Innovation has been celebrated in the United States for creating national well-being and exemplifying personal achievement. For some people, invention was a means for obtaining individual wealth; for others it was a strategy for solving technical problems or dealing with labor issues.
The ultimate effect of new technology is often hard to predict. Inventions sometimes enhance productivity, lower costs, and increase consumer choice. Other times there are unanticipated consequences that can create social and economic upheaval.
Howe Sewing Machine, 1846
Colt Paterson Revolver No. 5, 1839
Samuel Colt patented the modern form of the revolver in 1836 and continued to make improvements in later years. The pistol eventually won popular acclaim on the frontier and inspired a popular 19th-century saying: “God made all Men, Samuel Colt made them equal.”
Colt’s factory was as innovative as the guns he sold. He used interchangeable parts, specialized power-driven machines, and division of labor in what came to be known as the “American system” of production.