was eclipsed by Bessemer 's brilliant
invention, in 1855, of the air blast. Nasmyth was a mem-
ber of the Small Arms Committee which remodeled the
Small Arms Factory at Enfield. His connection with this
will be taken up in the consideration of the rise of inter-
20 Ihid., pp. 246-247. The self-acting valve motion for the steam hammer
was invented by Mr. Wilson, when Nasmyth was absent on business. Wilson
was manager at Patricroft and later became a partner. It was much used
for a time but with the advent of balanced piston-valves the hand-operated
gear supplanted it. Nasmyth's invention of the hammer was denied by
M. Schneider in 1871. For fuller discussion of the history of this hammer
see London Engineer, May 16, 1890, and a pamphlet by T. S. Kowlandson,
entitled "History of the Steam Hammer." Manchester, 1866.
21 No. 9382, June 9, 1842.
JAMES NASMYTH 97
Nasmyth retired from business in 1856, bought an
estate in Kent, and spent the remainder of his life in
travel and in his studies in astronomy. He was deeply
interested in this study from boyhood. Before he was
twenty he had built an excellent 6-inch reflecting tele-
scope, and it was he who aroused Maudslay's interest in
the subject. He had a 10-inch telescope at Patricroft
and a large one at Hammersfield. He began his study of
the moon in 1842, and received a medal for his work at
the Exhibition of 1851. His book, ''The Moon, Consid-
ered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, ' ' published in
1874, in conjunction with James Carpenter, the result
of his thirty-two years of work, is authoritative today.
Nasmyth died in 1890 at the age of eighty-two. He was
much more than a splendid mechanic. His personal
charm and quality of mind can best be appreciated by
reading his own story. This chapter will have served
its purpose if it induces the reader to read the autobiog-
raphy from which we have quoted so freely.
The work of tlie earlier generation of Englisli tool
builders may be said to have culminated in that of Sir
Joseph Whitworth. For a man of his commanding influ-
ence, the information in regard to his life is singularly-
meager. He left no account of himself as Nasmyth and
William Fairbairn did ; no biography of him was written
by his contemporaries, and the various memoirs which
appeared at the time of his death are short and incom-
He was born at Stockport in 1803. His father was a
minister and schoolmaster. At fourteen he was placed
in the office of his uncle, a cotton spinner in Derbyshire,
to learn the business. But commercial work did not
appeal to him. He slighted the office as much as pos-
sible and delved into every nook and corner of the manu-
facturing and mechanical departments of the establish-
ment. In a few years he had mastered the construction
of every machine in the place and acquired the deep-
seated conviction that all the machinery about him was
imperfect. He ran away to Manchester to escape a
routine business life, and found work with Creighton &
Company, as a working mechanic. He married in 1825,
and shortly afterward went to work with Maudslay &
Field in London. Maudslay soon placed him next to
John Hampson, a Yorkshireman, who was his best
workman. While there, Whitworth developed his
method of making accurate plane surfaces by hand
scraping them, three at a time. On leaving Mandslay,
Whitworth worked for Holtzapffel, and later for Clem-
ent. He returned to Manchester in 1833, rented a room
with power, and hung out a sign, ''Joseph Whitworth,
Tool Maker from London. ' ' Here he began his improve-
ments in machine tools — the lathe, planer, drilling, slot-
ting and shaping machines. He improved Nasmyth's
shaper, adding the quick-return motion, which has been
known ever since as the Whitworth quick-return motion.
His tools became the standard of the world, and in the
London Exhibition of 1851 stood in a class by themselves.
Their preeminence lay not so much in novelty of
design as in the standard of accuracy and quality of
workmanship which they embodied. With unerring
judgment, Whitworth had turned his attention first, to
use his own words, ''to the vast importance of attending
to the two great elements in constructive mechanics', —
namely, a true plane and power of measurement. The
latter cannot be attained without the former, which is,
therefore, of primary importance. . . . All excellence
in workmanship depends upon it."^
The first step, the production of true plane surfaces,
made while he was at Maudslay's, was, we are told,
a self-imposed task. The method of producing these,
three at a time, is generally credited to Whitworth.
We have already quoted Nasmyth's statement that
the method was in use at Maudslay's and that it
was "a very old mechanical dodge." While this is
probably true, Whitworth contributed something to the
method, which very greatly increased the accuracy of
the product. The writer is inclined to believe that that
element was the substitution of hand scraping for grind-
ing in the final finishing operations. Whitworth 's paper,
1 Presidential Address. Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1856, p.
100 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
read before the British. Association for the Advance-
ment of Science at Glasgow in 1840, indicates this,
although it does not say so directly. In this paper he
specifically points out the reason why planes should not
be finished by grinding them together with abrasive
powder in between ; namely, that the action of the grind-
ing powder was under no control, that there was no
means of securing its equal diffusion or modifying its
application and localizing its action to the particular
spot which needed it. Holtzapffel confirms this view,
saying, in 1847: *'The entire process of grinding,
although apparently good, is so fraught with uncer-
tainty, that accurate mechanicians have long agreed that
the less grinding that is employed on rectilinear works
the better, and Mr. Whitworth has recently shown in the
most satisfactory manner,^ that in such works grinding
is entirely unnecessary, and may, with the greatest advan-
tage be dispensed with, as the further prosecution of the
scraping process is quite sufficient to lead to the limit of
attainable accuracy. . . . The author's previous experi-
ence had so fully prepared him for admission of the
soundness of these views, that in his OAvn workshop he
immediately adopted the suggestion of accomplishing all
accurate rectilinear works by the continuance of scrap-
ing, to the entire exclusion of grinding.'"
When Whitworth determined to make a better set of
planes than any in use at the Maudslay shop, we are
told that he was laughed at by Hampson and his other
fellow workmen for undertaking an impossible job. He
not only succeeded, but the truth of the planes he pro-
duced aroused the admiration and wonder of all who saw
them. Nasmyth distinctly mentions scraping, but it
should be remembered that he worked at Maudslay 's
2 Referring to the paper before the British Association, 1840.
3 ' ' Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, ' ' Vol. II, p, 872.
four or five years after Whitworth went there, and
scraping may have been introduced into their older meth-
ods of making triple surface-plates by Whitworth, and
have accounted for the wonderful accuracy of which
Having realized what he considered the first ele-
ment in good workmanship, Whitworth began on the
second, — improved methods in measurement. He intro-
duced the system of ^'end measurements," relying ordi-
narily on the sense of touch rather than eyesight; and,
for extreme accuracy, on the falling of a tumbler held
by friction between two parallel planes. At the presen-
tation of the address before the Institution of Mechani-
cal Engineers, in 1856, he exhibited a measuring
machine built on this principle which detected differ-
ences of length as small as one-millionth of an inch. The
address was largely devoted to the advantages of end
measurement. Eeferring to the machine before him, he
said: *'We have in this mode of measurement all the
accuracy we can desire; and we find in practice in the
workshop that it is easier to work to the ten-thousandth
of an inch from standards of end measurements, than to
one-hundredth of an inch from lines on a two-foot rule.
In all cases of fitting, end measure of length should be
used, instead of lines." This principle has become
almost universal for commercial work, although for
extremely accurate work upon final standards line meas-
urements, aided by the microscope, are used.
It was Whitworth who brought about the standardiza-
tion of screw thread practice in England. He had come
into contact with the best thread practice at Maudslay's
and at Clement's, but in the other shops throughout the
country there was chaos, so far as any recognized stand-
ard was concerned. Using their work as a basis, and
collecting and comparing all the screws obtainable, Whit-
102 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
worth arrived at a pitch for all sizes and a thread con-
tour, which he proposed in a paper before the Institution
of Civil Engineers in 1841.* It was received with favor,
and by 1860 the "Whitworth thread" had been generally
adopted throughout the country.
In 1853 Whitworth visited the United States, and in
conjunction with George Wallis of the South Kensing-
ton Museum, reported on the enterprises and manufac-
* The Minutes of the Institution, Vol. I, give only an abstract of this
paper. A recent writer, however, in the American Machinist, Vol. XLIII,
p. 1178, quotes Whitworth as follows:
It is impossible to deduce a precise rule for the threads of screws from
mechanical principles or from any number of experiments. On the other
hand, the nature of the case is such that mere approximation would be
unimportant, absolute identity of thread for a given diameter being
There are three essential characters belonging to the screw thread,
namely, pitch, depth and form. Each of these may be indefinitely modi-
fied independently of the others, and any change will more or less affect the
several conditions of power, strength and durability. The selection of the
thread is also affected by the mutual relation subsisting between the three
constituent characters of pitch, depth and form. Each of these may be
separately modified; but practically no one character can be determined
irrespective of the others.
We find instead of that uniformity which is so desirable, a diversity
so great as almost to discourage any hope of its removal. The only mode
in which this could be attempted with any probability of success would
be by a sort of compromise, all parties consenting to adopt a medium for
the sake of common advantage. The average pitch and depth of the
various threads used by the leading engineers would thus become the
common standard, which would not only have the advantage of conciliating
general concurrence, but would, in all probability, be nearer the true
standard for practical purposes than any other.
An extensive collection was made of screw bolts from the principal
workshops throughout England, and the average thread was carefully
observed for different diameters.
(Then follows the well-known table showing the number of threads per
It will be remembered that the threads, of which the preceding table
shows the average, are used in cast iron as well as wrought; and this cir-
cumstance has had its effect in rendering them coarser than they would
have been if restricted to wrought-iron.
Figure 25. Sir Joseph Whitworth
tures of the United States.^ Nearly all the memoirs of
WMtworth refer to the profound effect of this report.
As one reads it today, it seems difficult to see why it
should have had so much influence. It is probable that
Whitworth's own personal report to the influential men
about him contained much which does not appear in the
formal report. In it he takes up steam engines, railway
supplies, woodworking tools, electric telegraph, textile
mills, and gives brief accounts of some of the factories
and methods which he found at various places in New
England and the Middle States. The longest descrip-
tion is given to the Springfield Armory, but even this is
a mere fragment, and the only detailed information is
of the time necessary to finish a gun-stock. We know,
however, that this armory and the various private
armories they saw, made an impression upon Whitworth
and the whole Commission which led to the remodeling
of the British gun-making plant at Enfield. Nasmyth
The variation in depth among the different specimens was found to be
greater proportionately than in pitch. The angle made by the sides of the
thread will afford a convenient expression for the depth. The mean of
the variations of this angle in 1-in. screws was found to be about 55
deg., and this was also pretty nearly the mean of the angle in screws of
different diameters. As it is for various reasons desirable that the angle
should be constant, more especially with reference to general uniformity
of system, the angle of 55 deg. has been adopted throughout the entire
scale. A constant proportion is thus established between the depth and
the pitch of the thread.
In calculating the former, a< deduction is to be made for the quantity
rounded off, amounting to one-third of the whole depth — that is, one-sixth
from the top and one-sixth from the bottom of the thread. Making this
deduction it will be found that the angle of 55 deg. gives for the actual
depth rather more than three-fifths and less than two-thirds of the pitch.
The precaution of rounding off is adopted to prevent the injury which the
thread of the screw, and that of the taps and dies, might sustain from
5 "Report of the British Commissioners to the New York Industrial
Exhibition." London, 1854.
104 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
was also concerned in this and a fuller account of it will
be given later.
The conclusion of Whitworth's report shows clearly
that he was deeply impressed with the extent to which
the automatic principle was being applied to machine
tools in America. ''The labouring classes," he says,
**are comparatively few in number, but this is counter-
balanced by, and indeed, may be regarded as one of the
chief causes of, the eagerness mth which they call in
the aid of machinery in almost every department of
industry. Wherever it can be introduced as a substi-
tute for manual labour, it is universally and willingly
resorted to. . . . It is this condition of the labour mar-
ket, and this eager resort to machinery wherever it can
be applied, to which, under the guidance of superior edu-
cation and intelligence, the remarkable prosperity of the
United States is mainly due." Another characteristic
of American manufacture attracted his attention, — the
tendency toward standardization. In his address in
1856 he condemns the overmultiplication of sizes preva-
lent in every branch of English industry.
Shortly after his return from America, Whitworth
was requested by the government to design a complete
plant for the manufacture of muskets. He disapproved
of the Enfield rifle and declined to undertake the work
until exhaustive tests were made to determine the best
type of rifle. The government, therefore, equipped a
testing plant and range near Manchester, and Whit-
worth began a series of tests which showed the Enfield
rifle to be inferior in almost every respect. He then
submitted a new rifle, designed on the basis of his experi-
ments, which embodied the small bore, an elongated
projectile and a rapid rifle-twist and great accuracy of
manufacture. Although this rifle excelled all others in
accuracy, penetration and range, it was rejected by the
war office. Some thirty years later, the Lee-Metford
rifle, which embodied Whitworth's improvements, was
adopted, but only after these principles had been recog-
nized and used by every other government in Europe.
His contributions to the inanufacture of heavy ordnance
were even greater, but they met with the same reception
from the war office. In 1862 he completed a high-pow-
ered rifle cannon with a range of six miles, the propor-
tions of which were substantially those in use today.
He developed the manufacture of fluid compressed steel,
about 1870, to supply a stronger and more reliable mate-
rial for ordnance use. Few men in any country have
had a greater influence on the design and development
of ordnance and armor. His partnership with Sir Wil-
liam Armstrong resulted in one of the greatest gun
factories in the world.
Whitworth married twice but had no children. He
acquired a great fortune. During his lifetime he estab-
lished the famous Whitworth scholarships. At his death,
large sums were distributed by friends, to whom he had
willed them for the execution of his wishes, and they
devoted nearly £600,000 ($3,000,000) to the foundation
or endowment of the Whitworth Institute, Owens Col-
lege, and the Manchester Technical Schools, and other
public institutions. In 1874 he converted his Manches-
ter business into a stock company, giving the majority
of the stock to his foremen and making provision for the
acquiring of further stock by his clerks and workmen.
While he was slow in receiving recognition from his
own government, he became universally recognized as
one of the greatest engineering authorities in the world,
and was honored as few engineers have been, being
elected to the Royal Society, chosen president of the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers, given degrees by
106 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Dublin and Oxford, the Cross of the Legion of Honor;
and, in 1869, made a baronet.
As he grew older he became irritable and exceedingly
dogmatic, possibly because of his long contests with
slow-moving government officials. Charles T. Porter,
in his autobiography, brings out this side of his nature
and shows that the initiative of subordinates in his shop
was practically killed. Perhaps this limited his service
somewhat in his later years, but when all is taken into
account, he was, without question, one of the greatest
of mechanical engineers. He was a master experi-
menter. Tests which he made were thorough, conclusive,
and always led somewhere. His experiments, whether
in machine tools, screw threads, or ordnance, always
resulted in a design or process which sooner or later
Whitworth's position as a tool builder is not weakened
by the fact that most of the general tools had been
invented by the time he began his independent work.
He raised the whole art of tool building by getting at
the fundamental conditions. He led the way in the
change from the weak, architectural style of framing;
introduced the box design or hollow frame for machin-
ery, taking his suggestion from the human body, and
very greatly increased the weight of metal used.
In 1850 Whitworth was, without doubt, the foremost
tool builder in the world. He had introduced a standard
of accuracy in machine tools unknown before, and so
improved their design and workmanship that he domi-
nated English tool practice for several generations. In
fact, the very ascendency of Whitworth's methods seems
to have been an element in the loss of England's leader-
ship in tool building. Most of the progressive work for
the next fifty years was done in America.
In the foregoing chapters we have traced briefly the
work of the great English mechanics from 1800 to 1850.
Their services to engineering, and, in fact, to mankind,
cannot be measured. When they began, machine tools in
any modern sense did not exist. Under their leadership
nearly all of the great metal-working tools were given
forms which have remained essentially unchanged.
England had the unquestioned leadership in the field
of machine tools. Machine-tool building in Germany and
France was one or two generations behind that of Eng-
land, and nearly all their machinery was imported from
that country. With the exception of the early and incom-
plete work of the ingenious French mechanics, which we
have referred to from time to time, practically all of the
pioneer work was done by Englishmen.
In glancing back at these early tool builders, it will
be seen that few of them were men of education. All
were men of powerful minds, many of them with broad
intellectual interests. It is suggestive to note one thing,
whatever may be its bearing. Only three of all these
men, Matthew Murray and the two Fairbairns, served
a regular apprenticeship. Bentham and Brunei were
naval officers; Bramah, a farmer's boy and cabinet-
maker; Maudslay, a blacksmith; Clement, a slater; Rob-
erts, a quarry laborer ; Nasmyth, a clever school boy ; and
Whitworth, an office clerk.
Whatever may have been the reason, the rapid
advance of the English machine-tool builders ceased
about the middle of the last century, and they have made
but few radical changes or improvements since that time.
At about the same time the American engineers intro-
duced a number of improvements of very great impor-
The great distance of America from England forced
it into a situation of more or less commercial and
108 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
mechanical independence. While France and Germany-
were importing machine tools from England, America
began making them and soon developed independence of
design. The interchangeable system of manufactures
and the general use of accurate working gauges, which
were hardly known in England, developed rapidly in
America. These, with the introduction of the turret, the
protean cam, and precision grinding machinery, and the
great extension of the process of milling, served in the
next fifty years to transfer the leadership in machine-
tool design from England to America. A visit to any
one of the great machine shops in England, Germany or
France will convince one that the leadership now rests
with the American tool builders.
The remaining chapters will take up the lives and work
of those who have contributed to this great change.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS
The phrase "Yankee ingenuity" has become a part of
the English language. If New England no longer holds
all the good mechanics in the United States, there was a
time when she came so near it that the term ''New Eng-
land mechanic" had a very definite meaning over the
The industrial development of New England was long
delayed, but once started it was rapid. Up to 1800 New
England artisans supplied merely small local needs and
there was little or no manufacturing in any modern
sense; but from then on the development was so rapid
that by 1850 New England was not only supplying the
United States with most of its manufactured products,
but was beginning to export machinery and tools to Eng-
land, where machine tools originated. For five genera-
tions, American mechanics had little or no industrial
influence on Europe, and then within fifty years they
began to compete on even terms.
There were several reasons for this. A market for
machinery must of necessity be a wide one, for no single
community, not even a large modern city, can alone sup-
port a great manufacturing enterprise. Machinery
building can thrive only in a settled country having a
large purchasing power and good transportation facili-
ties. The colonies lacked all of these conditions; the
people were widely scattered and poor, and there were
practically no facilities for heavy transportation, at least
110 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
by land. The colonial mechanics were often ingenious
and skilled, but they had few raw materials and they
could supply only their immediate neighborhood. Any
approach to specialization and refinement was therefore
The second cause for delayed development was Eng-
land's industrial policy toward her American colonies.
The colonists had hardly gained a foothold when they
began to show a manufacturing spirit and an industrial
independence which aroused the apprehension of the
manufacturing interests in England. The first impor-
tations of iron into England from the colonies came from
Virginia and Maryland, about 1718.^ The importations
for a few years thereafter are not known, as no records
are available. They were sufficient, however, to arouse
the jealousy of the English iron masters, for, although
there was plenty of iron ore in England, they were
beginning to feel seriously the shortage in wood which
was then used for its reduction. They felt that the
abundance of iron ore, fuel and water power in America
constituted a serious menace, and they vigorously
opposed the growth of any kind of manufacture in the
colonies. This resulted in a prohibition of the manufac-
ture of any form of ironware and of bar or pig iron by
forges or other works. In spite of these repressive
measures, a report on manufactures in the colonies,
made to the House of Commons in 1731, indicated that
New England had six furnaces, nineteen forges, one
slitting mill and one nail factory.- These could, how-
ever, have supplied only a small part of the materials
required even for colonial use. By 1737 much discus-
sion had arisen respecting the policy of encouraging
importation of American iron, and petitions in favor
1 J. L, Bishop : * ' History of American Manufactures, ' ' Vol. I, p. 625.
2 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 623.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 111
of doing so were presented to Parliament. England
imported at that time about 20,000 tons of foreign iron,
15,000 from Sweden and 5000 from Eussia, most of which
was paid for in money.^ It was urged that if this could
be obtained from the colonies it could be paid for in
British manufactures, at a saving of £180,000 annually.
The annual production of bar iron in England was about
18,000 tons, and on account of the shortage of wood this
could not be materially increased. To encourage colonial
exportation of pig and bar iron to England would, it
was urged, be the best means of preventing such further
manufacturing as would interfere with their own. It
was, therefore, proposed that a heavy duty be laid on
all iron and manufactured products imported into the
colonies from continental Europe, and on all iron
imported into England except from America. These
views prevailed and resulted in the act of 1750, which
was entitled *'An act to encourage the importation of
pig and bar iron from His Majesty's Plantations in
America," and provided that ''pig-iron made in the
British Colonies in, America, may be imported, duty
free, and bar-iron into the port of London; no bar-iron,
so imported, to be carried coastwise, or to be landed at
any other port, except for the use of his Majesty's dock
yards ; and not to be carried beyond ten miles from Lon-
don."* With this was incorporated another clause
designed to arrest all manufacture at that stage. It
was enacted that * ' from and after the 24th day of June,
1750, no mill, or other engine for slitting or rolling
of Iron, or any plating forge to work with a tilt-
hammer, or any furnace for making steel shall be erected,
or after such erection, continued in any of his Majesty's
3 Ihid., Vol. "l, p. 623.
*Ihid., Vol. I, p. 624.
112 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Colonies of America" under penalty of £200.^ This
attempt to stifle the industrial life of the colonies, per-
sistently adhered to, ultimately brought about the
From 1730 to 1750 there had been an importation of
about 2300 tons of bar iron annually, 90 per cent of
which came from Maryland and Virginia, and a little
less than 6 per cent from Pennsylvania. New England
and New York were producing iron by that time, but
were using nearly all of their product, hence their small
share in the trade. The iron masters of the midland
counties in England protested against this act, prophesy-
ing the utter ruin of the English iron industry. Eng-
land, they said, would be rendered dependent upon the
colonies, and thousands of English workmen would be
reduced to want and misery ; American iron could never
supply the place of the Swedish iron in quality, nor the
Russian iron in cheapness, consequently the manufacture
of tools would be stopped and numberless families
reduced to beggary.
The manufacturers of Birmingham, on the other hand,
petitioned that the bill was a benefit to their trade and to
the colonists, who would exchange their raw products for
British manufactures; that manufacturing was more
valuable to the nation than the production of raw
materials, and as iron could not be produced at home in
such quantity and at such price as to supply all the needs
of the manufacturers, it was the duty of Parliament to
encourage the importation of raw materials, even if it
should arrest their production in England; that the
importation of iron from America could affect the iron
works no more than the same quantity from any other
country, and the home production was less than one-half
the amount required, and growing steadily dearer: that
B lUd., Vol. I, pp. 624-625.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 113
the increasing activity of the English manufacturers
rendered it more and more necessary to obtain these
materials at the lowest price, and the only way to do this
was either to reduce the duty on continental iron, or
make it necessary for English iron masters to reduce
their prices by raising up a rival in America. They
heartily concurred, however, in the prohibition of all fin-
ishing of materials as an interference with British manu-
factures. The merchants of Bristol petitioned that
American bar iron, which was admitted only at the port
of London, be imported duty free into all of His
Majesty's ports. This discussion continued until 1757,
when the privilege of importation was extended to the
other ports of Great Britain.**
Under the act of 1750, the importation rose to about
3250 tons, 94 per cent of which still came from Maryland,
Virginia and Pennsylvania. Practically all the iron
produced in New England was used there, for, despite
the repressive measures from the mother country,
small local manufacturing enterprises, ''moonshine iron
works," were constantly cropping up. The iron supply
of New England came at first from the bog ores in
eastern Massachusetts and Ehode Island. By 1730-1760
better mines were opened at Salisbury, Conn., and in
Orange County, New York, so that the production of iron
in the bog-ore regions gradually dwindled.
'/ The- Eevolution terminated British legislative control
over the trade and manufactures of America. The war
itself furnished a market for supplies for the army, and
the manufacture of cannon and guns was active. Many
of these factories were ruined by the flood of imports
which followed the Eevolution. In 1789 the present
Federal Government replaced the ineffective Confedera-
tion, which had left to the separate states the duty of
6 Ihid., Vol. T, pp. 626-627.
114 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
protecting their manufacturing interests, and a tariff
was placed upon manufactured articles. Freed from
the old restrictions, and with foreign competition largely-
precluded, manufacturing industries began to spring up
on every hand.
A third cause contributed to rapid development at
this time. An enormous production of cotton followed
Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1792, and the
South, which had never been a manufacturing com-
munity, furnished both a source of supply and a rich
market, easily accessible by coastwise trade. The
beginnings of New England's manufacturing industries
are closely identified with the rise of the American cotton
crop, and most of the first machine shops were developed
to manufacture textile machinery.
England, who seems to have blundered whenever she
legislated on early American trade, made one more seri-
ous mistake. In 1785 Parliament passed a stringent
law, with severe penalties, to stop the emigration of all
mechanics and workmen in iron and steel manufactures,
and to prevent not only the exportation of every descrip-
tion of tool, engine or machine, or parts of a machine
used in making and working up iron and other mate-
rials, but even the models and plans of such machinery.^
England was then the most advanced of all countries in
the production of engines, tools and textile machinery,
and it was hoped by this act that manufacturing might
be kept there. It had the opposite effect so far as Amer-
ica was concerned. It was inevitable that mechanics,
such as Samuel Slater and William Crompton, should
get away, and with them, ideas. The act only stimulated
a race of skillful mechanics in America to independent
development of machine tools, textile machinery, and the
like. America, instead of buying her machinery from
1 1bid., Vol. I, p. 630.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 115
England as she would naturally have done, proceeded to
make it herself.
One of the earliest American mechanics was Joseph
Jenks, who came from Hammersmith, England, to Lynn,
Mass., about 1642, and died in 1683. With the backing
of Governor Winthrop, he set up an iron foundry and
forge near a bog-iron mine. The very first attempt in
America to start an iron works had been made in Vir-
ginia more than twenty years before, at the settlement
of Jamestown. It was hardly started, however, before
it was destroyed in the general sack of the settlement,
and for one hundred years there was no further attempt
at producing iron in Virginia.^
From the little forge and foundry started at Lynn,
there is no break in the spread of iron manufacturing in
this country. The forge was located on the lands of
Thomas Hudson, of the same family as Hendrick Hud-
son, the explorer. Jenks was "the first founder who
worked in brass and iron on the western continent. By
his hands, the first models were made and the first cast-
ings taken of many domestic implements and iron
tools. "^ The very first casting is said to have been an
iron quart pot.
For many years the colonial records refer to his vari-
ous activities. He made the dies for the early Massachu-
setts coinage, including the famous pine-tree shilling.^"
In 16-16 the General Court of Massachusetts resolved
that ''In answer to the peticon of Joseph Jenckes, for lib-
erty to make experience of his abilities and Inventions
for ye making of Engines for mills to go with water for
ye more speedy despatch of work than formerly, and
8 Beverley: "History of Virginia." Bishop: "History of American
Manufactures," Vol. I, pp. 469, 595.
» Lewis : * * History of Lynn. ' '
loWeeden: "Economic and Social History of New England," Vol. I, p.
116 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
mills for ye making of Sithes and other Edged tools,
with a new invented Sawe-Mill, that things may he
afforded cheaper than formerly, and that for fourteen
yeeres without disturbance by any others setting up like
inventions; . . . this peticon is granted. "^'^ In 1655
he was granted a Massachusetts patent for scythes, his
improvement consisting of making them long and thin,
instead of short and thick, as in the old English sc5i;he,
and of welding a bar of iron upon the back to strengthen
it, which later became the universal practice,^^ and no
radical change has been made in the blade of this imple-
ment since his day. He built for the town of Boston the
first fire engine used in this country, and also made
machines for drawing wire. Jenks seems to have also
been interested in another iron works started at Brain-
tree between 1645 and 1650.
An iron works was started at Raynham in 1652 by the
Leonards, who came from England about the same time
as Jenks and had worked at Lynn.^^ The Jenks and
Leonard families were all mechanics. It used to be said
that wherever you found a Leonard you found a
mechanic; and the Jenks family has been in some form
of manufacturing continuously from the days of Joseph
Jenks to the present time.
The near-by portions of Rhode Island and Massachu-
setts centering on the headwaters of Narragansett Bay,
became famous for the production and manufacture of
iron. A young Scotchman, Hugh Orr, settled in Bridge-
water about 1738. He was a pioneer in the manufac-
ture of edged tools, and is said to have introduced the
trip hammer into this country. ''For several years he
was the only edge-tool maker in this part of the coun-
11 Goodrich: "History of Pawtucket," p. 17.
12 Weeden, Vol, I, p. 184. Bishop, Vol. I, p. 477.
13 Bishop, Vol. I, p. 479. Weeden, Vol. I, p. 192.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 117
try, and ship-carpenters, millwrights, etc., . . . con-
stantly resorted to him for supply. And, indeed, such
was his fame, that applications were frequently made to
him from the distance of twenty miles for the purpose
of having an axe, an adze or an auger new tempered by
his hands." In 1748, he built 500 stand-of-arms for the
province, the first made in America, and later did much
casting and boring of cannon during the Revolution.
After the war, he made cotton machinery until his death
in 1798, at the age of eighty-two. Weeden credits Hugh
Orr with being ''perhaps the most conspicuous" Ameri-
can iron worker in the eighteenth century. His son,
Robert Orr, was also a skilled mechanic, and was one of
the very early master armorers of the Springfield
Joseph Holmes is another of the pioneers of this
neighborhood. He is said to have made more than 3000
tons of iron from bog ore, and ''Holmes' iron" was
famous for anchors. He also furnished many of the
cannon used in the Revolution. ^^ The Hope Furnace
at Scituate, R. I., famous for many years, was started
about 1735 by Daniel Waldo.'® A nail mill was in opera-
tion at Milton, Mass., about 1740 or 1742. Another was
started at Middleboro about 1745, on information stolen,
it is said, from Milton by a mechanic disguised as a rus-
tic." A mill for making scythes was in operation at
Andover in 1715, and a "heavy" forge was in operation
at Boston in 1720.'* Nearly all the cannon for the early
American frigates were cast in and about Providence.
Capt. Stephen Jenks was making arms in North Provi-
14 Weeden, Vol. II, p. 685. Bishop, Vol. I, pp. 486-487.
15 Bishop, Vol. I, p. 489.
18 Field: "State of Ehode Island and Providence Plantations," Vol. Ill,
"Weeden, Vol. II, p. 499.
18 Hid., Vol. II, p. 498.
118 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
dence at the beginning of the Eevolution.^^ An account
of the early attempts in iron manufacture in Ehode
Island can be found in Vol. Ill of Field's ''State of
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."
The Jenks' influence had spread to Rhode Island as
early as 1655 when Joseph Jenks, Jr., who had
learned the business with his father, moved from Lynn
to the headwaters of Narragansett Bay, and founded
Pawtucket. He built a forge near a bog-ore mine and
water power, and began making domestic utensils and
iron tools. The settlement was destroyed by the Indians
in 1675, during King Philip's war, but was soon rebuilt.
The son of this Jenks, the third Joseph Jenks, was born
there, and later became a very influential man in the
colony. He was governor for five years and was inter-
ested in many of its activities.^" Providence, from its
better situation commercially, early became a trading
center, but nearly all the manufacturing was done at
Pawtucket on account of the abundant water power. In
fact, it was not until the steam engine rendered manu-
facturing independent of water power that Providence
took the lead as an industrial center.
In the enterprises centering about Pawtucket and
Providence, one finds continually the names of Jenks,
Wilkinson, Brown and Greene, among the latter that of
Nathaniel Greene, the Revolutionary general, who had a
cannon factory at Coventry. Of these early families
the Wilkinsons were the most influential. Oziel Wilkin-
son, a Quaker, came to Pawtucket from Smithfield, R. I.,
established an anchor forge there in 1784, and soon
became the leading man in the community. He built
an air furnace in 1791, and three years later he furnished
castings for the Cambridge drawbridge and for canal
19 Hid., Vol. II, p. 793.
20 Goodrich, pp. 18-23.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 119
locks, probably those first used on the Merrimac Eiver.^*
He and his family had a most important part in the
development of early manufacturing in America. He
had six sons and four daughters. Four of the sons
worked in two partnerships, one of Abraham and Isaac
(twins), the other of David and Daniel. The fifth son
was also a successful manufacturer. One of his daugh-
ters married Samuel Slater, who will be mentioned later;
one married Timothy Greene, another, William Wilkin-
son, and the youngest, Hezekiah Howe, all of whom were
manufacturers. The remaining son, the only child
unaccounted for, died at the age of four years."
In 1794 David Wilkinson built a steamboat and made
a trip in it of three and one-half miles from Winsor's
Cove to Providence. He was not impressed with the
practical value of it, and dismantled it after their
''frolic.'' Before it was destroyed, however, a young
man named Daniel Leach examined it carefully with the
greatest interest. Later, when Fulton made his plans
for the ''Clermont," the drawings were said to have been
made by this same man, Leach.^^
In 1797 David Wilkinson invented a slide lathe which
was patented the next year. The writer has not been
able to obtain an accurate description of this. The most
direct reference to it is a letter of Samuel Greene to
Zachariah Allen, a prominent Ehode Island cotton manu-
facturer, dated June 17, 1861, which says: "I suppose
David Wilkinson to be the inventor of the slide lathe,
at first applied to the making of large press screws, for
which I believe he got a patent. I know he made appli-
21 Ihid., p. 51,
22 Israel Wilkinson: "Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family," pp. 220,
461. Jacksonville, 111., 1869,
23 Ihid., pp. 509-513; also, Field, Vol. Ill, p. 372. The name here is
given as French.
120 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
cation to the British Government, and I have heard said
did get a grant." The patent ran out before the lathe
came into general nse. Fifty years later Congress voted
Wilkinson $10,000 ''for benefits accruing to the public
service for the use of the principle of the gauge and
sliding lathe, of which he was the inventor. ' '-* He seems
to have been working on it in America at the same time
as Maudslay in London." Sylvanus Brown, who helped
Slater build the first Arkwright cotton machinery at
Pawtucket, is also said to have invented the slide lathe
still earlier (in 1791) and to have also used it for cutting
wrought-iron screws for sperm-oil presses.^^ There are
good records of Maudslay 's slide lathes; in fact, screw-
cutting lathes made by him prior to 1800 are in the South
Kensington Museum at London. Priority can hardly be
claimed for these American lathes until something more
is known of them, and whether they were the equal of
Maudslay 's in design and quality.
The Wilkinsons were closely identified with the early
textile enterprises. As the gun industry developed the
interchangeable system, so the cotton industry devel-
oped the American general machine tool. At the close
of the Revolution, many attempts were made to start
textile industries, by Orr in 1786, Cabot at Beverly in
1787, and Anthony at Providence in 1788, and also at
Worcester. A man named Alexander is said to have
operated the first loom with the flying shuttle in America,
which was later moved to Pawtucket. Moses Brown,
24 The Senate Committee which recommended this action consisted of
Rusk of Texas, Cass of Michigan, Davis of Mississippi, Dix of New York,
and Benton of Missouri. The bill passed the Senate in Jime, and the House
in August, 1848.
25 "Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family," pp. 506-508, 518. Goodrich,
26 Goodrich, p. 48.
EAELY AMERICAN MECHANICS 121
about 1790, imported a few spinning frames to Provi-
dence, but they proved a failure.
Samuel Slater, who married Wilkinson's daughter,
was an Englishman who had served his time with Ark-
wright and Strutt, and had become thoroughly familiar
with the Arkwright machinery. In 1789 he had emi-
grated to America with the purpose of starting a textile
industry. We have already mentioned the embargo
which England placed on mechanics and on all kinds of
machinery. This had compelled Slater to use the great-
est caution in leaving the country. Disguised, it is said,
as a rustic, he went to London and sailed from there,
giving no indication of his plans until after he had gone,
when he had a letter sent to his family. He went first
to Philadelphia, but hearing of Moses Brown's attempts
at spinning in Providence, he wrote to Brown and made
arrangements to go to Pawtucket and reproduce for him
the Arkwright machinery. Slater was at that time only
twenty years old. After a winter of hard work he suc-
ceeded in making several frames with a total of seventy-
two spindles, and two carding machines. These were
started in a small building, later known as the Old Slater
Mill, with an old negro named '' Primus" Jenks as motive
power. During this winter Slater lived in the family of
Oziel Wilkinson and married his daughter. The second
mill was started in 1799 by Oziel Wilkinson and his three
sons-in-law. Slater, Greene and Wilkinson."
Doctor Dwight, in his travels, in 1810,^^ writes of
''There is probably no spot in New England of the
same extent, in which the same quantity or variety of
manufacturing business is carried on. In the year 1796,
there were here three anchor forges, one tanning mill,
2-! Ihid., pp. 39-51.
28 Vol. II, pp. 27-28.
122 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
one flouring mill, one slitting mill, three snuff mills, one
oil mill, three fulling mills, a clothier's works, one cotton
factory, two machines for cutting nails, one furnace for
casting hollow ware — all moved by water — one machine
for cutting screws, moved by a horse, and several forges
for smith's work." This was long before Lowell, Law-
rence and Manchester had come into existence.
The Wilkinsons were interested in other things as
well as in the cotton industries. David established a
shop and foundry in Pawtucket, where for one thing he
made cannon which he bored by an improved method
consisting of ''making his drill and bore stationary and
having the cannon revolve about the drill," He built
textile machinery for almost every part of the country,
from northern New England to Louisiana, and made
the machinery used at New Bedford and other whaling
ports for pressing sperm oil.^^ About 1816 David and
Daniel Wilkinson bought out a man named Dwight
Fisher and manufactured nails until 1829, their output
being about 4000 pounds daily.'" In 1829 David Wil-
kinson moved to Cohoes, N. Y., and with DeWitt Clinton,
Stephen Van Rensselaer and others, started the textile
industries in that city.'^ In 1832 Zebulon White started
up one of the abondoned Wilkinson furnaces, which three
years later was known as the Pawtucket Cupola Furnace
Company. This afterwards became the firm of J. S.
White & Company.'^
Oziel Wilkinson died in 1815, but the influence of the
Wilkinson family continued for many years. Slater
steadily widened his operations, and was so influential in
laying the foundations of the textile industry that he
2» Goodrich, p. 69.
30 Field: "Ehode Island and Providence Plantations," Vol. Ill, p. 373.
51 Van Slyck : ' ' Eepresentatives of New England Manufacturers, ' ' p. 515.
32 Field, Vol. Ill, p. 372.
Figure 26. Samuel Slater
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 123
became known as 'Hhe father of the American cotton
industry." How rapidly the cotton industry spread is
shown by a memorial to Congress in 1815, stating that
there were 140 cotton manufactures within thirty miles
of Providence, employing 26,000 hands and operating
130,000 spindles.^^ Only a few of the more important
ramifications can be given.
In 1822 Samuel Slater, Larned Pitcher and three
others bought a little two-story building at what was
then Goffstown, on the Merrimac Eiver, and founded the
great Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, and the city
of Manchester, N. H. It is now known as the greatest
textile mill in the world, but the company's original char-
ter was very broad, and, in addition to its other inter-
ests, the company operated for many years one of the
largest and most influential machine shops in the coun-
try, where were built locomotives, engines, boilers, all
kinds of textile machinery, machine tools and mill
Alfred Jenks, who learned his trade under Slater,
moved to Holmesburg, near Philadelphia, in 1810, taking
with him drawings of every variety of cotton machinery,
as far as it had then advanced, and commenced its manu-
facture.^* He furnished the machinery for the first cot-
ton mill in that portion of Pennsylvania and for the first
woolen mill in the entire state, and developed what was
for many years one of the most important plants for the
building of textile machinery in the United States.
Eleazer Jenks built a machine shop at Pawtucket in
1813 for heavy forging and for the manufacture of spin-
ning machinery, which was occupied by David Wilkinson
for many years."^ The same year, Larned Pitcher also
33 Bishop, Vol. II, p. 214,
34 Ibid., Vol. Ill, p. 18.
36 Goodrich, p. 64.
124 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
started a shop there, and soon took in P. Hovey and
Asa Arnold. In 1819 Ira Gay was taken in, and the
firm became Pitcher & Gay, one of the largest manufac-
turers of cotton machinery. Gay remained in Paw-
tucket until 1824, when he went to New Hampshire in
connection with the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company
and the Nashua Manufacturing Company, then just start-
ing.^^ A few years later Ira Gay and Zeba, his brother,
started a shop at North Chelmsford for building textile
machinery. With the growth of the Merrimac textile
interests, this plant became very influential and is nin-
ning today. The firm has changed several times with the
deaths of various partners, and is now kno^^^l as the
North Chelmsford Machine & Supply Company. It has
preserved many of the old tools used in the early days,
and there are few shops of greater historical interest in
Capt. James S. Brown, son of the Sylvanus Bro^vn
referred to, who had worked for David Wilkinson in
1817, succeeded Ira Gay in the Pawtucket shop, the firm
becoming Pitcher & Brown. In 1842 Brown became sole
owner and greatly enlarged the works. The shop which
he built in 1847 was 400 feet long and employed over
300 workmen. Brown lived for many years and made
many valuable inventions, which included a beveled gear
cutter, boring machine, grinder, improvement in the
Blanchard type of lathe, and many improvements in tex-
tile machinery. Some of the lathes which he himself
built in 1820 were in use for seventy years.^^
Col. Stephen Jenks started a shop in 1820 for the
making of nuts and screws, which later became the Wil-
liam H. Haskell Company of Pawtucket. Alvin Jenks,
36 Ihid., p. 66.
if Ibid., pp. 71-72.
