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Henry Clay's American System of Manufacturing

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Kevin Lee

on 13 December 2013

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Transcript of Henry Clay's American System of Manufacturing

History
In the late 18th century, French General Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval suggested that muskets could be manufactured faster and more economically if they were made from interchangeable parts. This was first achieved in 1803 by Marc Isambard Brunel in cooperation with Henry Maudslay, and Simon Goodrich, under the management of Brigadier-General Sir Samuel Bentham, the Inspector General of Naval Works at Portsmouth Block Mills at Portsmouth Dockyard, for the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic War
How the idea got to the United States
This method of working did not catch on in general manufacturing in Britain for many decades, and when it did it was imported from America, and became known as the American System of Manufacturing, even though it originated in England. Gribeauval's idea was conveyed to the US by two routes. First, Thomas Jefferson sent copies of Blanc's memoirs and papers describing his work to Secretary of War Henry Knox. Second, artillery officer Louis de Tousard who served with Lafayette was an enthusiast of Gribeauval's ideas. Tousard wrote two influential documents after the American Revolution; one was used as the blueprint for West Point, and the other became the officer's training manual.
Success
The War Department, which included officers trained at West Point on Tousard's manual, established the armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry and tasked them with solving the problem of interchangeability. The task was finally accomplished in the 1820s.
Impact
A critical factor in making interchangeable metal parts was the invention of several machine tools, such as the slide rest lathe, screw cutting lathe, turret lathe, milling machine and metal planer.
Henry Clay's American System of Manufacturing
and more
The idea would also help lead to the American "Golden Age" of manufacturing when Henry Ford mass-produced the automobile. Mastering true interchangeability on the assembly line, the Ford plant produced standard model cars. These efficient production strategies allowed these automobiles to be affordable for the middle class.
Kevin Lee
Full transcript