Industry & Manufacturing
The Museum's collections document centuries of remarkable changes in products, manufacturing processes, and the role of industry in American life. In the bargain, they preserve artifacts of great ingenuity, intricacy, and sometimes beauty.
The carding and spinning machinery built by Samuel Slater about 1790 helped establish the New England textile industry. Nylon-manufacturing machinery in the collections helped remake the same industry more than a century later. Machine tools from the 1850s are joined by a machine that produces computer chips. Thousands of patent models document the creativity of American innovators over more than 200 years.
The collections reach far beyond tools and machines. Some 460 episodes of the television series Industry on Parade celebrate American industry in the 1950s. Numerous photographic collections are a reminder of the scale and even the glamour of American industry.
"Industry & Manufacturing - Overview" showing 1 items.
- Abraham Lincoln had considerable maritime background, although it is usually eclipsed by his political heritage. At the age of 19 in Anderson Creek, Ind., he built a flatboat for $24, loaded it with a local farmer’s produce, and floated it 1,000 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, where he sold both the boat and its cargo. When he was 22, he was hired by an Illinois store owner to take some goods down the Mississippi and sell them in New Orleans. Lincoln built another flatboat and successfully piloted it from New Salem, Ill. to New Orleans over a three-month period.
- In the mid-1840s, as a lawyer in Springfield, Ill., his law partner William Herndon recalled watching Lincoln working on a large boat model with a local craftsman. A Springfield resident recalled Lincoln demonstrating the idea for his model in public. His model embodies an idea Lincoln had for raising vessels over shoal waters by increasing their buoyancy. That idea became patent #6,469 in May 1849—the only patent ever obtained by an American president. After he became president in 1860 and moved to Washington, he visited his model in the nearby Patent Office at least once. He also enjoyed reviewing naval vessels and ideas, and he personally approved inventor John Ericsson’s idea for the ironclad warship Monitor.
- Lincoln’s original patent model was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1908 and has left the Mall only once since then, for an exhibit at the US Patent Office. This replica was built by the Smithsonian in 1978 for long-term display to preserve the fragile original.
- date made
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center