American Precision Museum
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The American Precision Museum is located in the Robbins & Lawrence Armory located in Windsor, Vermont. In 1846, Samuel Robbins, Nicanor Kendall, and Richard Lawrence bid on (and won) a government contract to produce 10,000 rifles, and so constructed an armory beside Mill Brook for production. They brought in workers and mechanics, invented new machines, adapted old ones, and perfected techniques for producing interchangeable parts.
The armory building is significant for its architectural integrity, which reflects the size, scale, and operation of a 19th century factory. The imposing, four-story structure rises from a stone foundation adjacent to a brook that provided immediate and efficient use of water-power. Inside, power was distributed throughout each floor with line shafting; the shafts were connected to individual machines by leather belts.
The building was in use until the 1950s, and became a museum in 1966. A National Historic Landmark, the museum was also designated an International Heritage Site and Collection by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1987. For each of these designations, the armory was considered a site where pivotal events occurred in the history of American industry, as well as a place that lends itself to comprehensive interpretation of that history.
"Shaping America," a permanent exhibit installed in 2016, is a 4,000 square-foot exhibition focusing on the people whose work made great societal changes possible and the rise of the “American System” of manufacturing. “Shaping America” is the first comprehensive exhibition to examine Vermont’s industrial history in-depth and explores the broad themes of innovation and problem solving, craftsmanship, and the influence of precision manufacturing upon American history and culture. Precision manufacturing reinforced the growth of the American middle class and laid the foundation for the consumer culture that developed during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Open by appointment only November through April due to no heat in the exhibit space.