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North American Series I

  • 1 North, Simeon

    SUBJECT AREA: Weapons and armour
    b. 13 July 1765 Berlin, Connecticut, USA
    d. 25 August 1852 Middletown, Connecticut, USA
    American manufacturer of small arms.
    Like his father and grandfather, Simeon North began his working life as a farmer. In 1795 he started a business making scythes in an old mill adjoining his farm. He had apparently already been making some pistols for sale, and in March 1799 he secured his first government contract, for 500 horse-pistols to be delivered within one year. This was followed by further contracts for 1,500 in 1800, 2,000 in 1802, and others; by 1813 he had supplied at least 10,000 pistols and was employing forty or fifty men. In a contract for 20,000 pistols in 1813 there was a provision, which North himself recommended, that parts should be interchangeable. It is probable that he had employed the concept of interchangeability at least as early as his more famous contemporary Eli Whitney. To meet this contract he established a new factory at Middletown, Connecticut, but his original works at Berlin continued to be used until 1843. His last government order for pistols was in 1828, but from 1823 he obtained a series of contracts for rifles and carbines, with the last (1850) being completed in 1853, after his death. In developing machine tools to carry out these contracts, North was responsible for what was probably the earliest milling machine, albeit in a relatively primitive form, c. 1816 or even as early as 1808. In 1811 he was elected Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th Connecticut Regiment; although he resigned after only two years, he was generally known thereafter as Colonel North.
    Further Reading
    S.N.D.North and R.H.North, 1913, Simeon North: First Official Pistol Maker of the United States, Concord, NH (the fullest account).
    J.W.Roe, 1916, English and American Tool Builders, New Haven; reprinted 1926, New York, and 1987, Bradley, 111.
    Merrit Roe Smith, 1973, "John H.Hall, Simeon North, and the milling machine: the nature of innovation among antebellum arms makers", Technology and Culture 14:573–91.

    Biographical history of technology > North, Simeon

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