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 125
of Stephen Jenks & Sons, went to Central Falls in 1829
and the next year entered into partnership with David
Q. Fales. This firm, known as Fales, Jenks & Company,
built cotton machinery for many years, and moved to
Pawtucket in 1865.^* The Jenkses of the Fales & Jenks
Machine Company, as it is known now, are lineal descend-
ants of the original Joseph Jenks of Lynn.
In 1834 Jeremiah O. Arnold, who as a yonng man
worked for David Wilkinson, and his brother, Joseph
Arnold, started in Pawtucket the first press for making
nuts. Later, Joseph Arnold retired and "VYilliam Field
took his place, the firm becoming William Field & Com-
pany. They moved to Providence in 1846, and in 1847
became the Providence Tool Company.^* The Provi-
dence Forge & Nut Company was organized by some
men from the Tool Company in 1852, and a plant was
built. Four years later the new venture was absorbed
by the parent company, which moved to the new plant.
The Providence Tool Company had a wide influence for
many years, manufacturing the Household sewing
machine and the Martini rifle, as well as a line of tools.
In 1883 it was reorganized and became the present Rhode
Island Tool Company.
The Franklin Machine Company was started by Stan-
ford Newell, Isaac Thurber and others, about 1800. The
plant was always referred to in the old records as "The
Cupola." During the War of 1812 it was busy making
cannon under the charge of Isaac Wilkinson, one of
Oziel's sons, who was then a boy only seventeen years
old.*" The Builders Iron Foundry, formerly known as
**The High Street Furnace," began business some time
prior to 1820. The American Screw Company had its
38 Ihid., p. 72. Also, Field, Vol. Ill, p. 373.
39 Goodrich, p. 75.
40 Field, Vol. Ill, p. 375.
126 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
beginning in the Eagle Screw Company, organized in
1838 under the leadership of William G. Angell. Ham-
pered by serious litigation and sharp competition, it con-
tinued with indifferent success until 1849, when Mr.
Angell, adopting a machine invented by Thomas J.
Sloan of New York, brought out the pointed screw. The
New England Screw Company, whose inventor, Cullen
Whipple, had come from the earlier Providence Screw
Company, united with the Eagle Screw Company in 1860,
forming the present American Screw Company.
The Corliss Machine Works were started in 1848.
Brown & Sharpe, the most important and influential
of all the Providence plants, was established in 1833 by
David Brown and his son, Joseph R. Bro^vn. The history
of this company is so important that it will be taken up
in a separate chapter.
One can hardly turn from the history of manufactures
in Providence without some reference to the manufactur-
ing of jewelry. A Cyril Dodge made silver shoe buckles
"two doors north of the Baptist meeting-house" about
the time of the Revolution, but the first real manufac-
turer of jewelry in Providence was Nehemiah Dodge,
who, just after the Revolution, started in a little shop
on North Main Street as a goldsmith and watchmaker.
He also made necklaces, rings and miniature cases.
Dodge lived to be over ninety years old and to see the
industry spread wonderfully. By 1805 there were three
other jewelers, one of whom, by the way, was a Jenks,
and they employed all told about thirty workmen. In
1810 there were 100 workmen; in 1815, 175; and
in 1832, 282. The census writers of 1860 give eighty-
six shops with 1761 workmen; in 1880, 148 shops
with 3264 employees, and in 1890 there were 170 shops
employing 4380. These figures cover Providence only.
Many other shops were located in near-by towns. These
EARLY AMERICAN MECHANICS 127
were all small and tended to multiply. The journeymen
were the highest paid artisans anywhere about, earning
from $5 to $10 a day, and two or three were constantly
setting up for themselves. The oldest jewelry firm in
or about Providence is said to be the Gorham Manu-
facturing Company now located in the suburb of
Elmwood. Jabez Gorham, its founder, was first
engaged as a jeweler with four others about 1813.
In 1831 he formed a partnership with H. L. Webster,
a journeyman silversmith from Boston, and specialized
on the making of silver spoons, thus starting the Gor-
ham Manufacturing Company.'*^ Palmer & Capron,
another old firm, was founded about 1840.
There were other early centers of mechanical influ-
ence. With the invention of steam navigation, New York
became a center of engine building for the steamboat
trade, and the Allaire, Quintard, Fletcher, Delamater,
and other works, were well known many years ago, but
for some reason New York City has never been conspic-
uous for tool building, the Garvin Machine Company
being the only large firm in this field. Worcester, Hart-
ford, Philadelphia and Windsor, Vt. (small and secluded
as it is), have contributed signally to tool building
throughout this country and Europe, and will be taken
up later. We have considered Pawtucket first, because
it was the earliest center and because its wide influence
in building up other centers is little realized. The exten-
sive water power available in the Merrimac Valley gave
rise to the great textile interests of Manchester, Lowell
and Lawrence, which have far outstripped those centered
about Pawtucket, but the textile industry began in Paw-
tucket and with it the building of machinery and tools.
41 Ihid., Vol. Ill, pp. 377-381.
THE RISE OF INTERCHANGEABLE
It is well, in beginning, to define what we mean by
the interchangeable system. We will consider it as the
art of producing complete machines or mechanisms, the
corresponding parts of which are so nearly alike that
any part may be fitted into any of the given mechanisms.
So considered, it does not include the manufacture of
separate articles, closely like each other, but which do
not fit together permanently into a mechanism. If this
were meant, the work of the early typefounders would
clearly antedate that of the modern manufacturers, as
they produced printing types by the process of casting
which were similar to each other within very close limits.
There is, however, a wide difference between this and
the parts in such a mechanism as a gun, for individual
types are not permanently articulated.
The interchangeable system was developed by gun
makers. It is commercially applicable chiefly to articles
of a high grade, made in large numbers, and in which
interchangeability is desirable. Of the typical articles,
such as firearms, bicycles, typewriters, sewing machines,
and the like, now produced by the interchangeable sys-
tem, guns and pistols are the only ones which antedate
the system itself. These were used in great numbers, and
in military arms especially interchangeability was of the
highest value. Under the old system with hand-made
muskets, in which each part was fitted to its neighbors,
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 129
the loss or injury of a single important part put the whole
gun out of use until it could be repaired by an expert
gunsmith. Eli Whitney, in a letter to the War Depart-
ment in 1812, stated that the British Government had on
hand over 200,000 stands of muskets, partially finished
or awaiting repairs/ The desirability, therefore, of some
system of manufacture by which all the parts could be
standardized and interchangeable, was well recognized.
There existed a demand for military arms which could
meet this condition, but it was felt at the time that it was
impossible to meet it.
The system of interchangeable manufacture is gener-
ally considered to be of American origin. Tn fact, for
many years it was known in Europe as the ''American
System" of manufacture. If priority be assigned to the
source which first made it successful, it is American ; but
the first suggestions of the system came from France.
We have already seen that the French mechanics were
the first to work upon many of the great mechanical
improvements ; but here, as in the case of the slide-rest
and planer, they seem to have caught the idea only. It
was left to others to make it a practical success.
At least two attempts were made to manufacture guns
interchangeably in France, one in 1717, the other in 1785.
Of the first we know little. Fitch, in his ''Report on the
Manufactures of Interchangeable Mechanisms," in the
United States census of 1880, speaks of it, but says it
was a failure.^ We know of the second from an interest-
ing and surprising source. Thomas Jefferson, while
Minister to France, wrote a letter to John Jay, dated
August 30, 1785, which contains the following:
An improvement is made here in the construction of mus-
kets, which it may be interesting to Congress to know, should
1 Blake: "History of Hamden, Conn.," p. 133.
2 p. 2.
130 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
they at any time propose to procure any. It consists in the
making every part of them so exactly alike, that what belongs
to any one, may be used for every other musket in the magazine.
The government here has examined and approved the method,
and is establishing a large manufactory for the purpose of
putting it into execution. As yet, the inventor has only com-
pleted the lock of the musket, on this plan. He will proceed
immediately to have the barrel, stock, and other parts, executed
in the same way. Supposing it might be useful in the United
States, I went to the workman. He presented me the parts of
fifty locks taken to pieces, and arranged in compartments, I
put several together myself, taking pieces at hazard as they came
to hand, and they fitted in the most perfect manner. The advan-
tages of this, when arms need repair, are evident. He effects it
by tools of his owti contrivance, which, at the same time, abridge
the work, so that he thinks he shall be able to furnish the musket
two livres cheaper than the common price. But it will be two
or three years before he will be able to furnish any quantity. I
mention it now, as it may have an influence on the plan for
furnishing our magazines with this arm.^
Six months later he wrote a letter to the governor of
Virginia, which is almost a copy of this one. In another
letter written many years later to James Monroe, Jeffer-
son gives the name of this mechanic as Le Blanc, saying
that he had extended his system to the barrel, mounting
and stock, and stating: *'I endeavored to get the U. S.
to bring him over, which he was ready for on moderate
terms. I failed and I do not know what became of
him."* We wish to give full credit to this genius who
seems to have caught a clear idea of some at least of the
principles involved, those of interchangeability and the
substitution of machine work for hand work. The
3 "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson," Edited by H. A. Washington,
Vol. I, p. 411. New York, 1853.
<"The Writings of Thomas Jefferson," Edited by Paul L. Ford, Vol.
VIII, p. 101. New York, 1887.
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 131
account makes no mention of gauges or of the division of
labor, but this might easily have been due to Jefferson's
unfamiliarity with the details of manufacture.
We have seen in a previous chapter that a close ap-
proach to the interchangeable system was made in the
Portsmouth block machinery of Bentham and Brunei.
This was rather an application of modern manufacturing
principles than a specific case of interchangeable manu-
facture. The interchangeability of product obtained was
incidental to good manufacturing methods, not a distinct
object aimed at, and there does not seem to have been any
system of gauging during the processes of manufacture,
to insure maintaining the various parts within specified
limits of accuracy. In fact, the output itself did not
require it, as ship's blocks do not call for anything like
the precision necessary in guns or the other typical
products of the interchangeable system.
"We have seen, too, that John George Bodmer began
about 1806 to manufacture guns at St. Blaise in the
Black Forest, using special machinery for much of the
work previously done by hand, especially for the parts
of the lock, which 'Svere shaped and prepared for imme-
diate use, so as to insure perfect uniformity and econo-
mize labor. ' ' In both of these instances, the Portsmouth
block machinery and the St. Blaise factory, definite steps
which form part of the interchangeable system were
taken, but it does not seem probable that the system
existed in anything like the completeness with which it
was being developed at that time in America.
In 1798 and 1799 two contracts were let by the United
States Government for firearms, one to Eli Whitney in
1798, the other to Simeon North in 1799. These con-
tracts are of the greatest importance. Whitney had
invented the cotton gin in 1792. This invention, as is
well known, had a profound economic effect on the whole
132 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
civilized world, but the condition of the patent laws at
that time and the very value of the invention itself made
it impossible for him to defend his rights ; and, although
he had practically created a vast industry, he actually
lost more money by the invention than he gained. By
1798 he made up his mind that he must turn to some-
thing else. He chose the manufacture of muskets, and
addressed a letter to Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the
Treasury, in which he said :
I should like to undertake the manufacture of ten to fifteen
thousand stand of arms. I am persuaded that machinery moved
by water, adapted to this business would greatly diminish the
labor and greatly facilitate the manufacture of this article.
Machines for forging, rolling, floating, boring, grinding, polish-
ing, etc., may all be made use of to advantage.^
His contract of 1798 resulted. From the very start
Whitney proposed to manufacture these arms on a ''new
principle. ' ' He built a mill at Whitneyville, just outside
of the city of New Haven, utilizing a small water power.
Nearly two years were required to get the plant into
operation, as he had to design and build all of his pro-
posed machinery. In 1812 when making application for
another contract for 15,000 muskets, Whitney writes :
The subscriber begs leave further to remark that he has for
the last 12 years been engaged in manufacturing muskets; that
he now has the most respectable private establishment in the
United States for carrying on this important branch of busi-
ness. That this establishment was commenced and has been
carried on upon a plan which is unknown in Europe, and the
great leading object of which is to substitute correct and effec-
tive operations of machinery for that skill of the artist which is
acquired only by long practice and experience ; a species of skill
8 "New Haven Colony Historical Society Papers," Vol. V, p. 117.
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 133
which is not possessed in this country to any considerable
In another place it is stated that the object at which
he aimed and which he accomplished was '*to make the
same parts of different guns, as the locks, for example,
as much like each other as the successive impressions of a
copper-plate engraving. ' "
Mr. Whitney's determination to introduce this system
of manufacturing was ridiculed and laughed at by
the French and English ordnance officers to whom he
explained it. They said that by his system every arm
would be a model and that arms so made would cost enor-
mously. Even the "Washington officials were skeptical
and became uneasy at advancing so much money mthout
a single gun having been completed, and Whitney went
to Washington, taking with him ten pieces of each part
of a musket. He exhibited these to the Secretary of War
and the army officers interested, as a succession of piles
of different parts. Selecting indiscriminately from each
of the piles, he put together ten muskets, an achievement
which was looked on with amazement. We have not the
exact date of this occurrence, but it was probably about
Meantime Simeon North, who unlike Whitney was a
gun maker by trade, had completed his first contract for
1500 pistols, and had executed a number of others. In
these no mention was made of interchangeability, but
whether independently or not, he very soon began to
develop the same methods as Whitney. In a letter to the
Secretary of the Navy in 1808, North says :
eJfctU, p. 122.
1 Denison Olmstead : ' * Memoir of Eli Whitney, ' ' p. 50. 1846.
8 Blake: "History of Hamden, Conn.," p. 138.
134 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
I find that by confining a workman to one particular limb of
the pistol untill he has made two thousand, I save at least one
quarter of his labour, to what I should provided I finish^ them
by small quantities ; and the work will be as much better as it is
He also says in the same letter :
I have some seventeen thousand screws & other parts of pistols
now forgd. & many parts nearly finished & the business is going
on brisk and lively.
Here is clearly the principle of subdivision of labor and
the beginning of the standardizing of parts. In 1813
North contracted to furnish 20,000 pistols. This agree-
ment contained the following significant clause :
The component parts of the pistols are to correspond so exactly
that any limb or part of one Pistol may be fitted to any other
Pistol of the Twenty thousand.^"
It is stated in the valuable memoir of Simeon North,
by his great-grandsons, that this is the first government
contract in which the contractor agreed to produce arms
having interchangeable parts, and it is consequently
claimed for Colonel North that he originated this process.
We have not had an opportunity to examine the official
records in Washington in regard to Mr. Whitney's deal-
ings, but it is quite clear from his letter of 1812 that he
had been operating on this basis for nearly ten years,
although it may not have been formally recognized in his
contracts with the Government. Capt. Decius Wads-
worth, then inspector of muskets, wrote to the Secretary
of the Treasury in 1800 as follows :
8S. N. D. and R. H. North: "Memoir of Simeon North," p. 64. 1913.
10 Ibid., p. 81.
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 135
But where the different parts of the lock are each formed and
fashioned successively by a proper machine, and by the same
hand, they will be found to differ so insensibly that the similar
parts of different locks may be mutually substituted. The
extending of this principle to all parts of a musket has been a
favorite idea with Mr. Whitney from the beginning. It has been
treated and ridiculed as a vain and impracticable attempt by
almost all those who pretended to superior knowledge and experi-
ence in the business. He has the satisfaction, however, now of
shewing the practicability of the attempt. Although I am of the
opinion that there is more to please the imagination than of real
utility in the plan, yet as it affords an incalculable proof of his
superior skill as a workman, and is what I believe has never been
attempted with success before, it is deserving of much con-
Furthermore, Jefferson, in the letter to Monroe writ-
ten in 1801, says in speaking of Whitney :
He has invented molds and machines for making all the pieces
of his locks so exactly equal, that take 100 locks to pieces and
mingle their parts and the 100 locks may be put together by
taking the pieces which come to hand.^^
In a letter to the Secretary of War in June, 1801,
Whitney writes : ' * . . . my system and plan of opera-
tions are, I believe, entirely new and different from those
heretofore pursued in this or any other country.
''It was the understanding and expectation of the Sec-
retary of the Treasury, with whom I contracted, that I
should establish a manufactory on the principles which
were then pointed out and explained to him. This sys-
tem has been uniformly pursued from the beginning. ' '"
It would seem that the stipulation in North's contract
of 1813 was not so much the beginning of a new method
11 Blake, p. 296.
12 See note 4, page 130.
13 Blake, p. 300.
136 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
as a recognition of methods which had already come into
existence. It seems almost inevitable that the two men,
pioneer manufacturers and government contractors in
closely allied industries, and located but twenty miles
apart, must have known more or less of each other's
work and have been influenced by each other's methods.
Without trying to differentiate the credit between them
too closely it is quite certain that in the work of these
two men the interchangeable system had its birth.
Colonel North's work for the Government was invariably
well done, and for more than fifty years he continued to
supply, first pistols, and later rifles for the army and
navy. Of the two, ^Vhitney had the greater influence in
spreading the interchangeable system throughout the
country. He was well known and influential through his
invention of the cotton gin and was located in a larger
center. He was called upon by the Government for
advice, and at its request sent to Springfield some of his
best workmen to introduce his system there, and also
help to start it at Harper's Ferry. Whitney built his
factory in 1798 or 1800, and employed at the start about
sixty men. Colonel North moved from Berlin to Middle-
town in 1813, and built a factory at a cost of about $100,-
000, where he employed seventy men and produced about
thirty pistols a day. The interchangeable system was
well begun in both of these factories by 1815.
The Springfield armory had been started during the
Revolution, mainly for making cannon. In 1792 Con-
gress authorized the President to establish two arsenals
for small arms. These were located at Springfield in the
North, and Harper's Ferry in the South. In 1811 Captain
Hall was granted a patent for a gun which was
adopted as the government standard in 1819 and the
Government undertook to manufacture them at one of
its own armories. Captain Hall was placed in charge of
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 137
the work and the plant at Harper's Ferry was equipped
for interchangeable manufacture." Later many of these
rifles were made by private contractors, such as Colonel
North. By 1828 in one of Colonel North's contracts we
find the principle of interchangeability extended still
further. It is guaranteed that the component parts
should be interchangeable, not only in the lot contracted
for, but that they may be exchanged in a similar manner
with the rifles made or making at the national armories.^*^
In 1836 Samuel Colt invented his revolver, and the
first lot contracted for by the Government was made at
the Whitney works in 1847. Mr. Colt determined about
1850 to establish his own factory, moved to Hartford,
and in 1854-1855 built the present Colt's Armory, in
which the principles of interchangeable manufacture
were adopted in a most advanced form. Hand work
was practically eliminated and automatic and semi-
automatic machinery substituted. A type of manufac-
turing miller, built for this work by George S. Lincoln
& Company, is still known as the Lincoln miller. E. K.
Eoot, superintendent under Colt, had a profound influ-
ence in the development of manufacturing at this time.
He put the art of die forging on its present basis. At
first he used a type of hammer in which four impres-
sions were arranged in four different sets of dies. The
hammers were lifted, first by a set of dogs, later by a
central screw, and the operator walked around the
machine, using the impressions successively. A few
years later the present form of board drop was devel-
oped. Two of George S. Lincoln & Company's men were
Francis A. Pratt, superintendent, and Amos Whitney,
contractor, who later founded the firm of Pratt &
. 14 "Memoir of Simeon North/' pp. 168-169.
15 Ihid., p. 160.
138 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
In 1857 Smith & "Wesson began manufacturing revol-
vers at Springfield along similar lines. Mr. Smith had
worked in the old "Whitney shops. Another firm of great
influence was that of Bobbins & Lawrence, later the
"Windsor Machine Company, in "Windsor, "Vt. Frederick
"W. Howe built there a number of machines for profile
milling, rifling, barrel drilling, and is said to have
designed the first ''universal" miller in 1852.^® The
Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, which had
been founded in 1829, was also engaged in this work.
By 1850 the interchangeable system began to extend its
influence abroad. Bobbins & Lawrence had an exhibit
of interchangeable guns in the exposition at London in
1851, which attracted much attention. In 1853 a British
Commission came to this country and visited the govern-
ment and private armories, the Ames Manufacturing
Company and Bobbins & Lawrence. During the visit
of this Commission at Springfield, Major Bipley, super-
intendent of the armory, ordered ten guns, which had
been manufactured in ten successive years, from 1843
to 1853, to be stripped, and the parts to be reassembled
As a result of this visit 20,000 interchangeable Enfield
rifles were ordered by the English Government, and in
1855, 157 machines for the manufacture of guns were
sent to England. These machines comprised seventy-
four millers, twenty-three drilling machines, five tap-
ping machines, and seven edging machines. The
remainder were special machines for threading, rifling,
turning, boring, and so on." In this list of machines
scarcely a single lathe is found and no mention is made
18 Not to be confused with the Brown & Sharpe universal milling machine,
which was invented by Joseph R. Brown in 1871,
17 Fitch: "Report on Manufactures of Interchangeable Mechanism,"
U. S. Census, 1880. Volume on "Manufactures."
140 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
of any turret machines. Ten or fifteen years later
there would have been a large number. James H.
Burton, who had been at the Harper's Ferry armory
and was at the time with the Ames Manufacturing Com-
pany, went over to England to install the new system and
operate the new plant. The Ames Manufacturing Com-
pany alone is said to have exported four to five hundred
stocking machines of the Blanchard type on these early
foreign orders. Within the next fifteen or twenty years
nearly every government in Europe was supplied with
American gun-making machinery, all planned to operate
on the interchangeable system, which was known every-
where as ''the American system."
Nasmyth was concerned in the introduction of this
machinery into England. His mention of it in his auto-
biography throws light on how the interchangeable sys-
tem was looked upon by the English engineers :
In 1853 I was appointed a member of the Small Arms Com-
mittee for the purpose of remodeling and, in fact, re-establish-
ing, the Small Arms Factory at Enfield. The wonderful suc-
cess of the needle gun in the war between Prussia and Denmark
in 1848 occasioned some alarm amongst our military authorities
as to the state of affairs at home. The Duke of Wellington to
the last proclaimed the sufficiency of "Brown Bess" as a weapon
of offense and defense ; but matters could no longer be deferred.
The United States Government, though possessing only a very
small standing army, had established at Springfield a small
arms factory, where, by the use of machine tools specially-
designed to execute with the most unerring precision all the
details of muskets and rifles, they were enabled to dispense with
mere manual dexterity, and to produce arms to any amount.
It was finally determined to improve the musketry and rifle
systems of the English army. The Government resolved to
introduce the American system,^^ by which arms might be pro-
is Italics are ours.
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 141
duced much more perfectly, and at a great diminution of cost.
It was under such circumstances that the Small Arms Committee
Colonel Colt had brought to England some striking examples
of the admirable tools used at Springfield^" and he established
a manufactory at Pimlico for the production of his well-known
revolvers. The committee resolved to make a personal visit to
the United States Factory at Springfield. My own business
engagements at home prevented my accompanying the members
who were selected; but as my friend John Anderson (now Sir
John) acted as their guide, the committee had in him the most
able and effective helper. He directed their attention to the
most important and available details of that admirable estab-
lishment. The United States Government acted most liberally
in allowing the committee to obtain every information on the
subject; and the heads of the various departments, who were
intelligent and zealous, rendered them every attention and
The members of the mission returned home enthusiastically
delighted with the results of their inquiry. The committee
immediately proceeded with the entire remodeling of the Small
Arms Factory at Enfield. The workshops were equipped with
a complete series of special machine tools, chiefly obtained from
the Springfield factory.^" The United States Government also
permitted several of their best and most experienced workmen
and superintendents to take service under the English Govern-
In using the term 'interchangeable" it must be remem-
bered that the meaning attached to this word grew dur-
ing these years. The interchangeability of 1813 would
not have been considered satisfactory in 1855, much less
so today. When Hall completed his first hundred rifles
20 This must be a mistake. The machinery seems to have been supplied
chiefly by Eobbins & Lawrence and the Ames Mfg. Co. Mr. Burton of the
latter company installed it.
21 Autobiography of James Nasmyth, pp. 362-363.
142 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
at Harper's Ferry in 1824, it is said that 'Hhe joint of
the breech block was so fitted that a sheet of paper would
slide loosely in the joint, but two sheets would stick."
This system of gauging will have a familiar sound to
the older mechanics who grew up before the days of
the micrometer. AVhen Colonel North was given his
first contract for the rifles and furnished two models to
work from, these models were so unlike that he asked to
have one set aside and that he be allowed to gauge his
work from the other.
Of the various tools associated mth interchangeable
manufacture, drilling jigs were in use very early, prob-
ably from the start. The filing jig is said to have been
invented by Selah North, the son of Colonel North, but it
was used by Whitney almost as early. Both Whitney
and Colonel North were using plain milling by 1820. A
light sort of milling machine is shown in the French
Encyclopedia of 1772, already referred to, but the first
successful one was built by Mr. Whitney some time prior
to 1818. This machine, still in existence and now in the
possession of the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale Uni-
versity, is shown again in Fig. 28." In 1817 to 1822 we
find the introduction of forging in hand dies, barrel
turning by special machinery, and the Blanchard lathe
for gun-stocks. Receiving gauges are said to have been
used at Middletown in 1829, and were regularly in use
at Springfield by 1840. Automatic machinery for the
woodworking was first invented by Blanchard in 1818
for the Springfield armory. The accuracy of these
machines, shown in Fig. 29, outran that of the metal
work of the time. To accommodate the variations still
present in the metal parts Blanchard devised a machine
which used the actual lock plates as formers and cut
22 For a detailed account of this machine and its history see American
Machmist, Vol. XXXVI, p. 1037.
INTERCHANGEABLE MANUFACTURE 143
the stocks to match, and such machines were used at
Springfield until 1840. By that time the work on the
metal parts could be made as accurately as the stocks,
and this method was no longer necessary. A modern
degree of accuracy in shaping of the metal portions
was not possible until the miller came into general use
for irregular shapes, which was some time in the forties.
By 1842, for the new musket to be manufactured at
Springfield, there was a complete set of model jigs, taps
and gauges. The profiling machine was developed by
F. W. Howe, R. S. Lawrence, and E. K. Root, from
1848 to 1852. A drop hammer with dies was used by
Hall of Harper's Ferry in 1827, the head of which was
raised by a moving chain and freed by a trip at the
desired height. Later Peck invented his lifter, using a
strap. The Root drop hammers we have already men-
tioned. The board drop is largely the work of Spencer.
Probably no machine has had so great an influence on
interchangeable manufacture as the automatic turret
lathe. The turret lathe, "the first radical improvement
on Maudslay's slide-rest," was built commercially by
Robbins & Lawrence in 1854, and is said to have grown
out of a revolving-head bolt cutter which Henry D.
Stone saw at Hartford. The turret idea was not
originated by Stone. Root and Howe had used it a
number of years before, and it had been utilized by
several others. All of these turrets except Howe*s
seem to have had a horizontal axis instead of the ver-
tical one which became general. Later improvements
by C. M. Spencer and a long line of brilhant mechanics
have increased the accuracy of the turret lathe and made
it more nearly automatic than any other type of general
machine tool. Today it is, with the milling machine,
the main reliance for interchangeable work.
In sketching the development of interchangeable
144 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
methods in American shops, we have confined onr atten-
tion to gun makers chiefly. They were by no means the
only ones to have a part in this development, but they
were its originators, they determined its methods, and
developed most of the machines typical of the process.
About 1830 Chauncey Jerome began the manufacture
of brass clocks. Terry, Thomas and other Connecticut
mechanics had been manufacturing wooden clocks, which
gave way to metal clocks as the advantage of inter-
changeable manufacture became recognized. In 1848
A. L. Dennison founded the American Watch Company
at Waltham. The interchangeable system has nowhere
reached a higher development than in the work of this
company and of the other great watch factories. In
1846 Elias Howe was granted his patent on sewing
machines, and within four or five years their manufac-
ture sprang up on a large scale. Both of these indus-
tries, watch and clock manufacture and the manufacture
of sewing machines, utilized a system which was already
well established. Since that time it has been applied to
a wide variety of articles.
WHITNEY AND NORTH
In the last chapter we considered the rise of the inter-
changeable system of manufacture and saw that it
started in the shops of Eli Whitney, at New Haven, and
of Simeon North, at Middletown. The lives of these men
are of much interest, particularly that of Whitney. His
struggle in defense of his patent rights on the cotton gin
is instructive for all who see a high road to fortune in
the patenting of a valuable invention.
Measured by its economic effect, the cotton gin is one
of the greatest of inventions. As an industrial factor
its success was immediate and far-reaching. It devel-
oped the agricultural resources of nearly half the United
States, made possible its gigantic cotton crop, vastly
increased the wealth of this country and, to a scarcely
less extent, that of England; and yet toward the end of
his life, Mr. Whitney said that he had hardly more than
''come out even on it"; and this in spite of the fact that
his patent was sustained and was apparently one of the
most valuable ever granted.
A patent for an invention which meets a widespread
and pressing need, and for which there is a tremendous
demand, is difficult to defend. Watt's rights in the steam
engine were established only after a long and bitter
fight, and he would have failed and died a disappointed
man had it not been for the indomitable courage and
business skill of his partner, Matthew Boulton. Whit-
ney was a far better business man than Watt, but his
146 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
partner was not in any way the equal of Boulton. If he
had been, the story of the cotton gin might have been
Whitney saw the futility of depending solely on patent
rights and wisely turned his splendid talents to manu-
facturing; where, without patent protection of any kind,
by methods then new, but which have since spread
throughout the world, he built up a fortune. Someone
has said that the besetting sin of mechanics is invention.
This may, or may not, be true, but it is worth pondering
whether superior methods and business judgment are
not still the best industrial protection.
Eli Whitney, whose portrait is slio^\m in Fig. 30, was
born in Westborough, Mass., in 1765. He came from
that best school of mechanics, the New England hill farm.
Most of the early American mechanics, like him, came
from the country and had the same training of hard
work with simple implements, and learned to turn their
hand to nearly everything, and to work with few and
rough tools. From his boyhood he showed mechanical
talent. When he was fifteen, mth his father's consent,
he began making nails with the aid of such rudimentary
tools as he could contrive. This was during the Revolu-
tionary War, when nails were in great demand and
brought a high price. By hard work he built up a profit-
able little business which he carried on for two winters
in addition to the ordinary work of the farm during the
summer. The business grew beyond his capacity to care
for alone, so he set out on horseback to a neighboring
town in quest of a fellow laborer. Not finding one as
easily as he had anticipated, he rode from town to town
with the persistence which was a strong trait in his char-
acter, until forty miles from home he found such a work-
man as he desired. During this journey he called at
every workshop on his way and absorbed all the infor-
WHITNEY AND NORTH 147
mation he conld respecting the mechanical arts. When
the nail business ceased to be profitable after the war, he
turned his attention to knife blades and to the making of
the long pins for bonnets then in fashion. He showed
so much skill that he nearly monopolized the latter
When nineteen years old, Whitnjey determined to
obtain a liberal education, but he was not able to gain his
father's consent until he was twenty-three. Then, in
1788, with money made partly in his little manufacturing
business and partly from teaching school, he entered
Yale College. He completed his college education with
but little expense to his father who paid a few of the last
of his college bills, for which the son gave his note and
which he paid soon after graduation. His work at college
was creditable, rather than brilliant; he left a marked
impression behind him for good judgment, sound reason-
ing and steady, intelligent work.^
There were few school facilities in the South at that
time and many of the wealthy planters had their children
educated by private tutors. In the fall of 1792, the year
in which he graduated, Whitney was engaged as a private
tutor in a family in Georgia. On his way there he met
Mrs. Greene, the widow of General Nathaniel Greene,
who was returning to Savannah after spending the sum-
mer in the North. When Whitney reached Georgia he
found that, despite his engagement, another had been
given his place and he was stranded, practically penni-
less, a thousand miles from home and not knowing which
way to turn. Mrs. Greene kindly invited him to make
her house his home. He did so, and began to study law
1 The best sources of information on Whitney are : Olmstead : * ' Memoir
of Eli Whitney, Esqr." New Haven, 1846. Blake: "History of Hamden,
Conn." New Haven, 1888. Blake: "Sketch of the Life of Eli Whitney,"
"New Haven Colony Historical Society Papers," Vol. V, 1894.
148 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
under her hospitable roof. Here he met Phineas Miller,
a native of Connecticut and also a graduate of Yale Col-
lege, who had himself come south as a tutor in the Greene
family and after General Greene's death had become
manager of his estate. He was a man of cultivated mind,
of eager, hopeful temperament and later he married
Shortly after Wliitney's coming, a large party of
gentlemen from Augusta and the upper country, con-
sisting principally of officers who had served under the
General in the Revolutionary army, were visiting Mrs.
Greene. In the course of the conversation the deplor-
able state of agriculture was discussed, and great regret
expressed that there was no means of separating green
seed cotton from its seed, since all the lands which were
unsuitable for the cultivation of rice and long staple
cotton, would yield large crops of green seed cotton.
The black or long staple cotton had already been intro-
duced successfully in the Sea Islands, but it could not
be grown inland. It was vain to think of raising green
seed or upland cotton for the market unless some
machine could be devised which would facilitate the pro-
cess of cleaning. Separating one pound of the staple
from the seed was a day's work for one woman. During
this conversation Mrs. Greene told them that Whitney
could invent their machine, sa\ang, **He can make any-
thing.'* This incident turned Whitney's attention to the
subject. Encouraged by Miller he dropped his law
studies, went to Savannah, obtained a small parcel of
raw cotton, and set himself at work on the problem.
With such resources as the plantation afforded he made
tools suited to his purpose, drew his own wire and by the
close of the winter had so far developed the machine as
to leave no doubt of its success. The first model he made
(made, it is said, in about two weeks) is still in existence
WHITNEY AND NORTH 149
in the possession of his grandson, the present Eli Whit-
ney. The three essential elements of his gin, the rotary-
wheel with forward pointing wires or teeth, the slotted
bar, and the revolving brushes for cleaning the teeth,
remain practically unchanged today.
At that time the market was glutted with such products
as Georgia produced, trade was languishing, and there
was little employment for the negroes or support for the
white inhabitants. Mrs. Greene indiscreetly showed the
first machine to visitors and the news soon leaked out
that a means had been devised for separating more cot-
ton in one day, with the labor of a single man, than could
have been done in the usual manner in the space of many
months. An invention so important to the agricultural
interest could not long remain a secret. The knowledge
spread throughout the state and so great was the excite-
ment that multitudes from all quarters came to see the
machine. It was not deemed safe to gratify their curi-
osity until patent rights were secured, but so determined
were they that the building was broken into by night and
the machine carried off. In this way the public became
possessed of the invention, and before Whitney could
secure his patent a number of machines were in success-
ful operation. They deviated only slightly from the origi-
nal and gave Whitney much trouble later in establishing
his rights to the invention.
In the spring of 1793, Miller and Whitney formed a
partnership under the name of Miller & Whitney, for
developing the business, and Whitney returned to Con-
necticut to perfect the machine, obtain a patent, and
manufacture and ship to Georgia machines to meet the
demand. At the start they made a fatal error of policy
in deciding to buy the seed themselves, gin it and sell the
product. Protected by their patent, they planned to
maintain a monopoly of this business. Later they were
150 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
willing to manufacture and sell the machines for gen-
eral use or to sell the rights. If they had done this at
the start much of the opposition which they incurred
might have been obviated. Whitney, at least, was a clear-
sighted business man and if he had realized the magni-
tude of the result of his invention he would probably not
have chosen this course.
There is not another instance in the history of inven-
tion of the letting loose of such tremendous industrial
forces so suddenly. The inventions of Arkwright,
Watt, Fulton and Stephenson have affected society quite
as profoundly as did that of the cotton gin, some of
them more so, but in none of these cases were the results
so immediate. In 1784 only eight years before Whit-
ney's invention, eight bales of cotton from the United
States which were landed at Liverpool were seized on
the ground that they could not have been produced in
the United States.^ In 1791 the total production of cot-
ton in the world was estimated at 490,000,000 pounds,
of which the United States produced 2,000,000 pounds,
or only ^45, of which 189,316 pounds were exported.
In 1792 they exported 138,328 pounds, an actual
decrease of 51,000 pounds from the previous year. In
1793, the year after the gin was invented, there was an
exportation of 487,000 pounds; in 1794 of 1,601,000
pounds ; in 1795 of 6,276,000 pounds. By 1800 the total
production had risen to 35,000,000 pounds, of which
17,790,000 pounds were exported. In 1845 the total
estimated output of the world was 1,169,600,000 pounds,
of which the United States produced nearly seven-
eighths.^ At the present time the output of the United
2 Olmstead : * ' Memoir of Eli Whitney, Esqr, ' ' p. 63. Also, Encyclopedia
Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Vol. VII, p. 264,
3 Olmstead : * * Memoir. ' ' Also Merchant 's Magazine, Vol. VT, Article
on "History of the American Cotton Trade," by James H. Lanman.
WHITNEY AND NORTH 151
States is about 15,000,000 bales, or 7,000,000,000 pounds.
Less than 1 per cent of this is ''Sea Island" or long
staple cotton. All the rest is upland or green seed
cotton, cleaned on the Whitney type of gin, and made
commercially available by his method of cleaning.
The intensity of the demand for the use of this machine
made it practically impossible to defend a patent right
upon it. The patent laws of the country, as has been
stated, were crude at that time, and the infringement
suits were tried before juries composed of the very men
who were interested in breaking the patent.
Nearly all of the great inventions have been develop-
ments to which a number of inventors have contributed,
as in the case of the steam engine, the locomotive, and
the steamboat ; but the fundamental invention of the cot-
ton gin was due to Whitney and to Whitney alone. And
yet in a letter written to Eobert Fulton, at a later date,
My invention was new and distinct from every other: it
stood alone. It was not interwoven with anything before known ;
and it can seldom happen that an invention or improvement
is so strongly marked, and can be so clearly and specifically
identified; and I have always believed, that I should have had
no difficulty in causing my rights to be respected, if it had been
less valuable, and been used only by a small portion of the com-
munity. But the use of this machine being immensely profitable
to almost every planter in the cotton districts, all were inter-
ested in trespassing upon the patent-right, and each kept the
other in countenance. Demagogs made themselves popular by
misrepresentation and unfounded clamors, both against the right
and against the law made for its protection. Hence there arose
associations and combinations to oppose both. At one time, but
few men in Georgia dared to come into court and testify to the
most simple facts within their knowledge, relative to the use of
the machine. In one instance, I had great difficulty in proving
152 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
that the machine had been used in Georgia, although, at the same
moment, there were three separate sets of this machinery in
motion, within fifty yards of the building in which the court
sat, and all so near that the rattling of the wheels was distinctly
heard on the steps of the court-house.*
It should in justice be said that at first there was no
widespread disposition on the part of the Georgia plant-
ers to avail themselves of the invention unlawfully, but
later nearly all, deluded by the general attitude, joined
in the attack upon the inventor's rights.
The unfortunate policy adopted by Miller & "Whitney
worked to their disadvantage in two ways. First, they
could not themselves produce machines fast enough to gin
the rapidly increasing crops ; and second, their policy of
buying the seed and ginning it themselves meant financ-
ing the entire crop and called for a vastly greater capital
than they had at their command. Infringing machines
sprang up on every side, their most formidable rival
being the saw gin of Hodgin Holmes, in which circular
saws were used instead of a drum with inserted wires as
in Whitney's original gin. The idea of such teeth had
occurred to Whitney, as he afterward proved; but not
until 1807 did he completely establish his right over this
Perplexities and discouragements dogged their steps
from the start. In 1795 the shop which they had built
in New Haven, together with all machines and papers,
was consumed by fire. In the diary of President
Stiles of Yale College is an entry: ''March 12 (1795).
Yesterday morning Mr. Whitney's workshop consumed
by fire. Loss 3000 Dol. about 10 finished machines for
seeding cotton & 5 or 6 unfinished, & all the tools which
no man can make but Mr. Whitney, the inventor, & which
he has been 2 years in making." They found great diffi-
4 Olmstead, p. 58. (Italics are ours.)
Figure 30. Eli Whitney
WHITNEY AND NORTH 153
culty in raising money, even at rates from 12 to 25 per
cent. With these misfortunes upon them, word was
received from England that the manufacturers con-
demned the cotton cleaned by their machines on the
ground that the staple was injured. They had thirty gins
at work in eight different places in Georgia and many of
these were brought to a standstill. It was nearly two
years before this prejudice could be overcome. By that
time, however, encroachments on their patent right had
become so extensive as almost to annihilate its value.
