American system of manufacturing

The American system of manufacturing was a set of manufacturing methods that evolved in the 19th century. The two notable features were extensive use of interchangeable parts and '[\[]\] extensive use of mechanization to produce them, which resulted in more efficient use of labor compared to hand methods. The system was also known as armory practice because it was first fully developed in armories, namely, the Springfield and Harpers Ferry U.S. Federal armories, their inside contractors, and various private armories. The name "American system" came not from any aspect of the system that is unique to the American national character, but simply from the fact that for a time in the 19th century it was strongly associated with the American companies who first successfully implemented it, and how their methods contrasted (at that time) with those of British and continental European companies. In the 1850s, the "American system" was contrasted to the "English system". Within a few decades, manufacturing technology had evolved further, and the ideas behind the "American" system were in use worldwide. Therefore in manufacturing today, which is global in the scope of its methods, there is no longer any such contradistinction.

The American System involved semi-skilled labor using machine tools and jigs to make standardized, identical, interchangeable parts, manufactured to a tolerance, which could be assembled with a minimum of time and skill, requiring little to no fitting.

Since the parts are interchangeable, it was also possible to separate manufacture from assembly, and assembly could be carried out by semi-skilled labor on an assembly line—an example of the division of labor. The system typically involved substituting specialized machinery to replace hand tools.

Interchangeability of parts was finally achieved by combining a number of innovations and improvements in machining operations and machine tools, which were developed primarily for making textile machinery. These innovations included the invention of new machine tools and jigs (in both cases, for guiding the cutting tool), fixtures for holding the work in the proper position, and blocks and gauges to check the accuracy of the finished parts.

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Early and Antebellum America (1789-1860)

Economic History

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