Until 1801 the manufacture of mechanisms was carried out by skilled artisans who would make each single part by hand. This had the consequence that even where the design was essentially the same, no single piece could be substituted for another, at least not without skilled adaptation. This constraints was experienced particularly in the manufacture of muskets in 1797 when the United States government feared war with France and realised that the necessary supply of muskets far exceeded the number of artisanal hours available to make them. Eli Whitney, fresh from his success with the cotton gin (1794) set to work to devise a manufacturing process which would use machine tools to make identical component parts. In 1801 he presented …
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Editors. "Eli Whitney demonstrates the merits of the mass production of interchangeable parts". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 June 2005
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1581, accessed 28 June 2017.]