Interchangeable Parts

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In the late 1700s, in addition to inventing the cotton gin, Eli Whitney also came up with the idea for interchangeable parts. This was the manufacturing of machinery pieces that could be quickly accumulated to generate a piece of equipment, such as a gun. Before Whitney, each gun had to be handcrafted, and each one was different; one of its kind. This meant that it took a long time for them to be made or repaired. When Congress voted for a war with France in 1797, Whitney saw an opportunity to market his idea because he knew a lot of guns would be needed to fight the war. Whitney obtained a federal grant from the government in 1798 to build 10,000 muskets for the army in 2 years, which was a ridiculous proposal for the time period.   He applied the idea of interchangeable parts to the production of firearms and created a machine that could make exact copies of individual components of guns. These could then be assembled faster and more efficiently, thus saving the government time and money. News of the newly invented machine by Eli Whitney spread across the country and by the war with France, the leading firearms manufactures in America were using the system to produce weapons at an alarming rate. By the 1950s, firearms manufactures around the globe had approved interchangeable parts thanks to Eli Whitney. Whitney proved to be an effective businessman and manager building equipment that enabled the production of large numbers of identical parts quickly and at a low cost. The 10,000 muskets that Whitney had promised in his original contract came in eight years late, but were of superior quality, and he produced 15,000 more the next four years. By the time the War of 1812 broke out between the United States and Great Britain, leading weapons producers like Colt and Smith & Wesson had made the doctrine of interchangeable parts established practice in the American gun industry. The U.S. introduced the first large-scale assembly of weapons with its approval of...
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