|Agriculture was the first commodity to be mass produced.|
The first examples of Mass Production took place when humans began cultivating the land for the production of agricultural crops. Fields of grains, pens full of livestock, along with the gathering of wild nuts, berries, and fruit. As populations increased so did the need for large quantities of food. Next to come along was Mass Production with interchangeable parts, that's the distinction I am making in this article. When did Mass Production utilizing parts that were able to be mixed and matched between assemblies put into practice? In this article, I answer that question.
The year was 1793, Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. He was born and raised on a farm in Westboro, Massachusetts, December 8, 1765. He attended Yale University prior to continuing on to invent the Cotton Gin and pioneer "interchangeable parts". The Cotton Gin revolutionized the process of cleaning the cotton, it was able to clean 5 pounds of Cotton a day. It doesn't sound like much to us in modern times, but in the South, it was an incredibly important invention. One man (a slave) on a Cotton Plantation was able to clean one pound a day. A Cotton Gin was able to produce 24 hours a day which enabled Cotton to become an exportable profitable commodity. The Cotton Gin was copied by many farmers causing Mr. Whitney to spend countless days in court defending his invention. It was obvious to him he was fighting a losing battle at which time he decided to license gins at prices farmers were able to afford. I mention this because it was the inspiration for his next major project, interchangeable parts.
Mr. Whitney needed an income, after all, legal battles were expensive during that early period of the United States, as they are now. In the year 1798, the United States was facing the potential of a war with France, a formidable challenge for the young nation. The Fledgling Government turned to private contractors to supply weapons. Eli Whitney was up to the challenge promising to manufacture and deliver 10,000 rifles in a two year period. His bid was accepted. As with all mass produced products requiring identical parts special machinery had to be invented and built. Eli invented milling machines capable of slicing steel and other metals, with the use of reusable patterns producing one particular part. Exact duplicate parts were manufactured and when assembled they would fit any other firearm of the same design and manufacturer. It took 10 years to complete the initial order of 10,000 muskets. He did not meet the contract, but the Government awarded him another contract for 15,000 more which he was able to satisfy in two years. He was indeed an early innovator of interchangeable parts during the early years of the United States.
Henry Ford invented and Mass Produced with the use of interchangeable parts the first car made specifically for the masses. He was born July 30, 1863, and died April 7, 1947. Production began in October 1908, continuing until 1927, the model T was nicknamed the "Tin Lizzie". In 1918 one half of the cars in the U.S. were Model "T's". They were constructed on a "moving assembly line", reducing the production time it took to manufacture a car. Initially, the time spent building a car was 12 hours, his innovative moving line reduced that to 2-1/2 hours. The drastic reduction of labor enabled the automobiles price to drop from $850.00 in 1908 to $310.00 by the year 1926. Mr. Ford's goal was to build a horseless carriage, which he accomplished in 1892. During a meeting the same year he presented his plans for the automobile, Thomas Edison was in the audience. The inventor encouraged Henry to build a second better model, which he did, he never looked back.
|The "Tin Lizzy".|
A major motivator of the time was the elimination of horse-drawn vehicles in the Cities. In the year of 1908, there were 120,000 horses at work in the Nations largest City. The problem was not isolated to New York. In Milwaukee Wisconsin, 1907, the population was 350,000 humans, 12,500 horses. Producing 133 tons of horse manure each day, or 3/4 of a pound for each resident. Rochester New York supporting a population of 15,000 horses produced a pile 175 feet high, covering every inch of one acre per year. It is not difficult to imagine the number of flies. Manure and flies were not the only motivation to find a solution to the horses, they were mortal. Horses die, in New York City an average of 1,000 of the animals died on the streets every day. It was the Cities responsibility to gather them up and do something with them. The financial burden was becoming unbearable for the local governments to fund. Henry Ford was not the only manufacturer of horseless carriages, but he was indeed the major one, helping to solve a serious problem. His famous quote "If it was left up to the masses they would have wanted faster horses."
Thomas Blanchard born June 24, 1788, in Sutton Mass. died April 16, 1864. He made great contributions to the development of machine tools. His first project was the invention of an apple parer, his second was the tack-making machine for his brothers' factory. He went on to invent a lathe used to turn the regular and irregular sections of gun barrels. In 1818 he was employed by Springfield Arsenal where he invented a lathe that followed a pattern producing identical parts. As Eli Whitney with his patents, Thomas fought for years with Congress for renewal. He invented a steam carriage in 1825, then later became interested in railroads, and shallow draft steamboats. The United States needed weapons for the military, it seems many inventions were spawned from saber rattling.
There are many more inventors that were working on Mass Production with interchangeable parts during this period of our country. I have chosen these three, two Thomas Blanchard and Eli Whitney were pioneers in bringing the idea of interchangeable parts to the factory floor. They both experienced success in making them, Henry Ford developed the modern process of how to use them to the fullest advantage. There were earlier inventors that shared the same ideas, motivations, and abilities. Let's get on with it and see if you agree with me, Mass Production with interchangeable parts started thousands of years ago.
