In early August, I visited the American Precision Museum in Vermont, which is dedicated to the history of the American machine tool industry, and also made a side trip to the Simon Pearce Glass facility, recommended by Mike Kennedy in comments not too long ago. Images (should expand when clicked) from upper left…
1–The museum is located in the former Robbins & Lawrence armory. Power was initially from a waterwheel, later supplemented by steam
2–Blanchard Copying Lathe. Mechanically copies a prototype shape…a rifle stock, in the example shown, but also used for table and chair legs, etc
3–A much later approach to automated cutting of a specified shape: this is a paper tape reader used to feed data to a numerically-controlled machine tool.
4–Bendix G-15 computer, from the mid-1950s. This one was used for gear-cutting calculations, reducing the typical time taken from 2 hours to 2 minutes. Computers of this type were also used to directly produce the punched paper tapes used to operate machine tools.
5–Sewing machine from 1859. The success of these devices created great demand for precision machining.
6–A very elaborate model of a steam engine, made by a German man who came to the US between the wars. When he visited Germany in the 1950s, he found that the model had survived intact in an attic.
7–Profile milling machine, for cutting the outside periphery of a flat surface.
8–Columbia chainless bicycle, from the 1890s. An advantage of this type was that women could ride them without danger of getting their long skirts caught in a chain. A disadvantage was the price…$125 in 1890 dollars!
9–Bevel gear cutting machine…made gears of a type required for the chainless bicycle. Not clear if this machine came before the Columbia bicycle or if it was a later production-cost improvement.
10–The showroom at Simon Pearce glass.
11 & 12–Hydroelectric dam and turbine used to generate power at Simon Pearce. Capacity is about 600KW, and what they don’t use for their own needs (which are pretty significant given the electric glass-heating furnaces) is sold to the grid.
Lots more pictures of Simon Pearce at this article.