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The Armory Practice
How early methods of U.S. manufacturing spread
across the world and into print

By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: June 2018  |  Contact the Author

United States War Department, eager to develop homegrown weapons, listened enthusiastically to what French revolutionary soldier Major Louis de Tousard had to say. He had learned the gun-making craft in France and was a staunch supporter of Le Système Gribeauval. It was the French who first began developing a way of manufacturing guns in a uniform method.

In 1765, General Jean-Baptiste de Gribeauval argued for small firearms to be made with interchangeable parts for a range of reasons. Guns damaged in the field could not be readily repaired. Each part had to be reworked with files to fit. Hard to do in the midst of a bloody battle.

Early attempts by American contractors proved daunting. In 1798, Simeon North, a scythe maker from Connecticut, was handed a cash advance to manufacture five hundred pistols. Later that year, Eli Whitney also received a contract. These two entrepreneurs labored over crude machinery in a quest to make identical interchangeable firearms in mass production.

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