The first infringement suit was tried in 1797 and went
against them. An appeal was denied on technicalities.^
At a second trial, in 1798, a great number of witnesses
had been collected from various parts of the country,
some of them from one hundred miles away, when the
judge failed to appear, and, of course, no court was
held.^ Mr. Miller writes in 1799 that 'Hhe prospect of
making anything by ginning in this State, is at an end.
Surreptitious gins are being erected in every part of the
country; and the jurymen at Augusta have come to an
understanding among themselves, that they will never
give a verdict in our favor, let the merits of the case be
as they may.'" The firm would now gladly have relin-
quished their plan of doing the ginning themselves and
confined their operations to the sale of patent rights;
but few people would buy a patent right which could be
used with impunity without purchase.
In 1801 South Carolina voted the purchase of the pat-
ent rights on the cotton gin for that state for $50,000,
$20,000 to be paid in hand and the remainder in three
annual payments of $10,000 eacb. A year later Whitney
sold the right for North Carolina. The legislature laid
5 Ihid., p. 26.
6 Ibid., p. 27.
7 Hid, p. 27.
154 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
a tax on every saw, to be continued for five years. After
deducting the expenses of collection, the proceeds were
to be passed over to the patentee. Negotiations were
also entered into with the state of Tennessee. The pros-
pects of the firm were, therefore, gromng more favor-
able, when the legislature of South Carolina suddenly
annulled the contract, refused pajonent due, and sued for
the refunding of what had already been paid. Doubts
were raised as to the validity of the patent ; the patentees
were charged mth nonfulfillment of a part of their con-
tract relating to the submission of models ; it was charged
that somebody in S^vitzerland had conceived of the idea
beforehand; and that Whitney had been antedated in
the use of saws instead of wire teeth by Holmes. This
action was the result of the political agitation against
the patent, which was strong throughout the cotton-
growing states. Tennessee followed the example of
South Carolina, and the same attempt was made in
North Carolina, but the legislative committee to whom
it was referred reported in Whitney's favor, declaring
that such action was a breach of contract and of good
faith. In 1803 Mr. Miller, who had represented the firm
in the South, died disappointed and broken by the
In the following year South Carolina rescinded its
action and carried out its contract, so that from North
and South Carolina Whitney received a considerable
sum. In all he received about $90,000; $50,000 from
North Carolina; at least $30,000 from South Carolina
and about $10,000 from Tennessee. A large portion of
this amount was, however, balanced by the cost of the
endless litigation in Georgia. More than sixty suits had
been instituted in the latter state before the first decision
was obtained on the merits of the claims.
This decision was rendered in the United States Court
WHITNEY AND NORTH 155
in December, 1807, by Judge Jobnson. Wbitney, as the
survivor of the firm of Miller & "Whitney, was suing a
man named Arthur Fort for violation of the patent right
and for a perpetual injunction restraining him from use
of the gin. Judge Johnson's decision is so clear a state-
ment of the situation, and so splendid an example of
justice in the face of popular agitation that we give it
nearly in full :
Defendant admits most of the facts in the bill set forth, but
contends that the complainants are not entitled to the benefits
of the act of Congress on this subject, because :
1st. The invention is not original.
2d. It is not useful.
3d. That the machine which he uses is materially different
from their inventions, in the application of an improvement, the
invention of another person. . . .
There are circumstances in the knowledge of all mankind,
which prove the originality of this invention more satisfactorily
to the mind, than the direct testimony of a host of witnesses.
The cotton plant furnished clothing to mankind before the age
of Herodotus. The green seed is a species much more productive
than the black, and by nature adapted to a much greater variety
of climate. But by reason of the strong adherence of the fiber to
the seed without the aid of some more powerful machine for
separating it, than any formerly known among us, the cultiva-
tion of it would never have been made an object. The Machine
of which Mr. Whitney claims the invention, so facilitates the
preparation of this species for use, that the cultivation of it has
suddenly become an object of infinitely greater national
importance than that of the other species ever can be. Is it
then to be imagined that if this machine had been before dis-
covered, the use of it would ever have been lost, or could have
been confined to any tract or country left unexplored by com-
mercial enterprise? But it is unnecessary to remark further
upon this subject. A number of years have elapsed since Mr.
Whitney took out his patent, and no one has produced or pre-
156 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
tended to prove the existence of a machine of similar construction
2d. With regard to the utility of this discovery, the Court
would deem it a waste of time to dwell long upon this topic.
Is there a man who hears us, who has not experienced its util-
ity? The whole interior of the Southern States was languish-
ing, and its inhabitants emigrating for want of some object to
engage their attention and employ their industry, when the
invention of this machine at once opened views to them, which
set the whole eountiy in active motion. From childhood to
age it has presented to us a lucrative employment. Individuals
who were depressed with poverty and sunk in idleness, have
suddenly risen to wealth and respectability. Our debts have
been paid off. Our capitals have increased, and our lands
trebled themselves in value. We cannot express the weight
of the obligation which the country owes to this invention. The
extent of it cannot now be seen. Some faint presentiment may
be formed from the reflection that cotton is rapidly supplanting
wool, flax, silk, and even furs in manufactures, and may one
day profitably supply the use of specie in our East India trade.
Our sister states, also, participate in the benefits of this inven-
tion; for, besides affording the raw material for their manu-
factures, the bulkiness and quantity of the article afford a
valuable employment for their shipping.
3d. The third and last ground taken by the defendant,
appears to be that on which he mostly relies. In the specifica-
tion, the teeth made use of are of strong wire inserted into
the cylinder. A Mr. Holmes has cut teeth in plates of iron, and
passed them over the cylinder. This is certainly a meritorious
improvement in the mechanical process of constructing this
machine. But at last, what does it amount to except a more
convenient method of making the same thing? Every charac-
teristic of Mr. Whitney's machine is preserved. The cylinder,
the iron tooth, the rotary motion of the tooth, the breast work
and brush, and all the merit that this discovery can assume, is
that of a more expeditious mode of attaching the tooth to the
cylinder. After being attached, in operation and effect they
WHITNEY AND NORTH 157
are entirely the same. Mr. Whitney may not be at liberty to
use Mr. Holmes' iron plate, but certainly Mr. Holmes' improve-
ment does not destroy Mr. Whitney's patent right. Let the
decree for a perpetual injunction be entered.*
This decision was confirmed by a series of subsequent
ones, and from that time onward there was no serious
questioning of the patent right.
In 1812 Mr. Whitney made application to Congress
for the renewal of his patent. In his memorial he points
out that his patent had nearly expired before it was sus-
tained; that his invention had been a source of wealth
to thousands of citizens of the United States; that the
expense to which he had gone in defense of the patent
had left him little or no return on the invention ; that the
men who had grown rich by the use of his machine had
combined to prevent the patentee from deriving reward
from his invention; that in the state where he had first
introduced the machines he had received nothing; that
from no state had he received all told an amount equal
to ^ cent per pound on the cotton cleaned by his machine
in one year; that the whole amount received by him for
his invention had not been equal to the labor saved in
one hour by the cotton gins then in use in the United
States ; that the invention had already trebled the value
of land throughout a great extent of territory; that the
degree to which the cultivation of cotton would still be
augmented was incalculable ; and that the species of cot-
ton grown had from time immemorial never been known
as an article of commerce until his method of cleaning
it had been invented. He closed with an argument for
the policy of providing adequate reward for the encour-
agement of invention.® Notwithstanding these argu-
8 Ibid., p. 39.
» Ibid., pp. 55-57.
158 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
ments and a favorable committee report, the application
was rejected. With the exception of a few liberal-minded
men, nearly all the members from the cotton-growing
states opposed the application strongly.
Whitney combined in a singular degree high inventive
capacity with clear judgment and steady determination.
By 1798 he saw that his hopes for any large return from
the cotton gin were uncertain. He turned to the manu-
facture of firearms and by steady, sure steps built up
another business and died a well-to-do man. In this
second enterprise he developed the interchangeable sys-
tem of manufacture and thereby influenced modern
society almost as greatly as he had in the invention of
the cotton gin, although this is little realized by the
In the chapter on ' ' The Rise of Interchangeable Manu-
facture" we traced AVhitney's work as a gun manufac-
turer from 1798, Avhen he first applied for his contract
for ten thousand muskets. His undertaking of this con-
tract required courage and self-confidence. Although
he was not a trained gun maker, he proposed ''from
the start" to manufacture guns by a new method, which
was ridiculed by those familiar, with the manufacture
of firearms at that time. He had to build a plant, design
and equip it with new and untried types of tools; and
to educate workmen to his methods. Furthermore, he
did this work, involving $134,000, under bond for satis-
factory performance. The high estimation in which
Whitney was held by those who knew him is evidenced
by the fact that, although he was already embarrassed
and embarking on an entirely new kind of enterprise,
ten of the foremost men of New Haven signed his bond
for the faithful performance of his contract.
A contemporary, intimately acquainted with his work,
has outlined his method of manufacture in words which
WHITNEY AND NORTH 159
describe the interchangeable system, as it exists today,
so accurately that we give it in full:
The several parts of the muskets were, under this system,
carried along through the various processes of manufacture, in
lots of some hundreds or thousands of each. In their various
stages of progress, they were made to undergo successive opera-
tions by machinery, which not only vastly abridged the labor,
but at the same time so fixed and determined their form and
dimensions, as to make comparatively little skill necessary in
the manual operations. Such were the construction and arrange-
ment of this machinery, that it could be worked by persons of
little or no experience, and yet it performed the work with so
much precision, that when, in the later stages of the process, the
several parts of the musket came to be put together, they were
as readily adapted to each other, as if each had been made for
its respective fellow. ... It will be readily seen that under
such an arrangement any person of ordinary capacity would
soon acquire sufficient dexterity to perform a branch of the work.
Indeed, so easy did Mr. Whitney find it to instruct new and
inexperienced workmen, that he uniformly preferred to do so,
rather than to attempt to combat the prejudices of those who
had learned the business under a different system.^"
It took him a much longer time to fulfill the contract
than he had anticipated; two years elapsed before his
plant was ready. Only 500 guns were delivered the first
year instead of 4000, and the entire contract required
eight years instead of two from the time when he began
actual manufacture. In spite of this delay he kept the
confidence of the government officials, who were very
liberal in their treatment of him; so much had been
advanced to him to help him develop his machinery that
when the contract was completed only $2450 out of the
total of $134,000 remained to be paid. The work was
highly satisfactory, and in 1812 he was awarded another
^0 Ibid., pp. 53-54.
160 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
contract for 15,000 muskets from the United States Gov-
ernment and one for a similar number from the State of
New York. "What is known of his methods and machin-
ery is given in the chapter referred to, which shows also
how they spread to other armories throughout the
The business which Mr. "Whitney started was carried
on for ninety years. After his death in 1825 the armory
was managed for ten years by Eli Whitney Blake, later
inventor of the Blake stone crusher, and Philos Blake,
his nephews. From 1835 to 1842 it was managed by
ex-Governor Edwards, a trustee of Mr. Whitney's
estate. His son, Eli Whitney, Jr., then became of age
and assumed the management, and that same year
obtained a contract for making the ''Harper's Ferry"
rifle, — the first percussion lock rifle, all guns before that
date having had flint locks.
Eli Whitney, Jr., continued to develop the art of gun
making. He introduced improvements in barrel drilling
and was the first to use steel for gun barrels. In 1847,
during the Mexican War, Jefferson Davis, then a colonel
in a Mississippi regiment, wrote to the Ordnance
Department at Washington, that it was his opinion that
the steel-barreled muskets from the Whitney armory
were ''the best rifles which had ever been issued to any
regiment in the world." The Whitney Arms Company
supplied the Government with more than 30,000 rifles of
this model. The company continued in existence until
1888, when the plant was sold to the Winchester Eepeat-
ing Arms Company. It was operated by them for a
number of years in the manufacture of 22-calibre rifles.
This work was subsequently removed to their main
works and the plant was sold to the Acme Wire Com-
pany, and later to the Sentinel Gas Appliance Company,
its present owner. Some of the original buildings are
WHITNEY AND NORTH 161
still standing. It may be of interest to note that at the
time the works were first built, a row of substantial
stone houses was built by Whitney for his workmen,
which are said to have been the first workmen's houses
erected by an employer in the United States.
In person Mr. Whitney was tall and dignified. He
had a cultivated mind and a manner at once refined,
frank and agreeable. He was familiar with the best
society of his day and was a friend of every president
of the United States from George Washington to John
Quincy Adams. He had a commanding influence among
all who knew him. Seldom has a great inventor been
more sane, for his powers of invention were under per-
fect control and never ran wild. Unlike those who devise
many things but complete few, he left nothing half exe-
cuted. Eobert Fulton said that Arkwright, Watt and
Wliitney were the three of his contemporaries who had
done the most for mankind." Lord Macaulay is quoted
as saying, "What Peter the Great did to make Russia
dominant, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin has
more than equaled in its relation to the progress and
power of the United States. ' '^^ He contributed immeas-
ureably to the agriculture and the manufacturing meth-
ods of the whole world and few mechanics have had a
Simeon North was born at Berlin, Conn., the same
year as Whitney, and like him, started life as a farmer.
In 1795 he began making scythes in an old mill adjoin-
ing his farm. Just when he began making pistols is not
clear. It is said that he made some for private sale as
early as the time of the Revolution, and it is probable
that he had begun their manufacture in a small way
prior to receiving his first government contract. He
11 Blake: "History of Hamden, Conn.," p. 303.
12 Devans : ' ' Our First Century, ' ' p. 153.
162 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
may have learned the rudiments of the trade from Elias
Beckley, who had a gun shop about a mile from North's
In March of 1799, about a year after Whitney received
his first contract for muskets, North received his first
contract for horse-pistols, 500, which were to be delivered
in one year. This was followed by others for 1500
in 1800; 2000 in 1802; 2000 in 1808; 1000 in 1810, and
others not known. By 1813 he had made at least 10,000
and was employing forty or fifty men. In none of these
contracts was there any mention made of interchangeabil-
ity, but some time during these years North began to use
interchangeable methods. The correspondence quoted in
the previous chapter and the quotations already given
show that Whitney was working on the same basis from
the start. It is a great pity that Colonel North's papers
were destroyed after his death, as they might have
thrown some light on the question as to how and when
he began to use interchangeable methods. It is impos-
sible now to say how much Whitney and North influenced
each other if they did at all. In 1812 the Secretary of
War visited North's shop at Berlin, Conn., and urged him
to increase his plant. On receiving the contract of 1813,
North purchased land in Middletown, Conn., and built a
dam and a three-story brick armory, 86x36 feet, on the
best lines known at that time, involving in all an expendi-
ture of $100,000. The old factory was run in conjunction
with the new one until 1843, when it was closed.
North began making barrels of steel in 1848, only a
year or two after Eli Whitney, Jr., and contributed many
improvements in the design of the pistols and guns
which he built. The Eemington Arms Company, the
Savage Fire Arms Company, the Maynard Eifle Com-
13 The fullest account of Simeon North is given in the ' ' Memoir of
Simeon North," by S. N. D, North and E. H. North. Concord, N. H., 1913.
WHITNEY AND NORTH 163
pany and the Massachusetts Arms Company, all trace
back in some way to him, and, like Whitney, he deeply
influenced the practice of the United States Government
in its armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry.
Colonel North's first contract with the Government
was made in 1799; his last was finished in 1853, a year
after his death, covering in all about 50,000 pistols and
33,000 rifles. He worked under sixteen administrations,
representing all parties, and in all the fifty-three years
he never received a reproof or a criticism of his work.
He had an old-fashioned sense of honor. In 1826 he
was called on to pay a note for $68,000 which he had
indorsed. Although advised that he could not be held
legally, he said that his name was there and he would
stand by it. He placed a mortgage on his property, and it
was twenty-two years before he had made good the loss,
which, principal and interest, amounted to over $100,000.
But for this endorsement he would have died, for that
time, a wealthy man. Colonel North was a country-bred
man, strong, quiet and almost painfully modest. He
lacked Whitney's education and influence, but like him
he represented the best which American mechanical and
business life has produced.
THE COLT ARMORY
The city of Hartford has been more closely identified
with the later development of interchangeable manufac-
ture than almost any other city. The gun makers have
been so vital an element in its industrial life that, before
leaving them, we will trace their influence.
The grist and saw mills, always the pioneers, had
made their appearance in the seventeenth century. With
recurring attempts at silk manufacture, most of the
meager industrial life was directed toward some branch
of textiles up to and even after 1800.
In 1747 Col. Joseph Pitkin started a prosperous forge
for making bar iron and a mill for iron slitting. It
was killed by the Act of Parliament of 1750, already
referred to, but the Pitkin family balanced the account
by using the buildings during the Revolution to make
powder for the Continental army. Later the buildings
were put to their original use. The Pitkins were indus-
trial leaders for many years in textiles, and in the manu-
facture of silverware, clocks, watches, and heating
apparatus. Henry and James F. Pitkin made the old
''American lever" watches in 1834, and many of the
early workmen who went to Waltham were trained by
The assessors' returns for 1846 to the Secretary of
State gave for Hartford only three "machine factories"
with a total capital of $25,000, an annual output of
$35,000, and forty-five men employed. There were two
Figure 31. Samuel Colt
THE COLT ARMORY 165
boiler shops, a screw factory, a plow factory, a pin fac-
tory, two brass and four iron foundries, and one poor
gun maker who did a business of $625 a year. Taken
together, these enterprises averaged only about $15,000
in capital, $20,000 in annual output and fifteen employees
each. This is hardly more than would be expected in
any town of its size, and certainly does not mark the
city as a manufacturing center. Book publishing
employed over twice, and clothing shops more than four
times, as many men as all the machine shops together.
In 1821 Alpheus and Truman Hanks purchased a small
foundry and began the business which later became
Woodruif & Beach. This firm had a long and successful
career in building heavy machinery, engines and boilers,
and was among the earliest makers of iron plows. In
1871 it became H. B. Beach & Son, boiler makers, and
the firm is still running, H. L. Beach being now (1914)
the only survivor of the old works.
In 1834 Levi Lincoln started the Phoenix Iron Works.
Under various names (George S. Lincoln & Company,
Charles L. Lincoln & Company, The Lincoln Company,
The Taylor & Fenn Company) the business has been
maintained by his descendants to this day. Levi Lin-
coln invented a number of machines, among them the
first successful hook-and-eye machine for Henry North
of New Britain, which became very valuable and helped
to lay the foundation of the prosperity of that town.
George S. Lincoln & Company built machine tools, archi-
tectural iron work and vaults. Their name is perma-
nently associated with the ** Lincoln" miller, which was
first built in 1855 in their shop for the new Colt Armory,
from the design of F. A. Pratt. It was an adaptation
and improvement of a Bobbins & Lawrence miller which
had been brought to Hartford a year or two before. Few
machines have changed so little or have been used so
166 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
widely. It has been said that more than 150,000 of them
have been built in this country and abroad. Even in
Europe, the type is definitely known by this name.
The building of the Colt Armory in 1853 to 1854 marks
a definite era in Hartford's history and the beginning
of manufacturing there on a large scale. Samuel Colt
had an adventurous life, and died in the midst of his
success while less than fifty years old. Born in Hart-
ford in 1814, he had a rather stormy career as a school-
boy and shipped before the mast to Calcutta before he
was sixteen. After his return from this voyage, he
worked for some months in his father's dye works at
Ware, Mass., where he got a smattering of chemistry.
At eighteen he started out again, this time as a lecturer
under the name of ''Dr. Coult," giving demonstra-
tions of nitrous-oxide, or laughing gas, which was little
known to the public at that time. Dr. Coult 's ''lectures"
were frankly popular, with a view more to laughter
than the imparting of knowledge, but he was clever and
a good advertiser. It is said that he gave laughing gas
to more men, women and children than any other lec-
turer since chemistry was first known. For three years
he drifted over the country from Quebec to New Orleans,
getting into all kinds of experiences, from administering
gas for cholera when impressed into service on account
of his assumed title, to fleeing the stage from big black-
smiths who took laughing gas too seriously and actively.
He made the first crude model of his revolver on his
voyage to Calcutta and used the means derived from his
"lectures" for developing the invention. In 1835 he
went to England and took out his first patent there and
on his return in 1836 he took out his first American
patent. These covered a firearm with a rotating cylinder
containing several chambers, to be discharged through
a single barrel. The same year, 1836, he organized the
THE COLT ARMORY 167
Patent Fire Arms Company at Paterson, N. J., and tried
to get the revolver adopted by the United States Govern-
ment. In 1837 an army board reported "that from its
complicated character, its liability to accident, and other
reasons, this arm was entirely nnsuited to the general
purposes of the service."
Colt's first market was secured on the Texas frontier.
His earliest revolvers are known as the Walker and
Texas models, and the hold which he acquired with
frontiersmen at that time has never been lost. The Semi-
nole War in Florida gave Colt an opportunity to demon-
strate the value of the revolver. In 184-0 two govern-
ment boards gave it a qualified approbation and two
small orders followed, one for one hundred and the other
for sixty weapons. The pistols, however, were expensive,
the sales small, and in 1842 the Paterson company failed
and ceased business.
In the next few years the tide turned. The superiority
of the revolvers outstanding was creating a great
demand. With the breaking out of the Mexican War
in 1846 came two orders for 1000 pistols each, and from
that time onward Colt's career was one of rapid and
As his Paterson plant had closed, Colt had the first
of the large government orders made at the Whitney
Armory in New Haven, where he followed minutely
every detail of their manufacture. The following year,
1848, Colt moved to Hartford and for a few years rented
a small building near the center of the city. With
rapidly increasing business, larger quarters soon became
In 1853 he began his new armory, shown in Fig. 32.
South of the city on the river front, lay an extensive
flat, overflowed at high water and consequently nearly
valueless. He purchased a large tract of this, built a
168 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
protective dike 30 feet high and 1% miles long, and
drained it. His armory built on this site marks an epoch
not only in the history of Hartford, but in American
After the failure of his first venture at Paterson,
Colt had seen the advantage of interchangeable manu-
facture at the Whitney shop, and determined to carry
it even further in his new plant. So thoroughly was this
done that the methods crystallized there, and many of the
tools installed have undergone little change to this day.
Machine work almost wholly superseded hand work.
Modern machines were developed, and interchangeabil-
ity and standards of accuracy given an entirely new
The building was in the form of an * ' H, " 500 feet long
and 3y2 stories high. It contained over 1400 machines,
the greater part of which were designed and built on
the premises. The tools and fixtures cost about as much
as the machines themselves, a proportion unheard of
before. In 1861 the plant was doubled. Three years
later the first building was burned to the ground, but
was immediately rebuilt. This plant was the largest
private armory in the world and far-and-away the best
then existing for economical and accurate production of
a high-grade output. Many rivals have sprung up in
the past sixty years, but the Colt Armory is still one of
the leading gun factories of the world.
Colonel Colt was a remarkable man, masterful, daring
and brilliant. He started the larger industrial develop-
ment of his city, and affected manufacturing methods
more than any other man of his generation.
One of the elements of his success was his ability to
gather and hold about him men of the highest order.
Among these was Elisha K. Root, one of the ablest
mechanics New England has ever produced. Root was a
THE COLT ARMORY 169
Massachusetts farmer's boy, a few years older than Colt.
He served an apprenticeship, worked at Ware and at
Chicopee Falls, and came to the Collins Company, axe
makers, at Collinsville, Conn., in 1832. He began work
there as a lathe hand in the repair shop, but very soon
became foreman and virtual superintendent. His inven-
tions and methods converted a primitive shop into a
modern factory and gave the Collins Company control,
for a long time, of the American market, and opened up
a large export trade. In 1845 he was made superintend-
ent, and that same year was offered three important
positions elsewhere, one of them that of master armorer
In 1849 Colt offered him the position of superintend-
ent at a large salary. It was characteristic of Colt that,
although he was just starting and still in small rented
quarters, he outbid three others to get the best superin-
tendent in New England. Eoot moved to Hartford,
designed and built the new armory and installed its
machinery. Many of the machines devised by him at
that time are still running, holding their own in accu-
racy and economy of production with those of today.
Almost every process used in the plant felt his influence.
He invented the best form of drop hammer then in use,
machines for boring, rifling, making cartridges, stock
turning, splining, etc., and worked out the whole system
of jigs, fixtures, tools and gauges. The credit for the
revolver belongs to Colt; for the way they were made,
mainly to Eoot. Fig. 33, a chucking lathe, and Fig. 34, a
splining machine, are two of Mr. Root's machines which
are still at work. When Colonel Colt died, Mr. Root
became president of the company and continued until
his death in 1865, receiving, it is said, the highest salary
paid in the state of Connecticut. He was a mechanic
and inventor of high order, a wise executive, and the
170 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
success of the two companies he served was in a large
measure due to him. He was quiet, thoughtful and
modest. His influence went into flesh and blood as well
as iron and steel, for under him have worked F. A. Pratt
and Amos Whitney, Charles E. Billings and C. M. Spen-
cer, George A. Fairfield, of the Hartford Machine Screw
Company, William Mason and a host of others whom
we cannot mention here. Like a parent, a superin-
tendent may be judged, in some measure, by the
children he rears, and few superintendents can show
such a family.
Within a few years after the building of the Colt
Armory, manufacturing at Hartford had taken a definite
character. From that day to this it has centered almost
wholly on high-grade products, such as guns, sewing
machines, typewriters, bicycles, automobiles and machine
tools. Naturally, during the past generation, the skilled
mechanics of the city have attracted many new and
important industries, only indirectly connected with the
armory, which we cannot consider here.
In 1848 Christian Sharps invented his breech-loading
rifle, and in 1851 a company was formed at Hartford to
manufacture it. Richard S. Lawrence came from Wind-
sor, Vt., as its master armorer, and is said to have
brought with him the first miller used in the city. They
did a large business for some years, but later moved to
Bridgeport, and the plant was sold to the Weed Sewing
Machine Company. C. E. Billings and George A. Fair-
field, both **Colt men," were superintendents of this
plant. When the Columbia bicycles were introduced,
the Weed Sewing Machine Company made them for the
Pope Manufacturing Company of Boston. Later this
company bought the plant, and it became one of the
greatest bicycle factories in the world. Of late years it
has been used for the manufacture of automobiles.
s ^ ^
THE COLT ARMORY 171
Two great industries sprang up in the neighborhood
of Hartford in the early days and had a vigorous life
quite independent of it. We have noted that Levi Lin-
coln contributed to the establishment of the hardware
industry at New Britain. - Although New Britain is but
a few miles from Hartford, its manufactures have moved
in a distinctly different direction. In fact, by 1820 it
had taken its character as a hardware manufacturing
center. North & Shipman had begun making sleigh-bells,
hooks and plated goods, and Lee was making buttons
and saddlery hardware. In 1839 Henry E. Russell and
Cornelius B. Erwin became active partners in Stanley,
Russell & Company, the beginning of the Russell &
Erwin Manufacturing Company. The Stanley Works
and Landers, Frary & Clark had their beginnings in
1842; P. & F. Corbin in 1848, and the Stanley Rule &
Level Company in 1854. About the same time, Elnathan
Peck, after a partnership with George Dewey and Henry
Walter, sold out to J. B. Sargent, who later moved to
New Haven. Mr. Peck also moved to New Haven and
started what is now Peck Brothers. It is a remarkable
ease of the localization of a great industry. These
companies, all large and important, started within
fifteen years in one small village of only a few thousand
The other industry which started near Hartford but
has developed separately is the manufacture of clocks.
Early in the nineteenth century Eli Terry, first at Wind-
sor, just north of Hartford, and later at what is now
Thomaston, Conn., began using machinery in making
wooden clocks, and by 1840 he had reduced the price for
a movement from $50 to $5. About 1840 Chauncey
Jerome, an apprentice of Terry's, introduced the one-day
brass clock which could be made for less than fifty cents.
In 1842 he shipped his first consignment to England.
172 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
They were promptly confiscated at their invoice prices
by the customs authorities for under-valuation. This
was perfectly agreeable to Jerome, as it furnished him
with a spot-cash buyer at full price, with no selling
expenses. He therefore sent another and larger ship-
ment, which shared the same fate. When a third still
larger one arrived, the authorities withdrew from the
clock business and let it in. The exports soon spread
everywhere, and today Connecticut manufactures three-
fifths of the clocks produced in the United States.
Nearly all the great clock companies of Connecticut,
like the New Haven, Seth Thomas and Waterbury com-
panies, trace back directly or indirectly to Jerome and
THE COLT WORKMEN— PRATT & WHITNEY
At least two of the superintendents of the Colt
Armory should be mentioned — Prof. Charles B. Rich-
ards and William Mason.
Mr. Richards was not primarily a tool builder, but
his contributions to mechanical engineering are too
great to pass without notice. About 1860 he helped
Charles T. Porter develop the design of the first high-
speed steam engine, and in order to study the action of
this engine he invented the Richards steam engine indi-
cator. Indicators, more or less crude, had been in use
from the time of Watt, but the Richards indicator was
the first one accurate enough and delicate enough to
meet the demands of modern engine practice; and its
influence has been far-reaching. After a few years in
New York as a consulting engineer, he was for many
years in the Colt Armory as engineering superintendent
under Mr. Root, and later was superintendent of the
Southwark Foundry & Machine Company in Philadel-
phia. In 1884 he became Professor of Mechanical Engi-
neering at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale Uni-
versity, where he remained for twenty-five years as the
head of the mechanical engineering department.
William Mason was another of those who helped make
the Colt Armory what it was. He was a modest, kindly
man, little known outside of his immediate associates,
but of singular fertility in invention and almost unerr-
ing mechanical judgment. He learned his trade with
174 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
the Remington Arms Company at Ilion, N. Y., and after
a long association with them he was for sixteen years
superintendent of the Colt Armory. In 1885 he became
master mechanic of the Winchester Repeating Arms
Company of New Haven, and held that position until
his death in 1913. He had granted to him more than
125 patents, most of them in connection with arms and
ammunition and tools for their manufacture, but they
included many appliances for looms and weaving, steam
pumps, and bridge work, and he assisted with the devel-
opment of the Knowles steam pump and Knowles looms.
Asa Cook, a brother-in-law of F. A. Pratt, was for
years a foreman and contractor at Colt's. He was after-
wards a designer and manufacturer of machinery for
making wood screws, bolt machinery and many other
types of tools. George A. Fairfield, another Colt fore-
man, became superintendent of the Weed Sewing
Machine factory and later president of the Hartford
Machine Screw Company ; another workman, A. F. Cush-
raan, of the Cushman Chuck Company, for many years
manufactured lathe chucks. In fact, there is hardly a
shop in Hartford which dates from the seventies and
eighties which does not trace back in some way to the
Colt Armory. Its influence is by no means confined to
Hartford, for such men as Bullard and Gleason carried
its standards and methods to other cities.
Four of the Colt workmen formed two partnerships
of wide influence: Charles E. Billings and Christopher
M. Spencer, who organized the Billings & Spencer Com-
pany, and Francis A. Pratt and Amos Whitney, of the
Pratt & Whitney Company.
Charles E. Billings was a Vermonter, who served his
apprenticeship in the old Robbins & Lawrence shop at
Windsor, Vt. When twenty-one, he came to Colt's, in
1856, as a die sinker and tool maker and became their
THE COLT WORKMEN 175
expert on the drop forging process. In 1862 he went to
E. Remington & Sons, where he built up their forging
plant, increasing its efficiency many times, saving $50,-
000, it is said, by one improvement in frame forging
alone. At the end of the war he returned to Hartford as
the superintendent of the Weed Sewing Machine Com-
pany, which had taken over the old Sharps Rifle Works,
built by Robbins & Lawrence. For a short time in 1868
Mr. Billings was at Amherst, Mass., associated with
Spencer in the Roper Repeating Arms Company. The
venture was not a success, and the next year, 1869, they
came back to Hartford and formed the Billings & Spen-
cer Company. This company has probably done more
than any other for the art of drop forging, not only in
developing the modern board drop hammer itself, but in
extending the accuracy and application of the process.
Mr. Billings was president of the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers in 1895.
Christopher M. Spencer was born at Manchester,
Conn. He served his apprenticeship in the machine
shops of the silk mills there from 1847 to 1849, and
remained for several years as a journeyman machinist
with Cheney Brothers. In 1853 he went to Rochester,
N. Y., to learn something of the other kinds of machin-
ery, working in a tool building shop and a locomotive
shop. After some years at the Colt Armory he went
back to Cheney Brothers and soon obtained his first
patent for an automatic silk-winding machine. This was
adopted by the Willimantic Linen Company, with some
modifications made by Hezekiah Conant, and was the
machine which Pratt & Whitney began manufacturing
in their first rented room in Hartford.
Mr. Spencer has had a passion for firearms from boy-
hood. In 1860 he obtained a patent for the Spencer
repeating rifle. The Civil War created a tremendous
176 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
demand for it, and the Government ordered first 1000,
then 10,000, and before the war was over it had pur-
chased about 200,000. In 1862, while the first contracts
were pending, Spencer saw President Lincoln at Wash-
ington. He and Lincoln went down on the White House
grounds with the new rifle, set up a board and shot at it.
Lincoln enjoyed it like a schoolboy, and shot well, too.
He tore his coat pocket in the process, but told Spencer
not to worry over it, as he * * never had anything of value
in it to lose."
At the close of the war Spencer went to Amherst and
was there first associated with C. E. Billings in the
Roper Company, as we noted. A year later he joined in
starting the Billings & Spencer Company and cooperated
with him in the development of the drop hammer.
A successful machine which Spencer invented for
turning sewing machine spools suggested to Spencer the
possibility of making metal screws automatically. The
result was his invention of the automatic turret lathe.
The importance of the blank cam cylinder, with its flat
strips adjustable for various jobs, was wholly over-
looked by his patent attorney, with the result that Spen-
cer obtained no patent right on the most valuable feature
in the whole machine.
The importance of this invention can hardly be over-
estimated. It ranks with Maudslay's slide-rest and the
turret tool-holder, as it is an essential feature in all
modern automatic lathes, both for bar-stock and chucking
Assured of the success of the machine, Spencer with-
drew from active connection with the Billings & Spencer
Company in 1874, and in 1876, with George A. Fairfield,
then superintendent of the Weed Sewing Machine Com-
pany, and others, formed the Hartford Machine Screw
Company, one of the most successful enterprises in the
THE COLT WORKMEN 177
city. Unfortunately, Mr. Spencer withdrew in 1882 to
manufacture a new repeating shotgun and rifle which he
had invented. The gun was a success mechanically, but
the Spencer Arms Company, which had been formed in
1883 at Windsor, Conn., was a failure, and Mr. Spencer
lost heavily. In his later years Mr. Spencer has returned
to the field where he did his most brilliant work, auto-
matic lathes. He represents the New England mechanic
at his best, and his tireless and productive ingenuity
has made a permanent impress on modem manufacturing
Francis A. Pratt was bom at Woodstock, Vt. When
he was eight years old his family moved to Lowell. He
was a mechanic from boyhood but he had the good for-
tune to be apprenticed as a machinist with Warren
Aldrich, a good mechanic and a wise teacher. At twenty,
Mr. Pratt went to Gloucester, N. J., where he was
employed first as a journeyman, later as a contractor.
In 1852 he came to the Colt shop, where he worked for
two years. He then accepted the foremanship of the
Phoenix Iron Works, which was run by Levi Lincoln and
his two sons.
Amos Whitney was born in Maine and moved to Law-
rence, Mass., where he served his apprenticeship with
the Essex Machine Company which built cotton machin-
ery, locomotives and machine tools. He came from a
family of mechanics. His father was a locksmith and
machinist, his grandfather was an expert blacksmith,
his great-grandfather was a small manufacturer of
agricultural tools, and he is of the same family as Eli
Whitney of New Haven, and Baxter D. Whitney, the
veteran tool builder of Winchendon. In 1850 both he
and his father were working at Colt*s factory at Hart-
ford. In 1854 Amos Whitney joined Pratt in the Phoenix
Iron Works, where they worked together for ten years,
178 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
the former as a contractor, the latter as superintendent.
Whitney was earning over eight dollars a day when he
left Colt's and took up the new contract work which
offered at the beginning only two dollars a day.
Many of the shops of that generation were ''contract
shops." The Colt Armory was run on that basis, at
least in its manufacturing departments. Under this
system the firm or company furnished all the materials,
machinery, tools, shop room and supplies, while the
workmen were employed by the contractor, their wages
being paid by the firm but charged against the con-
tractor's account. A better training for future manu-
facturers could hardly be devised, and a surprising
number of these old-time contractors have succeeded
later in business for themselves.
In the summer of 1860 Pratt and Whitney rented a
small room and, in addition to their regular employ-
ment, began doing work on their own account, i.e., manu-
facturing the small winder for the Willimantic Linen
Company. Mr. Whitney's father-in-law acted as pattern
maker, millwright, bookkeeper and general utility man.
The following February they were burned out, but were
running again a month later in other quarters. Here they
continued to spread from room to room until all avail-
able space was outgrown. They succeeded from the
very start, and at once became leaders and teachers of
other mechanics, suggesters of new methods of work
and of new means for its accomplishment. Both Pratt
and Whitney were thoroughly familiar with gun manu-
facture, and the business was hardly started when the
outbreak of the Civil War gave them more than they
could do. In 1862 they took into partnership Monroe
Stannard of New Britain, each of the three contribut-
ing $1200. Mr. Stannard took charge of the shop, as
Pratt and Whitney were still with the Phoenix Iron
THE COLT WORKMEN 179
Works. Within two years the business had increased
to such an extent that they gave up their positions at
the Phoenix works and in 1865 erected the first building
on their present site. From $3600 in 1862 their net assets
grew in four years to $75,000, and during the three
years following that they earned and put back into the
business more than $100,000. In 1869 the Pratt & Whit-
ney Company was formed with a capital of $350,000,
later increased to $500,000. In 1893 it was reorganized
with a capitalization of $3,000,000. Since that time it has
become a part of the Niles-Bement-Pond Company.
Beginning with the manufacture of machine tools and
tools for making guns and sewing machines, they have
extended their lines until their catalog fills hundreds of
pages. From their wide experience in interchangeable
manufacture, it was natural that they should take a
prominent part in developing the machinery for the
manufacture of bicycles and typewriters, when, later,
these were introduced.
Soon after the Franco-Prussian War, an agent of the
company visited Prussia and found the royal and pri-
vate gun factories equipped with old and inferior
machinery and the armories bare. Mr. Pratt was sent
for, and returned to Hartford with orders from the Ger-
man Government for $350,000 worth of gun machinery.
During the next few years Mr. Pratt made no less than
ten trips to Europe, taking orders aggregating over
$2,000,000 worth of machinery. When the panic of 1873
prostrated the industries of the United States, Pratt &
Whitney had orders, mostly foreign, which kept them
busy until 1875. Their equipment of the three royal
armories of Spandau, Erfurt and Danzig resulted in an
improvement in quality of output and a saving of 50
per cent in wages. Pratt & Whitney's production of
gun-making machinery alone has run into many millions
180 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
of dollars, and there are few governments which have
not at one time or another purchased from them.
Pratt & Whitney from the start were leaders in estab-
lishing standards, particularly in screw threads. Their
gauges for pipe threads have for years been the stand-
ard for the country. The troubles which arose from the
lack of agreement of standard gauges and the growing
demand for interchangeable bolts and nuts led to a
demand on the company for a set of gauges upon which
all could agree.
In undertaking this work Pratt & Whitney examined
their own standards of length with reference to gov-
ernment and other standards in this country and abroad.
The results were conflicting and very unsatisfactory.
By different measurements the same bar would be
reported as above and as below the standard length,
and the investigation produced no results which could
be used for a working basis. At length Prof. William A.
Rogers of Harvard University, and George M. Bond,
backed by the Pratt & Whitney Company, developed the
Rogers-Bond comparator Tvith which they determined
the length of the standard foot. When they began, the
length of the yard and its subdivisions varied with the
number of yardsticks. Professor Rogers' work was
based on line measurement rather than the end measure-
ment which had held sway from the time of Whitworth
and which is now generally recognized to be inferior for
final reference work. Professor Rogers went back of
all the secondary standards to the Imperial Yard in
London and the standard meter in the Archives at Paris.
He obtained reliable transfers of these, and with the
cooperation of the United States Coast Survey, the most
delicate and exhaustive comparisons were made of the
standard bars prepared by him for the use of the com-
pany with the government standard yard designated
THE COLT WORKMEN 181
** Bronze No. 11.** Many thousands of dollars and three
years of time went into this work.
The methods used and the results obtained were exam-
ined and reported upon by a committee of the American
Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the conclusion
given in their report is as follows:
The completion of the Rogers-Bond comparator marks a long
stride in advance over any method hitherto in use for compari-
son and subdivision of line-measure standards, combining, as it
does, all the approved methods of former observers with others
original with the designers. Comparisons can thus be checked
thoroughly by different systems, so that the final result of the
series may be relied on as being much nearer absolute accuracy
than any hitherto produced.
