Theme: before specialized
knowledge developed, new technology came from local ingenuity
The first transition was
local ingenuity to craftspeople with specialized knowledge
apprenticeship, not from schooling)
- In 1790 the U.S.
nation with little transportation beyond the coast (in
1775 it took a
to travel by land from Boston to New York).
4% urban (201,655). Experiments with industry and the
building of a
system were about to begin, but most technology was
produced by local
(mechanics, not engineers) who had very little specialized
experience and ingenuity.
- In 1830 the U.S.
of a transportation network (1277 miles of canals and 73
and significant small-scale industry (particularly
textiles and machine
shops), larger-scale industry and the railroad network
were about to
Population 12,866,020, 9% urban (1,127,247).
a profession and engineers had substantial specialized
learned that by apprenticeship, not by going to school.
- In 1870 the U.S.
railroad network (50,000 miles--including the first
completed in 1869) and large-scale industry in textiles
production of complex metal machines (watches, sewing
agricultural machinery) was about to develop, along with
industry. Population 39,818,449, 25% urban
schools are being founded in large numbers as education
- In 1910.
46% urban (41,998,932). New fields of science-based
becoming increasingly important, and more and more
engineers work for
new big businesses.
- In 1950.
59% urban (88,927,464).
Can you think of any
inventor/engineers before the civil war?
Eli Whitney (for
information see Discover
Whitney or an 1832 Memoir
- Born in Westborough
inland from Boston--in 1765.
- a farming family,
had a workshop where Whitney made various items for
sale. When he
was 16 he installed a forge in his father's workshop to
make and sell
when British-made nails became unavailable during the
Then when competition returned he went on to other
hat pins and walking sticks.
- attended Yale,
mathematics as well as Latin and Greek and thought about a
career as a
- Accepted a job in
but stopped with friends who had a
plantation near Savannah where they were
experimenting with growing
- He learned that the
problem of removing
seeds from upland cotton was limiting the development of
and decided he could solve the problem. In 6 months
he had a
cotton gin. (For more on the history and mechanics of
cotton gins see Cotton
- In 1794 Whitney got
patent, but his business failed
- his idea was clever
was simple--anyone equipped with simple blacksmith's and
could build their own once they saw the principle.
He could sue
for patent infringement but no one cooperated and
it was too expensive to undertake so many
lawsuits (and they were sometimes
unsuccessful). The cotton gin revolutionized the
south but didn't make its inventor rich.
U.S. Musket Model 1798
III Contract Flintlock .69, Springfield Armory
Whitney turned to
- Got a contract with
government in June 1798 to make 10,000 muskets in just
over two years
a price of $13.40 each.
- He had nothing to
first deadline came, for 4,000 muskets by Sept. 30,
cancellation of the contract he claimed to be inventing a
he said he would "form the tools so the tools themselves
- In Jan. 1801 he was
near done a contract that was supposed to be completed in
he provided a (fake) demonstration of his new idea--he
10 lock mechanisms and showed that they could be
was replacing one whole mechanism with the other, not
- Jefferson and the
and agreed to renegotiate Whitney's contract from $10,000
from just over 2 years to 5 years.
his goals of
of the gun-making process or of making guns with interchangeable
parts (Robert S.
of Eli Whitney and Interchangeable Parts," Technology
Culture Vol. 1, No. 3 (Summer, 1960), pp. 235-253).
Whitney gets made
a very complex story
- His key technique was
which did allow the use of less-skilled labor and eventually
made him a
- But the idea he had
the dream of the Army and the more innovative gun-makers who
and was finally achieved in the 1840s.
- Whitney had finally
financial rewards from his cotton gin invention and had
well. He got some more contracts for musket
fights with the government during the War of 1812 he became
a respected manufacturer
and engineer. He dabbled in other machinery and made
significant improvements in milling machines, but illness
activities after 1822 and he died in 1825.
is an example
the transition between local
engineers. The local carpenter could
build a bridge, but you need specialized
to lay out a canal or manufacture guns.
Quote of the Day: "Only an
how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor. "
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims--Quotation
this page written and copyrighted by Pamela
last updated 8/29/2005