Photograph by James Langone.
Prolific inventor Thomas Blanchard installed this machine at Springfield Armory in 1822. Called an irregular lathe, it could automatically shape wooden musket stocks by following an iron pattern. This was the first machine of its kind, and had dramatic implications beyond Springfield Armory, enabling the rapid and consistent manufacture of items that had previously been slowly made by hand. More refined versions of this machine were quickly adopted by outside manufacturers who made a wide variety of products for the world market.
By replacing hand manufacturing, this machine was an important step on the way towards the manufacture of interchangeable parts, an achievement which launched American industrialization in the 1800s.