The calipering attachment to the comparator deserves special
commendation, being simple in the extreme, and solving com-
pletely the problem of end measurements within the limit of
accuracy attainable in line reading, by means of the microscope
with the micrometer eye-piece. The standard to which the end
measurements are referred is not touched, and each measure-
ment is referred back to the same zero, so that error from end
wear does not enter into the problem. This attachment is in
advance of all hitherto known methods of comparing end meas-
ures, either with other end measures or with line standards, both
as to rapidity of manipulation and accuracy of its readings, the
strong point in its construction being that it refers all end
measures to a carefully divided and investigated standard bar,
which is not touched during its use, and cannot be in the slight-
est degree injured by this service, thus giving convincing assur-
ance that the measures and gauges produced by its use will be
accurate and interchangeable.
In the opinion of this committee, the degree of accuracy
already attained is such that no future improvements can occa-
sion changes sufficiently great to affect the practical usefulness
of the magnitudes here determined, or the interchangeability of
182 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
structures based upon them with those involving further refine-
Prof. W. A. Rogers and Mr. George M. Bond are unquestion-
ably entitled to great credit for the admirable manner in which
they have solved the problem of exact and uniform measure-
ment, while the enterprise of the Pratt & Whitney Company in
bringing the whole matter into practical shape, is deserving of
the thanks of the engineering community.^
The standards so obtained became the basis of the
gauges which Pratt & Whitney have produced.
In 1888 the company received its first order for Hotch-
kiss revolving cannon, and for three- and six-pounders
rapid-fire guns. They have made hundreds of these guns
for the secondary batteries of war vessels. In 1895
they brought out a one-pounder invented by E. G. Park-
hurst, an expert mechanic, who had entered their
employment as assistant superintendent in 1869 and
later took charge of their gun department.
For many years the Pratt & Whitney tool-room lathes
were the standard for the country. Later their leader-
ship was materially affected by the Hendey Machine
Company of Torrington, Conn., who built a high grade
tool-room lathe having the change-gear box which has
since been applied to nearly all types of machine tools.
The change-gear box is one of the important contribu-
tions to tool building made in recent years. Among the
1 Those interested may find detailed descriptions of the methods used
and of the Rogers-Bond comparator in the following references: George
M. Bond: Paper on "Standard Measurements," Trans. A. S. M. E., Vol,
II, p. 80. George M. Bond: Paper on "A Standard Gauge System,"
Trans. A. S. M. E., Vol. Ill, p. 122. Beport of Committee on Standards
and Gauges, Trans. A. S. M. E., Vol. IV, p. 21 (quoted above). W. A.
Rogers: Paper, "On a Practical Solution of the Perfect Screw Prob-
lem," Trans. A. S. M. E., Vol. V, p. 216. Two lectures delivered by George
M. Bond before the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, in 1884, on: 1.
"Standards of Length and their Subdivision." 2. "Standards of Length
as Applied to Gauge Dimensions. ' '
THE COLT WORKMEN 183
later developments introduced by Pratt & Whitney is
the process of thread milling, and they have designed a
full line of machines for this work.
The Pratt & Whitney works, like the Colt Armory, has
been a training school for successful tool builders.
Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey were both
foremen at Pratt & Whitney's and left there to go west,
first to Chicago and then to Cleveland. Some account
of these two men will be given in a later chapter. Pratt
& Whitney have had a marked influence on tool build-
ing in Cleveland, for, in addition to Warner and Swasey,
E. C. Henn and Hakewessel of the National Acme
Manufacturing Company who developed the multi-
spindle automatic lathe, A. F. Foote of Foote, Burt &
Company, and George C. Bardons of Bardons & Oliver,
come from their shop. Johnston of Potter & Johnston,
Pawtucket, was chief draftsman at Pratt & Whit-
ney's; and J. N. Lapointe who later developed the
broaching machine, Dudley Seymour of Chicago, Gleason
of the Gleason Works in Rochester, E. P. Bullard of
Bridgeport, and F. N. Gardner of Beloit, Wis., inventor
of the Gardner grinder, were all workmen there.
Mr. Gleason was also a workman in the Colt Armory.
He went to Rochester in 1865 and the works which he
developed form the most important tool building inter-
est in western New York. There have been "a good
many starts there in tool building and almost as many
finishes." Mr. Gleason always said that but for the
training and methods he had gained at Hartford he
would have shared their fate. Like many others, his
company began with a general line of machine tools but
has come to specialize on one type of machine, bevel-
gear cutters, of which they build a most refined type.
E. P. Bullard, like Gleason, worked at both Colt's and
Pratt & Whitney's. Later he formed a partnership
184 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
with J. H. Prest and William Parsons, manufacturing
millwork and *'all kinds of tools" in Hartford. In
1866 he organized the Norwalk Iron Works Company of
Norwalk, but afterwards withdrew and continued the
business in Hartford. For a number of years Mr. Bul-
lard was in the South and Middle West, at Athens, Ga.,
at Cincinnati, where he organized the machine tool
department of Post & Company, and at Columbus, where
he was superintendent of the Gill Car Works. In 1875
he established a machinery business in Beekman Street,
New York, under the firm name of Allis, Bullard & Com-
pany. Mr. Allis withdrew in 1877 and the Bullard
Machine Company was organized. Recognizing a
demand for a high grade lathe he went to Bridgeport,
Conn., and engaged A. D. Laws to manufacture lathes
of his design, agreeing to take his entire output. In the
latter part of the same year Mr. Bullard took over the
business and it became the Bridgeport Machine Tool
Works. In 1883 he designed his first vertical boring
and turning mill, a single head, belt feed machine of 37
inches capacity. This is believed to be the first small bor-
ing machine designed to do the accurate work previously
performed on the face plate of a lathe. Up to that time
boring machines were relied on only for large and rough
work. In 1889 he transferred his New York connections
to J. J. McCabe and gave his entire attention to manu-
facturing, the business being incorporated as the Bullard
Machine Tool Company in 1894.
The building of boring mills gradually crowded out
the lathes, and for twenty years the company has con-
centrated on the boring machine as a specialty. In
their hands it has received a remarkable development.
They introduced a range of small-sized mills capable of
much more accurate work than had been done on this
type of machine. They applied the turret principle to
THE COLT WORKMEN 185
the head carried on the cross rail and a few years later
introduced a mill having a head carried on the side of
the frame which permitted of the close working of the
tools. These improvements transformed the boring mill
into a manufacturing machine, and it became practically
a vertical turret lathe with the advantages inherent in
that type of machine. This trend toward the lathe type
has finally resulted in a multiple station-type of machine
which is in effect a vertical multi-spindle automatic
chucking lathe with five independent tool heads, as shown
in Fig. 56. Comparison of this with Fig. 15, shows how
the lathe has developed in the 115 years since Maudslay
introduced the slide-rest principle and the lead screw.
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE
A glance at the genealogical chart, Fig. 37, will show
why the old Bobbins & Lawrence shop, at Windsor, Vt.,
in the backwoods of northern New England, deserves a
special chapter. When built, it was miles away from a
railroad. It was never large, and the wheels of the origi-
nal shop have long since ceased to turn, but few plants
have had so great an influence on American manufac-
turing. Three brilliant mechanics, Lawrence, Howe and
Stone, were working there in the early fifties, and from
them and their successors came wholly, or in part, the
vertical lathe turret, the miller, the profiler and a large
number of the modern machines used in interchangeable
manufacture. Of these three, Lawrence went to Hart-
ford, Howe to Providence, while Stone remained at
AVindsor. In each case an important line of influence
may be traced.
In the region about Windsor, sixty or seventy years
ago, there were a number of small custom gun shops, and
one firm, N. Kendall & Company, was regularly making
guns at the AVindsor prison, using prison labor in addi-
tion to that of a number of free mechanics, who did the
finer work. The history of the Robbins & Lawrence
Company begins about 1838, when Lawrence came to
Windsor from the neighborhood of Watertown, N. Y.
Fortunately he wrote out an account of his life shortly
before his death, at the request of his son, giving a very
interesting record of his early work and his connections
188 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
with his various manufacturing enterprises. This
account shows clearly the integrity, modesty and worth
of the man.^
Richard S. Lawrence, whose portrait appears in Fig.
40, was born in Chester, Vt., in 1817. When two years
old, his father moved to Jefferson County, N. Y., and his
boyhood was spent in the neighborhood of Watertown.
He was only nine years old when his father died, and
consequently he had a hard boyhood, with very little
schooling, and was early at work in the support of the
family. He worked on a farm and later in a woodwork-
ing shop, making carpenter's and joiner's tools. In the
basement of this place was a custom gun shop, where
he spent much of his spare time and became an expert
gun maker. He worked with indifferent success at vari-
ous jobs until the winter of 1837-1838, when he served in
the United States army for three months, guarding the
frontier during the Canadian Rebellion. At his discharge
he determined to start in elsewhere for himself and
thought of his relatives in Vermont. After a long jour-
ney by the Erie Canal, the newly built Albany & Schenec-
tady Railroad, and by stage, he reached "Windsor in 1838.
A week or two after his arrival, while visiting a Doctor
Story, he undertook to repair an old rifle, a '^ Turkey
rifle," made by the doctor's brother in a gun shop in the
neighborhood, and put on a peep-sight, a thing never
heard of before in that neighborhood. He took the gun
apart, leaded out the barrel, forged and finished the sight
and put it on the gun. His skill in handling tools
astonished those who watched him. Two days later,
when the work was done, the doctor and Lawrence went
out to try the gun. They paced off twelve rods from a
maple tree which had a three-quarter-inch auger hole in
1 By the courtesy of Mr, Ned Lawrence this account is given in Appen-
dix A. It has never been published before.
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 189
it that had been used for a sap spout. Lawrence did the
shooting. His own account of it is as follows : ' * The doc-
tor tended target. Could find no ball hole. Said I missed
the tree. I fired again, no ball hole to be found. Doctor
came up to me and said I had spoiled his rifle. Before
my repairs he could kill a chicken every time at twelve
rods. I said, 'Uncle, I am very sorry, but I will make
the gun all right before I leave it.' He said he could
not consent to my doing anything more to improve the
shooting qualities — the sight he liked very much. I
said that as the gun was loaded I would take one more
shot and see if I could not hit the tree. After the third
shot I went up to the tree to investigate, and all of the
three balls which I had fired were found in the auger
hole.'" The doctor was astonished, for he had never
heard of such shooting.
The next day he took Lawrence down to see N. Kendall
& Company, who were making guns at the Windsor
prison. They hired him at once for two years at $100
a year. His first work was stocking rifles by hand and
the first day he put on five stocks. The next day the
superintendent looked over the work and said it was well
done, but it would never do to rush the work as he had,
for he would ''soon gun-stock them out of town," and
he **must take it more easy." In the course of the next
six months, he had so far mastered every process in the
factory, even that of engraving in which he could soon
compete with the oldest hands, that he was put in charge
of the shop. Four years later the company gave up the
gun business, and for a time Lawrence remained as
foreman of the carriage department in the prison shop.
In 1843 Kendall and Lawrence hired a small shop in
Windsor village and started a custom gun shop. In the
winter of 1844 S. E. Bobbins, a business man, came to
2 Quoted from the full account given in Appendix A.
190 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
them and said that the Government was in the market
for 10,000 rifles. The matter was talked over, a partner-
ship formed, and a bid sent to Washington. In spite of
the opposition of nearly all the other Government con-
tractors, who said they could never do the work, it
resulted in the award of a contract for 10,000 to Robbins,
Kendall & Lawrence, at $10.90 each, attachments extra,
to be furnished within three years.
They bought land, built a shop, and bought or made
the necessary machinery. It was in the performance of
this and the subsequent contract that many of the early
machine tools were developed. The contract was fin-
ished eighteen months ahead of time, at a good profit,
and they obtained a second contract for 15,000 at the
same price. Soon after finishing the first contract, Rob-
bins and Lawrence bought out Kendall's interest in the
firm, which became Bobbins & Lawrence. The business
proved very profitable. About 38 per cent of their work
for the Government had to be rejected on account of
poor material and workmanship, but the California gold
excitement was then at its height and guns were in great
demand. They were therefore able to sell their second-
quality work for the full government price. About 1850
they contracted with Courtland C. Palmer for 5000 Jen-
nings rifles, a gun which later developed through the
Henry rifle into the present well-known Winchester rifle.
About 1850 Bobbins & Lawrence took the first of the
steps which led to their undoing. The railroad had
just been completed through Windsor, and S. F. Bel-
knap, a large railroad contractor, induced them to start
in the car business, which, of course, had no rational
relation with their main activity of building guns. Mr.
Belknap assured them that he could control all the car
work in that section, and put in $20,000 as a silent part-
ner. The firm went to a large outlay, but just as they
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 191
were finishing the first cars, Belknap quarreled with the
president of the railroad and the firm could not sell a
single car when they had expected to. After a consider-
able delay they were sold to other roads, and stock which
proved valueless was taken in payment. The opera-
tion involved an actual loss of $134,000, which was later
increased to nearly $240,000.
In all of their gun work, Robbins & Lawrence used
the interchangeable system, and they contributed very
largely to its development. Lawrence, Howe, and later
Stone, were constantly improving the methods of manu-
facture. Fitch's article on Interchangeable Manufacture
in the TJ. S. Census Report of 1880, describes and illus-
trates a profiling machine built by Howe as early as
1848. The design shown there was used for many years
throughout all the gun shops in the country. He also
designed a barrel drilling and rifling machine, and he and
Lawrence designed and built a plain miller, which was
the forerunner of the well-known Lincoln miller. One
of these millers, built in 1853, is still running in the shop
of the North Brothers Manufacturing Company in Phila-
delphia. This machine had a rack-and-pinion feed for
the table, which chattered badly when starting a heavy
cut. The principal improvement which F. A. Pratt intro-
duced in the Lincoln miller was the substitution for this
of a screw and nut. The original drawing of this Rob-
bins 8u Lawrence machine is still on file in the office of
the Jones & Lamson Machine Company and shows
clearly that it furnished the basis of the design of the
In 1851 Robbins & Lawrence sent to the Exposition in
London a set of rifles built on the interchangeable sys-
tem, which excited great interest and for which they
received a medal. This led to the visit of an English
commission which resulted in a large contract to Robbins
192 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
& Lawrence for Enfield rifles, and for gun machinery
which was installed in the Armory at Enfield, near Lon-
don. It has been said that this contract caused the
failure of Bobbins & Lawrence. This is not true.
In 1852 the company contracted to make 5000 Sharps
carbines at Windsor, and 15,000 rifles and carbines at
a plant which they were to erect in Hartford. The
Sharps Company advanced $40,000 to enable them to
build a new factory and Mr. Lawrence moved to Hart-
ford in 1853 to superintend the building and equipment
of the plant. Shortly after it was completed, Robbins &
Lawrence, already strained by their losses in the car-
building venture and with the erecting of the new plant,
undertook a contract with Fox, Henderson & Company
for 25,000 Minie rifles. They were assured by the agent
that he had in his pockets contracts for 300,000 more,
which he promised them on the completion of the 25,000.
Lawrence objected strenuously to signing the contract
for the 25,000 without more assurance as to the 300,000
to follow, as the outlay for the work would greatly exceed
the profits on the first contract. It was signed, however,
and it later developed that the agent had no authoriza-
tion for the 300,000. It was this which caused the failure
of Robbins & Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence left the firm and took charge of the new
Hartford plant which had been bought by the Sharps
Rifle Company. J. D. Alvord, one of the contractors at
Hartford under Lawrence, later built the Wheeler &
Wilson plant at Bridgeport. Robbins and others leased
the Windsor shops and began the manufacture of sew-
ing machines. In 1859 the plant and business were pur-
chased by Lamson, Goodnow & Yale, who retained Henry
D. Stone as their mechanical expert. During the Civil
War the plant was given over entirely to the manufac-
ture of army rifles, and the sewing-machine business was
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 193
sold to Mr. White of the White Sewing Machine Com-
pany of Cleveland, Ohio.
In the early thirties Silas Lamson had begun manu-
facturing scythe snaths in one of the hill towns of west-
em Massachusetts. Up to that time the farmers had
either used straight poles or those which happened natu-
rally to have a convenient twist. Lamson conceived the
idea of steaming the poles and bending them to a prede-
termined curve. About 1840 his sons, Nathan and E. G.
Lamson, moved to Shelburne Falls and after some years
began the manufacture of cutlery, founding the factory
which has been in successful operation ever since. After
the completion of the railroad through Windsor, they
moved their snath factory to that place. They and their
successors, the Lamson & Goodnow Manufacturing Com-
pany, continued this work there for many years. When
the Eobbins & Lawrence property was put on the mar-
ket it was purchased by E. G. Lamson, A. F. Goodnow
and B. B. Yale, under the name of Lamson, Goodnow &
Yale. E. G. Lamson & Company and the Windsor Manu-
facturing Company succeeded this firm and continued
the manufacture of machine tools and Ball and Palmer
carbines, and completed a number of government rifle
contracts. In 1869 R. L. Jones, a business man, of the
Ascutney Mill at Windsor, joined the firm, which became
Jones, Lamson & Company, and a small cotton mill was
added to their other activities. Ten years later the
Jones & Lamson Company was organized to take over
the machine business. During all these changes Henry
D. Stone continued as the designer. A large poster of
the Windsor Manufacturing Company, printed some
time about 1865, shows that they had plenty of irons in
the fire, for they were prepared to furnish guns and
machinery for manufacturing guns, sewing machines and
needles, a standard line of hand-operated turret lathes,
194 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
plain and index millers, planers, trimming presses, drill
presses, sawmills, rock drills and mining machinery.
Later their mining and quarry-machinery business was
moved to Claremont, N. H., and became the Sullivan
In 1889 the present Jones & Lamson Machine Com-
pany moved to Springfield, Vt., where it now is. That
same year, James Hartness entered the employment of
the company as superintendent. With his advent the
scattering of activities ceased and the Jones & Lamson
Machine Company began concentrating on turret lathes,
which Bobbins & Lawrence and their various successors
have been manufacturing continuously since the early
fifties. A number of the old mechanics and foremen,
who had homes in Windsor at the time the company was
moving to Springfield, took over the old shops and
organized the present Windsor Machine Company which
now manufactures the Gridley Automatic Lathes.
This, briefly, is the history of the old Bobbins &
Lawrence shop. The men, however, who worked with
Bobbins & Lawrence and its successors, are of greater
While Lawrence continued as master-armorer of the
Sharps Bifle Works, the company was successful finan-
cially. Fitch, in the Census article frequently referred
to, says that he brought with him ''from Windsor the
first plain milling machine used in Hartford." Law-
rence also applied the broaching process to the manu-
facture of Sharps rifles, effecting great economies, and
was the inventor of the split pulley which was first made
for him at Lincoln's Phoenix Iron Works. In the winter
of 1850 Lawrence introduced the practice of lubricating
rifle bullets with tallow, making possible the repeating
rifle which had been a failure up to that time as the
barrel "leaded" and the gun lost its accuracy. This was
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 195
done in connection with some trials of the Jennings rifle
during the visit of Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot,
who was in this country for the supposed purpose of pur-
chasing rifles.^ Mr. Lawrence left the Sharps company
in 1872 and was for many years an official in the city of
Hartford, as Superintendent of Streets and on the Water
and Fire Boards. He died in 1892.
The Sharps Rifle Works, after Lawrence's retirement,
were bought by the Weed Sewing Machine Company,
and later by the Pope Manufacturing Company, who
extended it greatly for the manufacture of the Columbia
Frederick W. Howe, the second of the Bobbins & Law-
rence mechanics mentioned, whose portrait appears in
Fig. 39, learned his trade in the old Gay & Silver shop at
North Chelmsford. We have seen in a previous chapter
the connection of this company, through Ira Gay, with
the early mechanics at Pawtucket. It is an interesting
and perhaps significant fact that both milling machines
and turret lathes were in use in this shop, probably at the
time when Howe worked there. Howe was first a drafts-
man and later superintendent at Windsor and was inti-
mately associated with the designing there at that time.
The Jones & Lamson Machine Company still have draw-
ings of machine tools made by him as early as 1848.
As both Lawrence and Howe were designing in the
Windsor shop at that period, it is difficult today to
apportion the credit between them.
When Robbins & Lawrence failed, Howe went to
Providence as superintendent of the Providence Tool
Company and his work there contributed greatly to the
success of that firm. While with both Bobbins & Law-
rence and the Providence Tool Company, he worked on
the turret-head screw machine and the plain miller.
* See Appendix B.
196 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
The first screw machine brought out by Brown &
Sharpe in 1861 was built for Mr. Howe. Joseph R.
Brown added certain valuable features to it, but the
parts for the first machine were said to have been cast
from Howe's patterns. Howe invented and built a uni-
versal milling machine,* but it should not be confused
with what is now known as the ** universal" miller, which
was first built by Brown & Sharpe, also in 1861, for
Mr. Howe to mill the flutes in twist drills. The dis-
tinction between these two machines has been pointed
out by Mr. Burlingame. The No. 12 plain miller which
Brown & Sharpe build today was designed by Howe,
and for many years was known as the ''Howe" type
of miller. From 1868 to 1873 Mr. Howe was the super-
intendent of Brown & Sharpe, and built the first build-
ing on their present site. Later he started in business
for himself as a consulting mechanical engineer and
was designing a typewriter (which was never built) at
the time of his death. He was a smoOth-faced, well-
dressed man, with a restless inventive mind, apt to
change things frequently, improving each time, however,
and when he finished anything it was thoroughly done.
He left a deep impress on mechanical development in
this country, and while Lawrence was perhaps the best
mechanic, Howe was probably the ablest of the three
men connected with the early Bobbins & Lawrence
Henry D. Stone was born in 1815 and died at Windsor
in 1898. He learned his trade as a millwright at "Wood-
stock, Vt., but soon afterward came to Bobbins & Law-
rence. He remained with them and their successors for
the rest of his career, more than thirty years. He has
been very generally credited with the invention of the
4 Illustrated in the American Machinist of August 13, 1914. See also
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 197
vertical turret as applied to the lathe, but the idea was by-
no means original with him. In 1845 a horizontal turret
was designed and built by Stephen Fitch at Middlefield,
Conn., to manufacture percussion locks for the United
States Government. This machine is illustrated in the
American Machinist of May 24, 1900. It had a hori-
zontal axis with eight positions for as many tools. In
the same magazine for November 28, 1908, two turret
lathes are illustrated and described, one with a vertical
and the other with a horizontal turret, both of which
were in use in the Gay & Silver shop at an early date,
probably in the forties, at the time Howe was there as
an apprentice. The horizontal turret principle was also
in use by E. K. Root at the Colt Armory ,° and J. D.
Alvord is said to have used a turret screw machine in
the Hartford plant in 1853. There is little doubt that
both Howe and Lawrence had something to do with the
development of the turret lathe at Windsor. The turret
designs which Howe had built for him a few years later
in Providence are all along the same lines. Stone
unquestionably had a share in the development of the
turret, for he made the drawing of the first Bobbins &
Lawrence turret machines and continued for many years
the development of the turret lathe for the various
companies which successively operated in Windsor.
With the turret screw machine came the box-tool and
hollow mill. Machinery of May, 1912, illustrated and
described a box-tool, fitted with two back rests and two
cutting tools, which was made by Bobbins & Lawrence
at Windsor in 1850.
The second period in the history of this company, or
succession of companies, begins with the coming of
James Hartness to the Jones & Lamson Machine Com-
8 See Fig. 33. See also the valuable article by E. G. Parkhurst in the
American Machinist, of May 24, 1900, p. 489, referred to above.
198 ENGLISH AND A^IERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
pany in 1889. Mr. Hartness was bom in Schenectady
in 1861 and learned his trade by ''picking it up," first
with Younglove, Massey & Company, of Cleveland,
where his father was superintendent, and then in the
machine shop of the Union Steel Screw Works. In the
latter shop he first came in contact with close, accurate
work. The practice of this company was due to Jason
A. Bidwell, who came from the American Screw Com-
pany, in Providence, which we have referred to in a
previous chapter. Three years later Mr. Hartness went
to the Lake Erie Iron Works as tool maker. In 1882
he went to Winsted, Conn., as foreman in the Thomson,
Stacker Bolt Company, and in 1885 to the Union Hard-
ware Company of Torrington, manufacturers of gun
implements, first as tool maker, then foreman, and later
as inventor. During the year 1888 he worked for a few
months at the Pratt & Whitney shop in Hartford, at
Scottdale, Pa., and with the Eaton, Cole & Bumham
Company, in Bridgeport. He went to the Jones &
Lamson Machine Company in February, 1889, the year
in which they moved to their present location at Spring-
field, Vt. He was first superintendent until 1893, then
manager until 1900, and president from then on.
During these years Mr. Hartness has become one of
the most influential designers of machine tools of this
generation and in 1914 he was president of the Ameri-
can Society of Mechanical Engineers. When he went
to Windsor, the Jones & Lamson Machine Company was
manufacturing principally a standard type of high-tur-
ret lathe, lever-operated, with power feed and back
gears. Mr. Hartness immediately began an investiga-
tion of the problem which resulted in the invention of
the Hartness flat-turret lathe and many improvements
in the details of the tools used on it. While Mr. Hart-
ness was developing certain details of the turret con-
Figure 41. James Hartness
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 199
stniction, lie found in the records of the company-
sketches of the identical mechanism, made by Howe
nearly forty years before, which show not only that
Howe was engaged in turret-lathe design but that he was
a generation ahead of his time.
Under Mr. Hartness* management, the Jones & Lam-
son Machine Company have concentrated on a single
design of machine which they have developed to the
utmost. Eather than be diverted from this single object,
he has, as new inventions have come up, helped others
to develop them independently. The result has been that
while the Jones & Lamson Machine Company, with one
exception, has confined its attention to flat-turret lathes,
a number of important machines, which have sprung
from men connected with that company, are now being
manufactured by other firms.
The Fellows gear shaper is one of these machines.
Mr. Fellows ' career is a problem to those who are inter-
ested in the training of mechanics. He was a window
dresser in a dry goods store in Torrington and also ran
the carpet department. When Mr. Hartness came to
Springfield, Mr. Fellows, then twenty-two years old,
came with him. Without any previous mechanical train-
ing or technical education he worked for one week in the
shop, slotting screw heads, and then went into the draw-
ing room. He succeeded so well here that in a short
time he was chief draftsman. In 1896 he invented his
gear shaper, the Fellows Gear Shaper Company was
organized, and has been in successful operation ever
since. As the theory underlying this invention is of a
very refined order and the problems involved in its
manufacture have been worked out with great skill, one
would expect it to be the product of long experience and
high technical training. That Mr. Fellows should have
brought out so refined a machine within a few years from
200 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
the time he first turned his attention to mechanical mat-
ters is a remarkable tribute to his qualities as a machine
Mr. George 0. Gridley is another mechanic who
worked under Mr. Hartness at Springfield. He devel-
oped the single- and later the multi-spindle auto-
matic lathes which are now manufactured by the
Windsor Machine Company in the new plant which has
been built near the old Robbins & Lawrence shop at
Windsor. The original plant of the fifties is now used
as a club house for the men.
The Lo-Swing lathe, manufactured by the Fitchburg
Machine Works at Fitchburg, was invented by Mr.
Hartness. The Fitchburg Machine Works was founded
in the early sixties by Sylvester C. Wright, who came
from the Putnam Machine Works. For many years they
manufactured a general line of machine tools, but they
now confine their attention entirely to the Lo-Swing
The Bryant chucking grinder, invented by William L.
Bryant, is another machine which has sprung from the
Jones & Lamson shop of recent years. It is manufac-
tured by a separate company, the Bryant Chucking
Grinder Company, also at Springfield, Vt. The Fay
automatic lathe, now manufactured by Jones & Lamson
Company, is the exception to their policy of concentra-
tion on the flat turret. Like the Lo-Swing, it is intended
for work which cannot be done on the flat-turret lathe,
more particularly such pieces as are carried on man-
drels. The cutting tools are controlled by cams and a
cam drum. Like the Lo-Swing, it is intended to supple-
ment the field of the turret lathe and to give the advan-
tage of multiple tools, constant setting, and automatic
operation for work which could not be put upon a turret
BOBBINS & LAWRENCE 201
We have followed the four main lines of influence
from the old shop at Windsor; one, through Lawrence,
to Hartford; one, through Howe, to Providence; one,
through Stone and later Gridley, at Windsor; and the
fourth, through Hartness and the Jones & Lamson
Machine Company to Springfield. Another line of influ-
ence comes through Charles E. Billings, who learned his
trade under Bobbins & Lawrence, went to the Colt
Armory, and as we have seen elsewhere, founded the
Billings & Spencer Company. Like Mr. Hartness, he
also has been a president of the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers. There are other lines of influ-
ence in Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere which we
cannot follow out here,
THE BROWN & SHARPE MANUFACTURING
Two companies, both in New England, have been con-
spicuous for their leadership in tool building and the
introduction of precision methods in manufacture. One
of them, the Pratt & Whitney Company, we have con-
sidered. The other, the Brown & Sharpe Manufactur-
ing Company, of Providence, calls also for special
It was founded in 1833 by David Brown and his son
Joseph R. Brown.^ For nearly twenty years its busi-
ness comprised the making and repairing of clocks,
watches and mathematical instruments, in a small shop
without power. Its influence was hardly more than local
and only fourteen persons were employed in 1853, when
Lucian Sharpe was taken into the partnership, and the
fii-m became J. R. Brown & Sharpe.^
The real development of the business had begun a
few years before. In 1850 J. R. Brown had invented
and built a linear dividing engine which was, so far as
is known, the first automatic machine for graduating
rules used in the United States. It was fully automatic,
adapted to a wide variety of work, and provided with
devices for correcting the inaccuracies of the machine
as built, and such as might develop on account of wear.
1 David Brown retired in 1841. For the early history of David and
Joseph E. Brown see Van Slyck: "Representative Men of New England."
2 The writer would acknowledge his indebtedness to Mr. L. D. Burlin-
game for much of the material in this chapter.
Figure 42. Joseph R. Brown
THE BROWN & SHARPE COMPANY 203
Various improvements were made in this machine within
the next few years and two more were built, one in 1854
and one in 1859, essentially like it. These three machines
are in use today and doing work which meets modern
requirements of accuracy.
Soon after the first graduating machine was put into
use, the vernier caliper, reading to thousandths of an
inch, was brought out by Mr. Brown ; the first was made
as early as 1851. In the following year he applied the
vernier to protractors. A writer, in speaking of the
invention of the vernier caliper, says, "It was the first
practical tool for exact measurements which could be
sold in any country at a price within the reach of the
ordinary machinist, and its importance in the attainment
of accuracy for fine work can hardly be overestimated.**
The introduction of the vernier caliper was slow, only
four being made in the first year. In 1852 Mr. Brown
asked the New York agents to return one which they had
on exhibition because he needed it for some fine work
and did not have another in the shop. Within a year
or two the sales improved, for Mr. Sharpe wrote his
agent at Newark, N. J., in 1854, that it could not be
expected there would be a market for many more tools
in that neighborhood, as $500 worth had already been
Mr. Brown did not have the market long, for in 1852
Samuel Darling also invented and built a graduating
engine and began the manufacture of rules and squares
at Bangor, Maine. Mr. Darling had been a farmer and
sawmill owner, with a strong bent for mechanics. He
had gone to work in a machine shop six years before
and almost from the first had given his attention to
improvements in machinists* tools. His first partner
was Edward H. Bailey, but after a year a new partner-
ship was formed with Michael Schwartz, a saw maker
204 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
and hardware dealer of Bangor. They soon became
active competitors of J. R. Brown & Sharpe, and to
this day mechanics here and there have scales marked
**D. & S., Bangor, Me." Competition between the two
firms, both in prices and quality of work, became so keen
that a truce was called in 1866, resulting in the formation
of the partnership of Darling, Brown & Sharpe, which
conducted this part of the business until 1892, when
Darling's interest was bought out. The entire business
was soon after conducted under the name The Brown
& Sharpe Manufacturing Company, the original firm
of J. R. Brown & Sharpe having been incorporated under
that name in 1868.
In the spring of 1868 Mr. Darling moved to Provi-
dence, bringing with him his graduating engine, machin-
ery and six of his most experienced workmen. Darling's
engine was built along radically different lines from
Brown's, an interesting feature being that many of its
parts were made of saw-stock, which he also used as
the material for his scales and squares. His machines
and processes had been kept secret, and it was not until
after the partnership was formed that Mr. Brown had
opportunity of seeing them at Bangor. Mr. Darling's
original dividing machine is also still running at the
Brown & Sharpe works, having been operated for over
fifty years by John E. Hall, who remembers the time
when Mr. Darling first brought his new partners to see it.
Both J. R. Brown & Sharpe and Mr. Darling had had
their standards compared with those at Washington
prior to the formation of the partnership. Standards
of a still higher degree of accuracy were prepared about
1877, and the following is quoted from a letter to J. E.
Hilgard, of the Coast Survey Office, Washington, regard-
ing the metric standard in use by the Brown & Sharpe
Manufacturing Company at that time:
THE BROWN & SHARPE COMPANY 205
Taking 39.370 as the standard, there is only 0.00023 in. in
the meter difference in our comparison, which perhaps is as
close as may be expected. We shall now consider your com-
parison of our steel bar with the standard at Washington as
correct, and in our comparisons with it shall be able to detect
errors as small as 0.000025 in.
Still later and more accurate standards were made
by Oscar J. Beale in 1893.'
The early business of J. R. Brown & Sharpe con-
nected them closely with the various standards then in
use for measuring wire, sheet metal, and the like. Mr.
Sharpe was impressed with the irregularity and con-
fusion of these various gauges, so that after he became
Mr. Brown's partner, he interested himself in the estab-
lishment of a more systematic standard for wire gauges.
In 1855 he corresponded with various people in regard
to gauges for clock springs. By January of 1856 the
wire gauge with a regular progression of sizes had been
conceived, and a month later a table of sizes was made.
The new system was laid before the Waterbury Brass
Association by Mr. Sharpe, and in November of that
year fifty gauges were sent to William Brown, president
of the Association, for inspection by the members to
show them the uniformity in size which could be main-
tained in making a number of gauges.
The Association passed resolutions adopting this
standard, and in February, 1857, eight of the leading
American manufacturers signed these resolutions. The
new gauge, introduced to the public through a circular
sent out in March of that year, became the standard,
since known as the American Wire Gauge.
The subject of accurate gearing came up in connec-
tion with the clock business then conducted by J. R.
s American Machinist, Vol. XXXVI, p. 1025.
206 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Brown & Sharpe. There were also cails for gears to be
cut which were beyond the capacity of the machine they
then had for such work. This led to the design and
building of a precision gear cutter, not only to produce
accurate gears, but also to drill index plates and do
The second of the linear dividing engines, built m
1854, had a graduated silver ring set into the dividing
wheel. This ring was graduated at the office of the
Coast Survey in Washington by William Wurdeman on
a machine having an index wheel with 4320 graduations
copied from the plate of the Troughton & Simms
machine in London. Mr. Brown went to Washington to
see the work done and was so well satisfied with it that
he arranged with Mr. Wurdeman to graduate the copper
ring used in the precision gear cutter which was built
in 1855. Patrick Harlow, who operated this machine
from about 1860 to 1910, says that it was Mr. Brown's
special pride, that it was given the honor and care due
a precision machine, was located in a room by itself and
carefully covered every night to protect it from injury.
Long after it was supplanted by automatic gear cutters,
it was used for index drilling.
The formed milling cutter, which retains accurately
the contour of its cutting edge through successive sharp-
enings, was invented in 1864 by J. E. Brown with special
reference to the cutting of gear teeth. In fact, the oldest
milling cutter known was used for cutting gear teeth.
This cutter was made some time prior to 1782 by the
French mechanic Jacques de Vaucanson and came into
the possession of the Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing
Company about 1895. The teeth are very fine and appar-
ently were cut with chisels. The hole in the center is
octagonal and seems to have been broached.
The formed cutters came as one of the important ele-
THE BROWN & SHARPB COMPANY 207
ments in the system of interchangeable involute gears,
introduced by Brown & Sharpe, based on the principles
of Professor Willis. While they used both the involute
and cycloidal systems, they threw the weight of their
influence toward the former and were a strong factor
in the general adoption of the involute form for cut
gearing, as well as for the use of diametral pitch, which,
as we have seen, was suggested by Bodmer in Manches-
Early in the Civil War the Providence Tool Company
took up the manufacture of Springfield muskets for the
Government. Frederick W. Howe, who had become
superintendent of that company after leaving Bobbins
& Lawrence, had been designing turret machines for a
number of years, as we have seen. In order to equip
the Tool Company for this work, and especially for
making the nipples, he went to J. R. Brown & Sharpe
and arranged with them to build a turret screw machine
for this purpose. The general design of this machine
was similar to those of Howe & Stone, and Mr. E. E.
Lamson tells the writer that the castings for it were
made at the Jones & Lamson shop in Windsor. J. R.
Brown added the self -revolving turret, utilizing a ratchet
and pawl action on the return motion of the slide, the
device for releasing, feeding and gripping the bar-stock
while in motion, and the reversing die holder. While
Brown was the first to adapt these features to the Howe
machine, the revolving feeding mechanism had been
used before and Pratt & Whitney had begun the manu-
facture of turret screw machines with self-revolving
heads that same year, 1861.*
This screw machine seems to have been the first
machine tool built for sale by the Brown & Sharpe Com-
pany. Various sizes of screw machines, of both hand
*" Origin of the Turret," American Machinist, May 24, 1900, p. 489.
208 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
and automatic types, were built by them during and
since the Civil War. In the early eighties, S. L. Worsley
developed for them the complete automatic screw
machine, many features of which are still in use in the
machines now being built.
At the opening of the war plain milling machines had
been in use for many years. The Lincoln miller had
taken its present form and Howe had designed a miller
with a vertically adjustable cutter-slide and a swiveling
chuck which could be revolved, indexed and swiveled
in two planes and fed longitudinally under the cutter.^
The statement by Fitch in the *' Report on the Manufac-
ture of Interchangeable Mechanism" in the United
States Census, 1880, that the ''universal miller" was
designed by Howe in 1852, is doubtless based on this
machine or a forerunner of it. The drawings of it,
however, show a machine of radically different design
from what is now known as the ''universal miller,**
which was invented by Joseph R. Brown in 1861-1862,
at Howe's suggestion.
The Brown & Sharpe universal miller is indirectly
connected vnth the-percussion nipple which brought about
their first screw machine. The hole in this piece was
drilled by twist drills which the Providence Tool Com-
pany were making for themselves. One day Howe came
into the shop and watched the workman filing the spiral
grooves in tool-steel wire with a rat-tail file. He decided
that the method was too expensive and consulted with
Joseph R. Brown to find a better and more economical
way of making them.
Mr. Brown appreciated the need of a machine to do
this work, especially as he was just beginning to use
such drills himself in the manufacture of the Wilcox &
Gibbs sewing machines. He set himself at once to the
B Illustrated in the American Machinist, Aug. 13, 1914, pp. 296-297.
Figure 43. First Universal Milling Machine
THE BROWN & SHARPE COMPANY 209
task of developing a machine which would not only
cut the grooves in twist drills, but would be suitable for
many kinds of spiral milling, gear cutting, and other
work which had up to that time required expensive hand
operations. Little time was lost, and the first machine
(Fig. 43) was built and sold to the Providence Tool
Company, March 14, 1862. After passing through sev-
eral hands it came back thirty years later into the pos-
session of its builders and is now preserved by them for
its historical interest. The first published account of
the machine appeared in the Scientific American, Decem-
ber 27, 1862. The limited facilities of the shop were
taxed to meet the demand created, and ten machines
were built and sold during the remainder of the year
1862, most of the sales being in the eastern states. The
first machine sold in the west went to the Elgin National
Watch Company, and the first one sold abroad went to
Howe never claimed to be the inventor of this
machine, and, in fact, while still superintendent of the
Providence Tool Company he wrote a testimonial to
J. R. Brown & Sharpe, in which he said, ''I take great
pleasure in recommending your celebrated universal
Howe was connected with the Brown & Sharpe Com-
pany from January 1, 1868, to about 1873. This is the
last year that he appears in the directory as being at
their works. There was some form of partnership by
which he and Mr. McFarlane, the superintendent, had
an interest in the business so that his name does not
occur in its list of employees. The plain milling machine
manufactured for years by Brown & Sharpe is his
design, and his work was partly that of special design-
ing and partly superintending the building of their new
plant on the present site. They moved into this in 1872
210 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
from their old wooden buildings. At that time they
employed from 150 to 200 men.
In the early sixties the company began the manufac-
ture of the Wilcox & Gibbs sewing machine, which they
have manufactured ever since. They used cylindrical
and caliper gauges, including limit gauges, for this work.
