WHITNEY, Eli (1765-1825), Inventor. Autograph letter signed (''Eli Whitney'') to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, New Haven, [CT], 16 July 1823. 1 page, 4to, matted and framed. Unexamined out of frame.
WHITNEY, Eli (1765-1825), Inventor. Autograph letter signed ("Eli Whitney") to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, New Haven, [CT], 16 July 1823. 1 page, 4to, matted and framed. Unexamined out of frame.
WHITNEY REPORTS TO SECRETARY OF WAR CALHOUN ON MUSKET PRODUCTION
Writing to the Secretary of War, inventor Eli Whitney acknowleges a government contract for more muskets: "Voucher for a further delivery of 500 muskets, will be found herewith inclosed, whereupon be pleased to direct a remittance of six thousand five hundred dollars."
Whitney, following his work on the cotton gin, and complicated lawsuits regarding his patent, had sought a new venture and in 1798, backed by several influential individuals, had secured a contract with the federal government to furnish ten thousand stand of arms in two years, a delivery time generally judged impossible by the mechanical methods of the period. Whitney proposed to shorten and simplify the production process by manufacturing interchangeable parts to exacting specifications. It proved to be a more complex problem than Whitney had imagined and it was eight years before he could complete the initial contract. In 1812 a second contract for 15,000 arms was issued and the success of his new methods was assured: "Workmen with little or no experience could operate his machinery and with it turn out by the hundreds the various parts of a musket...." (DAB).
Manuscripts of Eli Whitney are unaccountably rare. According to ABPC, only five Whitney letters or documents have been offered at auction since 1990.