Sunday, October 24, 2010

Invention and Factories in the Early Republic

Someone, somewhere, must have put together an hour documentary about invention in the early Republic, or at least about factories and machinery transform American society.  Major American inventions of this period 1800-1846:

vertical mill (or at least its immediate ancestor)
the typewriter
the McCormick reaper
the revolver
the telegraph
Morse code
platform scales
the grain elevator
the sewing machine

Each of these is a major step in technological development--and I am sure that I could find far more with just a little bit of research. 

There must be a documentary showing how mills and factories of the period use first water power, than steam power, to create the modern production system.  But I have not a clue where they are.


  1. In 1795, a Philadelphia doctor did the first (known) human blood transfusion.

  2. Alas, not a documentary, but I can recommend "Nuts and Bolts of the Past" by David Freeman Hawke. This work focuses more on the people than on the machines, but it contains an excellent bibliography. Plus its dirt cheap used on Amazon.

  3. There used to be a great TV series called "Connections" although I'm not sure it would meet your need, Clayton.

  4. I would second Robin's recommendation about Connections. Great series and great book. Available on Youtube search for James Burke Channel.

    Some other books that might be of interest. Any of Henry Ford's 3 books:

    My Life and Work is probably the best for what you want but "Today and Tomorrow" as well as "Moving Forward" are excellent as well. "My Life and Work" Is the foundation on which Toyota Motors was built and still runs today. It has been out of print in English until a few years ago when I brought out a new edition. It has never been out of print in Japanese.

    I have Ford's chapter on the importance of measurement, by Johannsen, on my website at

    Other industrial history books that may interest you are "The Tool Builders" about the various manufacturers of machine tools in the US from 1790 to 1916 (When the book was originally published.

    Also see "From the American System to Mass Production" by James Hounshell. Excellent book with chapters on how we flowed from gun manufacture with Whitney, Sewing machines, bicycles to cars with a few other stops in between. Fascinating book.

    Also, you might be interested in "Shop Management" and "Scientific Management" by Frederick Taylor. Both are available at Gutenberg formatted for Kindle. After 30 years of studying and teaching about Scientific management, I finally got to actually read Taylor when I recently got a Kindle.

    I can give some other suggestions as well, if you like. Contact me at

    John Henry