In 1865 a set of standards was made for John Richards,
and cylindrical and limit gauges of various forms were
regularly manufactured during the early seventies. For
a long time the basis of accuracy for these was a set of
Whitworth plugs and rings, which are still preserved
among their archives. The sizes above the 2 inch are cast-
iron, and commencing with the 2% inch they are hollow
and ribbed. These were looked upon with reverence
by the Brown & Sharpe workmen and were used as master
gauges for the commercial plugs and rings. They found,
however, that in trying the Whitworth plugs, say % inch
and 114 inch into a 2 inch ring and then other combina-
tions into the same ring, an appreciable variation in fit
could be noticed. This led to consideration of means for
obtaining greater accuracy than was possible with
dependence on these Whitworth gauges. At the time the
question arose Richmond Viall had just become super-
intendent and Oscar J. Beale was chief inspector. It
was decided to make a measuring machine which should
be an original standard for measuring as well as a com-
parator. This machine, built in 1878, was largely the
work of Mr. Beale. It has a measuring wheel graduated
to read to ten-thousandths of an inch and a vernier read-
ing to hundred-thousandths. There is also an adjustment
which reads even finer than the famous ''millionth divid-
ing engine" of Whitworth. The basis of accuracy for
the miscroscopic scale was a standard yard, which had
been compared with the standards at Washington.
The micrometer caliper was introduced by Brown &
THE BROWN & SHARPE COMPANY 211
Sharpe in 1867. Although not the pioneers in the sense
of being the inventors, they were the first to recognize
the practical value of this tool for machinists, and to put
it on the market. As in the case of the vernier caliper, the
introduction of the micrometer caliper into everyday
shopwork marked an important step in raising the
standard of accuracy.
The principle is very old. William Gascoigne, of
Yorkshire, England, used it about 1637, moving two par-
allel edges or pointers to and fro by means of a screw
provided with a divided head. For two hundred years
the principle has been used in controlling the movement
of spider webs and cross hairs in transits and other opti-
cal instruments. It is well known that Watt had one
(now in the South Kensington Museum in London), and
we have already mentioned the ''Lord Chancellor," used
by Maudslay before 1830. R. Hoe & Company, of New
York, in 1858, had a bench micrometer reading up to 9
inches. But none of these could ever have influenced
mechanical standards generally as did the strong, com-
pact little instrument developed by Brown & Sharpe.
The circumstances surrounding its introduction are as
follows : In 1867 the Bridgeport Brass Company had a
lot of sheet brass returned to them from the Union
Metallic Cartridge Company as ' ' out of gauge. ' * Investi-
gation showed that the sheets were to the gauge of the
manufacturer, but that the gauge used by the customer
did not agree, and, further, when both gauges were tested
by a third, no two of them agreed. All three gauges were
supposed to be the regular U. S. Standard, adopted by
the wire manufacturers in 1857, of the well-known round,
flat form, with slits for the various sizes cut in the cir-
cumference. Gauges of this form were the best and
most accurate method then known for measuring sheet
212 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
S. E. Wilmot, then superintendent of the Bridgeport
Brass Company, seeing that the difficulty was likely to
occur again, devised the micrometer shown at A in Fig.
44, and had six of them made by a skilled machinist
named Hiram Driggs, under the direction of A. D. Laws,
who was then in charge of the mechanical department of
the Brass Company. The reading of the thousandths
of an inch w^as given by a pointer and a spiral line of
the same pitch as the screw, 40 to the inch, running
around the cylinder and crossed by a set of 25 lateral,
parallel lines. In the early part of 1867, the matter was
taken up with J. R. Brown & Sharpe with a view to hav-
ing them manufacture the gauges, and the one shown. A,
Fig. 44, with Mr. Laws' name stamped on it, is still in
their possession. As submitted, the tool was not consid-
ered to be of commercial value, for the cylinder was com-
pletely covered with spiral and straight lines intersecting
each other so closely that it was impossible to put any
figures upon it, thus making it very difficult to read.
In 1848 Jean Laurent Palmer, a skilled mechanic in
Paris, patented a ''screw caliper," sho^vn at B, Fig. 44,
and began manufacturing it under the name of "Sys-
teme Palmer. ' ' In this micrometer the graduations were
divided, one set being on the cylinder of the frame and
the other on the revolving barrel, an arrangement which
permitted all the markings necessary for clearness. The
importance of this tool does not seem to have been appre-
ciated until August, 1867, when J. R. Brown and Lucian
Sharpe saw one at the Paris Exposition. They at once
recognized its possibilities and brought one home mth
them. To use Mr. Sharpe 's own words: "As a gauge
was wanted for measuring sheet metal, we adopted
Palmer's plan of division, and the Bridgeport man's size
of gauge, adding the clamp for tightening the screw and
the adjusting screw for compensating the wear of end
^ •- :S
tH « i;
<; PQ U Q
THE BROWN & SHARPE COMPANY 213
of points where the metal is measured, and produced our
* Pocket Sheet Metal Gauge.' ... We should never have
made such a gauge as was shown us by the Bridgeport
man in 1867, to sell on our own account, as it would be
too troublesome to read to be salable. If we had not
happened to find the Palmer gauge, and thereby found a
practical way to read thousandths of an inch, no gauges
would have been made. If we had never seen the
Bridgeport device we should have found the Palmer at
Paris, and without doubt have made such gauges, but
possibly would have made a larger one first. The imme-
diate reason of making the 'Pocket Sheet Metal Gauge'
was the suggestion coming from the Bridgeport Brass
Company of the want of a gauge of the size of the sample
shown us for the use of the brass trade."®
This gauge, shown at C, in Fig. 44, was put on the
market in 1868, and appeared in the catalog of 1869.
Comparison of A, B, and C in Fig. 44 shows clearly their
close relationship. The term ''micrometer" caliper was
first applied to the one-inch caliper (D, Fig. 44) which
was brought out and illustrated in the catalog of 1877.
In Machinery of June, 1915, Mr. L. D. Burlingame has
given an admirable and very complete account of the
various improvements which have been brought out since
that time. In connection with the article, a modern
micrometer is shown and its various features, with the
inventors of each, are clearly indicated.^
The cylindrical grinder was first made as a crude
grinding lathe in the early sixties, and used for grinding
the needle and foot bars of the Wilcox & Gibbs sewing
«From a letter of Lucian Sharpe, quoted in the American Machinist
of December 15, 1892, p. 10.
7 The origin and development of the present form of micrometer is
further discussed in Machinery, August, 1915, p. 999, and September, 1915,
pp. 11, 58.
214 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
machines. In 1864 and 1865 the regular manufacture
of grinding lathes was begun by using parts of 14-inch
Putnam lathes modified to produce the automatic grind-
ing lathes. These modifications consisted in mounting
a grinding wheel on the carriage, providing an automatic
feeding and reversing attachment, and included the use
of a dead center pulley. From 1868 until 1876 various
plans were worked out for a complete universal grinder,
and by 1876 one had been built and was exhibited at the
Centennial Exposition. The first one used at the factory
was put into service a few days after Mr. Brown's death,
which occurred July 23, 1876. The patent granted to Mr.
Brown's heirs for this machine included not only the ordi-
nary devices of the universal grinder so well known today,
but also provision for form grinding. The designing of
surface machines as well as many other varieties fol-
lowed, the work being done under the direction of Charles
H. Norton, who later had charge of the design of their
The manufacture of automatic gear cutters was com-
menced by the Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company
in 1877, two designs by Edward H. Parks, a small manu-
facturing machine for bevel and spur gears and the larger
machine for general use, being brought out in that year.
In sixty years the Brown & Sharpe Company has grown
from an obscure local shop into a great plant employing
thousands, but its influence and its product represent a
greater achievement. Many mechanics of high ability
have gone to other shops, among whom are Henry M.
Leland, president of the Cadillac Motor Car Company;
J. T. Slocomb, Horace Thurston, Elmer A. Beaman and
George Smith, of Providence; Charles H. Norton, of
Worcester ; John J. Grant, of Boston ; William S. Daven-
port, of New Bedford ; A. J. Shaw, of the Shaw Electric
Crane Company, and H. K. LeBlond, of Cincinnati.
THE BROWN & SHARPE COMPANY 215
Hundreds of others, however, as managers, superintend-
ents, chief draftsmen and tool makers, have perhaps
done more to spread throughout the country the methods
and standards of accuracy which have made American
machine tools what they are.
Mr. Henry M. Leland, who was trained in the Provi-
dence shop, says :
The man who is responsible for this and who thoroughly
demonstrated his rare» ability and wonderful persistency in
bringing out the accurate measuring tools and instruments,
and the advanced types of more efficient and unique machinery,
was the founder, Joseph R. Brown. I have often said that in
my judgment Mr. Brown deserved greater credit than any other
man for developing and making possible the great accuracy and
the high efficiency of modern machine practice and in making
it possible to manufacture interchangeable parts, because the
Brown & Sharpe Company were the first people to place on the
market and to educate the mechanics of the country in the use
of the vernier caliper. They were also the first to make the
I remember that in those early days people came to Brown
& Sharpe from all over the world to consult with Mr. Brown
in reference to obtaining great accuracy and securing difficult
results which had been deemed insurmountable by other high-
grade mechanics. The mechanical engineers are now search-
ing the records for men who have made themselves eminent in
the indastrial world as inventors and manufacturers; for a list
of men to have honorable mention and to have their achieve-
ments and ability so recorded that the modem world may bestow
upon them the credit and gratitude which they so richly deserve.
Among these names I know of none who deserves a higher place
than, or who has done so much for the modern high standards
of American manufacturers of interchangeable parts as Joseph
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND
At the close of the chapter on ''Early American
Mechanics" we referred to the spread of machinery
building northward from Rhode Island to the Merrimac
Valley and central Massachusetts. This by no means
implies that all the northern shops were started by
Rhode Island mechanics, but their influence is so strong
as to be clearly seen; and here, as in Rhode Island,
the early shops were closely identified with the textile
One of the first and most influential of these was the
Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. The beginnings
of the Amoskeag Company were made by a Benjamin
Pritchard, of New Ipswich, N. H., who built a small tex-
tile mill at Amoskeag Village, then Goffstown, in 1809.
In 1822 it was bought by Olney Robinson, from whom,
that same year, Samuel Slater received a letter asking
for a loan of $3000. This was accompanied by a mag-
nificent salmon as a sample of the products of Amos-
keag. Slater, with the instincts of a good sportsman
and a careful business man, went there to investigate,
with the result that he bought the property, which then
consisted of a water power, a two-story wooden mill and
two or three small tenements. Larned Pitcher soon
joined him, and in 1825 four other partners were taken
in, Willard Sayles, Lyman Tiffany, Oliver Dean and Ira
Gay. Three of the partners were Pawtucket men —
Slater, Pitcher and Gay. Slater and Gay were very
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND 217
influential in the early history of the company. The
business grew rapidly and in 1841 they formed the
Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, which has had a
long and successful career. Their charter was broad, and
they extended their operations until they included tex-
tile mills, extensive improvements of the water powers
on the Merrimac, the founding of the city of Manchester,
and the operation of a large machine shop.
The last, which interests us most, was started about
1840. At first it was used only for building and repair-
ing textile machinery, but before very long it was
actively engaged in the manufacture of steam boilers,
locomotives, steam fire engines, turbine wheels and
machine tools. It comprised two three-story shops, each
nearly 400 feet long, mth foundries and forge shops,
and employed in all 700 men — a large plant for seventy-
five years ago. William A. Burke, its first head, left
in 1845 to organize the Lowell Machine Shop, which
built textile and paper machinery and locomotives, and
did general millwright work. One of the workmen who
helped install the machinery in the Amoskeag shop was
William B. Bement. He remained there for two years
as foreman and contractor, and in 1845 joined Burke
at Lowell. 0. W. Bayley, who succeeded Burke as head
of the Amoskeag shop, left in 1855 and founded the
Manchester Locomotive Works.
Ira Gay came to New Hampshire from Pawtucket in
1824. Besides the Nashua Manufacturing Company
and the Nashua Iron & Steel Works, he and his brother,
Ziba Gay, founded (about 1830) the Gay & Silver
Company, later the North Chelmsford Machine & Supply
Company referred to in a previous chapter. Frederick
W. Howe, who did such important work with Bobbins &
Lawrence, the Providence Tool Company, and Brown &
Sharpe, learned his trade in the Gay & Silver shop.
218 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
It has been claimed that the shop of Gage, Warner &
Whitney, established by John H. Gage at Nashua in
1837, was the first one devoted exclusively to the manu-
facture of machine tools. If this is true, it does not
involve as high a degree of specialization as would
seem, for Bishop in 1860 says: ''Their manufactures
include iron planers of all sizes, engine lathes, from the
smallest watch maker's up to a size suitable for turning
locomotive driving wheels six or eight feet in diameter,
hand lathes of all sizes, chucking lathes of all dimen-
sions, with sliding bed, bolt cutting machines for
rapidly transforming any part of a plain bolt into a nice,,
evenly threaded screw, upright and swing drills, boring
machines for shaping the interior of steam cylinders, or
other bores of large diameter, slabbers of all kinds,
gear-cutting engines of all sizes for shaping and smooth-
ing the teeth of gear wheels with perfect accuracy,
power punching machines of various sizes, etc."^ In
1852 they began building steam engines. With all this
formidable list, it seems never to have been a very large
In 1825 the improvement of the water power at what
is now Lowell was begun. Almost at the very begin-
ning of this development work, a large machine shop
was built and placed under the charge of Paul Moody,
who was regarded as one of the foremost mechanics of
his day and was an expert in cotton machinery. This
shop was retained by the Water Power Company for
nearly twenty years, when it was sold (1845) and reor-
ganized as the Lowell Machine Shop under Burke's
leadership. It employed at times one thousand men,
and became one of the most important shops in the whole
Merrimac Valley. James B. Francis, the great hydraulic
engineer, began his life work as a draftsman here in
1 "History of American Manufactures," Vol. Ill, p. 451.
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND 219
1833; and later Bement became its chief draftsman,
leaving it to go to Philadelphia.
From 1820 to 1840, other shops sprang up in the Mer-
rimac Valley, such as C. M. Marvel & Company, of
Lowell, the Lawrence Machine Shop, and the Essex
Machine Shop, where Amos Whitney, of Pratt & Whit-
ney, learned his trade, almost all of them building textile
machinery, as well as machine tools. The output of these
shops showed little specialization. They built almost
anything which they could sell.
Of the Massachusetts towns, Worcester and Fitch-
burg seem to have been the first to develop successful
shops producing machine tools only. In Worcester also
the machinery trade had its beginning in the manufac-
ture of textile machinery; in fact, Worcester antedates
even Pawtucket in its attempts at cotton spinning, but
these at first were unsuccessful. Practically all the
early water privileges in and about the town, not used
for sawmills, were used for textile mills. Prior to 1810
there was a small clock shop, some paper mills, and a few
other enterprises, but they could hardly be dignified as
factories. One of these was the old shop where Thomas
Blanchard invented his copying lathe for turning irregu-
An Abraham Lincoln operated a mill and a forge with
a trip hammer as early as 1795. Here, in quarters
rented from Lincoln, Earle & Williams started, about
1810, the first machine shop in the city. The town grew
slowly and its interests were largely local. It was not
until 1820 that Worcester took first rank even among
the towns in the county. There was quite an excite-
ment over the discovery of coal in 1823. It was found,
however, to be so poor, that, as someone put it at the
time, ** there was a sight more coal after burning-
it than there was before." The Providence & Worcester
220 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
canal was opened in 1828, but its usefulness for naviga-
tion was greatly limited by the many power privileges
along its route. Its traffic was never large and it went
out of business in 1848. It served, however, to hasten
the building of the Boston & Worcester Railroad, which
was built by Boston capital to deflect the trade of the
central Massachusetts towns from Providence to that
city. It opened in 1835; and in 1836 there were listed
in Worcester ''seven machinery works," one wire mill
and one iron foundry. Most of the earlier tool builders
were trained in the small textile-machinery shops which
had sprung up after 1810, such as Washburn & God-
dard's, Goulding's, Phelps & Bickford's, White & Boy-
den's. The rapid development of railroads created a
demand for machine tools which the Worcester mechan-
ics were quick to recognize, as had Nasmyth and Roberts
Thomas Blanchard, who was bom near Worcester, is
one of the picturesque and attractive figures in our
mechanical history. He was a shy, timid boy, who
stammered badly, and was considered "backward."
The ingenious tinkerer, laughed at by all, first secured
his standing by devising an apple-parer which made
a hit, social and mechanical. At eighteen he began
building a tack machine and worked six years on it
before he considered it finished. The essentials of its
design have been little changed since. It made over two
hundred tacks a minute and its product was more uni-
form and better than the hand-made tacks. Blanchard
sold the patent for it for $5000, a large price for those
days, but only a fraction of its real value.
A few years later, about 1818, he invented the lathe
for turning irregular forms which is associated with his
name. It was first built for turning gun-stocks at the
Springfield Armory, and the original machine (Fig.
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND 221
29) is still preserved there in the museum. Blanchard
worked at the Armory for several years as an expert
designer and invented or improved about a dozen
machines for the manufacture of firearms, chiefly mor-
tising and turning machines.
He was a fertile inventor and worked in many lines
besides tool building. His principal income came from
royalties on his ''copying" lathe. Many stories are told
of his ingenuity and homely wit. In his later life he
was a patent expert. His keen mechanical intuitions, his
wide and varied experience and unswerving honesty,
gave weight to his opinions, and his old age was spent
in comfortable circumstances. He died in 1864.
In 1823 William A. Wheeler came to Worcester, and
two years later he was operating a foundry. He did
some machine work, and had the first steam engine and
the first boring machine in Worcester, and also an iron
planer ''weighing 150 lb., 4 ft. long and 20 in. wide,"
the first one, it is said, in the state. Beginning with three
or four hands, this foundry employed at times two hun-
dred men. Its long career closed in the summer of 1914.
Samuel Flagg moved to Worcester from West Boyl-
ston in 1839, to be near the Wheeler foundry from which
he got his castings. "Uncle Sammy Flagg" was the
first man in Worcester to devote himself entirely to tool
building, and is considered the father of the industry
there. He made hand and engine lathes in rented quar-
ters in the old Court Mills, which has been called the
cradle of the Worcester tool building industry. His
first lathes were light and crude, with a wooden bed,
wrought-iron strips for ways, chain-operated carriage,
and cast gears, as cut gears were unheard of in the city
at that time.
His first competitor, Pierson Cowie, began making
chain planers about 1845. After a few years he sold his
222 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
business to Woodburn, Light & Company, which in a
few years became Wood, Light & Company, one of the
best known of the older firms. About the same time S. C.
Coombs began making lathes and planers. Flagg mean-
time had organized the firm of Samuel Flagg & Com-
pany, which included two of his former apprentices,
L. W. Pond (whose portrait appears in Fig. 46) and
E. H. Bellows. Pond later bought out Flagg and Bel-
lows and developed the business greatly. It was incor-
porated as the Pond Machine Tool Company, in 1875,
specialized in heavy engine lathes, and is now part of
the Niles-Bement-Pond Company. Bellows went into
the engine business, and Flagg started another enter-
prise, the Machinist Tool Company, which did not last
long. It lasted long enough, however, to build one of
the largest lathes made up to that time, 35 feet long with
ways 8 feet wide.
From the old Phelps & Bickford and S. C. Coombs
shops came the two Whitcomb brothers. Carter and
Alonzo, who formed the Carter Whitcomb Company in
1849, which became the Whitcomb Manufacturing Com-
pany in 1872. From the Coombs company also came
successively Shepard, Lathe & Company; Lathe, Morse
& Company, and the Draper Machine Tool Company.
P. Blaisdell & Company was founded in 1865 by Parritt
Blaisdell, who had been fifteen years with Wood, Light
& Company; and S. E. Hildreth, who had worked for
more than twenty years with Flagg and Pond, became a
partner in this firm eight years later. The Whitcomb,
Draper and Blaisdell companies were united in 1905
into the present Whitcomb-Blaisdell Machine Tool
Company. From the old Blaisdell shop came also J. E.
Snyder & Son through Currier & Snyder, who began
building drills in 1833 and were both old workmen at
Blaisdell 's. The original Eeed & Prentice Company
224 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
was started by A. F. Prentice, who sold a half interest
to F. E. Reed in 1875. The Woodward & Powell Planer
Company comes from the Powell Planer Company,
incorporated in 1876. This maze of relationships is
made clear by reference to the table given in Fig. 45.
The Norton Company comes from F. B. Norton, who
began experimenting on vitrified emery wheels about
1873 and put them on the market in 1879. At his death
the business was incorporated as the Norton Emery
Wheel Company, now the Norton Company. Charles H.
Norton's work in developing precision grinding has
been perhaps the most distinguished contribution to the
later generation of Worcester mechanics. He began
work in the shops of the Seth Thomas Clock Company
at Thomaston, Conn., under his uncle, N. A. Norton,
who was master mechanic there for about forty years.
At his uncle's death, Norton became master mechanic.
He was with the Clock Company about twenty years in
all, most of the time in charge of the design and building
of all their tools, machinery and large tower clocks.
In 1886 Mr. Norton went to the Brown & Sharpe
Manufacturing Company of Providence as assistant to
Mr. Parks, their chief engineer. Soon afterward he
became designer and engineer for their work in cylin-
drical grinding machinery, remaining in that capacity
for four years. In 1890 he went to Detroit with Henry
M. Leland and formed a corporation called the Leland-
Falkner-Norton Company, Falkner being a Michigan
lumber man. Associated with them was Charles H.
Strellinger, a well-known dealer in tools and machinery.
Six years later Mr. Norton returned to Brown & Sharpe
and was again their engineer of grinding machinery
until he went to Worcester in 1900. The Norton Grind-
ing Company, organized that year and financed by men
connected with the Norton Emery Wheel Company, have
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND 225
built cylindrical and plain surface grinding machinery
designed by Charles H. Norton, and under his direction
have been leaders in refining and extending the process
of precision grinding.
The Norton Company and the Norton Grinding Com-
pany should not be confused. The former make grinding
wheels; the latter build grinding machines. Neither
should F. B. Norton, who founded the grinding wheel
industry and who died in 1885, be confused with Charles
H. Norton, who did not come to Worcester until fifteen
years later. There is no connection in their work, and
despite the similarity of name, they were in no way
The greatest industry in Worcester is the American
Steel and Wire Company, formerly the Washburn &
Moen Company. While it is no longer associated with
tool building, it passed through that phase and traces
back to the textile industry as well. It was founded by
Ichabod Washburn, who started in as a boy in a cotton
factory in Kingston, R. I., during the War of 1812.
Making up his mind to become a machinist, he served an
apprenticeship and then worked in Asa Waters' armory
and with William Hovey, one of the early mechanics in
Worcester. About 1820 he began the manufacture of
woolen machinery and lead pipe in partnership first with
William Howard and later with Benjamin Goddard.
The enterprise prospered. As he was making cards for
cotton and woolen machinery, he determined to manu-
facture the necessary wire himself by a new drawing
process. His first experiments were a failure, but by
1830 they were successful enough to justify his under-
taking regular manufacture. He superseded the old
methods entirely and built up the present great business.
Goddard retired, and, after various changes in partner-
ship, Washburn took in his son-in-law, Philip L. Moen,
226 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
in 1850. By 1868 the firm employed more than nine
hundred men, and wire drawing, which began as an inci-
dent in the manufacture of textile machinery, had
become their sole activity. Today the works employ
eight thousand men. In 1833 Washburn, in order to
make an outlet for his wire products, induced the Read
brothers to move to Worcester from Providence and
begin the manufacture of screws. This business was
operated separately under the name of C. Read & Com-
pany. Later it was moved back to Providence, where
it developed into the American Screw Company.
Worcester mechanics have made many things besides
machine tools ; in small tools and in gun work they have
long been successful. The Coes Wrench Company was
started in 1836 by Loring and A. G. Coes, and began
to make the present form of screw wrench in 1841.
Asa Waters, in Millbury near by, was one of the early
American gun makers. After Waters came other gun
makers, Ethan Allen, Forehand & Wadsworth, Harring-
ton & Richardson, and Iver Johnson, who later moved
Much of Worcester's prominence as a manufacturing
center is due to the unusual facilities it offered to
mechanics to begin business in a small way. Nearly
every manufacturing enterprise in the city began in
small, rented quarters. There were a number of large
buildings which rented space with power to these small
enterprises; one of them, Merrifield's, was three stories
high, 1100 feet long, and had fifty tenants, employing
two to eight hundred men. Coes, Flagg, Daniels, Wood,
Light & Company, Coombs, Lathe & Morse, Whitcomb,
Pond and J. A. Fay, all began, or at some time operated,
in this way. One is struck, in looking over the old
records, with the constant recurrence of certain names,
as the Earles, Goddards, Washburns, and realizes that
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND 227
he is among a race of mechanics which was certain
sooner or later to build up a successful manufacturing
Fitchburg, while not so large or so influential, is
almost as old a tool building community as Worcester.
Its history centers about the Putnam Machine Com-
pany which was started by John and Salmon W. Put-
nam, who came from a family of mechanics. The latter 's
portrait appears in Fig. 47. They, too, began in cotton
manufacturing, John as a contractor making cotton
machine parts, and Salmon as a bobbin boy and later
as an overseer at New Ipswich and Lowell. In 1836
they went to Trenton, N. J., intending to start a machine
shop there, but the panic of 1837 intervened and made
it impossible. They had themselves built most of the
machines required ; they stored these and found employ-
ment until business conditions improved. Finally, they
started in a hired basement in Ashburnham, Mass., under
the name of J. & S. W. Putnam.
A year later they moved to Fitchburg and began
repairing cotton machinery. At first they did their work
entirely themselves, but their business increased rapidly
and they soon hired an apprentice. Their first manu-
factured product was a gear cutter. This gave them a
start and they soon developed a full line of standard
tools. Though he was the younger brother, S. W. Put-
nam was the leading spirit. He first built upright drills
with a swinging table so that the work could be moved
about under the drill without unclamping. He designed
the present form of back rest for lathes, and is said to
have invented the universal hanger. The latter inven-
tion, however, has been claimed for several other
mechanics in both England and America. In 1849 the
brothers were burned out, without insurance. They
repaired their machinery, built a temporary shed over
228 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
it, and were at work again in two weeks. The present
company was formed in 1858.
The Putnam company has been influential in other
lines than machine tools. Putnam engines were for
many years among the best known in the country, and
the company was also intimately concerned -with the
early development of the rock drill, through Charles
Burleigh, the head of their planer department and the
inventor of the Burleigh drill. In fact, the first success-
ful drills, those for the Hoosac tunnel, together with the
compressors, were designed and built in the Putnam
shops. Sylvester Wright, who founded the Fitchburg
Machine Works, was for ten years foreman of their lathe
department, and most of the old mechanics in and about
Fitchburg were Putnam men.
Scattered here and there are other companies. At
Nashua were Gage, Warner & Whitney, to which we
have referred, and the Flather Manufacturing Com-
pany which was founded by Joseph Flather, an English-
man, in 1867. The Ames Manufacturing Company of
Chicopee Falls came from the old Ames & Fisher shop
at North Chelmsford. This was started by Nathan P.
Ames, Senior, in 1791, who operated a trip hammer and
other machinery, making edged tools and millwork. The
shop was burned in 1810, and he moved to Dedham,
Mass., for a year or so, but returned and resumed his
former business on the old site. His sons, Nathan P.,
Jr., and James T., learned their trade with their father.
The older brother, Nathan, moved to Chicopee Falls in
1829. James joined him in 1834. The Ames Manufac-
turing Company, formed the same year, lived for sixty
years and employed at one time over a thousand men.
From the start they had close relations with the Govern-
ment and did an extensive business in all kinds of mili-
tary supplies, swords, bayonets, guns, cannon, cavalry
CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND 229
goods, etc. They cast bronze statuary, and the famous
doors of the Capitol at Washington were made by them.
They rivaled Bobbins & Lawrence in gun machinery
and shared with them the order for the Enfield Armory.
This contract alone took three years to complete. Their
gun-stock machinery went to nearly every government
In addition to all this they built the famous Boydon
waterwheel, mill machinery, and a list of standard
machine tools quite as catholic as that of Gage, Warner
& Whitney. They did their work well, contributed mate-
rial improvements to manufacturing methods and had
one of the most influential shops of their day.
Most of the plants for manufacturing woodworking
machinery can be traced back to a comparatively small
area limited approximately by Fitchburg, Gardner,
Keene and Nashua. This section was poor farming
land, rough and heavily wooded, and the ingenuity of
its inhabitants was early directed toward utilizing the
timber. Mr. Smith, of the H. B. Smith Company of
Smithville, N. J., came originally from Woodstock, Vt.,
and Walter Haywood started at Gardner. J. A. Fay
and Edward Josslyn began manufacturing woodwork-
ing machinery as J. A. Fay & Company at Keene, in
1836. In 1853 they felt the need of better facilities and
purchased Tainter & Childs' shop at Worcester, which
was manufacturing the Daniels wood planer. Mr. Fay
died soon after, and the business passed through the
hands of H. A. Richardson, Josslyn 's nephew, to Rich-
ardson, Merriam & Company. They built up a good
business before the Civil War, and had branch offices in
New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati.
In the early sixties the western agents bought the
name of J. A. Fay & Company and started manufac-
turing at Cincinnati. Later this was united with the
230 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Egan Company, and the present J. A. Fay & Egan
Company formed. When J. A. Fay & Company was
started at Cincinnati, machinery, superintendent and
mechanics were brought from Worcester, and, as the
name implies, the present company was a direct descend-
ant from the old Worcester and Keene enterprise.
Winchendon, in the center of the district referred
to, has long been known for its woodworking machinery.
Baxter D. Whitney began there before 1840. He died
in 1915, aged ninety-eight years, the last of the early
generation of mechanics. For many years he was a
leader in the development of woodworking tools, and
the business which he founded is still in successful
operation under the management of his son, William
Springfield, although an important manufacturing
city, has had few prominent tool builders. One com-
pany, however, the Baush Machine Tool Company, has
built up a wide reputation for drilling machines, espe-
cially large multiple spindle machines.
THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY
The most casual consideration of New England's
mechanical development brings one squarely against a
most interesting and baffling phase of American indus-
trial life, the brass industry of the Naugatuck Valley.
Here, in a narrow district scarcely thirty miles long,
centering about Waterbury, is produced approximately
80 per cent of the rolled brass and copper and finished
brass wares used in the United States, an output
amounting to upward of $80,000,000 a year. No con-
centration on so large a scale exists elsewhere in the
country. For example, in 1900, Pennsylvania produced
but 54 per cent of the iron and steel, and Massachusetts
but 45 per cent of the boots and shoes. Furthermore,
there seems to be no serious tendency to dislodge it.
While there is more competition from outside, its
ascendency is nearly as marked today as it was a gen-
eration ago. Why should this small district, a thousand
miles or more from its sources of raw material, far from
its market, and without cheap coal or adequate water
power, gain and hold this leadership T
It was not the first in the field. The Revere Copper
1 The best study of the brass industry of the Naugatuck Valley has
been made by William G. Lathrop, and has been published by him at
Shelton, Conn., 1909, under the name of "The Brass Industry." Mr.
Lathrop had intimate knowledge of the subject and, in addition, unusual
facilities for investigation. The personal history of many of the men who
have figured in its growth will be found in Anderson's "History of the
Town and City of Waterbury," 3 vols. 1895.
232 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Company, in Massachusetts, founded by Paul Revere,
began rolling copper in 1801, and the Soho Copper Com-
pany, at Belleville, N. J., in 1813. The brass business
in Connecticut had its origin with Henry Grilley, of
Waterbury, who began making pewter buttons there in
1790. In 1802 Abel and Levi Porter joined him, and
they started making brass buttons under the name of
Abel Porter & Company. In 1811 all the original part-
ners retired and a new firm was formed, Leavenworth,
Hayden & Scovill. In 1827 Leavenworth and Hayden
sold out to William H. Scovill, and the firm became
J. M. L. & W. H. Scovill. J. M. L. Scovill did the sell-
ing and his brother ran the shop and the finances. In
1850 the firm was incorporated as the present Scovill
Meantime, Aaron Benedict established, in 1812, a fac-
tory at Waterbury for making bone and ivory buttons,
and, in 1823, he too began making brass buttons. About
1820 James Croft, a brass worker from Birmingham,
England, came to the Scovills. A year later Bene-
dict secured him, and when Benedict and Israel
Coe formed the firm of Benedict & Coe, in 1829, Croft
became one of the partners. Croft's coming marks a
vital point in the history of the industry. On his advice,
both Scovill and Benedict began to do their own roll-
ing. It was his influence which induced them to import
from Birmingham workmen, processes and machinery.
He went to England seven times for Benedict, and
Israel Hohnes went three times for Scovill to bring
back English machinery, rollers and finishers. Israel
Coe also went to England when the Wolcottville
Brass Company was started.^ From that time, the
business may be said to have passed the experimen-
tal stage, and its growth from 1830 was rapid.
zLathrop, p. 89.
THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY 233
William Lathrop, who has made a study of it, has traced,
perhaps better than any other, the coincident growth of
the market and the industry. The raw material was at
first mainly scrap copper, old ship sheathing, kettles,
boilers and stills, collected by the Connecticut peddlers.
More and more copper was imported until after 1850
when the mining of western copper began developing.
All of the zinc was imported until about 1870.
At first they rolled brass only for their own use, but
new demands for it were arising. By 1840 Chauncey
Jerome had developed the cheap brass clock. The dis-
covery and refining of petroleum created a lamp indus-
try. The pin machinery, invented by Dr. J. I. Howe,
Fowler, and Slocum & Jillson, opened up another great
outlet. Daguerreotype plates gave another, and metallic
cartridges another, while the invention of the telegraph
enormously extended the use of copper wire. The
Waterbury men were best able to meet these new
demands, as they were the only ones in the country with
the facilities and experience needed, and they *'got in
first." While the rolling and the drawing processes
were imported bodily from England, and have continued
almost unchanged, Yankee ingenuity was constantly at
work devising new articles made of brass and improving
the machinery for making the old ones.
With the increasing demand, firms began to multiply.
Israel Holmes, who had been with the Scovills for ten
years, started Holmes & Hotchkiss in 1830, and with
English workmen and machinery made wire and tubing
for the market. After several changes in partnership,
the firm became Brown & Elton in 1838. Meantime,
Holmes, with Israel Coe, Anson Phelps and John
Hungerford, started the Wolcottville Brass Company
in 1834, in what is now Torrington. They built up a
prosperous business in sheet-brass kettles, but lost
234 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
heavily when Hiram W. Hayden, then with Scovill, in-
vented the spinning process. Their property was
eventually sold to Lyman Coe, and became the Coe Brass
Company. The Waterbury Brass Company was started
in 1845, with Holmes as president. Associated with him
were H. W. Hayden, Elton, and Lyman Coe, son of Israel
Coe. In 1853 Holmes founded Holmes, Booth & Hay-
dens,^ and in 1869 Holmes, Booth & Atwood, which two
years later was forced to change its name to Plume &
Atwood on account of its resemblance to the older
Israel Holmes stands out among the indomitable per-
sonalities who built up the brass industry. In addition
to his invaluable work for the Scovills, he started five
of the strongest firms in the valley, and was the first
president of three.
Benedict & Coe became Benedict & Burnham in 1834,
and from this firm has come the American Pin Company,
the Waterbury Button Company and the Waterbury
Clock and Watch companies. Anson Phelps soon with-
drew from the Wolcottville Brass Company and started
Smith & Phelps at Derby in 1836. Encouraged by its
success, Phelps planned to organize a large manufac-
turing community there, but he was held up by a man
who raised the price of some necessary land from $5,000
to $30,000, so he moved two miles up the river and
founded what is now the city of Ansonia. In 1854 the
firm was incorporated as the Ansonia Brass & Copper
Company. Mr. George P. Cowles, who came from Wol-
cottville in 1848, was its executive head for forty years
until his death. From it sprang the Ansonia Clock Com-
pany, of Brooklyn, Wallace & Sons, which failed in 1896
and became part of the Coe Brass Company, and a num-
3 There were two Haydens in the firm, H. W. Hayden was in charge of
the manufacturing and H. H. Hayden in charge of marketing the product.
236 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
ber of other companies. The Chase Eolling Mills Com-
pany developed from the Waterbury Manufacturing
Company, Benedict & Burnham, and Holmes, Booth &
Haydens. Eandolph & Clowes came down through
BrowTi & Brothers, and Brown & Elton from the old
Holmes & Hotchkiss firm.
The American Brass Company was formed in 1899,
and now comprises the Waterbury Brass Company,
Holmes, Booth & Haydens, Benedict & Burnham, the
Coe Brass Company and the Ansonia Brass & Copper
Company. This is the largest brass company in the
Such, briefly, is an outline of the history of the
larger companies. To an outsider their interrelations
are almost inextricable. The chart (Fig. 50) does little
more than indicate them. As phases of the business
grew, there was a clearly defined policy of setting them
off as separate enterprises. The American Pin Com-
pany, the Clock, AVatch and Button companies, and the
Brass Goods Corporation are examples. Only the more
important of these manufacturing companies are shown.
While there has been at times sharp competition among
them, it always stopped short of war, and when facing
outside competition the companies pull together.
Many of the heavy stockholders, as Holmes, Elton,
Burnham and Chase, were interested in several com-
panies. Nearly all of the leaders were born and grew
up in the valley and were full of local spirit. Israel
Coe, Holmes, the Scovill brothers and Phelps, of the
earlier order, were men of great ability, as also Lyman
Coe, Cowles and Charles F. Brooker, of the later gen-
eration. The inventions of Hiram W. Hayden vitally
affected the history of four companies. They seriously
undermined the old Wolcottville company, shut the
Brooklyn Brass Company out of important phases of its
THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY 237
business, and built up the prosperity of the Waterbury
Brass Company, and Hohnes, Booth & Haydens. L. J.
Atwood, of Hohnes, Booth & Haydens, and, later. Plume
& Atwood, L. S. White, of Brown & Brothers, and W. N.
Weeden, of Benedict & Burnham, were prolific inventors,
and their work contributed to the growth of the industry.
Other influential men have built machinery for the
large companies. Almon Farrel founded the Farrel
Foundry & Machine Company in 1851, and had two
establishments, one in Ansonia and one in Waterbury.
The Waterbury plant was operated for many years by
E. C. Lewis as agent. He bought it in 1880, but as a
matter of sentiment retained the old name, prefixing the
word Waterbury. The two plants have come to spe-
cialize somewhat, the Waterbury one building mainly
presses and stamping machines, and the Ansonia one
rolling mills and heavy machinery. E. J. Manville, an
expert mechanic from the Pratt & Whitney shop in
Hartford, with his five sons, founded the E. J. Manville
Machine Company, which has built up a wide reputation
for its presses and headers. Among the many others
are William Wallace of Wallace & Sons, Ansonia,
Charles Johnson and A. C. Campbell.
The answer, then, to our question as to origin and
success of the Naugatuck brass industry is as follows.
It sprpng from the local manufacture of buttons. A
small group of able, forceful and ingenious men devel-
oped the best facilities in the country for rolling and
drawing brass, and when new demands came they were
the only ones with experience prepared to meet them.
They were originally well situated for raw material.
Later they bought their copper in Baltimore. By the
time copper began coming from the West, the Water-
bury companies were firmly established. Copper is
expensive, its unit of weight is the pound and not the
238 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
ton, and freight rates are far less important than with
steel, so the industry's detached location did not out-
weigh the advantage of its early start. A large force
of workmen skilled in handling brass has been devel-
oped in these factories and no large enterprise could
now be started elsewhere mthout drawing upon them.
Many of these workmen own their homes, and their rela-
tions with tlie employers have generally been so friendly
that higher wages elsewhere do not seem to attract them.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, are the
men who have designed and built the tools used. Con-
necticut leads all other states in the ratio of patents
to the population, and Waterbury has led the rest of
Connecticut in the proportion of nearly two to one. All
the finishing or ''cutting up" shops, as they are locally
known, contain highly developed machinery — ^nearly all
of it special, much of it designed and built in the shop
where it is used.
This includes machinery for making eyelets, hooks and
eyes, pins, cartridges, wire forming machinery, thread
rolling, and headers and stamping machinery. Some of
these machines, as, for instance, the last two mentioned,
are more or less standard, but their tool equipment has
been wonderfully developed and is bewildering in its
variety. Much of this machinery has never been made
public, and nearly all of it is too special, too intricate
and too varied for description here. It is natural, under
these circumstances, that the mechanics who developed
these tools should be comparatively little known. They
have, however, been a vital element in the Naugatuck
brass industry, and should be recognized as successful
American tool builders.
Although the commercial manufacture of machinery
began in New England, Philadelphia became, and for
a long time remained, the largest tool building center
in the country. Its large population and nearness to
coal, iron and tide water, made this almost inevitable,
but it was hastened by the work of two brilliant mechan-
ics, William Sellers and William Bement.
