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.
In the great measure of success that has been enjoyed, and the vast volume of wealth that has been produced in this, the most industrial of all countries, the manufacturing industries easily lead all other productive interests in which the people are engaged. While in the earlier years of American independence the chief dependence was upon the results of agriculture, the development of the resources of the country in time has placed manufactures at the head of the list so that in very recent years the value of manufactures has been nearly double the amounts of that produced by agricultural pursuits.
These results, like many others of a less notable character, commenced from small beginnings, and it has been by inborn mechanical talent, remarkable ingenuity, patient development, and tireless energy, that mechanical undertakings large and small have been developed, until the American mechanic leads the world in originality and practical achievement in our vast manufacturing enterprises.
When the early settlers, the Puritans of New England, labored under the restrictive and harassing laws of the mother-country, and under their administration were goaded and exasperated beyond endurance in many ways, not the least of which was being obliged to purhase all their manufactured articles from England at extortionate prices, or from other countries and still paying taxes to England, they rebelled and determining to buy no more foreign goods, set out, at first in very primitive and clumsy ways, to make such articles as were really necessary, and in magnificent self-denial to get along without those which they could not produce, they little realized that they were thus laying the foundations of the greatest manufacturing country in the world.
By their action they thus instituted probably the first industrial "boycott" in the history of the country, and one that has had more important and far-reaching influences than any since its day.
It is true that the coming of the Pilgrims, their departure from the old country, was for religious freedom, but freedom soon meant vastly more to them than this, and with this larger conception of their opportunities, some of which were really forced upon them by adverse circumstances, came the inspiration of industrial as well as religious freedom. And the determined manner in which they set about their self-appointed task has amply demonstrated to their posterity and to the world their grasp of the possibilities and conditions of the situation as well as their breadth and nobility of character.
Thus sprang American manufactures into being, beginning with crude efforts to fashion those common objects of household necessity and daily use, which, clumsy though they were, yet served their practical purposes, to be supplanted later on by those more improved in form, design, and workmanship and better adapted to the uses for which they were made. The primitive successes of these early efforts led to greater endeavors, and the ingenuity displayed where "necessity was the mother of invention" was naturally developed into a still broader usefulness when the time came that necessities having been reasonably provided for, luxuries were thought necessary in the higher plane of living to which the people in due course had advanced.
And so it came about that the rude and crude beginnings in which the early mechanic performed his work in his own house outgrew these homely facilities and he built small shops, frequently in the gardens or back yards of the dwellings. These gradually enlarged; then came the necessity for still greater facilities, and buildings were erected quite independent of the home surroundings and two or more men were associated as manufacturers, and these became in due course of time the machine shops and the factories, which have multiplied many hundreds of times, not only in numbers and in value, but in influence and in importance, until to-day our country stands the leading manufacturing nation of the earth. And this may be said, not only as to the volume and the value of her manufactured productions, but also as to their great range and diversity of kind and degree. One after another the American mechanic has taken up the work formerly monopolized by this country or that, failing perhaps at first, but always progressing, always advancing, until by native ingenuity and tireless energy all obstacles have been surmounted, all difficulties brushed aside, new industries spring into being and other "victories of peace greater than the glories of war" are added to the credit of the American mechanic and his ever ready and ever confident partner, the American manufacturer and capitalist. And to this combination, each confident of and faithful to the abilities of the other, and each in his own sphere of usefulness, is due the immense success of the manufacturing American of to-day.
In the early stages of manufacturing in this country all the tools and appliances were of a very crude and primitive kind and consisted mainly of a limited number of hand tools that had been brought with them from the old country, and occasionally a hand lathe of moderate dimensions, operated by foot-power. Yet with even these few facilities much important work was accomplished in the way of useful machines such as the flax and woolen spinning wheels and their accessories, and the wooden looms in which the yarn thus prepared was woven into the coarse but excellent cloth of these early times.
Then with the few tools and meager facilities possessed by them these old-time mechanics proceeded with practical common sense, ingenuity, and patience to design and construct other tools and machines such as by the necessities of occasion was manifest, and the increasing demands for them required better tools, better machinery, and facilities of a wider scope. The mechanic was then, as now, equal to the emergencies of the situation in which he found himself, and from small beginnings, and many of the parts of his machines made of wood, for lack of forge and foundry facilities, particularly the latter, has developed the machine tools of the present day.