This section is from the book "Lathe Design, Construction And Operation, With Practical Examples Of The Lathe Work", by Oscar E. Perrigo. Also available from Amazon: Lathe Design: Construction And Operation.
The lack of facilities for making iron castings was very early felt, and history tells us that as early as the year 1643 John Winthrop arrived in this country from England, bringing with him the necessary number of skilled workmen for this purpose, and built a small iron foundry in Lynn, Mass.; and the fact that the first casting produced was "a small iron pot holding about a quart" shows that the foundry was of very moderate capacity, and it is very likely that the blast used in melting the iron was produced by a hand bellows, as the blacksmith forge had preceded the foundry here, as it did, probably, in all other countries. The quart pot was cast from iron "made from native ore," although we do not know where they obtained it; probably from some place in the vicinity where it was found in small quantities. From this small beginning there was very little progress made for a considerable time in enlarging either the original scope of the work or in increasing its facilities, so far as we have any record. In 1735, nearly one hundred years later, we know that an iron foundry was built in the little town of Carver, Mass., and that a second one was put up in the same town in 1760, although we do not know the reason for this second one coming into existence in the same town unless it was that the first one had been destroyed by fire. However, it was in this second foundry that the historic "Massachusetts Teakettle" was cast. We do know that still another foundry was built in this town in 1793 and that this was burned down in 1841. Thus early did the custom begin, which is still in vogue in eastern Massachusetts, of devoting the energy of a town to one line of manufacture.
While these events and evidences of mechanical progress were taking place, the active minds of ingenious workmen were busily engaged in solving the practical problems of the growing demands made upon the shops and embryo manufactories engaged in supplying the wants of the people. New methods of manufacture, by which the quality as well as the quantity turned out could be improved, were demanded. This led to the demand for more machinery, which in turn led to the demand for better machines for the use of the mechanic, or for what we have come to know as machine tools. In the meantime the main reliance had been upon the ancient foot lathe, and with it much of their mechanical work had been accomplished. It had been improved in various ways, both in its design and in the materials of which it was constructed, and with the use of water-power for driving the machinery for manufacturing operations the lathe had become of greater usefulness by being driven in the same manner. Yet from the first it maintained its prominence as the first of the machine tools and the one which made all of the others that came after it possible of con-struction and useful in their several and respective spheres.
In the great scheme of manufacturing and the immense industrial problem of supplying the wants of the people in this respect by modern manufacturing plants equipped with all that is latest and best in machinery, it should be said that at the very basis and foundation of the whole stand the modern machine tools; that it is to the great and important development of these that we owe, primarily, our industrial prosperity as a nation. And to them may be easily traced the gradual upward tendency of the mechanic from the hard physical toil and laborious work of early days to the immeasurably lighter exertions made possible by the highly developed condition of the automatic machines of the present day. It has been, as was said in the outset, a victory of mind over matter, wherein brains have won where the hands made little advance; ideas developed wonderful mechanisms that have revolutionized the earlier methods of manufacturing, raised the standard of mechanical excellence beyond what was thought possible years ago, and at the same time reduced the cost to a fraction of its former amount. But to attain these marvelous results many machines have been required. All conceivable types and styles, and for an almost endless variety of purposes, have been designed, built, and perfected until hardly a possible mechanical operation is performed without the aid of a machine, frequently special in its design and automatic in its action, is brought into use, performing the work with surprising speed and wonderful accuracy.
The construction and perfection of all this magnificent array of highly developed machinery has only been made possible through the use of the machines for the use of the machinist, the machine tools of the present day, which must first have been perfected and adapted to the many needs and requirements which the advanced state of mechanical science demanded. These machine tools were made possible by the earlier examples of the most simple devices in this direction, chiefly, in our own time, the foot lathe, by which many of the earlier tools and machines were for the most part built; and as new uses for it were found new devices, attachments, and accessories were devised and applied, and in this gradual development and improvement in its design, its construction, and the materials of which it is built, the early and crude foot lathe has become the magnificent machine of the present day, and in which the American mechanic takes a just and pardonable pride.
As to how this development progressed will be discussed in the opening chapters, and it is hoped that it will be found interesting to every American mechanic and particularly to the apprentice who is about to start out with learning the honorable trade of a machinist, and the student who would know from whence our modern machine tools were derived, that he may perhaps, in due time, become one of those who shall aid in their further development and perfection, as well as to the elder mechanic who uses these machines, and the mechanical engineer who is busy with their present development. It is always profitable to take a retrospective glance at the former state and condition of the matter upon which we are engaged, in order that we may not only realize from whence came the models built by the men who came before us, and to draw therefrom an inspiration for our own best efforts, but knowing the mistakes that have been made by others, to seek to avoid repeating them in our own experiences, our experiments and our designs by which we seek to add to the sum total of mechanical knowledge and improvement.