Honoré Blanc (1736–1807) was a French gunsmith and inventor. He was one of the first to use the concept of interchangeable parts. Blanc was born in Avignon, France in 1736. At age 12 he became an apprentice to a gunsmith. He was an armorer at the Charleville armory in Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes, France. In 1763 he became the controller of gunlocks at the Saint-Étienne arms factory. Just before the French Revolution, he came up with the idea of interchangeable parts for gun locks.
Interchangeable parts[change | change source]
By the 1760s, Blanc was making specialized machinery and tools to make gunlocks. His design for the Musket Model 1777 was accepted and he was made chief controller for three arms factories. In 1785, in an experiment, Blanc mixed parts from 25 gunlocks and assembled several models with ease. His demonstration showed the benefit of interchangeable parts and how it worked. He repeated the experiment for military policy makers in 1790. The French Academy of Sciences supported his idea in 1791. But the Legislative assembly would not fund his work. Blanc shifted his attention to setting up a private company to produce gunlocks using interchangeable parts in 1791. Even after receiving permission and funds from the French government, he was very slow in getting started. He did not produce any gunlocks until 1796. His factory was still making gunlocks in 1807 when Blanc died.
In the United States[change | change source]
While European gunsmiths were not impressed by the idea, he did interest the American Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson quickly saw that mass production of weapons parts would free America from dependence on European sources for parts. He couldn't get Blanc to move to the United States but he did convince President George Washington it was a good idea. In 1798, Eli Whitney got the first contract for 10,000 muskets to be delivered within two years. Whitney used a large force of unskilled workers and machinery to produce standardized identical parts at a low cost. This was the first time in the US Blanc's ideas of mass production were put to use. Congress had already decided to pattern the new musket after the 1763 French Charleville musket. This was one that Blanc had worked on early in his career. What resulted was the Springfield Model 1795 Musket, the first military musket made in the United States.
References[change | change source]
- George Mouradian, The Quality Revolution (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002), p. 83
- Ken Alder, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), p. 223
- Jeff Horn, The Path Not Taken: French Industrialization in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1830 (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006), pp. 144–145
- "The Factory". Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
- "The evolution of assembly lines: A brief history". Robohub Digest. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
- "Harpers Ferry / Springfield Model 1795 Musket (1795)". The Military Factory. Retrieved 4 August 2016.