Bishop, in his ' ' History of American Manufactures, ' '^
says: '*In the invention and construction of machinery
and instruments for practical and scientific purposes,
Philadelphia mechanics early acquired a reputation
for skill. The records of original American invention
contain few names more distinguished than those of
Godfrey, the inventor of the quadrant, of Rittenhouse,
who made the first telescope constructed in America,
and whose orrery and other scientific instruments dis-
played unusual mechanical and mathematical genius;
of Franklin, Evans, Fulton, Fitch, and others whose
inventive and constructive skill have added to the per-
manent wealth of the State and the Union." Of these,
Oliver Evans seems to have affected modern manufac-
turing methods the most.
Evans was born in Delaware in 1755. He was appren-
ticed to a wheelwright, and invented a card machine as
early as 1777, but never followed it up. In 1785 he
built a flour mill in Newcastle County, Del. ; and, impa-
1 Vol. I, p. 576.
240 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
tient at the crude methods in use, he began a series of
improvements which form the basis of the modern art
of handling materials. It has been claimed that Evans
stole many of these ideas from the Ellicotts in Mary-
land. This does not seem probable. Thomas Ellicott
wrote a portion of the "Millwright and Millers Guide"
which Evans published to help introduce his machinery,
and in this Ellicott himself refers to ''the elevators,
hopper-boys, etc., invented by Oliver Evans, late of
Delaware, though now of Philadelphia." Evans devel-
oped a number of closely related transporting devices
about which no question is raised and no claims on
behalf of the Ellicotts made; and many years later, in
1812, Evans sued those Ellicotts who were then operat-
ing for infringement of his patents and obtained judg-
ment. If they could have proved priority it seems
natural that they would have done so.
Evans' improvements related chiefly to the movement
of materials during the processes of manufacture. He
modified the ancient Egyptian chain of pots, used for
irrigation, by using an endless belt carrjdng iron
buckets so arranged as to fill with dry material from a
boot at the bottom and to empty by gravity into a
hopper as they went over the head pulley. He used a
belt conveyor for horizontal movement, without how-
ever the troughing feature which is a later improvement.
When the discharge end was lowest, Evans utilized
gravity to drive it, and called it a ''descender." What
Evans called a "drill" was an "elevator laid horizon-
tally" and provided with wooden cleats which scraped
the grain along the bottom of the box in which it ran,
and was nothing more nor less than our modern flight
or scraper conveyor. Evans' "conveyor" was a round,
wooden shaft on which he nailed a sheet-iron spiral
which pushed the grain along a trough in which the
shaft rotated; and when he wished to stir or dry the
material as he moved it, he broke up the continuous
helix into a number of separate arms arranged spirally.
These of course correspond to the modern screw con-
veyor. His so-called '* hopper-boy" consisted of a ver-
tical shaft with a horizontal cross bar at its lower end
provided on its lower side with flights which spread
the meal for drying, and slowly worked it in a spiral
toward a hopper at the center. The angle of the flights
was adjustable so that the time allowed for cooling
could be varied. He also used pivoted wooden spouts
at the discharge of the elevators to deliver the grain
into different bins. These improvements are said to
have effected a saving of over $30,000 a year in the
Ellicott Mill at Patapsco, Md., on an output of 325 bar-
rels a day.^ In his patents and various books Evans
shows nearly all of the modern transporting devices in
substantially their present forms.^
Evans moved to Philadelphia some time prior to
1790. In 1800 he had a mill near Third and Market
Streets and the next year was selling mill supplies at
Ninth and Market Streets. As a boy he had become
interested in the steam engine. A description of the
Newcomen engine fell into his hands and he was struck
with the fact that the steam was used only to produce
a vacuum and saw that more power could be obtained
if it were used to produce pressure. After his removal
to Philadelphia he made an engine 6 inches diameter
by 18 inches stroke, which was running in 1802, grind-
ing plaster of Paris and sawing wood. It cost, boiler
2 Paper by Coleman Sellers on ' ' Oliver Evans and his Inventions. ' '
Journal of the Franlclin Institute, Vol. CXXII, p. 1.
3 Sections of Evans ' mills are shown in the American Machinist of
November 7, 1907, and December 17, 1914. In both cases the conveyor
system was arranged to take material either from wagons on one side of
the mill or from boats on the opposite side.
242 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
and all, more than $3700 and nearly impoverished him.
Its successful operation, however, led to an order for
an engine to drive a steamboat on the Mississippi, which
was sent to New Orleans but never used for its origi-
nal purpose. The boat it was intended for had been
stranded high and dry during a flood, so the engine was
set to running a saw mill and later a cotton press. In
1803 Evans began business as a regular engine builder
and was unquestionably the first one in the United
"States. He advocated long stroke engines operating
under high steam pressure, of which he had built fifty
by 1816. In 1804 he built a flat bottomed boat, fitted
with a steam driven, chain bucket dredge, which he
called the "Oruktor Amphibolos" or in good English
the Amphibious Digger. It w^as built more than a mile
from the river, and was mounted on rollers connected
with the engine. After moving around what is now the
City Hall Square each day for several days, the boat
walked out Market Street to the Schuykill and into the
water; its rollers were disconnected, a stern paddle
wheel substituted, and it steamed down the Schuykill
and around up the Delaware to the city.
In 1805 he advertised a new book, ''The Young Engi-
neer's Guide," which he intended to be very complete
and ''abstruse." Disappointed in his application for the
extension of his patents and crippled by his first engine
ventures, he issued it much abridged, wdth only part of
the illustrations planned, and called it "The Abortion
of the Young Engineer's Guide." The proportions
given in this book for one of his steam engines were:
diameter of cylinder, 20 inches; stroke, 5 feet; steam
pressure, 194 to 220 pounds. The boilers were of cast
iron, 30 inches in diameter, 24 feet long, fired at one end,
with a single return flue. An engine was actually built
to these proportions for the Fairmount Water Works.
It may be added that the boilers burst on three different
In 1807 Evans was established as *' Millwright and
Engineer" at the Mars Works at Ninth and Vine
Streets. An old description of the plant says that it
an iron foundry, mould-maker's shop, steam engine manu-
factory, blacksmith's shop, and mill-stone manufactory, and
a steam engine used for grinding materials for the use of the
works, and for turning and boring heavy cast or wrought iron
work. The buildings occupy one hundred and eighty-eight feet
front and about thirty-five workmen are daily employed.
They manufacture all cast or wrought-iron work for machin-
ery for mills, for grinding grain or sawing timber; for forges,
rolling and slitting-mills, sugar-mills, apple-mills, bark-mills,
&c. Pans of all dimensions used by sugar-boilers, soap-boilers,
&c. Screws of all sizes or cotton-presses, tobacco-presses,
paper-presses, cast iron gudgeons, and boxes for mills and
wagons, carriage-boxes, &c., and all kinds of smaU wheels
and machinery for Cotton and "Wool spinning, &c. Mr. Evans
also makes steam engines on improved principles, invented
and patented by the proprietor, which are more powerful and
less complicated, and cheaper than others; requiring less fuel,
not more than one-fiftieth part of the coals commonly used.
The small one in use at the works is on this improved principle,
and it is of great use in facilitating the manufacture of others.
The proprietor has erected one of his improved steam engines
in the town of Pittsburg, and employed it to drive three pair
of large millstones with all the machinery for cleaning the
grain, elevating, spreading, and stirring and cooling the meal,
gathering and bolting, &c., &c. The power is equal to twenty-
four horses and will do as much work as seventy-two horses
in twenty-four hours; it would drive five pair of six-feet mill-
stones, and grind five hundred bushels of wheat in twenty-four
4Freedley: "Philadelphia and its Manufactures," pp. 54-55. Phila-
244 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Incidentally the last sentence is an admirable illus-
tration of the origin of the term ''horse power." This
business was carried on until Evans' death. It would
be interesting to know how far he influenced the design
of Mississippi river boat engines which have retained the
proportions characteristic of the engines which he first
built for that service.
Evans' best-known book, **The Young Millwright and
Miller's Guide," went through a number of editions
and was translated and published abroad. In this he
gives his idea of "The True Path to Inventions." It is
well worth quoting, as it explains, m part, his own suc-
cess as an inventor.
Necessity is caUed the mother of Invention — but upon
inquiry we shall find that Reason and Experiment bring them
forth. — For almost all mventions have resulted from such steps
as the following:
Step I. Is to investigate the fundamental principles of the
theory, and process, of the art or manufacture we wish to
II. To consider what is the best plan, in theory, that can
be deduced from, or founded on, those prmciples to produce
the effect we desire.
III. To inquire whether the theory is already put in prac-
tice to the best advantage; and what are the imperfections or
disadvantages of the common process, and what plans are
hkely to succeed better.
IV. To make experiments in practice, upon any plans that
these speculative reasonings may suggest, or lead to. — Any
ingenious artist, taking the foregoing steps, will probably be
led to improvements on his own art : for we see by daily experi-
ence that every art may be improved. It will, however, be in
vain to attempt improvements unless the mind be freed from
prejudice, in favour of established plans.°
5 pp. 345-346.
Evans was certainly an independent, and probably the
first, inventor of the high pressure steam engine, a type
of engine which he saw was well suited to American
pioneer conditions. He "was interested in steam loco-
motion, and predicted the development of railways with
The time will come when people will travel in stages moved
by steam engines from one city to another almost as fast as
birds fly — fifteen to twenty miles an hour. Passing through
the air with such velocity — changing the scenes in such rapid
succession — will be the most exhilarating, delightful exercise.
A carriage will set out from "Washington in the morning, and
the passengers will breakfast at Baltimore, dine at Philadelphia,
and sup at New York the same day.
To accomplish this, two sets of railways will be laid so nearly
level as not in any place to deviate more than two degrees
from a horizontal line, made of wood or iron, on smooth paths
of broken stone or gravel, with a rail to guide the carriages so
that they may pass each other in different directions and travel
by night as well as by day; and the passengers will sleep in
these stages as comfortably as they do now in steam stage-
boats. A steam engine that will consume from one-quarter
to one-half a cord of wood will drive a carriage 130 miles in
twelve hours, with twenty or thirty passengers, and will not
consume six gallons of water. The carriages will not be over-
loaded with fuel or water. . . . And it shall come to pass that
the memory of those sordid and wicked wretches who oppose
such improvements will be execrated by every good man, as
they ought to be now.
Posterity will not be able to discover why the Legislature or
Congress did not grant the inventor such protection as might
have enabled him to put in operation these great improvements
sooner — he having asked neither money nor a monopoly of any
8 Evans: Extract from "Address to the people of the United States,"
quoted in the Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. CXXII, p. 13.
246 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
He practically initiated the modern science of hand-
ling materials. While many of his theories were faulty,
his mechanical practice was seldom wrong. He was a
restless man, discontented and inclined to air his griev-
ances in public. Once, in a fit of pique, he destroyed
the drawings and records of, it is said, more than eighty
inventions — an act which he regretted later. Though
frequently disappointed, he was in the end fairly suc-
cessful, and was unquestionably one of the foremost of
the early American mechanics.
In Philadelphia, as in New England, many of the
early shops made textile machinery. Arkwright ma-
chines were built by James Davenport at the Globe
Mills at the north end of Second Street, w^hich Washing-
ton visited in 1797 when the new Federal Government
inaugurated its policy of developing American indus-
tries. Davenport died soon after, the business ceased
and the factory was sold in 1798. Cotton machinery is
said to have been manufactured also by Eltonhead in
Philadelphia was then the largest city in the country,
with an active industrial life. It was natural, therefore,
that the tools and methods developed in and about Paw-
tucket should, sooner or later, take root there. In 1810
Alfred Jenks, a direct descendant of Joseph Jenks, of
Lynn, having served his time with Samuel Slater in
Pawtucket, moved to Holmesburg, Pa., and started the
first factory in Pennsylvania for making textile machin-
ery. His business grew rapidly and in 1820 he moved
to Bridesburg, now a part of Philadelphia, bringing his
shop along wdth him on rollers. By 1825 there were
thirty cotton mills in and about the city, most of which
he had equipped. As the demand for woolen machinery
arose Jenks met it and he equipped the first woolen mill
built in the state. Under his leadership and that of his
son, Barton H. Jenks, the shop had a wide influence and
was the foremost of the early Philadelphia plants build-
ing textile machinery. Other early shops in this field
were those of J. & T. Wood, Hindle & Sons, James Smith
& Company, W. P. Uhlinger & Company.'
The two plants which gave Philadelphia its great
reputation for tool building were those established by
Sellers and Bement. Probably no one has had a greater
influence on machine tools in America than William
Sellers. He has been called the Whitworth of America,
and there is a singular parallelism in the work and
influence of the two men. Sellers was born in Pennsyl-
vania in 1824, was educated in a private school main-
tained by his father, and later apprenticed to his uncle,
John M. Poole, at Wilmington, Del.® When only
twenty-one he took charge of the machine shop of Fair-
banks, Bancroft & Company in Providence, R. I. Three
years later he began the manufacture of machine tools
and mill gearing at Thirtieth and Chestnut Streets,
Philadelphia, and was soon after joined by Edward
Bancroft, who moved from Providence, the firm becom-
ing Bancroft & Sellers. John Sellers, Jr., a brother of
William, became a partner and in 1853 they moved to
Sixteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Mr. Ban-
croft died in 1855 and the firm became William Sellers
& Company, which was incorporated in 1886, with
William Sellers as president.
Bancroft was the inventive member of the firm and
Mr. Sellers the executive. Sellers' designing ability did
not develop until after Bancroft's death. His first
patent was granted in 1857. In all he was granted over
ninety United States patents and many others in for-
TFreedley: "Philadelphia and its Manufactures," pp. 299-302, 427.
a Journal of the Frankliti Institute, VoL CLIX, pp. 365-383,
248 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
eign countries, covering a wide variety of subjects;
machine tools of all kinds, injectors which he introduced
into the United States, rifling machines, riveters, boilers,
hydraulic machinery, hoisting cranes, steam hammers
and engines, ordnance, turntables, etc. One of the best
known and most original of Sellers' machines was the
spiral geared planer patented in 1862, which has always
been associated with his name.
Almost from the first Sellers cut loose from the
accepted designs of the day. He was among the first to
realize that red paint, beads and mouldings, and archi-
tectural embellishments were false in machine design.
He introduced the "machine gray" paint which has
become universal; made the form of the machine follow
the function to be performed and freed it from all pock-
ets and beading. Like Bement he realized that Ameri-
can tools then being built were too light; and they both
put more metal into their machines than was the prac-
tice elsewhere. From the first he adopted standards and
adhered to them so closely that repair parts can be sup-
plied today for machines made fifty years ago.
In April, 1864, Sellers, as president of the Franklin
Institute, read a paper on *'A System of Screw Threads
and Nuts," in which he proposed the system of screw
threads since variously known as the Sellers, Franklin
Institute, or U. S. Standard.^ They embodied the sixty
degree angle and a flat of one-eighth of the pitch at
the top and bottom of the thread. In this paper Sellers
stated clearly the need for some generally accepted
standard, reviewed the various threads then used, par-
ticularly the Whitworth thread, with its fifty-five degree
angle and rounded corners, which he disapproved of on
three grounds; first, that it was difficult to secure a fit
at the top and bottom; second, that the angle was diffi-
» Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. LXXVII, p. 344,
Figure 51. William Sellers
cult to verify; and third, the high cost of making cut-
ting tools which would conform accurately to the stand-
ard. He proposed the sixty degree angle as easier to
make and already in general use in this country, and
the flat top as easy to generate and to verify. He went
a step further, and proposed at the same time a stand-
ard for bolt-heads and nuts, in which the dimensions
were derived from a simple formula and the distance
across flats was the same for square and hexagon nuts,
so that the same wrench would do for either style of
This paper had as great influence in America as
Whitworth's paper of 1841 had in England. A com-
mittee was appointed to investigate the question and
recommend a standard. On this committee, among
others, were William B. Bement, C. T. Parry of the
Baldwin Locomotive Works, S. V. Merrick, J. H.
Towne, and Coleman Sellers. Early in the next year
the committee reported in favor of the Sellers stand-
ard, the Franklin Institute communicated their findings
to other societies, and recommended the general adop-
tion of the system throughout the country. The Sellers'
thread was adopted by the United States Government
for all government work in 1868, by the Pennsylvania
Eailroad in 1869, the Master Car Builders' Association
in 1872, and soon became practically universal. After
exhaustive investigation the Sellers' form of thread was
adopted in 1898 by the International Congress for the
standardization of screw threads, at Zurich, and is now
in general use on the continent of Europe. ^°
In 1868 William Sellers organized the Edgemoor Iron
10 For the discussion of the Sellers ' screw thread and the circumstances
surrounding its adoption, see: Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol.
LXXVII. p. 344; Vol. LXXIX, pp. 53, 111; Vol. CXXIII, p. 261; Vol.
CXXV, p. 185.
250 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Company which furnished the iron work for the prin-
cipal Centennial buildings and all the structural work
of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the development of this
business, he led the way in the distinctly American
methods and machinery by which the building of
bridges has been, to a great extent, put upon a manu-
facturing basis. This involved the design and introduc-
tion of hydraulic machinery, large multiple punches,
riveters, cranes, boring machines, etc.
The excellence of his machinery soon brought him
into contact with government engineers and through-
out his life his influence in the "War and Navy Depart-
ments was great. In 1890 the Navy Department called
for bids on an eight-foot lathe, with a total length of over
128 feet, to bore and turn sixteen-inch cannon for the
Naval Gun Factory at Washington. Sellers disapproved
of the design and refused to bid on it. He proposed an
alternative one of his owti, argued its merits in person
before the Board of Engineers, and secured its adop-
tion and a contract for it. This great lathe, weighing
over 500,000 pounds, has attracted the attention of
engineers from all parts of the world. In 1873 Mr.
Sellers reorganized the William Butcher Steel Works
as the Midvale Steel Company and became its president.
Under his management the company grew rapidly, and
later became a leader in production of heavy ordnance.
It was here that Frederick W. Taylor began in 1880
his work on the art of cutting metals, which resulted
in modern high-speed tool steels and a general re-design
of machine tools. These experiments, covering a period
of twenty-six years, cost upwards of $200,000. Mr.
Taylor has frequently acknowledged his indebtedness
in this work to the patience and courage of Mr. Sellers,
who was then an old man and might have been expected
to oppose radical change. It was he who made the work
possible, however, and he supported Taylor unwaver-
ingly in the face of constant protests." Mr. Sellers was
a man of commanding presence, direct but gracious in
manner, who won and held the respect and loyalty of all
about him. His judgment was almost unerring and he
dominated each of the great establishments he built up.
The firm of William Sellers & Company had another
master mind in that of Dr. Coleman Sellers, a second
cousin of William Sellers.^^ He was born in Philadel-
phia in 1827, his father, Coleman Sellers, being also an
inventor and mechanic. Like Nasmyth he spent his
school holidays in his father's shop, which was at Card-
ington. In 1846, when he was nineteen years old, he
went to Cincinnati and worked in the Globe Rolling
Mill, operated by his elder brothers, where the first loco-
motives for the Panama Railroad were built; and in
two years he became superintendent. In 1851 he became
foreman of the works of James and Jonathan Niles,
who were then in Cincinnati and building locomotives.
Six years later he returned to Philadelphia, became
chief engineer of William Sellers & Company, and
remained with them for over thirty years, becoming a
partner in 1873. During these years he designed a wide
range of machinery, which naturally covered much the
same field as that of William Sellers, but his familiarity
with locomotive work especially fitted him for the
design of railway tools. His designs were original, cor-
rect and refined. The Sellers coupling was his invention
and he did much to introduce the modern systems of
Doctor Sellers was a good physicist, an expert pho-
11 F. W. Taylor : Paper on the ' ' Art of Cutting Metals, ' ' Trans, A. S.
M. E., Vol. XXVIII, p. 34.
12 See Trans. A. S. M. E., Vol. XXIX, p. 1163; Gassier 's Magazine,
August, 1903, p. 352; Journal of the FranMin Institute, Vol. CXLIX, p. 5.
252 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
tographer, telegrapher, mieroscopist, and a professor in
the Franklin Institute, his lectures always drawing
large audiences. Like William Sellers, he was a member
of most of the great engineering and scientific societies,
here and abroad; and he was president of the Ameri-
can Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which he was
a charter member. He was received Avith the greatest
distinction in his visits to Europe. In 1886 impaired
health compelled his relinquishing regular work and he
resigned his position of engineer for "William Sellers &
Company, being succeeded by his son, the present presi-
dent of the company. His last great work was in con-
nection with the power development of Niagara Falls.
He was engineer for the Cataract Construction Com-
pany and served on the commission which determined
the types of turbines and generators and the methods
of power transmission finally adopted. Among the
others on this commission were Lord Kelvin, Colonel
Turretini, the great Swiss engineer, and Professor
Unwin, and its report forms the foundation of modem
large hydro-electric work. William Sellers & Company
has a unique distinction among the builders of machine
tools in having had the leadership of two such men as
William and Coleman Sellers.
William B. Bement, the son of a Connecticut farmer
and blacksmith, was born at Bradford, N. H., in 1817.
His education w^as obtained in the district schools and
in his father's blacksmith shop. His mechanical apti-
tude was so clear that he was apprenticed to Moore &
Colby, manufacturers of woolen and cotton machinery
at Peterboro, N. H. His progress at first was rapid.
Within two years he became foreman, and on the with-
drawal of one of the partners, was admitted into the
firm. He continued there three years, already giving
much thought to machine tools, for which he saw the
rising need. In 1840 he went to Manchester and entered
the Amoskeag shop when it was just finished, remain-
ing there two years as a foreman and contractor under
William A. Burke, to whom we have referred elsewhere.
From there Bement went to take charge of a shop for
manufacturing woolen machinery at Mishawaka, Ind.
Unfortunately it was burned to the ground while
Bement had gone back to New Hampshire for his family,
so that when he returned with them he found himself
without employment and with only ten dollars in hand.
For the time being he worked as a blacksmith and gun-
smith, and made an engine lathe for himself in the shop
of the St. Joseph Iron Company, which gave him per-
mission to use their tools in return for the use of his
patterns to make a similar machine for themselves.
Much of the work in making this lathe was done by hand
as there was no planer within many hundred miles. The
St. Joseph Iron Company, seeing his work, offered him
the charge of their shop, to which he agreed, provided
the plant were enlarged and equipped with proper tools.
This was done, but just as everything was completed
this plant also was burned down. Bement had plans for
another shop ready the following day, went into the
woods with others, cut the necessary timber, and a new
shop was soon completed. He remained there for three
years, constructing a variety of machine tools, one of
which was a gear cutter said to have been the first one
built in the West, or used beyond Cleveland.
He returned to New England as a contractor in the
Lowell Machine Shop under Burke, who had gone there
from the Amoskeag Mills in 1845. On account of
Bement 's resourcefulness and skill in designing, Burke
induced him to relinquish his contracts and take charge
of their designing, which he did for three years, his
residence at Lowell covering in all about six years.
254 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
In 1851 Elijali D. Marshall, who had established a
business of engraving rolls for printing calicos in 1848
and had a small shop at Twentieth and Callowhill
Streets in Philadelphia, offered Bement a partnership.
He moved to Philadelphia in September of that year,
and with Marshall and Gilbert A. Colby, a nephew, he
began the manufacture of machine tools under the name
of Marshall, Bement & Colby, thus starting only a year
or so after Sellers. Marshall was a large man, dignified
and deliberate in speech. Bement was strong, vigor-
ous, a born designer, a remarkably rapid draftsman,
and had a capacity for work rarely equalled. Colby was
also a man of considerable mechanical ability, with
advanced business ideas. Their shop consisted of a
single three-storied, stone, whitewashed building, 40 by
90 feet. Their entire machine shop was on the first
floor, with a 10- by 12-foot room for an office. The
engine, boiler and blacksmith shop were in small out-
buildings. Part of the second floor was rented to
another factory and the rest was sometimes used for
religious meetings, while the third floor was used for
engraving printing rolls. Their tools were few and
crude ; among them were a 36-inch lathe with a wooden
bed and iron straps for ways, and a 48-inch by 14-foot
planer with ornate Doric uprights. Marshall and Colby
soon retired, the latter going to Niles, Mich., where he
was very successful. James Dougherty, an expert
foundryman, and George C. Thomas entered the firm,
which became Bement & Dougherty, the plant being
known as the *' Industrial Works." Mr. Thomas con-
tributed considerable capital, and a new shop and a
foundry were built. At the same time they installed a
planer 10 feet wide by 8 feet high, to plane work 45
feet long, a notable tool for that day.
After a few years of struggle, the plant began to grow
rapidly and at one time was the largest of its kind in
the country. Bement and Sellers were among the first
to concentrate wholly on" tool building. They confined
themselves to work of the highest quality. Both made
much heavier tools, as we have said, than the New
England builders their only competitors, and in a short
time had established great reputations. Bement relied
little on patent protection, trusting to quality and con-
stant improvement. Thomas retired from the part-
nership in 1856 and Dougherty in 1870; and Clarence
S. Bement joined the firm, which became William B.
Bement & Son. John M. Shrigley became a partner in
1875, William P. Bement in 1879, and Frank Bement in
Frederick B. Miles was an employee of Bement &
Dougherty who established a tool business under the
name of Ferris & Miles, which afterward became the
Machine Tool Works. While head of these works. Miles
greatly improved the steam hammer, particularly its
valve mechanism, and many details of what is known as
the Bement hammer were invented by Miles. In 1885
the Machine Tool Works consolidated with William
Bement & Son, forming Bement, Miles & Company.
Mr. Miles was an accomplished engineer and designer,
with the unusual equipment of six languages at his
command, an asset of value in the firm's foreign business.
William Bement, Senior, died in 1897, and in 1900 the
business became a part of the Niles-Bement-Pond Com-
pany. Mr. Miles retired at that time and has not since
been active in the tool business."
Although Bement and Sellers contributed more to the
art of tool building than any of the other Philadelphia
13 Most of the foregoing details in regard to the Bement & Miles Works
have been obtained from Mr. Clarence S. Bement and Mr. W. T. Hagman,
their present general manager.
256 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
mechanics, some of these others ought to be mentioned.
Matthias W. Baldwin, a native of New Jersey, began
as a jeweler's apprentice. In partnership with David
H. Mason he began making bookbinders' tools, to which
he added in 1822 the engraving of rolls for printing
cotton goods and later of bank notes. From the inven-
tion and manufacture of a variety of tools used in that
business they were led gradually into the machine tool
business, the building of hydraulic presses, calender
rolls, steam engines, and finally locomotives. In 1830
Baldwin built a model locomotive for the Peale Museum
which led to an order from the Philadelphia & German-
town Railroad for an engine which was completed in
1832 and placed on the road in January, 1833. An
advertisement of that time says : ' ' The locomotive engine
built by Mr. M. W. Baldwin of this city will depart
daily, when the weather is fair, with a train of passenger
cars. On rainy days horses will be attached in the place
of the locomotive."
From this beginning has sprung the Baldwin Loco-
motive Works, which employs approximately 20,000
men. In 1834 they built five locomotives ; in 1835, four-
teen; in 1836, forty. Their one thousandth locomotive
was built in 1861; the five thousandth in 1880 and the
forty thousandth in 1913. These works have naturally
greatly influenced the neighboring tool makers. From
the beginning, both Bement and Sellers specialized on
railway machinery and they have always built a class of
tools larger than those manufactured in New England.
The Southwark Foundry was established in 1836,
first as a foundry only, but a large machine shop was
soon added. The owners were S. V. Merrick, who
became the first president of the Pennsylvania Railroad
Company, and John Henry Towne, who was the engi-
neering partner. The firm designed and built steam
engines and other heavy machinery and introduced the
steam hammer into the United States under arrange-
ment with James Nasmyth. From the designs of Capt.
John Ericsson they built the engines for the *' Prince-
ton," the first American man-of-war propelled by a
screw, and later were identified with the Porter-Allen
steam engine. Mr. Towne withdrew from the firm about
1848, and the firm name became successively Merrick &
Son, Merrick & Sons, Henry Gr. Morris, and finally the
Southwark Foundry & Machine Company.
I. P. Morris & Company came from Levi Morris &
Company, founded in 1828, and for many years were
engaged in a similar work. In 1862 Mr. J. H. Towne,
above referred to, was admitted to the firm as the engi-
neering partner, and the firm name then became I. P.
Morris, Towne & Company, until about 1869 when Mr.
Towne withdrew. At his withdrawal the firm name was
restored to its original form, I. P. Morris & Company.
It is now a department of the Cramp Ship Building
Company. During the Civil War the works were occu-
pied largely in building engines and boilers for govern-
ment vessels, and blast furnace and sugar mill machin-
ery. During this period Henry R. Towne, son of J. H.
Towne, entered the works as an apprentice, served in
the drawing room and shops, and finally was placed in
charge of the erection at the navy yards of Boston and
Kittery of the engines, boilers, etc., built for two of the
double-turreted monitors. Returning to Philadelphia,
he was made assistant superintendent of the works.
J. H. Towne was a mechanical engineer of eminence
in his day, whose work as a designer showed unusual
thoroughness and finish. He was a warm friend and
admirer of both William and Coleman Sellers, and
through his influence, Henry R. Towne was at one time
a student apprentice in the shops of William Sellers &
258 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Company, acquiring there an experience which had a
marked influence on his future work. Both of the firms
with which J. H. Towne was connected built machine
tools for themselves and for others, especially of the
heavier and larger kinds, and thus were among the
early tool builders. I. P. Morris & Company, about
1860, designed and built for their own use what was
then the largest vertical boring mill in this country."
It may surprise some to learn that the well-known
New England firm, the Yale & Towne Manufacturing
Company in Stamford, Conn., is a descendant of these
Philadelphia companies. It was organized in October,
1868, by Linus Yale, Jr., and Henry R. Towne, who
were brought together by William Sellers. Mr. Yale
died in the following December. This company, under
the direction and control of Mr. Towne, has had a wide
influence on the lock and hardware industry in this
country. While the products of the Yale & Towne
Manufacturing Company have always consisted chiefly
of locks and related articles, they have added since 1876
the manufacture of chain blocks, electric hoists, and,
during a considerable period, two lines allied to tool
building, namely, cranes and testing machines. This
company was the pioneer crane builder of this country,
organizing a department for this purpose as early as
1878, and developing a large business in this field, which
was sold in 1894 to the Brown Hoisting Machine Com-
pany of Cleveland, Ohio. The building of testing
machines was undertaken in 1882, to utilize the inven-
tions of Mr. A. H. Emery, and was continued until 1887,
when this business was sold to William Sellers & Com-
pany, for the same reason that the crane business was
sold ; namely, that both were incongruous with the other
and principal products of the company.
1* From correspondence with Mr. Henry R. Towne.
In recent years the Bilgram Machine Works, under
the leadership of Hugo Bilgram, an expert Philadelphia
mechanic, has made valuable contributions to the art of
accurate gear cutting.
In the cities between New York and Philadelphia, and
here and there in the smaller towns of Pennsylvania,
are several tool builders of influence. Gould & Eber-
hardt in Newark is one of the oldest firms in the busi-
ness, having been established in 1833. Ezra Gould, its
founder, learned his trade at Paterson, and started in
for himself at Newark in a single room, 16 feet square.
Within a few years the Gould Machine Company was
organized, the business moved to its present location,
and a line of lathes, planers and drill presses was manu-
factured. To these they added fire engines. Ulrich
Eberhardt started as an apprentice in 1858 and became
a partner in 1877, the firm name becoming E. Gould &
Eberhardt, and later Gould & Eberhardt. Mr. Gould
retired in 1891, and died in 1901. Mr. Eberhardt also
died in 1901; the business has since been incorporated
and is now under the management of his three sons.
They employ about 400 men in the manufacture of gear
and rack cutting machinery and shapers.
The Pond Machine Tool Company, which moved from
Worcester to Plainfield, N. J., in 1888, was founded by
Lucius W. Pond.'^ It is a large and influential shop and
one of the four plants of the Niles-Bement-Pond Com-
pany. Their output is chiefly planers, boring mills and
The Landis Tool Company, of Waynesboro, Pa., build-
ers of grinding machinery, springs from the firm of
Landis Brothers, established in 1890 by F. F. and A. B.
Landis. One was superintendent and the other a tool
maker in a small plant building portable engines and
15 See p. 222.
260 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
agricultural machinery. A small Brown & Sharpe
grinding machine was purchased for use in these works.
Mr. A. B. Landis became interested in the design of a
machine more suited to their particular work, and from
this has developed the Landis grinder.
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS
Prior to 1880 practically all of the tool building in
the United States was done east of the Alleghenies.
The few tools built here and there in Ohio and Indiana
were mostly copies of eastern ones and their quality
was not high. In fact, there were few shops in the West
equipped to do accurate work. '^Chordal's Letters,"
published first in the American Machinist and later in
book form,^ give an excellent picture of the western
machine shop in the transition stage from pioneer con-
ditions to those of the present day.
Good tool building appeared in Ohio in the early
eighties, and within ten years its competition was felt
by the eastern tool builders. The first western centers
were Cleveland, Cincinnati and Hamilton. Of these,
Cleveland seems to have been the first to build tools of
the highest grade.
We have already noted that the Pratt & Whitney
shop in Hartford furnished Cleveland mth a number of
its foremost tool builders. The oldest of these and per-
haps the best known is the Warner & Swasey Company.
This company has the distinction, shared with only one
other, of having furnished two presidents of the Ameri-
can Society of Mechanical Engineers. Oddly enough
the other company is also a Cleveland firm, the Well-
1 Henry W. See : " Extracts from Chordal 's Letters ' ' ; McGraw-HDl
Book Co., N. Y. 12th Edition. 1909.
262 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
man, Seaver, Morgan Company, builders of coal- and
ore-handling machinery, and of steel mill equipment.
Worcester E. Warner, of the Warner & Swasey
Company, was born at Cummington, Mass., in 1846.
Although a farmer's son and denied a college educa-
tion, he had access in his owti home to an admirable
librarj^ which he used to great advantage. When nine-
teen years old he went to Boston and learned mechani-
cal drawing in the office of George B. Brayton. Shortly
afterwards he was transferred to the shop at Exeter,
N. H., where he first met Ambrose Swasey. Mr. Swasey
was born at Exeter, also in 1846, went to the traditional
"little red schoolhouse," and learned his trade as a
machinist in the shop to which Warner came. In 1870
they went together to Hartford, entered the Pratt &
Whitney shop as journeymen mechanics, and in a short
time had become foremen and contractors. Mr. Swasey
soon gained a reputation for accurate workmanship and
rare ability in the solution of complex mechanical prob-
lems. He had charge of the gear department, and
invented and developed a new process of generating
spur gear teeth, which was given in a paper before
the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.^ Mr.
Warner, also, became one of the company's most trusted
mechanics, was head of the planing department, and had
charge of the Pratt & Whitney exhibit at the Centennial
Exposition in Philadelphia.
In 1881 they left Hartford and went first to Chicago,
intending to build engine lathes, each putting $5000 into
the venture; but finding difficulty in obtaining good
workmen there, they moved in about a year to Cleveland,
where they have remained. Their first order was for
twelve turret lathes, and they have built this type of
machine ever since. At various times they have built
2 Trans. A. S. M. E., Vol. XII, p. 265.
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 263
speed lathes, die-sinking machines, horizontal boring
mills, and hand gear-cutters, but they now confine their
tool building to hand-operated turret lathes. They have
never built automatics.
The building of astronomical instruments was not in
their original scheme, but Mr. Warner's taste for
astronomy and Mr. Swasey's skill in intricate and deli-
cate mechanical problems, led them to take up this work.
These instruments, usually designed by astronomers
and instrument makers, were in general much too light ;
at least the large ones were. From their long experi-
ence as tool builders, Warner and Swasey realized that
strength and rigidity are quite as essential as accuracy
of workmanship where great precision is required. The
design of a large telescope carrying a lens weighing
over 500 pounds at the end of a steel tube forty or sixty
feet long, and weighing five or six tons, which must be
practically free from flexure and vibration and under
intricate and accurate control, becomes distinctly an
engineering problem. To this problem both Mr. Warner
and Mr. Swasey brought engineering skill and experi-
ence of the highest order.
When the trustees of the Lick Observatory Called in
1886 for designs for the great 36-inch telescope, Warner
& Swasey submitted one which provided for much
heavier mountings than had ever been used before, and
heavier construction throughout. They were awarded
the contract and the instrument was built and installed
under Mr. Swasey's personal supervision. It is located
on the very top of Mount Hamilton in California, 4200
feet above sea-level; and to give room for the observa-
tory 42,000 tons of rock had to be removed. The great
instrument, weighing with its mountings more than
forty tons, ''was transported in sections, over a newly
made mountain road, sometimes in a driving snowstorm.
264 ENGLISH AND AJMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
with the wind blowing from sixty to eighty miles an
As is well known, the instrument was a brilliant suc-
cess. The Warner & Swasey Company has since
designed and built the mountings for the United States
Naval Observatory telescope, the 40-inch Yerkes tele-
scope, the 72-inch reflecting telescope for the Canadian
Government, and the 60-inch reflecting telescope for
the National Observatory at Cordoba, Argentina, the
largest in use in the southern hemisphere. In addition
to this large work, the firm has built meridian circles,
transits and other instruments for astronomical work,
range finders for the United States Government, and
introduced the prismatic binocular into this country.
In connection with this astronomical work Mr. Swasey
designed and built a dividing engine capable of divid-
ing circles of 40 inches in diameter with an error of
less than one second of arc. A second of arc subtends
about one-third of an inch at the distance of one mile.
Although the graduations on the inlaid silver band of
this machine are so fine that they can scarcely be seen
with the naked eye, the width of each line is twelve times
the maximum error in the automatic graduations which
the machine produces.
Although their reputation as telescope builders is
international, Warner & Swasey are, and always have
been, primarily tool builders. They were not the first
to build tools in the Middle West, but they were the
first to turn out work comparable in quality with that
of the best shops in the East.
The Warner & Swasey shop has had the advantage
of other good mechanics besides its proprietors. Walter
Allen, an expert tool designer, did his entire work with
them, rising from apprentice to works manager. Frank
iCasaier's Magazine, March, 1897, p. 403.
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 265
Kempsmith, originally a Brown & Sharpe man, was at
one time their superintendent. Lucas, of the Lucas
Machine Tool Company, was a foreman. George Bar-
dons, who served his apprenticeship with Pratt & Whit-
ney, went west with Warner and Swasey when they
started in business and was their superintendent; and
John Oliver, a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic, was
their chief draftsman. The last two left Warner &
Swasey in 1891 and established the firm of Bardons &
Oliver for building lathes.
Another old Pratt & Whitney workman is A. W. Foote
of the Foote-Burt Company, builders of drilling
machines. Unlike the others, however, Foote did not
work for Warner & Swasey.
The first multi-spindle automatic screw machines
were manufactured in Cleveland. The Cleveland auto-
matic was developed in the plant of the White Sewing
Machine Company for their own work, and its success
led to the establishment of a separate company for its
manufacture. The Acme automatic was invented by
Reinholdt Hakewessel and E. C. Henn in Hartford.
Mr. Hakewessel was a Pratt & Whitney man and Mr.
Henn a New Britain boy, who had worked first in Lo-
rain and Cincinnati and then for twelve years in Hart-
ford with Pratt & Cady, the valve manufactures. In
1895 Henn and Hakewessel began manufacturing bicycle
parts in a little Hartford attic, developing for this work
a five-spindle automatic. Seven years later the business
was moved to Cleveland, where it became the National-
Acme Manufacturing Company, organized by E. C. and
A. W. Henn and W. D, B. Alexander, who came from
the Union Steel Screw Works. Their business of manu-
facturing automatic screw machinery and screw machine
products has grown rapidly and is now one of the largest
industries in Cleveland.
266 ENGLISH AND AJVIERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
The White Sewing Machine Company and the Union
Steel Screw Works were among the first in Cleveland
to use accurate methods and to produce interchangeable
work. It was at the Union Steel Screw Works that James
Hartness, of the Jones & Lamson Machine Company,
got his first training in accurate work. Their shop
practice was good and was due to Jason A. Bidwell, who
came from the American Tool Company of Providence.
The Standard Tool Company is an offspring of Bing-
ham & Company, Cleveland, and of the Morse Twist
Drill Company of New Bedford, Mass. From the
Standard Tool Company has come the Whitman-Barnes
Company of Akron, and from that the Michigan Twist
Drill and Machine Company.
Newton & Cox was established in 1876, and built
planers and milling machines. Mr. Newton sold his
share in the business to F. F. Prentiss in 1880, went to
Philadelphia, and started the Newton Machine Tool
Works. Cox & Prentiss later became the Cleveland
Twist Drill Company. They drifted into the drill busi-
ness through not being able to buy such drills as they
required. They began making drills first for them-
selves, then for their friends, and gradually took up their
manufacture, giving up the business in machine tools.
