“The Most Perfect Weapon”
SAMUEL COLT’S REVOLVER CHANGED THE WORLD OF GUNS—AND THE REST OF THE WORLD TOO
In 1851 Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, arranged for a Great Exhibition in London to show off the technical accomplishments of the British Empire. Millions of visitors thronged the fantastic Crystal Palace erected in Hyde Park to house the event. In the American section crowds craned their necks to watch a loud, charismatic man expound on a revolutionary new product, a pistol that could fire not once, not twice, but fully six times in rapid succession without reloading. What was more, he demonstrated that he could assemble this remarkable weapon from parts plucked at random out of an array of bins, such was the uniformity of the machined components.
The brash American behind this amazing feat was Samuel Colt. The husky, fast-talking industrialist from Connecticut embodied every European stereotype of the American: He was charming and abrasive, self-made and confident, eminently practical in his thinking, as imaginative as he was mercenary, an opportunist, a liar, and a genius. Five years earlier he had found himself flat hroke, a three-time loser. Now his name was as familiar in the royal courts of Europe as it was in the backwaters of the American West, and he was on his way to becoming one of the richest industrialists in the world.
Samuel Colt’s invention of the six-shooter solved a. problem that had vexed shooters for centuries. But his impact on the history of technology extended far beyond the realm of firearms. The method of manufacture that he helped introduce, which relied more on machines than on the skills of gunsmiths, heralded a new industrial age. Colt was one of the pioneers in the nineteenth century who cut manufacturing loose from its status as a glorified handicraft and set in motion the age of mass production that continues to accelerate even today.
The whipsaw economy of nineteenth-century America bounced Colt’s family in and out of poverty while he was growing up near Hartford. Born in 1814, he was sent at the age of 10 to work for a farmer. His brief schooling at the Amherst (Massachusetts) Academy ended when one of the pyrotechnic demonstrations by which he impressed his schoolmates went awry. At 15 he was working in a Ware, Massachusetts, textile factory, where his father was a sales agent. On the Fourth of July 1829 he distributed a handbill proclaiming that “Sam’l Colt will blow a raft Sky-High on Ware Pond.” According to legend, the underwater gunpowder blast missed the raft and sprayed the spectators. Suspecting a malicious stunt, the crowd was ready to toss the bumptious teenager into the pond, but he was rescued by a young mechanic named Elisha Root, who found the explosive feat intriguing and who would re-enter the Colt saga two decades later.
Colt’s father managed to secure him a position on a cargo ship bound for India. It was on this voyage that he was seized by an inescapable idea. Was he inspired by a capstan ratchet or a clutch on the ship’s wheel? Or did he take his concept from an early form of revolving-breech pistol that had been issued to British soldiers in India? He always denied the latter. The rough model of his own pistol, which he claimed to have whittled from wood on board ship when he was 16, became a relic of firearms history. Whatever the truth of the matter, the idea of the revolver became the focus of Colt’s concentrated attention and would remain so for the rest of his life.
A gun is a tool that combines simplicity and subtlety. In essence, it is a tube with one end blocked. The shooter inserts first gunpowder and then a projectile into the open end. When the powder burns, it generates hot gas, whose près- sure ejects the ball at a high velocity. Except for novelties like air rifles, all guns, from the pocket pistol to the largest cannon, work on the same principle.
The subtlety lies in the need to contain an enormous explosive force and to direct it to accomplish the required work. The adoption of gunpowder by Europeans in the fourteenth century required a radical new approach to metallurgy. Only properly designed metal containers could handle the burst of energy that resulted from the gunpowder deflagration. The breech, or rear end, of the gun, which contained the powder chamber, had to be particularly tough. In the musket, the breech and barrel were forged from a single piece of iron.
The biggest problem with firearms up until Colt’s day was that every shot required a cumbersome reloading process, an annoyance in the hunt and a potentially fatal weakness on the battlefield. Military commanders had had to adjust their tactics to this limitation for centuries. One alternative was to design a firearm with multiple barrels. From the earliest days of gunpowder, arrays of linked barrels were tried. None proved practical.
IN 1813 THE BOSTON GUNSMITH ELISHA COLLIER INVENTED a pistol incorporating a revolving powder chamber, with each shot ignited by a flintlock. His revolver, which Colt may have seen on his India trip, was awkward. The shooter had to rotate the cylinder by hand for each shot. Its greatest drawback was its method of ignition. The flintlock had been developed in the seventeenth century to let the shooter fire the gun using sparks from the impact of flint on steel. No better approach occurred to anyone until the early years of the nineteenth century, when a Scottish clergyman devised a way to fire guns with mercury fulminate, an unstable chemical that exploded from a sharp impact. The “percussion” system used a small metal “cap” containing the mercury fulminate, or “primer.” The cap was placed over a nipple surrounding the touchhole through which the main explosive could be ignited. Percussion quickly made the flint-lock obsolete, and it has dominated firearms ever since. The new ignition system revived interest in perfecting a multishot weapon. One idea was to cluster half a dozen barrels around an axis and bring each one in turn under the small hammer that set off the primer. Such “pepperbox” pistols were heavy in the muzzle and of limited use.
