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.
- George Selden's dubious claim that he invented the automobile cast a shadow on the early auto manufacturing industry. His claim rested on a patent application for a "road-engine" that he had filed in 1879. A lawyer schooled in science, Selden was intrigued by the challenge of devising an engine light enough to propel a road vehicle. He designed a small, improved version of George Brayton's compression engine of 1872 and filed a patent application for "a liquid-hydrocarbon engine of the compression type" combined with broadly defined chassis components. Selden deliberately delayed issuance of the patent until 1895, when automobiles were attracting more attention. Soon a patent-pooling association of auto manufacturing companies demanded and received royalties from other manufacturers for the right to produce Selden's "invention." Henry Ford, then just entering the automobile industry, became locked in a highly-publicized legal battle with the Selden interests when his application for a license was turned down in 1903. Ford blasted monopolistic control and exploitation by the "automobile trust" and forever fixed his image as an independent businessman fighting a corporate Goliath for the good of all. Ford's victory in court raised his standing in the automotive industry and made him one of the best known businessmen in America. In 1911 the Selden patent was limited to vehicles with Brayton-type engines as modified by Selden, and his influence quickly faded.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- patent date
- Selden, George B.
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- catalog number
- accession number
- patent number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center