The Age of Imperialism occurred approximately between 1870 and 1915. Imperialism concentrated power in ways never imagined before its inception. With massive power came the ability for mass production and the need for innovation to support it. The military, requiring many tools for its operations, heavily influenced then as it does today the inventions produced.
Henry Ford is known as the most popular contributor to the assembly line process, but as with most inventions he wasn't the first. Instead it was Ransom E. Olds, of the Oldsmobile company, who created the first assembly line in 1901. Production increased from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 cars in 1902. Still, this was not fast enough to compete with Ford's innovation, conveyor belts. A single Model-T, which could be made in a day using traditional methods, was then created within 90 minutes.
Jordan Gatling created the Gatling gun in 1861, but it wasn't perfected until around 1880. Its cumbersome nature and sheer destructive power resulted in its limited use during the Civil War. A crank powered by hand controlled the continuous release of brass cartridge ammunition from six barrels. The Gatling Gun changed warfare itself. Casualties were so high that military technology was required to, and has continued to, build on early machine gun technology.
Long before Eli Whitney presented rifles with interchangeable parts to Congress during Imperialism, the French military was making 10,000 muskets per year. During Imperialism Marc Brunel created machinery that mass produced pulley blocks used by the Navy, greatly increasing productivity. Eli Terry used interchangeable parts to manufacture 12,000 wooden mantel clocks per year. Henry Ford eventually used interchangeable parts to further automate the production of his automobiles.
The Ferguson Rifle was the first breech-loading rifle in history. It was invented by Major Patrick Ferguson of the British Army. A breech is the area on the rifle which can be packed with powder and a bullet. A simple handle operates its opening and closing. This innovation provided much greater efficiency over muzzle-loading rifles. However it was not practical on the battlefield until the invention of the metallic cartridge in the mid 1800s. Only 100 Ferguson rifles were ever produced.
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