Cincinnati is said to have upwards of 15,000 men
engaged in the tool building industry, and to be the
largest tool building center in the world. There are
approximately forty firms there engaged in this work,
many of them large and widely known.
This development, which has taken place within the
past thirty-five years, may possibly have sprung indi-
rectly from the old river traffic. Seventy years ago this
traffic was large, and Cincinnati did the greater part of
the engine and boat building and repair work. When
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 267
the river trade vanished, the mechanics engaged in this
work were compelled to turn their attention to something
else, and there may be some significance in the coinci-
dence of the rise of tool building with the decline of the
There had been more or less manufacturing in Cin-
cinnati for many years, but little of it could be described
as tool building. Miles Greenwood established the
Eagle Iron Works in 1832 on the site now occupied by
the Ohio Mechanics Institute. It comprised a general
machine shop, an iron foundry, brass foundries, and a
hardware factory which rivaled those of New England,
employing in all over 500 men. The hardware factory
was important enough to attract the special attention of
the English commissioners who visited this country in
In the fifties and early sixties, Niles & Company built
steamboat and stationary engines, locomotives and
sugar machinery, and employed from 200 to 300 men.
This company was the forerunner of the present Niles
Tool Works in Hamilton. Lane & Bodley were building
woodworking machinery about the same time, and J. A.
Fay & Company, another firm building woodworking
machinery, which started in Keene, N. H., began work
in Cincinnati in the early sixties.
The first builder of metal-working tools in Cincin-
nati was John Steptoe; in fact, he is said to have been
for many years the only tool builder west of the Alle-
ghenies. Steptoe came to this country from Oldham,
England, some time in the forties. It is said that he
was a foundling and that his name came from his hav-
ing been left on a doorstep. He was married before he
came to Cincinnati, and had served an apprenticeship
of seven years, although he was so young in appearance
that no one would believe it. After working some time
268 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
for Greenwood, he started in business for himself, mak-
ing a foot power mortising machine and later a line
of woodworking tools. The first metal-working tool
which he built was a copy of the Putnam lathe. With
Thomas McFarlan, another Englishman, he formed the
firm of Steptoe & McFarlan, and his shop, called the
Western Machine Works, employed by 1870 about 300
men. Their old payrolls contain the names of William
E. Gang of the William E. Gang Company; Mr. Oester-
lien of the Oesterlien Machine Company; and Mr. Dietz
of the old Dietz, Schumacher & Boye Company, now the
Boye & Emmes Machine Tool Company.
Steptoe was not an originator or an inventor. He
was a rough man, plain spoken, honest and well
informed. He died in 1888 at about eighty-four years
of age. Thomas P. Egan of the J. A. Fay & Egan Com-
pany, who had worked for Steptoe and was the adminis-
trator of his estate, sold the business for the widow to
Otting & Lauder.* In compliance mth Steptoe 's wish
it was stipulated that his name should be retained and
it has been perpetuated in the various changes through
which the business has gone. Today the John Steptoe
Company manufactures shapers and milling machines.
Steptoe 's name should be remembered, for Cincinnati
tool building owes its start more to him than to anyone
else, with the possible exception of William Lodge, who
was himself one of Steptoe 's workmen.
Mr. Lodge, the son of George Lodge, a skilled
mechanic in the textile industrj^, was born in Leeds,
England, in 1848. After serving his apprenticeship in
the shops of Fairbairn & Company, Leeds, he came to
Philadelphia, where he worked for Chambers Brothers
from 1869 to 1872, making paper-folding machinery. He
came to Cincinnati in 1872 and worked for Steptoe for
* The above facts are given hj several of Steptoe 's old workmen.
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 269
eight years, first as a journeyman machinist and later
as a foreman. Having saved $1000, he formed a part-
nership with "WilUam Barker and they started in busi-
ness the first day of January, 1880, at Fifth Street
and the C. H. & D. tracks. Associated with them for
a short time was Mr. Bechle, another Steptoe work-
man. Their first task was to true up a few second-
hand machines which they had bought for their shop,
after which they went out, secured some business, and
came back and executed it themselves, since they had no
one in their employ. Part of this first business was
making some opening dies for Powell and a small tur-
ret lathe for Lunkenheimer. Lunkenheimer immedi-
ately ordered three more and during the following year
eighteen lathes were made and sold. Beginning ^vith
$1000, the business inventoried at the end of the first
year $7000; at the end of the second year $32,000; and
at the end of ten years $400,000. Fifteen months after
starting they employed seventy-five men. There is little
doubt that this rapid success induced quite a number of
the better and more ambitious mechanics in Cincinnati
to take up similar work. Mr. Lodge was well known
among the mechanics of the city and had been president
of their union. If one of their own number could build up
a successful business, why could they not do the same?
Some of the best known of the Cincinnati tool building
firms were established during the few years after Mr.
In 1886 Mr. Barker sold his interest to Charles Davis
and began making Fox lathes and monitors independ-
ently. Lodge and Davis continued in partnership until
1892, when Mr. Lodge sold his interest to Mr. Thomas
P. Egan and the firm became Davis & Egan, and later
the American Tool Works. Mr. Lodge, meanwhile,
organized the Ohio Machine Tool Company and a year
270 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
later became associated with Murray Shipley, forming
the present Lodge & Shipley Machine Tool Company.
Mr. Lodge's first export order was received in 1889.
Alfred Herbert, who had just started in Coventry, sent
an inquiry in regard to drill presses to Cincinnati, which
was forwarded to Mr. Lodge in London. Mr. Lodge
went down to see him and asked whether the inquiry
was for purposes of information or for purchase. Mr.
Herbert said that if Lodge had a better machine he
would buy. Mr. Lodge asked to see his machine and
after a little hesitation he was taken out into the shop.
The first machine he saw was a planer. He said that he
could save 30 per cent on the work as it was being done,
and would sell them a machine which would do it for
£100. He was told that the planer they were looking at
cost only £65 and replied that that was all it was worth.
He spent several hours in the shop, and left the plant
not only with an order, but with the check in payment
thereof. This was the beginning of a large export
While the firm was Lodge & Davis, it built lathes,
planers and drill presses. Mr. Lodge wanted to manu-
facture rather than build, and to specialize upon lathes.
Mr. Davis, who was a business man, wanted a complete
line of tools, as he saw the opportunities of selling other
machines with the lathes. This led to a policy, the effect
of which was to build up a number of small tool building
enterprises, independent of each other, but not compet-
ing. About 1887 Lodge & Davis began concentrating
their manufacturing upon engine lathes, and placing
orders for other types of tools with mechanics known
to them who were just starting up, or with workmen
or foremen from their own plant whom they helped to
start in business. For instance, to Smith & Mills, who
had been foremen with Steptoe and had started making
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 271
set screws and cap screws, they gave an order for 300
shapers. Another firm, Smith & Silk, also built shapers
for Lodge & Davis. Later they added planers, and in
the early nineties they moved to Kenton, Ohio, and
began building shapers and planers for their own
account. To R. K. LeBlond, who had served his appren-
ticeship with Brown & Sharpe and had come to Cin-
cinnati to make printers ' machinery and supplies, Lodge
& Davis gave a large order for slide-rests. To William
Owen, one of their workmen, they gave an order for
Fox monitors. Owen went into partnership with Philip
Montanus and started the Springfield Machine Tool
Company, and Lodge & Shipley bought their entire
product for eight years. Through Mr. Lodge's influ-
ence, Frank Kempsmith came from Warner & Swasey as
one of the partners in this firm. He afterwards moved
to Milwaukee and started the Kempsmith Manufactur-
ing Company. This policy on the part of Lodge & Davis
unquestionably set upon their feet a number of small
companies which have since grown into successful,
William E. Gang worked for Lodge as vice-foreman.
Greaves was his planer foreman; Henry Dreses was
his chief draftsman; and William Herman, of the Fos-
dick Machine Tool Company, was his superintendent.
Gang & Dietz, and Fosdick & Plucker also began by
doing work for Lodge & Davis. Through various
changes the former has become the present Boye &
Emmes Machine Tool Company and the latter the Fos-
dick Machine Tool Company. Dreses, with Oscar Muel-
ler, started Dreses, Mueller & Company in 1896. In
1902 they separated and each formed a company of his
own. Greaves, with H. Klussman, began building wood-
working machinery about 1890, to which they have since
added the building of engine lathes. The Cincinnati
272 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Planer Company is another offshoot of Lodge & Davis
and Davis & Egan through B. Quillen and W. Burtner,
who were in their office.
It is impossible here to give the history of all the
Cincinnati tool builders and only a few can be men-
tioned. Henry Bickford, a native of New Hampshire
and an employee of J. A. Fay & Company, started a
few years before Mr. Lodge. In 1874 he began building
five sizes of upright drills, from 20 to 38 inches in
capacity. While his growth was not so rapid as Mr.
Lodge's, it was steady and by 1885 he had built 3000
machines. The first machines were cheap and built for
competition, but from them has developed a product of
the highest quality. The Bickford Drill Company was
organized in 1887 and the business was extended to
include radial and universal drills. The company was
reorganized in 1893, and in 1894 it absorbed the Uni-
versal Radial Drill Company, its only competitor in this
special field in the city. Some j^ears ago the name was
changed to the Cincinnati Bickford Tool Company. Mr.
Anton Mill and Mr. Henry M. Norris have in the main
been responsible for their engineering practice. Mr.
Mill was a German who came to them from the Cincin-
nati Milling Machine Company and Mr. Norris is a Cor-
nell graduate with a wide experience in the eastern tool
The Cincinnati Milling Machine Company comes from
the Cincinnati Screw & Tap Company, started by Fred-
erick Holtz, who began making screws and taps in a
kitchen about 1880. He made a milling machine with a
wooden base for fluting his taps, because he was too poor
to buy one. Lunkenheimer saw this machine and ordered
one, and from this start came their present milling
machine business. The firm became the Cincinnati Mill-
ing Machine Company in 1889 with Mr. Frederick A.
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 273
Geier as president. Mr. A. L. DeLeeuw was for a num-
ber of years engineer for this company and Ms experi-
ments in cutting tools have had a mde influence on all
milling machine practice.
The prominence of Hamilton, Ohio, in tool building is
due chiefly to the Niles Tool Works, which moved thither
from Cincinnati about 1876. Before the war the old
firm, Niles & Company, to which we have already re-
ferred, occasionally built tools for their own use. After
the war, George Gray, who was their designer and
superintendent, was sent through the eastern states to
familiarize himself with machine tool building and the
company took it up as part of their regular work. After
their removal to Hamilton, they confined themselves
wholly to this work and have grown to be one of the
largest firms in the country in this field. About 1900
the Niles Tool Works were brought under the same
management as Bement, Miles & Company of Philadel-
phia, the Pond Machine Tool Company of Plainfield,
N. J., and the Pratt & Whitney Company of Hartford,
and they are now operated as one of the plants of the
In 1880 Gray left the Niles Tool Works and started
the Universal Radial Drill Company in Cincinnati.
This company built the first round column radial drills,
plain and universal, after Mr. Gray's designs. He left
the company in 1883 and about ten years later it ceased
business. The G. A. Gray Company, which he started
in 1883, at first built lathes, but has specialized on planers
and is now one of the foremost firms in the country
specializing in this type of tool.
As the demand for machine tools spread westward,
tool building has followed it, and an increasing number
of companies are springing up in Indiana, Illinois and
Wisconsin. The oldest of these, the W. F. & John
274 ENGLISH AND AIMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Barnes Company of Rockford, 111., began making jig
saws in 1872. Six years later they added the building
of small lathes. About the same time they made some
drill presses for their own use and then began manu-
facturing them for the trade. Later, tool grinders, arbor
presses, radial and gang drills were added successively
to their line of machines. Their only competitors were
in Worcester and Cincinnati, and the high freight rates
at that time gave them an important advantage in the
West. Their early machinery, built to meet pioneer
conditions, found a considerable market in the less
developed foreign countries and they have built up a
widespread export business.
Rockford has become a clearly defined center for tool
builders. For many years the W. F. & John Barnes
Company was the only one in the city, but in 1888 the
Mechanics Machine Company was established. About
1893 the Ingersoll Milling Machine Company moved to
Rockford from Cleveland, where Mr. Ingersoll had been
associated with Cox & Prentiss. This company has been
the leader in the development of heavy multiple-head
milling machines of the planer type. The Barber-Cole-
man Company began making mechanics' tools and gear
cutters about 1896. The B. F. Barnes Company, now
the Rockford Drilling Machine Company, and the
Barnes Drill Company were established in 1897, by B. F.
Barnes, a brother of W. F. and John Barnes, who had
been associated with them for twenty years as superin-
tendent. In addition to these firms there are the Rock-
ford Machine Tool Company, the Rockford Milling
Machine Company, the Rockford Lathe & Tool Com-
pany, the Rockford Iron Works and W. F. Lingren &
Company. The first of these companies started in 1897,
making shapers and planers. In 1913 it bought out the
drill business of the older Mechanics Machine Com-
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 275
pany. It is said that one of the reasons why Rockford
has become such a tool building center is that the
neighborhood was settled by Swedish immigrants, who
have furnished excellent material for the development
of skilled mechanics.
The International Machine Tool Company of Indian-
apolis was established in 1906. This company manufac-
tures the turret lathes developed by Mr. C. L. Libbey,
who was for eleven years chief engineer and superin-
tendent of the Bullard Machine Tool Company of
Bridgeport; afterwards superintendent of the Pacific
Iron Works of the same city, and of the Ludwig-Loewe
& Company, Berlin, Germany ; and for four years and a
half construction engineer of the Gisholt Machine Com-
pany of Madison, Wis. Prom Madison he went to
There are a number of tool builders in Chicago, but
though a great manufacturing center, Chicago, like
New York, has not specialized in tool building as have
some of the smaller places. There are perhaps a dozen
firms making large and small tools. Of those who build
the larger types of tools, Charles H. Besly & Company,
manufacturers of grinding machines, are best known.
Frederick M. Gardner, of Beloit, Wis., who was at one
time with this company, was largely responsible for the
development of disk grinding machines. Mr. Gardner
was born in Ashfield, Mass., and served his apprentice-
ship with Wiley & Russell in Greenfield. From there he
went to Pratt & Whitney's, was later placed in charge
of the small tool department until, about 1885, he was
transferred to Chicago as their special western repre-
sentative on the Pratt & Whitney tools then being sold
by Charles H. Besly & Company. His acquaintance
with Mr. Besly led to the formation of a company, of
which Mr. Gardner was superintendent, located at
276 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Beloit because of Mr. Besly's interest in the water power
there. This company manufactured taps, dies, clamps
and other small tools. The disk grinder was originated
about 1890 for use in the manufacture of their clamps.
For a number of years it retained substantially its first
form, but with the advent of coarser grades of emery, a
more powerful design with various refinements and
adjustments was developed. In 1905 Mr. Gardner
organized a separate company known as the Gardner
Machine Company. Since that time still larger and
more powerful machines have been designed, lever feeds
and micrometer stop screws added, and various types,
such as double spindle, vertical spindle and pattern
makers' grinders, built. Abrasive ring wheels, inter-
changeable wdth disk wheels allow the use of wet grind-
ing and thus extend the field of this type of machine.
Mr. F. N. Gardner died in 1913. His sons, who were
with him from the origin of the disk grinder, are con-
tinuing his work in the Gardner Machine Company.
The Gisholt Machine Works at Madison, which grew
out of a plant manufacturing agricultural machinery,
has developed a widely used turret machine for chuck-
ing work invented by Mr. Conrad N. Conradson. This
machine applied the turret principle to much larger
work than it had been used for up to that time. Mr.
Conradson has left the Gisholt Company and has since
designed a powerful, multi-spindle automatic lathe
which, like the Bullard machine (shown in Fig. 56), is
vertical, and, although a lathe, it has assumed a form
which would scarcely be recognized as such. This
machine is built by the Giddings & Lewis Manufacturing
Company of Fond du Lac, Wis.
Milwaukee is rapidly establishing a reputation for
tool building. Kearney & Trecker and the Kempsmith
Manufacturing Company are well-known builders of
Figure 50. The "Mult-au-matic" Lathe,
THE WESTERN TOOL BUILDERS 277
milling machines. Mr. Kempsmith, as we have already-
seen, was a Brown & Sharpe man, afterwards superin-
tendent of Warner & Swasey and for sixteen years at
Springfield, Ohio, with William Smith and Philip Mon-
tanus. Other tool builders such as the Milwaukee
Machine Tool Company and the Steinle Turret Machine
Company of Madison are helping to spread the art of
tool building in this new region.
We have not been able to mention all of the western
tool builders. Most of these firms have been established
in recent years and are busy building up a market and
a reputation. Some of them will take positions of lead-
ership as Warner & Swasey and Lodge & Shipley have
done, but this of course requires time.
There can be no ''conclusion" to the history of a live
and growing industry. A few of the present tendencies,
however, may be pointed out.
One of the most far-reaching influences ever received
by tool building came from the introduction of high
speed steel through the work of Frederick W. Taylor
and his associates. These steels made possible much
heavier cuts, and increases in cutting speeds, to two or
two and one-half times the previous prevailing practice.
Mr. Taylor also made a remarkable investigation of the
lathe-planer type of cutting tool. A. L. DeLeeuw and
others have studied the milling cutter and twist drill and
examined the causes of the failure of cutting edges in
action, and the influence of large clearances for chips and
coolants. The new cutting steels and these investiga-
tions have compelled an extensive redesign of machine
tools during the past fifteen years, a process which is
still going on as new demands are made upon the tool
These years have also witnessed a development of the
*' station-type " of machine, or one in which there are
278 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
multiple chucks, indexed from station to station, one
position being used for putting in and taking out work
while a succession of operations is simultaneously going
on at the other stations. In general these are high pro-
duction machines suitable for long runs of standard
work. The multi-spindle automatic bar-stock lathe
is an example. One of the latest of these station-
type tools is the vertical machine shown in Fig. 56,
which performs all the functions of an engine lathe and
is in effect five lathes in one machine.
Another development of recent years has been the
extension of the grinding process, both for the rapid
removal of metal and for precision work. This has been
made possible by the introduction of new and more active
The map, Fig. 57,° gives a bird's-eye view of the dis-
tribution of the tool building industry in the United
States, and shows that it is located in a rectangle which
includes southern New England and that portion of the
Atlantic and Middle States lying roughly north of the
Potomac and Ohio and east of the Mississippi rivers.
The strong tendency toward concentration in certain
localities is clearly seen. (Each dot in the map repre-
sents a shop.) Of the 570 plants shown, 117 are in Ohio,
98 in Massachusetts, 66 in Connecticut, 60 in Pennsyl-
vania, 57 in New York, 42 in Illinois, 29 in Michigan and
18 in "Wisconsin. Thirty years ago practically none
would have been found west of Buffalo. Today the
majority are there, although most of the more important
companies are still in the East. Unquestionably this
will equalize itself as the newer western shops develop.
The general types of machine tools seem to be firmly
established, and new or startling inventions and revo-
lutionary changes seem unlikely. The present trend is
5 From the American Machinist, January 29, 1914, p. 210.
280 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
toward higher speeds, heavier cuts with the use of great
quantities of lubricant, further refinements of jigs and
holding devices, and the use of highly developed auto-
matic machines which may be operated by unskilled
The unprecedented demand upon American tool build-
ers made by the European War has vastly increased their
facilities, and will probably tend to establish them even
more firmly as world leaders in the industry.
Shortly before his death Richard S. Lawrence wrote for his
son, Ned Lawrence, an account of his life, which has never
been published. It unconsciously reveals his genuine worth,
and draws a simple but accurate picture of the life and strug-
gles of an American mechanic seventy years ago. Through the
kindness of Mr. Ned Lawrence it is given below. A few por-
tions, only, dealing with family matters of no general interest,
Hartford, Conn., Dec. 17th, 1890.
To my son Ned Lawrence.
By your request I will give you from memory in part a
history of my life. I was bom in Chester, Vermont, Novem-
ber 22d, 1817. When I was two years old my Father moved
to Hounsfield, Jefferson County, N. Y., located on a farm half
way between "Watertown and Blanchard's Corners. When I
was four years old my Father moved to Blanchards Corners
and kept a Log Tavern. This was on the road from Water-
town to Sackett's Harbour. . . . When I was six years old my
Father moved on to a farm one-half mile north of Blanchards
Comers. At this time my Father had a hard time in clearing
up a new farm of 100 acres. In order to make ends meet,
Father, when farm work was not driving, carted cannon and
grape shot from Sackett's Harbour to Watertown. This mate-
rial was sent to the Harbour during the War of 1812, and
condemned and sold after the War by the U. S. Government.
. . . This was the time that I first commenced going to school,
which did not amount to much. Father died on this farm
when I was nine years old, leaving Mother with three chil-
dren. . . . Mother moved about this time with her Father to
282 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
the town of Pamelia. Here they lived about three years, then
moved to another small farm in the same town. I spent most
of my time helping on these two farms, and breaking steers.
Had yokes made for yearlings, had a little sled, and many
times in winter drove to Watertown Village to mill with grists.
When I was fifteen years old Grandfather and Mother moved
to what is now called North Watertown onto a small farm.
About this time I began to feel a little uneasy, and wanted
to try something else for a living. I went to live with Uncle
Judah Lord in Jewellville, North Watertown. Worked for him
making Carpenters' and Joiners' Tools. My work for the first
year was sawing by hand seasoned beach plank into blocks
for planes. This was hard work and I wished myself in some
better place (many times). There was nothing in the least
to give me courage, but after a while I could make tools very
well. What little spending money I had was earned by night
work, making packing boxes for a paper-mill nearby. Worked
half the night for 25^. Up to this time I. never had but one
suit of clothes at the same time, and was doing about as much
work as those that had much more pay. (I only had my board.
My folks furnished my clothes.) Lord's business was dull, and
I went to work for Orange Woods & Co. making window
sashes. (Will say here that in the basement of Lord's Tool
Shop was a Custom Gun Shop. I was always anxious to learn
what I could of anything in mechanical line, and spent my
spare time with a young man employed in this shop, tinkering
on guns, and became quite handy with tools, and could do
general repairs quite well. This was the fore-runner of my
gun work.) Made sash and doors under contract. All work
was done by the best machines, and this gave me a good chance
to instruct myself on machines. At the end of one year the
shop burnt up, and I was left out in the cold. After a while
Wood & Co. bought out Judah Lord's Tool Shop and com-
menced tool making. They hired me to work on tools. In
about six months this shop burnt up and I was left out in
the cold again. At this time I was about seventeen years old,
was nearly disheartened and thought I must try some new
APPENDIX A 283
business. Lord had moved to Brownsville and had charge of
a Rope Factory and Plaster ]\Iill. He hired me to run the
mill 12 hours each day. This was very unpleasant work, ter-
ribly dirty. In about one year this mill stopped and I
was left in the cold again. Lord moved into a Hotel and
hired me to go with him as Bartender, Hostler, etc. When
about twenty years old (living with Lord) was drafted out in
the service of U. S. to guard the Frontier in the Canada Rebel-
lion of '37- '38. Served three months, was regularly dis-
charged, paid off, and drew my Bounty land (and sold it).
Returned to Brownsville and decided to strike out in some-
thing new. Being in my 21st year I thought it time to settle
on something in a larger field than found in Brownsville.
Thought I would start for Vermont. Went to Utiea with a
friend in york wagon (no railroad then). This friend was
taking two children to their Father who was the Engineer
(Mr. Hardy) on the Albany & Schenectady Rail Road, the
only road then built that I knew of. This friend was taken
sick at Utica and sent me on with the children to Schenectady,
which was no small job, as the journey was on the Canal.
After seeing the children safe with their Father, I changed
my mind and thought I would go west, so boarded a Canal
boat and started. On arriving at Utica stept off the Boat and
a farmer living ten miles from Utica in the town of Clay,
hired me for a month. Worked out my month, and two weeks
for another farmer, then I thought it best to visit my friends
in Vermont, and took Canal boat for Albany, thence by stage
over the Green Mountains to Windsor. I found Windsor Vil-
lage a dull place. The next morning I started on foot for
the west part of the town where my friends all lived. On
the road met a man with a team, made enquiry where Mr.
Foster Farwell lived, an uncle who married my Father's sis-
ter. He looked at me and said, ''Get into my wagon and I
will take you back to Windsor and then show you one of
the best Aunts you ever had. I know you by your looks —
your name is Smith Lawrence." He had not seen me before
since I was two years old. Found my friends all glad to see
284 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
me. Visited with them for several weeks. While with Doet.
Story found he had two Rifles, one made by his Brother, Asa
Story, who had a gun shop close by. This he called his Tur-
key Rifle, the other was an old Pennsylvania Rifle, full stock,
barrel 4 feet long, all rusty. The Doctor said it had been one
of the best. He had killed many a deer with it. I asked him
to let me repair the rifle and put on a peep sight. He had
heard of this sight but had never seen one. Was very much
interested about the sight but did not dare let me repair the
Rifle for fear I would spoil it. After a while he consented to
let me make the trial and went over with me to his brother's
shop and obtained his consent to let me use his shop and tools.
I went to work, took the gun all apart, leaded out the barrel,
forged out the sight, finished it and put it on the gun. His
brother watched me all day. He had never seen a peep sight
and a mere boy handling tools and forging out work as I did
was a little astonishing to him. On the Doctor's return from
his daily trip he made for the shop to see what I had done
with his Rifle. He found it in such nice shape that he could
not say too much in my praise. He made an appointment
for a trial the next day as to the shooting qualities. I had
most of the day to give the Rifle a trial and adjust the sights.
We went out, he paced off 12 rods from a maple tree which
had a % auger hole in (made for sap spill). He said to fire
at that. I found a good rest, lay down on the ground and
fired. The Doct. tended target. Could find no ball hole. Said
I had missed the tree. I fired again — no ball hole to be found.
Doct. came up to me and said I had spoiled his Rifle. Before
my repairs he could kill a chicken every time at 12 rods. I
said, "Uncle, I am very sorry, but I will make the gun all
right before I leave it." He said he could not consent to
my doing anything more to improve the shooting quali-
ties — the sight he liked very much. I said that as the gun
was loaded would take one more shot and see if I could not
hit the tree. After the third shot I went up to the tree to
investigate, and all of the three balls which I had fired were
found in the auger hole. The Doct. was astonished — dumb-
APPENDIX A 285
founded. Said he never heard of such shooting. We spent half
of the night talking about guns. He said we must go down
to Windsor Prison where N. Kendall & Co. were making guns.
They must know about the ■ peep sights. Mine was the first
ever seen in that section. We went down to the Prison the
next day. The Doet. told them all about the sight and his
Rifle. The Company hired me at once for the term of two
years at about $100. per year and board. My first work was
stocking rifles (short stocks, their rifles were stocked only on
the breech). The first day I put on five stocks, all hand work.
The next morning Mr. Smith, one of the Company, came along
and looked the work over. Said the work was done well but
it would never do to rush work as I had, for I would soon gun-
stock them out of town — must hold up a little and take it more
easy. After a few days I was put on iron work. I made it
a point not to let anything be done in the shop that I did
not make myself familiar with, and soon found myself capable
of doing the best work. The Co. had quite a number of free
men to work on various branches of the work, nice parts,
engraving, etc. I found that I was equal to any of them
except engraving. Could not at the end of six months do as
nice engraving as the older hands, but soon after could com-
pete with any of them. At the end of six months from begin-
ning was put in charge of the shop, much to the dislike of the
older hands, but I carried the work along without any trouble,
to the satisfaction of all. The foreman of each shop by the
rules of the prison acted as turnkey, so I had one section of
prisoners to lock up. I worked out my two years engage-
ment. ... In 1840 I again entered into the employ of
N. Kendall & Co., wages $1.08 per day and board. ... I
continued work at the Prison. This was in 1842. During
this year the Co. gave up the gun business. I then engaged
with the State as foreman in the carriage department, con-
tinued in this position for about one and one-half years, then
in company with N. Kendall, hired a shop in Windsor Village
on Mill River and started the Custom Gun Works and Job-
bing. Carried on the business for about one year, done a fair
286 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
business. One day in the winter of 1844 Mr. S. E. Robbins
came into the shop and spoke of the Government asking for
bids for Rifles. "We talked the business over and decided to
put in a bid for 10,000 U. S. Rifles. Mr. Robbins, with a
friend Price, went on to Washington to put in a bid for the
Rifles at $10.90 each, appendages extra. This was 10^ below
any other bid. The contract was awarded to Robbins, Ken-
dall & Lawrence. This was in the time of the Mexican War
and the Government was very much in want of Rifles. We
made the contract to finish the job in three years. Guns were
not made at this day very fast. We had nothing to start
with — buildings or capital. We had much opposition from
all the Government Gun Contractors. They said we could
never do the work. We had nerve and pluck and were deter-
mined to carry out the contract. The real work fell upon
myself, Robbins not being a mechanic and Kendall not
exactly calculated for such nice work, made it hard for me.
We went to work with a will — bought land, built factories,
bought and made machinery with determined will. We
started the business in good shape. Soon after finishing the
Rifles, Robbins and myself bought out Kendall. Robbins then
said to me, "Lawrence, if it were not for you as a mechanic
and by your attention to business we could never go along
with the heavy outlay (debts) on our hands." We finished
the contract 18 months inside of the time. Made a nice thing
out of the job. Went on to Washington. The Ordinance
Board (Gen. Talcott) told us that ours was the only Gun
Contract ever finished within the contract time. He said,
"What do you want now? You have done well and finished."
We said, "We want another contract for Rifles." He said,
"Come with me over to the Secretary of War's Office" (Sec.
Marcy). Gen. Talcott told the Secretaiy all about our work
and wants. The Secretary said they would see about it. On
our way back to Gen. Talcott 's office he saw that we were a
little disappointed. He said, "Go right home and a contract
will be sent to you in a few days." The contract came
for 15,000 Rifles, which placed us above board. In manufac-
APPENDIX A 287
turing Govt. Rifles a loss of about 38% was considered for
bad material and workmanship. About this time the Cali-
fornia Gold excitement was raging. Guns, were in great
demand. We sold all of our second quality work and good
mixt with it, anything to make up the gun for full Govt,
price. This was a great relief every way. Things looked very
bright. This was in 1849-50. About this time we contracted
with Courtland C. Palmer for the manufacture of 5,000 of
the Jennings Rifles, now the "Winchester (improved). This
required new buildings and machinery. "We made the guns.
Before this date we were very unfortunately situated about
freight, as no Rail Road passed through Windsor. Most of
our freight came by team from Boston. About this time the Rail
Road was built through Windsor, which put us in the market
much to our advantage. The Rail Road contractor, Mr. S. F,
Belknap, came to us and wanted to start the car business with
us, led us to believe that he could control all the Rail Road
car work in that section. We went iuto the business with
him. He put in $20,000 as a silent partner. We went to a
large outlay, and about the time we finished the first cars,
Belknap had a quarrel with the President of the Road and we
could not sell a car when we expected to sell. We sold the
cars to the Rutland and Burlington Road, took stock and lost
every dollar to the tune of $40,000. Then we sold $14,000 to
Boston, Concord & Montreal Road, lost it all; $5,000 to Sul-
livan Road, $75,000 to "V^ermont Central. This total loss of
$134,000 was a drain on the gun work and cramped us ter-
ribly. About this time Belknap died. In settling his estate
they brought in a charge of $105,000 against Robbins & Law-
rence as money lent. This I knew nothing about. As near
as I could learn Belknap & Robbins lost this money in stocks
in Boston. We had to pay the charge, which made a total
loss up to this time of $239,000, all paid from gun shop busi-
ness. We gave up the car business after a while. It was a
mistake in ever going into this business. While we were fin-
ishing the 15,000 Government Rifles and Jennings guns in
1852, we contracted with the Sharps Company for the manu-
288 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
faeture of 5,000 Sharpes' carbines in "Windsor, and 15,000
Carbines and Rifles in Hartford. Sharps Co. advanced $40,-
000 to enable us to build the factories in Hartford. I moved
to Hartford in 1853, and after much trouble and many trials
started up the works. Want of funds by heavy former losses
made it very hard and troublesome work to start the business.
After starting the business on the Sharps gun in Hartford,
the Minie Rifle contract was taken from Fox Henderson &
Co. for 25,000 Minie Rifles. Before this contract was taken
we had the assurance from Dr. Black, Fox Henderson & Co. 's
Agent, that he had in his pocket contracts for 300,000 more
as soon as we finished the 25,000. Fox Henderson & Co.
agreed and did advance on the contract $100,000. I did not
like to enter into this contract for 25,000 only, as the outlay
for the work would cost more than all the profits twice over.
1 objected to signing the contract without seeing the large
contract in Dr. Black's pocket, and proposed to ask the Doctor
to show it. This Mr. Robbins objected to strongly, said it
would be an insult to Dr. Black. After a long talk I yielded
the point, but told Mr. Robbins that the minute we signed
the contract we would be floored. We had better have cut
off our right hands. We signed the contract. It proved that
Doct. Black had no additional contract. Part of the work was
done at Windsor and part in Hartford. For want of funds
the whole thing was a total failure. The inspection as far as
we went was very severe. With all the gun work on my hands
in 1855 and 1856 had a very hard time. The failure of the
Robbins & Lawrence Co. at Windsor brought Robbins & Law-
rence under. A new Company was formed at Windsor. I
stept out and engaged with the Sharps Co. on a salary of
$4,000. About this time Robbins & La-uTence's Agent, Mr,
Robbins' friend, failed. I had a notice of his indebtedness to
Robbins & Lawrence of $43,000. I went immediately to Mr.
Robbins for an explanation. He said that he put this money
into Foster's hands to fall back on in case he had any trouble.
I said, "You left me out in the cold." Then he said, "You
are all right — can demand a large salary any time." This
APPENDIX A 289
was the very money that Sharps Co. had advanced to Robbins
& Lawrence to aid them in starting the Hartford shops. Rob-
bins done all the financing and I attended to the mechanical
work — never could find out much about our books. He kept
all mostlj'' on memorandum books as I found at last. This
$43,000 made in all as far as I know of $282,000 lost in the
business. I had laboured night and day to build up a busi-
ness and make myself comfortable and well off for old age.
All the disappointments were about all that I could stand
under, but I said to myself that I started out in life with
nothing but good health, and would try once more, and try
and keep a part of my earnings. While in the employ of
Sharps with my salary, patents and speculations on machinery
in war time, I found myself as I thought worth over $100,000.
I went to friends for advice what to invest in. All said, "Put
your money into real estate. It never will decrease in Hart-
ford. ' ' I took this advice which proved a very disastrous specu-
lation. In 1872, after leaving Sharps & Co. went into the
Street Department, thinking myself well off in this world's
goods, but the hard times of 1873 came unexpected, and it took
all my salary to furnish my family with a respectable living,
and take care of my real estate. It would have been better
to let the whole go and pass through bankruptcy as many others
did. My pride and the name of my family prevented me from
doing this. It was a mistake but cannot now be helped. I
have served 18 years as Supt. of Streets in Hartford, 9 years
on Water Board, 14 years on Fire Board as Chairman, 4 years
on Board of Aldermen, and one year on Council Board, 46
years in all.
When we first commenced the gun business at Windsor we
commenced building nice machinery, made many machines for
other gun makers. Made at Windsor for the English Govern-
ment most of their gun machines for the Enfield armory. We
ran a regular machine shop also. In Hartford we ran a
290 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
machine shop and Sharps Co. continued the work. In Hart-
ford made most of the machines used in the factory, and many-
others for the English and Spanish Governments, and other
Gun and Sewing Machine Makers. Started the manufactur-
ing of gun machinery in Hartford which brought Pratt and
Whitney into the business. I tried to have Sharps Co. enter
into the business more extensively as there were bright pros-
pects in the future, but they could not see it, and declined.
Sharps Co. commenced on a capital of $100,000, increased it to
$125,000. The stockholders were paid back their full subscrip-
tion of stock, about $200,000 in dividends. Sharps was paid
$1.00 on each gun made; Penfield was paid about $1.25 on
each gun or 10 per cent on all sales. The Company could not
agree on anything and sold out the whole plant for about
$225,000. It will be seen that the stockholders made a good
thing out of the enterprise. This was all accomplished by the
use and skill of my brain, as I had the full charge and con-
trol of the business. If the Company had taken my urgent
advice they might today be in the position and place of the
Pratt & Whitney Co. One of my misfortunes in business all
my life was being engaged with men not mechanics, therefore
not being able to comprehend the points coming up every day
in business. Sharps Co. had the chance of taking several
contracts which I worked up for them where the profits would
have been over half a million. They could not see it and
declined. When too late they saw their mistake.
I introduced the first edging machine ever in use, on the
Sharps gun in Windsor. The principle of this machine is now
in general use. Also introduced the first machine for pressing
on car wheels on a taper without splining or keying. This
was done at Windsor. This principle has since been used in
all Rail Road shops. Made a great mistake in not securing
patents on both of the above.
APPENDIX A 291
Introduced the principle of lubricating the buUet for breach
loading guns which was the. salvation of breach loading guns.
The guns were of no use before this. This was done in the
winter of 1850.i
Before 1855 all annealing and ease hardening was done with
Char coal which was very expensive. About this time in Hart-
ford I introduced the plan and furnaces for using hard coal
which proved a great success and is now used everywhere for
both case hardening and annealing. Many other improvements
on gun work and machinery which I have made might be men-
tioned, but the above is sufficient.
1 See Appendix B.
THE JENNINGS GUN
''Reminiscences of the first magazine rifle. Most important
discovery by R. S. Lawrence of this city (Hartford, Conn.). —
Original use of lubricating material in fire arms."
A few days ago Mr. A. E. Brooks of this city (Hartford,
Conn.) received a very curious and interesting magazine gun
from New York, bearing the name of Ex-Superintendent
R. S. Lawrence of the street department as the manufacturer.
Conceiving that there must be a good story connected with
the arm which was one of the first magazine guns ever made
in this country, a reporter of The Post sought out Mr. Law-
rence and learned the history of the gun. ''The rifle which
Mr. Brooks brought to my notice, with my name on it," said
Ex-Superintendent Lawrence, "is one of a lot of 5,000 manu-
factured at "Windsor, Vermont, by Robbins & Lawrence, for
Mr. Courtland C. Palmer of New York. This rifle was known
as the Jennings gun. A portion of the lot was then called
single loaders, and a portion repeating rifles, carrying twenty
charges. The charge of powder was contained in the ball, con-
sisting of twenty-two grains of powder only. With the repeat-
ing rifle I have often fired twenty shots within one minute,
but not with any accuracy, for the reason that all breech-
loading guns up to this time used what is called the naked
ball without any patch or lubricating material. The result in
firing the gun was that the ball leaded the barrel, by building
on, to such an extent that in firing twenty shots from a 50-100
calibre bore there would be a hole in the barrel less than
"In the winter of 1850, while the guns were being manu-
factured at Windsor, Kossuth arrived in this country, as was
APPENDIX B— THE JENNINGS GUN 293
supposed by many for the purpose of purchasing rifles. Mr.
Palmer was anxious to sell his rifles, and telegraphed on to
Windsor that Kossuth would purchase largely, if he could
be shown that the Jennings rifle could be fired with suflScient
accuracy to hit the size of a man ten times out of twenty-five
at the distance of 500 yards. I answered by saying that it
was impossible to do any such thing with the Jennings rifle.
Another message was sent to Windsor to come to New York
by the first train and bring the best gun and ammunition.
I complied with the request. Mr. C. P. Dixon, Mr. Palmer's
agent, had all things arranged for the trial at Astoria, L. I.
I did my best in trying to accomplish the desired effect asked
for, but not one of the twenty-five shots hit the target. Mr.
Dixon said that we must make another trial the next day. I
went to his hotel, more than ever disgusted with breech loading
rifles, as all efforts had failed to make any accurate shooting
with any naked balls. All gun men will understand this.
My business was manufacturing rifles for the Government and
for the Sharps Rifle Mfg. Co. Most of the night at the hotel
was spent in trying to devise some way to remedy the trouble
then existing with breech loading guns. At last the simple
remedy came, which has proven the salvation of all breech
"Early the next morning we started for the target field. I
did not tell Mr. Dixon at first of my discovery. I simply told
him that the trouble was all over with. If he would stop at
the Fulton Market and purchase a small piece of tallow the
rifle would do all that was required of it, but he had so little
confidence in the gun that he would not be prevailed upon to
purchase the tallow. I then thought that I would keep the
new discovery to myself for awhile, but changed my mind on
arriving on the target field, and tramped a mile on the ice to a
farmhouse, and purchased a small piece of tallow. With the
aid of a lathe in the cartridge shop on the ground, I turned
out a number of grooves on the balls and filled them with
tallow. I then went on to the stand and hit the target ten
times in twenty shots. By this time I had the sights regulated
294 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
and could hit the target about every shot, and finished after
many shots with a clean gun barrel. This was the first instance
of lubricating material being used in breech loading guns or
any other guns. I challenge any dispute on this subject. This
was the salvation of breech loading guns."