Colt’s idea was to create a cylinder containing five or six powder chambers, each one loaded with propellant and ball, and to have the shooter attach a priming cap over a small opening at the rear of each. Cocking the gun by pulling back the hammei would activate a pawl that turned the cylinder, bringing a chamber into perfect alignment with the barrel and locking it there With a pull of the trigger, a strong spring would snap the hammer onto the primer, the exploding primer would light the powder, and the powder would blow the bullet down the barrel. Cock again, and another loaded chamber would move intc alignment with the barrel. Rather than spend 20 or 30 vulnerable seconds reloading, you’d be ready to fire again immediately. The gun was “single action,” meaning that the triggei only released the hammer; the shooter had to cock the gun by drawing back the hammer with his thumb.
Colt’s invention, which today is known as a “cap and ball” revolver, was not a breechloader. Each powder chamber had to be loaded from the front using a small ramrod, which on most models was attached under the barrel. Reloading once all the chambers were emptied was time-consuming, even if the shooter used preformed paper cartridges rather than loose gunpowder.
The revolver was destined to make Colt’s fortune and etch his name into the history books. The road to success, however, would prove bumpy in the extreme. Though a skilled draftsman, he had no intention of learning the exacting profession of gunsmith in order to bring his invention to fruition. Instead he talked his father into backing him and hired a gunmaker to construct a pair of working models, one a pistol and one a rifle, according to his plan. The investment was small; the models the hired craftsman assembled were inferior. One would not fire and the other burst during an early trial.
Unwilling to return to the sailor’s life, Colt became a promoter of laughing gas, which he had learned to make from a chemist in Ware. Operating out of a handcart, he offered demonstrations of nitrous oxide and let spectators try the intoxicant themselves for a price. Soon he was traveling the lyceum circuit giving quasi-scientific shows full of hilarity.
Billing himself as “Dr. Coult of New York, London and Calcutta,” the strapping, bearded 18-year-old made as much as $10 a day, a considerable sum in the 183Os. He used the money to hire another gunsmith to work on improvements to his revolver and produce a new prototype. In addition to earning him a bit of capital, the show business experience impressed on Colt the power of ballyhoo. He was left convinced that even a good idea had to be relentlessly promoted.
By 1835 he had in hand a model of his revolver that allowed him to obtain patents in England and America. A number of aspects of the firearm were deemed new, including the cylindershaped breech that rotated on cocking to align with a single barrel, the mechanism for locking the cylinder into position and unlocking it as the shooter cocked the gun, and the partitions he had included between the primer nipples to discourage the firing of one chamber from touching off the others.
He next tapped the goodwill of his extended family and friends to capitalize a corporation to produce the gun. That a 22-year-old could amass the necessary funds from any source at the time testifies to Colt’s powers of persuasion. He located his factory in Paterson, New Jersey, near the home of a wellheeled cousin, and the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company began to turn out a trickle of revolvers. Another cousin served as general manager, while Colt spent much of his time traveling and hawking the novel weapon.
He was the perfect man for the job, a carouser and backslapper, willing to shape his scruples to the demands of the situation. Convinced that government patronage was the key to success, he hurried to Washington to try to land federal contracts. He was sure his free-spending hospitality, along with some well-placed bribes, would make clear to authorities the advantages of his invention. His plant manager complained that he was trying to “raise the character of your gun by old Madeira.”
The enterprise foundered from the beginning. Its debut coincided with the approach of one of the severe financial panics that plagued the nineteenth century, and Colt found military buyers to be hopelessly conservative anyway. In 1836 the Army was still awarding contracts for single-shot flintlock pistols, even though the more reliable percussion ignition system had been around for two decades.
But Colt’s problems went deeper than the prejudices of mossbacked Army men. Trials at West Point indicated that the bugs had yet to be worked out of the invention. The danger of having spare chambers go off when the intended one was ignited was a problem that had long vexed makers of multishot weapons. The sensitive percussion cap also meant that a hard bump could set off the gun accidentally. The fouling left behind by the gunpowder could jam the delicate mechanism, and so could fragments of burst caps. And if the shooter inserted too much powder, the whole cylinder might blow up.
Because the market for rifles was much larger than that for pistols, Colt hoped he could apply the revolver principle to long guns. But the possibility of simultaneous discharge unnerved shooters, since their steadying hand had to extend in front of the cylinder. The inevitable leakage of burning gas between cylinder and barrel also threatened to singe the coat of anyone firing such a gun. Colt did produce rifles using the revolver principle, but they never caught on. Revolver came almost always to mean pistol.
