Eli Whitney Museum

Eli Whitney Museum


Eli Whitney Museum

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The Eli Whitney Museum, in Hamden, Connecticut, is an experimental learning workshop for students, teachers, and families. The museum focuses on teaching experiments that are the roots of design and invention, featuring hands-on building projects and exhibits on Eli Whitney and A. C. Gilbert.

The museum building was originally the Eli Whitney Armory, erected by Whitney to produce muskets on a site he purchased on September 17, 1798. The factory was powered by water from the Mill River and produced muskets for the United States government. On June 14, 1798, he contracted to produce 10,000 muskets to be delivered within 28 months at the cost of $134,000.00; in fact, it took ten years. When he signed the contract, Whitney had no factory, no workers and no experience in gun manufacturing. However, in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, a fellow Yale University graduate and friend, Whitney had written:

I am persuaded that Machinery moved by water adapted to this Business would greatly diminish the labor and facilitate the manufacture of this Article. Machines for forging, rolling, floating, boring, grinding, polishing, etc. may all be made use of to advantage.... (May 13, 1798)

Whitney's factory was at the very forefront of the American Industrial Revolution, using water-powered machinery, and it was among the first to have standardized, interchangeable parts (for some but not all of its parts).

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