Interchangeable Parts


Interchangeability is a concept credited to Eli Whitney, however the great mind behind this concept is actually Johannes Gutenburg, who actually invented the printing press. The letters on his press wore out quickly, so he had interchangeable letters handy for when one would break. Clock makers started making parts interchangeable in the 18th century. In 1803, Eli Whitney manufactured interchangeable parts for muskets as well. Following his presentation, Eli Whitney signed an order with the government for 4,000 muskets however, he took eight years to make them all, and they weren’t interchangeable.


The invention of interchangeable parts had many different impacts. Economically, industry greatly increased in the north, and the south. New methods of transportation were developed. New roads were built and some were made better because orders needed to be shipped. In the north, canals became an essential part of transportation; goods could be shipped faster than on land. Interchangeable parts caused the opening of more factories, and because of that, workers were needed. Immigrants came and quickly filled these new jobs. Manufacturing was changed also; products could be produced more efficiently and in less time. Socially, there were many effects as well. Many people living in isolated places could now afford to buy a musket because of the lower prices and cheaper shipping. Since there were better roads, there were more travel opportunities, and it was easier to get around.


Interchangeable parts have changed in many ways since 1803. When henry ford developed his assembly line, he had to make every part the same. Thus, he adopted the idea of interchangeable parts. Many other companies in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s adopted the idea as well. Interchangeable parts greatly advanced the world of science and technology. They assisted in the world’s first assembly line, helped to make the Model-T more affordable for the common person. Today, many mass-made products have interchangeable parts. Sunglasses and eyeglasses have interchangeable parts screws and lenses. Many car parts such as tires, and windshields are interchangeable as well. However, we can’t forget the fact that interchangeable parts are still used in some clocks and watches, where they first began nearly 200 years ago.