Emperor Qin's Tomb, at the age of 13 (246 B.C.) Ying Zheng took the throne. In 221 B.C. he took the name Qin Shi Huang Di, First Emperor of Qin. In March 1974, farmers digging a well discovered a pit containing 8,000 life-size soldiers, horses, weapons, and wagons. 20 miles East of Xi'an the area was identified by archeologists as the final resting place of Emperor Qin. It is believed 700,000 workers toiled 30 years on the burial site. Constructed of Terra Cotta 6,000 soldiers were discovered in the first pit. A second pit was found containing cavalry, and infantry, a third was found containing chariots and high ranking officers. Each soldiers face was unique, but only eight molds were used to form the heads. After assembly individual features were added to the faces making each one different. Most of the hands are identical suggesting the use of one mold which was copied to make more molds. 40,000 bronze weapons were found, battle axes, crossbows, arrowheads and spears, all plated in chrome. All of the various body parts were manufactured with the use of molds, then delivered to the site for assembly. Unique features were added prior to firing in a kiln to make each figure individual entities. Only 1% of the tomb has been investigated, the remainder may never be. Historic documents detail the rivers inside the pyramid were filled with Mercury, soil samples have confirmed the heavy metal in the surrounding soil.
|6,000 Terracotta warriors, mass produced.|
This is an early example of Mass Production with interchangeable parts. It certainly is logical to think with the number of weapons discovered, all identical, some form of mass production with the intent to make assembly easy and rapid was employed. This being my first presentation of evidence of the production technique. (Follow this Link to How the Terracotta army was made, it's interesting.)
Qufu China inside tombs 3 and 12 bronze crossbow bolts were discovered dating back to the 5th century B.C. In Saobatang, China in tomb 138 full crossbows were discovered traced back to the 4th century B.C. It is believed crossbows first appeared in Europe during the same periods. Why did I choose this particular item as evidence of mass production with interchangeable parts you may be wondering. It was not uncommon during those years in Asia, Europe, and Central Asia for 1/2 of an Army to be crossbowmen. The actions used to control the firing of the bolts were discovered to be made of bronze. Each crossbow were exact duplicates of one another, causing me to speculate they were cast from molds. Historical documents detailing the production techniques of the weapons are scarce, the archeological evidence is the majority of the information. It is reasonable due to the number of actions, bows, and bolts needed to equip an army that mass production with interchangeable parts was part of the production process. The tips of the bolts surely were mass produced using molds and melted bronze, the shafts had to fit any sharp point, and the bolt must fit the crossbow. All of the parts had to work together to enable an army of 10's of thousands of soldiers to stand a chance versus an Army equally equipped. In an Army of 50,000, as many as 25,000 most likely were crossbowmen. If each soldier had just one arrow (bolt) 25,000 would be needed. There must have been hundreds of horse-drawn wagons loaded with the projectiles making one at a time manufacture impossible. 100,000 arrows would have allocated 4 to each Bowman, a recipe for failure. Such is my second piece of evidence, even though full of assumptions and speculation. I do think it is reasonable to attribute mass production with identical parts to have been employed during the production of crossbows, bots, and actions. (Follow this Link to read more about the history of the Crossbow.)
It is unknown which civilization first used the Recurve Bow, the earliest examples date back to 1,000 B.C. We do know they were widely used in Central Asia by the Persians (now Iranians), Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Greeks. The Romans and Carthaginians used them later. In this section, I'm not focusing on the recurve bow as much as I am on the arrows. I suspect the bows were constructed of similar parts, but certainly not identical. However, the arrows surely must have been. When 10's of thousands of men were carrying recurve bows in battle many arrows would be needed. The arrowheads must fit the shafts, which must work on the bows, consistency would be vital. A bowman must be able to pick an arrow out from thousands out of a supply wagon and be sure it will work. Each shaft had to be straight, the feathers straight, the notch made the correct size, and the arrowhead had to be sharp and balanced. This was the bronze age, molds and melted bronze were an important part of every major civilization of the time. Thousands of workers would still have been needed to produce them with the goal being to make thousands exactly the same. The recurve bows may have been mass produced. In order to bend wood, it must be softened in a steam chest, then placed in a jig and bent, that also points to mass production but not necessarily identical parts. Clearly, this is a case of being "the same, but different." As far as the strings are concerned, they also had to be mass produced but again identical parts would not be needed, again the same but different. The evidence lies in the arrows when a huge amount of anything is needed streamlining the process is in order.
|Mongols were just one of many Kingdoms to use the recurve bow.|
The ancient people were not dumb, the difference between them and us is technology. They had the intelligence to invent and develop new ideas to make their lives easier. I am convinced they employed mass production using interchangeable parts to accomplish a wide range of needed goods. It did add to their self-awareness, self-reliance, and personal responsibility. It is related to self-reliance by enabling people to protect themselves and family. Self-awareness by increasing their knowledge of the dangers of the world, and Personal accountability by binding the population together in a common cause, community defense, and food. The population of the world was increasing, creating an awareness of nationality, and defense of that nation, and their way of life. Throughout history, the march of progress kept a steady drumbeat. It created an environment conducive to innovation. Mass production began when items (mostly weapons) were needed to protect the masses. Mass production with interchangeable parts was a natural reaction to the increasing world's population. At first used to produce weapons to provide food, with a secondary use as protection. It became the partner of armies in their endless quest for defensive weapons. Now everything is mass produced. So much so fewer products are repairable.
In conclusion, Eli Whitney, Thomas Blanchard, and Henry Ford made mass production using interchangeable parts a reality in our modern world. The Ancient peoples were every bit as innovated and resourceful, making it not a question of who should receive credit for the end result. Instead, it should be looked at as another amazing way humanity devised ways to deal with serious situations. Demonstrating we build upon the knowledge of the people the came before us. That certainly aids us in our quest to be ever more self-reliant, self-aware, and personally responsible.
Thank you for reading and sharing this article. Do you think I'm all wet with this? What do you think? let me know in the comments.