Our signature exhibit, Shaping America, explores how the machinists and tool builders of this region’s “Precision Valley” played an important role in determining the course of American history. The exhibit examines how advancements in machining drove industrialization, changed the face of war, and allowed for the development of our modern consumer culture.
The exhibit begins in the 1840s, right here in Windsor, Vermont, where the American System of Manufacturing was born. Combining the extensive use of interchangeable parts with mechanization of production, made this new system of manufacturing set the standard for making more products faster while using fewer resources. Discover many of the earliest machines—and the people behind them—that helped change the way the world manufactures and the way we live.
LEFT: Thomas Blanchard’s original copying lathe from 1818. Blanchard’s new machine accomplished in a fraction of the time, the slow tedious work that highly skilled craftsmen had been doing manually before his invention.
RIGHT: Blanchard’s early inventions evolved into solid and strong machines like this one. Made in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and sold to the British Government in the 1850s, this machine tool operated in the Enfield Armory for over 100 years.
Further along in the exhibit, investigate how advances in arms and ammunition manufacturing, developed at the 1846 Robbins and Lawrence Armory, helped determine the outcome of the Civil War.
Still recovering from a divisive Civil War, the exhibit explores an era of rapid industrial innovation. Machines once devoted to creating the tools of war were repurposed for consumer goods. Machine tools and the products they created, evolved and advanced, developing into the backbone of American industry. Automobiles, planes, and countless other mechanical marvels become accessible and affordable to a broad range of consumers.
At the heart of the exhibition space, the Innovation Station brings the history of manufacturing to life. From machines over 100-years-old to state-of-the-art automated machine tools, visitors may explore the recent history of manufacturing and its rapid development. The Innovation Station offers the rare opportunity to watch these impressive machines in action and learn about the skills and training required to create, run, and maintain them. The Innovation Station celebrates advancements in machining and aims to inspire the next generation of innovators in manufacturing.
Behind the Scenes
Plan to attend a staff-led Behind the Scenes Tour—an opportunity to visit staff-only areas, and view artifacts in storage. This is a rare opportunity to see the structure and restoration work at the National Historic Landmark, Robbins & Lawrence Armory, home to the American Precision Museum since 1966.
Welcome to the American Precision Museum’s Collections Online!
Come inside and explore our archives, photographs, artifacts and more.