"At this time William E., a brother of Mr. Courtland C.
Palmer, was in Paris with the Jennings gun. All parties were
so interested with the success of the gun that Mr. Dixon, the
agent, had two boxes of ammunition made up and sent by the
next steamer to W. E. Palmer in Paris. In two weeks from
the time of the trial in New York, the invention was known in
Paris and applied to the French guns with the same success
as was met with in the Jennings rifle. The same principle is
used today in all breech loading guns. I came direct from New
York to Hartford, and informed the president of the Sharps
Rifle Mfg. Co. of my new discovery and tried to induce the
company to introduce the lubricating material in the Sharps
Rifle, as this rifle then used the naked ball and was subject to
the same very serious trouble as the Jennings. Mr. Sharps
was called on and the use of the lubricating explained, but
he ignored the whole matter, calling it a 'humbug.' I
returned to Vermont somewhat disgusted. In less than one
week the president of the Sharps Rifle Mfg. Co. wrote to
Windsor to stop all work until Mr. Sharps and himself arrived,
stating that Mr. Sharps had tried the lubricating material and
found that it was indispensable, and that no more guns must
go out before the change was made for lubrication. The Jen-
nings rifles, of which a few had been made for samples, were
in a crude state. Robbins & Lawrence made new models and
manufactured the 5,000 for Mr. Courtland C. Palmer. After
this Mr. Tyler Henry, an old and first-class workman of Robbins
& Lawrence, made in New Haven great improvements on the
Jennings rifle. After this it went into the hands of the Winches-
ter Arms Company of New Haven. They made great improve-
ments on the gun and called it the Winchester Repeating Rifle.
It is the outcrop of the old Jennings rifle. "^
iFrom the Hartford Evening Post, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1890,
A PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY ON TOOL BUILDING
Smiles: Industrial Biography. Boston, 1864.
Smiles: Men of Invention and Industry. N. Y., 1885.
Smiles: Boulton and Watt. London, 1904.
Smiles: The Stephensons. London, 1904.
Smiles: Smeaton and Rennie. London, 1904.
Beck: Beitrage zur Geschiehte des Masehinenbaues. Berlin,
Matschoss: Beitrage zur Geschiehte der Technik und Industrie.
Berlin, Bande I-V, 1909-1913.
Sargant: "Sir Samuel Bentham," in "Essays of a Birmingham
Manufacturer." London, 1869.
Bentham, Mary S. : Memoirs of Brigadier-General Sir Samuel
Bentham, in Papers and Practical Illustrations of Public
Works. London, 1856,
Beamish : Life of Sir Marc Isambard Brunei. London, 1862.
Nasmyth : Autobiography of James Nasmyth, Edited by Smiles.
Holtzapjfel: Turning and Mechanical Manipulation. London,
Buchanan: Millwork and other Machinery. London, 1841.
Perrigo: Modern American Lathe Practice. N. Y., 1907.
Perrigo: Change Gear Devices. N. Y., 1915.
Camus: Treatise on the Teeth of Wheels (English Translation).
Willis: Principles of Mechanism. London, 1841,
Fairbaim: Mills and Millwork. London, 1863.
296 ENGLISH AND AMERICAN TOOL BUILDERS
Pole : Life of Sir William Fairbairn. London, 1877.
Memoir of John George Bodmer, in Transactions of the Insti-
tution of Civil Engineers, Vol. XXVIII. London, 1869.
Farey : Treatise on the Steam Engine. London, 1827.
Price: Fire and Thief-proof Depositories, and Locks and Keys.
Baker: Elements of Mechanism. London, 1858.
Bishop : History of American Manufactures. 3 Vols. Phila-
Weeden: Economic and Social History of New England. 2
Vols. Boston, 1890.
Field : State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Goodrich: History of Pawtucket, R. I. Pawtucket, 1876.
Wilkinson: Memoir of the Wilkinson Family. Jacksonville,
Fitch: Report on Manufactures of Interchangeable Mechanism,
in U. S. Census, 1880. Volume on "Manufactures."
Durfee: "Development of the Art of Interchangeable Con-
struction in Mechanism," in Transactions of the American
Society of Mechanical Engineers, Vol. XIV, p. 1225.
Olmstead: Memoir of Eli Whitney. New Haven, 1846.
Woodworth : American Tool Making and Interchangeable Manu-
facturing. N. Y., 1911.
Blake: History of Hamden, Conn. New Haven, 1888.
Blake: New Haven Colony Historical Papers, Vol. V. New
North: Memoir of Simeon North. Concord, 1913.
Washburn: Manufacturing and Mechanical Industries of
Worcester. Philadelphia, 1889.
lies: Leading American Inventors. N. Y., 1912.
Parton: Captains of Industry. Boston, 1891.
Van Slyck: Representatives of New England. Boston, 1871,
Goddard: Eminent Engineers. N. Y., 1905.
Lathrop : The Brass Industry. . Shelton, Conn., 1909.
Anderson: The Town and City of Waterbury. 3 Vols. New
Evans: The Young Millwright and Miller's Guide. Philadel-
Freedley: Philadelphia and its Manufactures. Philadelphia,
Cist: Cincinnati in 1851. Cincinnati, 1851.
Cist: Cincinnati in 1859. Cincinnati, 1859.
Porter: Engineering Reminiscences. N. Y., 1908.
Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers. London.
Transactions of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Lon-
Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Journal of the Franklin Institute. Philadelphia.
Files of "American Machinist," New York.
Files of ' ' Machinery, ' ' New York.
Files of "Engineering Magazine," New York.
Files of " Gassier 's Magazine," New York.
Files of "Engineering News," London.
Files of "Engineering," London.
Much of the data in the latter portions of this book is derived
from private correspondence and personal interviews, and is,
therefore, not available for reference.
Acme Wire Co.: 160.
Allen, Ethan: 226.
Allen, Walter: 264.
Alvord, J. D.: 192, 197.
American Brass Co.: 236.
reasons for delayed development,
influence of the cotton gin, 114.
results of exportation to England,
early production, 115.
American Pin Co.: 234.
American Screw Co.: 125, 198, 226;
pointed screw, 126.
American Steel & Wire Co.: 225-
see Interchangeable manufacture.
American Tool Works: 269.
American Watch Co. :
interchangeable system, 144, 164.
American Wire Gauge: 205.
Ames Manufacturing Co.:
gun-making machinery, etc., 138,
Amoskeag Manufacturing Co. : 123,
124, 216-217, 253.
scythe mill, 117.
Angel, William G.: 126.
Ansonia Brass & Copper Co.: 234.
Ansonia Clock Co.: 234.
Arkwright, Sir Richard: 6, 64, 121,
Armstrong, Sir William: 105.
partner of Pitcher, 124.
Arnold, Jeremiah O. : 125.
brother of Jeremiah, 125.
Atwood, L. J.: 237.
calculating machine, 59.
Baldwin Locomotive Works, 256.
Bancroft & Sellers, 247.
Barber-Coleman Co. : 274.
Bardons & Oliver: 183, 265.
partner of Lodge, 269-270.
Barnes, B, F.: 274,
Barnes, W. F. & John, Co. : 273.
Barnes Drill Co.: 274.
Baush Machine Tool Co.:
drilling machines, 230.
Bayley, O. W.: 217.
Beach, H. L.: 165.
Beach, H. B., & Son: 165.
Beale, Oscar J.:
accurate standards, 205.
gun shop, 162.
Bellows, E. H. : 222.
Bement, Clarence S. : 255.
Bement, William B.: 217, 219, 249,
estimate of, 255;
Bement & Dougherty: 254.
Bement, Miles & Co. :
history of, 254-255.
brass worker, 232.
Benedict & Burnham: 234.
Benedict & Coe:
brass workers, 232.
Bentham Jeremy: 22, 25.
Bentham, Sir Samuel: 7, 22, 49, 89,
work on Portsmouth block machin-
ery, 8, 9, 18, 22, 26, 28;
in Kussia, 23, 24;
in British navy service, 24 ;
woodworking machinery, 24, 25;
planer, 51 ;
patent of 1793, 38;
slide-rest, 6, 38;
relations with Maudslay, 89.
Bessemer, Sir Henry: 96.
Besley, Charles H., & Co.: 275.
Bickford, Henry: 272.
Bidwell, Jason A.: 198, 266.
Bilgram Machine Works:
gear cutting, 259.
Billings, Charles E.: 170, 174-175,
Billings & Spencer Co.: 175-176.
Blake, Eli Whitney: 160.
Blake, Philos: 160.
Blaisdell, P., & Co.: 222,
Blanchard, Thomas: 220-221;
lathe for turning gun-stocks, G,
140, 142, 219, 220-221.
Block machinery: see PortsmoiUli
Bodmer, John George: 75-80;
estimate of, 79;
diametral pitch, 70 note 7;
interchangeable manufacture, 76,
fire-arms, 76 ;
two patents, 77-79;
traveling crane, 77, 80;
mill machinery, 76.
Bond, George M. :
Eogers-Bond Comparator, 180-
Smeaton's, 2, 13;
Wilkinson's, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 60;
in 18th century, 4.
Boston, Mass. :
heavy forge, 117.
Boston & Worcester R. E.: 220,
Boulton, Matthew: 145;
on Wilkinson's boring machine,
on Wilkinson, 145.
Boulton & Watt: 3, 11, 46, 55;
relations with Wilkinson, 12, 13,
Bow-string truss: 82,
Boye & Emmes Machine Tool Co.:
Bramah, Joseph: 7, 8, 15, 107;
estimate of, 19, 20;
invention of slide-rest, 6, 36;
hydraulic press, 18;
machine for numbering bank-
woodworking machinery, 18, 19,
other inventions, 18;
relations with Maudslay, 17, 19,
with Watt, 18;
with Clement, 19, 5S.
Bridgeport Brass Co.:
Bridgeport Machine Tool Co.: 184.
British Small Arms Commission :
138, 140, 141.
Brooker, Charles F.: 236,
Brown, David: 126, 202.
Brown, Capt. James S. : 124.
Brown, Joseph E.: 126, 202;
estimate of, 215;
"Universal" miller, 138 note 16,
linear dividing engines, 202, 204-
vernier caliper, 203;
formed milling cutter, 206, 207;
improvements on turret screw ma-
universal grinder, 214.
textile industry, 120, 121.
Brown, Sylvanus: 124.
inventor of slide-rest, 6;
slide lathe, 120.
Brown Hoisting Machine Co.: 258.
Brown & Elton:
wire and tubing, 233.
Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing
Co.: 125, Chapter XVI;
J. E. Browne & Sharpe, 202, 204 ;
"Universal" miller, 138 note 16,
linear dividing engines, 206;
precision gear cutter, 206;
turret screw machines, 207-208;
limit gauges, 210;
micrometer caliper, 211-213;
cylindrical grinder, 213;
automatic gear cutters, 214.
Brunei, Sir Isambard K. : 32.
Brunei, Sir Marc I.: 7, 26, 27, 31,
Portsmouth block machinery, 8,
9, 22, 26, 27, 28.
Bryant, William L. :
chucking grinder, 200.
English writer, 50.
Builders Iron Foundry or ' ' High
Street Furnace": 125.
Bullard, E. P.: 183-184.
vertical boring and turning mill,
Bullard Machine Tool Co.: 184.
Burke, "William A.: 253;
Amoskeag Manufacturing Co.,
Lowell Machine Shop, 217, 218.
rock drill, 228.
Burlingame, L. D. :
history of micrometer, 213.
Burton, James H. :
Enfield gun machinery, 140.
"Lord Chancellor," 45, 211;
vernier, 203 ;
micrometer, origin of, 211-213.
Campbell, A. C: 237.
"The Teeth of Wheels," 64-65,
Carmichaels, of Dundee:
engine makers, 86.
Carron Iron Works: 2, 85.
Change-gear box: 182.
Chase Boiling Mills Co.: 236.
"Chordal's Letters": 261.
tool building in, 266-267.
Cincinnati Bickford Tool Co.: 272.
Cincinnati Milling Machine Co.:
Cincinnati Planer Co.: 271-272.
Cincinnati Screw & Tap Co. : 272.
Clement, Joseph: 7, 8, 9, 57-58, 59,
screw-thread practice, 10, 19, 57,
gear practice, 68;
taps and dies, 10, 19, 58; lathes,
planers, 19, 50, 52, 54, 59 ;
relations with Bramah, 19, 58;
with Maudslay & Field, 19, 46,
Cleveland, Ohio: 183.
tool builders in, 261-266;
first multi -spindle automatic screw
Cleveland Twist Drill Co.: 266.
Clock industry in Connecticut: 171-
Coe, Israel: 236.
Coe, Lyman: 234, 236.
Coe Brass Co.: 234.
Coes "Wrench Co.: 226.
Colby, Gilbert A.: 254.
axe makers, 169.
Colt, Samuel: 166-168;
interchangeable system, 137, 168;
Colt revolver, 166, 167;
erection of Armory, 167, 168.
Colt Armory: 165, 166;
erection of, 167, 168;
a "contract shop," 178.
Conradson, Conrad N. :
turret machine, 276,
Cook, Asa: 174.
Coombs, S. C: 222.
Corliss Machine Works: 126.
growth of, 150-151.
invention of, 131, 148 et seq;
influence, 114, 131, 145, 149, 150-
patent rights of, 151-158.
Cowie, Pierson: 221-222.
Cramp Ship Building Co.: 257.
brass worker, 232.
Crompton, William: 114.
Cup-leather packing: 18.
Currier & Snyder: 222.
Cushman, A. F.: 173.
Darby, Abraham, 3d:
first iron bridge, 15.
graduating engine, 203, 204.
textile machinery, 246.
Davenport, William S.: 214.
da Vinci, Leonardo:
anticipation of modem tools, 6,
Davis, Charles: 269.
on Whitney's steel-barreled mus-
Davis & Egan: 269.
partner of Bodmer, 75.
De la Hire:
gear ceeth, 63, 64, 67.
DeLeeuw, A. L.: 273, 277.
Dennison, A. L. :
American Watch Co., 144.
de Vaucanson, Jacques:
milling cutter, 206.
Diametral pitch :
"Manchester pitch," 70 note 7;
Die forging: 137.
Dietz, Schumacher & Boye Co. : 268.
Dodge, Cyril: 126.
Dougherty, James: 254.
Draper Machine Tool Co. : 222.
Dresses, Henry: 271.
Dresses, Mueller & Co.: 271.
in 18th century, 4.
developed in America, 5, 143, 175.
Dwight, Dr. Timothy:
on Pawtucket^ 121,
Eagle Screw Co.: 126.
Earle & Williams: 219.
Eberhardt, Ulrich: 259.
Edgemoor Iron Co.: 249-250.
Egan, Thomas P.: 268, 269.
Eminent Men of Science Living in
engraving by Walker, 20.
Enfield Armory: 5, 96, 103;
Nasm3;i;li on reorganization of,
British Small Arms Commission,
Bobbins & Lawrence, 191-192.
Epicyclic curve: 63, 67, 68.
Essex Machine Shop: 219.
Evans, Oliver: 239-246;
conveyors for handling materials,
steam engine, 241-242, 245;
description of shop, 243;
prediction of railways, 245;
"Engineer's Guide," 242;
"Miller's Guide," 244.
Fairbairn, Sir Peter: 71, 74, 107.
Fairbairn, Sir William: 62, 107;
on machine tools, 10;
with George Rennie, 54, 71;
millwork, 71 ;
on "a good millwright," 72;
Fairbairn & Lillie, 72-73, 77;
treatise on * ' Mills and Millwork, ' '
iron ships, 73-74;
bridge building, 74.
Fairbairn & Co.: 268.
Fairfield, George A.: 170, 174, 176.
Fales & Jenks Machine Co. : 125.
Farrell Foundry & Machine Co.:
Fay, J. A., & Co.:
woodworking machinery, 229-230,
Fay, J. A., & Egan Co. : 230.
Fellows, E. R.: 199.
Fellows Gear Shaper Co.: 199.
Field, Joshua: 35, 89;
relations with Maudslay, 8, 35,
founder of Institution of Civil
first in America, 116.
horizontal turret, 197.
Fitchburg, Mass.: 219, 227-228.
Fitchburg Machine Works: 228;
Lo-swing lathe, 200.
Flagg, Samuel, & Co. : 221, 222.
Flather Manufacturing Co.: 228.
Murray's influence on, 57.
Foote-Burt Co.: 183;
drilling machines, 265.
Forehand & Wadsworth: 226.
Fosdick Machine Tool Co. : 271.
Fosdick & Plucker: 271.
Fox, James: 7, 50, 52, 53, 54.
Fox & Taylor: manufacturers of
Fox, Henderson & Co. : 192.
Francis, James B. :
hydraulic engineer, 218.
Franklin Machine Co. : 125.
Fulton, Robert: 150, 151, 161.
Gage, Warner & Whitney: 218, 228.
Gang, William E.: 268, 271.
Gang & Dietz: 271.
Gardner, Frederick M. :
disk grinding machines, 275.
Gardner Machine Co.: 276.
Garvin Machine Co.: 127.
principle of micrometer, 211.
Gay, Ira: 124, 216-217.
Gay, Zeba: 124, 217.
Gay & Silver Co.: 195, 197, 217;
Gearing and Millwork: Chapter VI,
Geier, Frederick A.: 272-273.
' ' Genealogies ' ' :
Early English Tool Builders, Fig.
New England Gun-makers, Fig.
Eobbins & Lawrence Shop, Fig.
Worcester Tool Builders, Fig. 45;
Naugatuck Brass Industry, Fig.
Giddings & Lewis Manufacturing
Gisholt Machine Works: 276.
Gleason Works: 183.
Globe Rolling Mill: 251.
Goddard, Benjamin: 225.
Gorham, Jabez: 127.
Gorham Manufacturing Co. :
Gould & Eberhardt: 259.
Grant, John J.: 214.
Gray, G. A., Co. : 273.
"Great Eastern," The: 32.
"Great Western," The: 32.
Great Western Railway:
cannon factory of, 118.
Greene, Mrs. Nathaniel:
friend to Eli Whitney, 147;
connection with cotton-gin, 148-
Greene, Timothy: 119, 121.
Greenwood, Miles: 267.
Gridley, George O. :
automatic lathes, 194, 200.
founder of brass industry, 232.
developed in America, 5;
Brown & Sharpe's, 213-214;
Hakewessel, Reinholdt: 183;
Acme automatic, 265.
Hamilton, Alexander :
entertains Brunei, 8, 27.
tool builders in, 273.
with Maudslay, 98.
Hanks, Alpheus and Truman:
Harper's Ferry Arsenal: 140, 143,
interchangeable equipment, 137;
Harrington & Richardson: 226.
Hartford, Conn.: 127;
manufactories of, 164, 165, 170;
gun makers of, 164, 166,
Hartford Machine Screw Co.: 170,
Hartness, James: 194, 197-198, 266;
designer of machine tools, 198;
flat -turret lathe, 198;
Lo-swing lathe, 200.
Haskell, Co., The William H. : 124.
Hawkins, John Isaac: 69;
on early gear tooth practice, 65-
Hayden, Hiram W.: 234, 236.
Hendey Machine Co.:
tool-room lathe, 182.
Henn, E. C:
Acme automatic, 265.
Herman, William: 271.
Hick, B., & Son: 75.
High Street Furnace: 125.
Hildreth, S. E.: 222.
Hobbs, Alfred C:
picks Bramah's lock, 16.
Holmes, Tlodgin :
cotton gin, 152, 154, 156, 157.
Holmes, Israel: 232, 233, 234, 236.
pioneer iron worker, 117.
Holmes & Hotehkiss: 233.
Holmes, Booth & Haydens: 234, 237.
milling machine, 272.
Holtzapffel, Charles: 74, 99;
on Eoberts, 60-61 ;
plane surfaces, 100.
partner of Pitcher, 124.
sewing machine, 144.
Howe, Frederick W.: 195, 196, 209,
milling machines, 138, 196, 208,
profiling machine, 143, 191;
turret-head screw machine, 195-
turret lathe, 197, 199.
Howe, Hezekiah: 119.
suggests invention of large ham-
invented by Bramah, 18, 34.
new elements in 18th century, 1.
Ingersoll Milling Machine Co.: 274.
Institution of Civil Engineers:
founding of, 90.
Interchangeable manufacture :
rise of. Chapter XI;
developed in America, 5, 129;
abroad, 138, 140;
in France, 129-131;
in Hartford, 164;
tools for, 142-143.
clock, watch and sewing machine
Colt, 137, 168;
Enfield, 138, 141;
Simeon North, 131, 133, 135-136,
Bobbins & Lawrence, 191 ;
Eli Whitney, 131-133, 136.
International Machine Tool Co.:
Involute gears: 63, 64, 67, 68, 207.
Iron bridge, the first: 15.
Wilkinson builds the first, 14;
Symington, 14, 82;
Onions & Sons, 14;
at Horsley Works, 14;
"Great Eastern" and "Great
Jefferson, Thomas : on interchange-
able system in France, 129-131;
on Whitney, 135.
textile machinery, 123, 246-247.
cotton machinery, 124-125.
Jenks, Barton H. : 247.
spinning machinery, 123.
Jenks, Joseph: 115-116, 125.
Jenks, Joseph, Jr.:
founder of Pawtucket, 118.
Jenks, Joseph, 3d :
governor of Ehode Island Colony,
Jenks, Capt. Stephen:
nuts and screws, 124;
Jenks & Sons, 125.
Jennings gun :
origin of, 292-294,
brass clocks, 144, 171-172, 233.
iron boat, 14,
Jewelry industry in Providence:
Johnson, Charles: 237.
Johnson, Tver: 226,
decision, Whitney vs. Fort, 155-
Jones & Lamson Machine Co.: 191,
193, 194, 197;
flat-turret lathe, 198-199;
Fay automatic lathe, 200,
Kearney & Treeker: 276.
Kempsmith, Frank: 264-265, 271.
Kempsmith Manufacturing Co. : 271,
Kendall, N., & Co. : 186, 189,
Lamson, Goodnow & Yale: 192, 193,
Lamson Machine Co.: 198,
Landis Tool Co.: 259-260,
Lane & Bodley: 267,
Lapointe, J. N, :
broaching machine, 183,
pole, 3, 41;
in 18th century, 3, 4;
automatic, 5, 176;
French rose engine, 6;
screw-cutting, 19, 35, 40, 119-
Bramah and Maudslay, 17;
Maudslay, 40-42, 46;
Blanchard, 140, 142-143;
Spencer's turret lathe, 176;
Fay automatic, 200;
Lathe, Morse & Co.: 222.
Lawrence, Richard S,: 188-189, 195;
profiling machine, 143;
master armorer, Sharps Works,
lubricated bullet, 194;
miller, 191, 194;
split pulley, 194;
turret lathe, 197;
Lawrence, Mass,: 127,
Lawrence Machine Shop: 219.
Lead screw: 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41,
interchangeable gun manufacture
in France, 130,
Le Blond, R, K.: 271,
Lee-Metford rifle: 105.
Leland, Henry M.: 214;
on J, R, Brown, 215,
Libbey, C. L. :
turret lathes, 275.
developed in America, 5,
Lincoln, Levi: 165, 171,
Lincoln Co., The: 165.
Lincoln, Charles L., & Co.: 165.
Lincoln, George S,, & Co.: 137, 165.
Lincoln miller: 137, 165-166, 208.
Linear dividing engines: 206,
Lingren, W. F., <fc Co.: 274.
early inventions, 56;
Sharp, Roberts & Co., 61-62;
Lodge, William E.: 268-271.
Lodge & Davis:
policy of, 270-271.
Lodge & Shipley Machine Tool Co.:
Lowell, Mass.: 127;
machine shops of, 218.
Lowell Machine Shop: 217, 218, 253.
Lucas Machine Tool Co.; 265.
McFarlan, Thomas: 268,
on Eli Whitney, 161.
effect of modern, 1;
crudity in 18th century, 3, 4;
developments of, 4, 5, 63, 107;
Fairbairn on, 10;
Bramah and Maudslay, 34;
Greek or Gothic style, 63 ;
developed by cotton industry, 120.
Machine Tool Works: 255.
Machinist Tool Co.: 222.
Madison, Wis.: 276.
Manchester, N. H.: 123, 127;
founding of, 217.
Manchester Locomotive Works: 217.
Manchester pitch : 70 note 7, 80.
Manville, E. J.: 237.
Map of tool building industry: Fig.
Marshall, Elijah D.: 254.
Marvel, C. M., & Co.: 219.
Mason, William: 170, 173-174.
Massachusetts Arms Co.: 162.
Maudslay, Henry: 7, 8, Chapter IV;
estimates of, 9, 43, 44, 45, 48, 49,
taps and dies, 10, 42, 88;
Portsmouth block machinery, 8,
screw thread practice, 10, 40, 42,
cup-leather packing, 18, 34;
the slide-rest, 6, 35, 36, 38, 40,
43, 49, 143;
screw-cutting lathe, 35, 40, 41,
42, 50, 120;
engine improvements, 43;
work on plane surfaces, 44, 45,
Maudslay & Field: 8, 19, 35, 58, 98;
influence on English tool builders,
Moon's description of shop, 46-
Maynard Eifle Co.: 161.
Mechanics Machine Co.: 274.
Merrick, S. V.:
introduces steam hammer into
United States, 96, 257.
textile works, 124, 127;
shops of, 216-219.
Michigan Twist Drill & Machine
Midvale Steel Co.: 250.
Miles, Frederick B. :
steam hammer, 255.
Mill, Anton: 272.
Miller, Patrick: 82.
partner of Eli Whitney, 148-149,
Miller & Whitney: 149, 152.
Miller, universal: origin of, 5, 138
note 16, 208-209.
Milling cutter, formed: 206-207, 208.
first in Hartford, 170, 194;
Lincoln, 137, 165-166, 208.
Millwork: Chapter VI;
Nasmyth on, 71.
tool builders in, 2'^6-277.
Milwaukee Machine Tool Co.: 277.
Moen, Philip L.: 225.
Montanus. Philip. 271.
expert in cotton machinery, 218.
Moore & Colby: 252.
Morris, I. P., & Co.: 257, 258.
Mueller, Oscar: 271.
D-slide valves, 51.
Murray, Matthew: 7, 54-57, 107;
planer, 50, 51, 55, 57;
D-slide valve, 55 ;
steam heating, 56;
influence on flax industry, 56.
Nashua Manufacturing Co.: 124.
Nasmyth, Alexander: 81, 82, 83.
Nasmyth, James: 7, 8, Chapter
with Maudslay, 46, 48, 87, 88 ;
mill work, 71, 88;
steam road carriage, 86;
milling machine, 89;
method of invention, 92;
steam hammer and other inven-
study of the moon, 97;
on interchangeable system of
Nasmj-th & Gaskell: 92.
National Acme Manufacturing Co.:
multi-spindle automatic lathe, 183,
Naugatuck Valley: Chapter XVIII;
brass industry in, 231-238;
pin machinery, 233.
New Britain, Conn.: hardware
manufacture in, 171.
Franklin Machine Co.: 125.
New England industries:
early development of, 109-110;
iron, 116, 117, 118.
New England Screw Co.: 126.
Newton & Cox: 266.
Newton Machine Tool Works: 266.
New York: early steamboat trade,
Niles, James and Jonathan: 251.
NUes & Co.: 267, 273.
Niles-Bement-Pond Co.: 179, 222,
255, 259, 273.
Niles Tool Works: 267, 273.
Norris, Henry M.: 272.
North Chelmsford Machine & Sup-
ply Co.: 124.
North, Henry: 165.
North, Selah: filing jig, 142.
North, Simeon: 161-163;
gun contracts, 131, 133, 134, 135,
137, 162, 163;
interchangeable system, 133-134,
136, 142, 145, 162.
Norton, Charles H. : precision grind-
ing, 214, 224, 225.
Norton, F. B.: 224, 225.
Norton Company, The: 224, 225.
Norton Emery Wheel Co.: 224.
Norton Grinding Co.: 224, 225.
Norwalk Iron Works Co.: 184.
Oesterlien Machine Co.: 268.
Ohio Machine Tool Co.: 269.
Orr, Hugh: early mechanic, 116-117.
Orr, Eobert: master armorer at
Otting & Lauder: 268.
Owen, William: 271.
Palmer, Courtland C: 190.
Palmer, Jean Laurent:
screw caliper, 212, 213.
Palmer & C.apron: 127.
Parallel motion : 3 note 6.
Parkhurst, E. G.: 182.
Parks, Edward H. : automatic gear
Pawtucket, R. I.:
manufacturing center, 118, 127.
Dr. Dwight on, 121;
manufactures of, 118-125.
Peck: lifter for drop hammer, 143.
Pedrick & Ayer: planer, 53.
Phelps & Bickford: 222.
Phoenix Iron Works: 165.
Philadelphia, Pa.: tool builders in,
early textile machinery, 246.
Pin machinery: 233.
Amoskeag Manufacturing Co. :
Pitcher & Brown, 124.
Pitkin, Henry and James F. :
American lever watches, 164.
Pitkin, Col. Joseph: pioneer iron
in 18th century, 4;
developed in England, 4;
Clement, 19, 52;
inventors of the. Chapter V;
early French, 50;
Bodmer, 75, 76;
Plane surfaces, scraping of:
Maudslay, 44, 45; Whitworth, 44,
Plume & Atwood: 234.
Plumier: French writer, 50.
Pond Machine Tool Co. : 222, 259.
Pope Manufacturing Co.: 170.
Portsmouth block machinery:
influence on general manufactur-
work of Bentham and Brunei, 8,
9, 22, 26, 27, 28;
Maudslay 's contribution to, 29,
description of, 29, 30, 31 ;
Maudslay and Bentham, 89;
approaches interchangeable sys-
Potter & Johnson: 183.
Pratt, Francis A.: 137, 170, 177;
Lincoln miller, 165, 191.
Pratt & Whitney: 137, 178-183;
Interchangeable system, 179;
gun machinery and manufacture,
screw threads, 180-182;
tool-room lathe, 182;
workmen, 183 ;
turret screw machines, 207.
Precision gear cutter: 206.
Prentice, A. F. : 224.
Prentiss, F. F.: 266.
Priority in invention : 5.
Pritchard, Benjamin: 216.
Profiling machine: inventors of, 143.
Providence, R. I.:
early cannon manufacture, 117;
trading center, 118;
textile industry, 123;
manufactures in, 118-126; jewelry
industry of, 126-127. '
Providence Forge & Nut Co.: 125.
Providence Tool Co.: 125;
turret screw machine built for,
universal miller built for, 209.
Providence & Worcester Canal: 219-
Punching machine, Maudslay 's : 43.
Putnam, John: 227-228.
Putnam, Salmon W. : 227-228.
Putnam Machine Co. Works: 200,
Ramsden, Jesse: lathe, 38,
Randolph & Clowes: 236.
Reed, F. E. : 224.
Reed & Prentice Co.: 222.
Remington Arms Co.: 161.
Remington, E,, & Sons: 175.
Rennie, George: 54;
planer, 50, 51.
Rennie, Sir John: 54.
Rennie, John: millwright, 54.
Rhode Island Tool Co. : 125.
Richards, Charles B,: 173.
Richards, John: on Bodmer, 79.
Robbins & Lawrence: Chapter XV;
interchangeable system, 138;
turret lathe, 143, 197;
miller, 165, 191;
government contracts, 190;
Enfield rifle and gun machinery,
cause of failure, 192;
successive owners of plant, 192-
Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence: 189-
Roberts, Richard: 7, 9, 59-60, 62,
with Maudslay, 46, 60;
planer, 50, 51, 60;
Sharp, Roberts & Co.: 61, 62.
Robinson, Anthony: screw thread,
Rockford, 111.: tool buUders in, 274-
Rockford Drilling Machine Co.: 274.
Rockford Iron Works: 274.
Rockford Lathe & Tool Co.: 274.
Rockford Machine Tool Co. : 274.
Rockford Milling Machine Co.: 274.
Roemer: epicyclic curve, 63.
Rogers, William A. :
Rogers-Bond comparator, 180-182.
Root, Elisha K. : 168-169, 170.
influence on die forging, 137;
profiling machine, 143;
drop hammer, 143, 169;
Colt Armory, 169;
machinery invented by, 169;
horizontal turret principle, 197.
Roper Repeating Arms Co.: 175.
St. Joseph Iron Co.: 253.
Savage Fire Arms Co.: 161.
Saxton: gear teeth, 66-67.
Schneider, M., and Nasmyth's steam
Scituate, R. I.: Hope Furnace, 117.
Scovill Manufacturing Co.: 232.
Screw machines, multi-sptndle auto-
matic : 265.
Maudslay and Clement, 10, 19, 42,
Whitworth standardizes, 10, 101;
early methods of screw cutting,
Pratt & Whitney, 180-182;
history of Sellers' or U. S. Stand-
Sellers, Dr. Coleman: 251-252.
design of railway tools, 251;
screw thread, U. S. Standard, 249.
Sellers, WUliam: 247-251, 255;
system of screw threads, 248-249;
bridge building . machinery, 250 ;
great lathe, Washington Navy
Sellers, William, & Co.: 251, 252.
Sentinel Gas Appliance Co. : 160.
Shapers: developed in England, 4;
Nasmyth's "Steel Arm," 92.
Sharp, Roberts & Co. : 61, 62.
Sharpe, Lucian: 202;
American wire gauge, 205.
Sharps, Christian: breech loading
rifle, 170, 192.
Sharps Rifle Works: 192, 194, 195.
Shaw, A. J.: 214.
Shepard, Lathe & Co. : 222.
Shipley, Murray: 270.
Slater, Samuel: 114, 119, 121;
Arkwright cotton machinery, 120,
textile industry, 122;
Amoskeag Co., 216-217.
in 18th century, 4;
inventors of, 6;
early forms of, 6, 36;
Bramah and Maudslay, 17;
Maudslay, 35, 36, 38, 40, 43, 49.
Sloan, Thomas J.: screw machine,
Slocomb, J. T.: 214.
Smeaton, John: 2, 3;
boring machine, 2, 13;
cast iron gears, 64.
Smith, George: 214.
Smith & Mills: 270.
Smith & Phelps : 234.
Smith & Silk: 271.
Smith & Wesson: 138.
Snyder, J. E., & Son: 22.
Southwark Foundry & Machine Co.:
Spencer, Christopher M.: 170, 175-
turret lathe, 143, 176;
board drop, 143;
silk -winding machine, 175;
repeating rifle, 175.
Spencer Arms Co.: 177.
Spring: planer, 50, 53.
Springfield, Mass.: 230.
Springfield Armory: 103, 136, 138,
Blanchard's lathes, 142-143.
Springfield Machine Tool Co.: 271.
Standard Tool Co.: 266.
Stannard, Monroe: with Pratt &
Steam boats: early, 82;
Steam engine. Watt's:
new element in industry, 1 ;
problems in building, 1-3;
first built at Soho, 12;
Maudslay 's improvements, 43.
Steam hammer: 4;
Nasmyth's invention of, 93-96.
Steam heating apparatus: Murray,
Steinle Turret Machine Co. : 277.
Stephenson, George: 6, 32, 56, 150.
Steptoe, John: 267-268.
Steptoe Co., The John: shapers and
milling machines, 268.
Stone, Henry D.: 192, 193, 196;
turret lathe, 143, 197.
Swasey, Ambrose: 183, 262, 263;
dividing engine, 264.
Syme, Johnie: Nasmyth on, 84.
Symington, William: iron boat, 14,
Taps and dies: developed in Eng-
Maudslay 's, 10, 42;
Taylor, Frederick W. : high-speed
tool steels, 250, 277.
Taylor & Fenn Co. : 165.
Terry, Eli: clocks, 144, 171, 172.
Textile industries: Arkwright and
Strutt, 53 ;
influence of Whitney's cotton gin,
in New England, 114, 120, 123,
Slater's influence on, 122.
Eobert 's spinning mule, etc., 61 ;
in New England, 114, 120-121;
Alfred Jenks, 123.
Thomas, Seth: clocks, 144.
Thomaston, Conn, : dock manufac-
Thurber, Isaac: Franklin Machine
Thurston, Horace: 214.
general estimate of early, 107;
in Central New England, Chapter
Western, Chapter XX.
Tool building centers: 127;
map of, Fig. 56.
Torry, Archie: Nasmyth's foreman,
Towne, Henry R. : 257, 258.
Towne, John Henry: 256-257, 258;
screw thread, U. S. Standard, 249.
Traveling crane, first: 77, 80.
Trevithick: steam road engine, 56.
Turret lathes: 140;
early producers of, 143;
Howe and Lawrence, 197;
Hartness' flat-turret, 198;
Warner & Swasey, 262.
Turret screw machine, improvements
Union Steel Screw Works: 198, 265,
Universal Kadial Drill Co.: 273.
Wadsworth, Capt. Deeius:
on Whitney's interchangeable sj's-
Waldo, Daniel: Hope Furnace, 117.
Wallace, William: 237.
Wallace & Sons: 234.
Waltham Watch Works, see Ameri-
can Watch Co.
Warner, Worcester R.: 183, 262,
Warner & Swasey Co.: 261-265;
building of astronomical instru-
Washburn, Ichabod: American Steel
& Wire Co., 225, 226.
Washburn & Moen Co.: 225.
Waterbury Brass Co. : 234, 237.
Waterbury Button Co.: 234,
Waterbury Clock & Watch Co. : 234.
Waters, Asa: 226.
Waston, William: Nasmyth on, 84.
Watt, James: 3, 6, 82, 83, 150, 161;
invention of steam engine, 1, 2,
parallel motion, 3 note 6;
dependence on Wilkinson's boring
opposed by Bramah, 18.
Weed Sewing Machine Co.: 170,
Weeden, W. N.: 237.
Wheeler, William A.: 221.
Wheeler & Wilson: 192.
Whipple, Cuilen: 126.
Whitcomb, Carter, Co.: 222.
Whitcomb-Blaisdell Machine Tool
White, Zebulon: J. S. White & Co.,
White Sewing Machine Co.: 193,
Whitman-Barnes Co.: 266.
Whitney, Amos: 137, 170, 177, 219.
Whitney, Baxter D.: 177, 230.
Whitney, Eli: 6, 146-147, 161, 177;
interchangeable system, 76, 132-
133, 134-135, 136, 145, 146, 158-
cotton gin, 114, 131, 145, 148-158;
U. S. contract of 1798, 131-132,
Whitneyville plant, 132, 162, 158,
method of manufacture, 158-159;
milling machine, 142;
Miller & Whitney, 149.
Whitney, Eli, Jr.: contract for
"Harper's Ferry" rifle, 160;
steel-barreled muskets, 160, 162.
Whitney Arms Co.: 160-161;
first Colt revolvers made by, 167.
Whitworth, Joseph: 7, 8, 9, 93;
screw-thread practice, 10, 59, 101,
102 note 4;
manufacture of plane surfaces, 44,
with Maudslay, 46, 98;
shaper and improvements in ma-
chine tools, 99;
improved methods of measure-
ment, 101 ;
ordnance and armor, 104-105;
on American automatic machin-
William Armstrong, 105.
Wilcox & Gibbs Sewing Machines:
208, 210, 213.
Wilkinson, Abraham: 119.
Wilkinson, Daniel: 119, 122.
Wilkinson, David: 123, 124, 125;
patent on slide-rest, 6;
slide lathe, 119-120;
textile machinery, 122;
nail manufacture, 122.
Wilkinson, Isaac: 119, 125.
Wilkinson, John: 2, 8, 11, 15;
boring machine, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13,
first iron boat, 14;
first iron bridge, 15;
relations with Boulton & Watt,
Wilkinson, Ozealt 118-119, 121, 122.
Wilkinson, William: 119, 121.
Willimantic Linen Co.: 175, 178.
Willis, Eobert: 69 note 5;
gear teeth, 63, 64, 69-70.
Wilmot, S. E. : micrometer, 212.
Winchendon, Mass. : woodworking
Winchester Eepeating Arms Co.:
Windsor, Vt: 127, 186.
Windsor Machine Co. : Gridley au-
tomatic lathes, 194, 200.
Windsor Manufacturing Co.: 193.
Wolcott, Oliver: 132.
Wolcottville Brass Co. : 233-234.
Wood, Light & Co. : 222.
Woodruff & Beach: 165.
Woodward & Powell Planer Co.:
Woodworking machinery : Bramah,
18, 19, 24;
Bentham, 24, 25;
in Massachusetts, 229.
Worcester, Mass. : 127;
tool builders in, 219-226; early
textile shops of, 220;
gun makers in, 226.
Worm-geared tilting pouring-ladle,
Worsley, S. L. : automatic screw ma-
Wright, Sylvester: 200, 228.
Yale & Towne Manufacturing Co.:
\A/ELLS BINDERY INC.
Roe» Joseph Wlckham» 1871—
English and American tool buil-derst
by Joseph Wickham Roe* New York*
London T McGraw-Hill, 1926.
xvy 315 o« illus«f 24 cm*
30 JUL SO
TJ 1185.R6 1926
3 9358 00012841