THE ARMY TURNED DOWN THE INVENTION, JUDGING THAT “from its complicated character, its liability to accidents … this arm is entirely unsuited to the general purposes of the service.” More than a glass of wine was needed to attract government dollars. Colt did manage to sell a few rifles, which went to equip federal troops fighting the Seminole Indians in Florida. But his guns’ $50 price tag, the equivalent of perhaps $1,000 today, discouraged private buyers. In 1842 his company went bankrupt. Nonetheless, he had received a very practical education in the realities of manufacturing, marketing, and business management. He wasn’t finished by a long shot.
Still only 28 and not one to be fazed by a reversal—or by the loss of his relatives’ money—Colt moved to New York City and returned to an early interest, blowing up ships with underwater explosives. His idea was to transmit an electrical impulse from a battery through insulated wires to a sealed container of gunpowder anchored in a channel, thus sinking enemy shipping from a distance. “A safeguard against all the combined fleets of Europe” was how he touted the system, “without exposing the life of our citizens.”
His approach to the problem was a typical combination of cutting-edge science and extravagant showmanship. He used a grant from the Navy to set up a workshop at New York University. In a nearby laboratory he met Samuel F. B. Morse, who was working on his electric telegraph. The two men shared ideas and wire. When it came time to test his concept, Colt arranged for a demonstration within view of a Lower Manhattan amusement park, and he split the gate with its proprietor. “The effect of the explosion was tremendous,” the New York Evening Post reported, while the Herald said that the “combusti-blowup eruption” had burst the ship into “1,756,901 pieces.” The government sponsored several more experiments, but it passed on the idea.
Colt followed up on the Morse connection by establishing a service to provide Wall Street speculators first dibs on news of ships arriving from Europe. Boats intercepted the ships off Coney Island and Fire Island and telegraphed the information to Manhattan using an underwater cable, the world’s first. The venture didn’t pan out. By the middle 184Os Colt had racked up three failures in five years and lost a sizable amount of other people’s money. “I am as poor as a churchmouse,” he wrote a friend. But his luck was about to change.
He had managed to sell a few of his Paterson pistols to a group of ragtag militiamen organized by the Republic of Texas and known as the Texas Rangers. These horsemen, fighting in the open against Mexican and Indian warriors, recognized the value of the repeating pistol. Savvy Indian bands had adopted the technique of feinting to draw a volley of fire, then rushing the soldiers while they reloaded their muskets. Colt’s invention gave the shooters five or six times the firepower and neutralized the Indians’ tactic.
Samuel H. Walker, a captain in the Rangers, sent Colt a letter praising the pistols. “With improvements,” he wrote, “I think they can be rendered the most perfect weapon in the World.” He went on to describe how he and a band of 15 soldiers armed with revolvers had fought off 80 Comanches. By 1846 the United States had annexed Texas, and war with Mexico was imminent. Walker was appointed to the Regular Army, and he was resolved to arm his dragoon force with revolvers. Consulting with Colt, he made a number of suggestions to improve the design. The inventor simplified the mechanism, made the gun easier to load, and boosted it from .36 to .44 caliber. With a nine-inch barrel, the massive six-shooter weighed four pounds nine ounces, two and a half times as much as a modern revolver. An order was placed for 1,000 of the pistols at $25 each, with the prospect of more sales as the war continued. Colt was back in the gun business.
Walker wanted the souped-up guns as soon as possible. Colt, lacking a factory, subcontracted the work to Eli Whitney, Jr., who operated a nearby musketmaking operation, and Colt wisely insisted on the right to purchase the new machinery used to make the guns once the order was complete. The revolvers’ reputation in Mexico, plus good reports from users in Florida and Texas, now overcame the weapons’ novelty and early doubts about their efficacy. In 1847 Colt set up his own small workshop in Hartford. In a few years he would own the largest private armory in the world.
Samuel Colt’s day had arrived. He was soon making his first firearms profits. He managed to extend the term of some key patents (a procedure that was legal at the time, but not now), preserving his monopoly in the field, and the events that unfolded over the following decade were the answer to a weapons maker’s dreams: The American victory over Mexico opened the Southwest; with virtual anarchy reigning there, pistols were in demand. Gold rushes in California and Australia brought even more customers. The Crimean War, which broke out in 1853, fueled sales. So did the growing conflict in America over slavery.
Colt’s personality was well suited to the bareknuckles business climate of his time. Bluff and exaggeration came naturally to him; self-promotion was his specialty, and he carefully honed the rags-to-riches story of his life. Though a shrewd businessman, he presented himself as an inventor rather than as a financier. It’s easy to see in his flamboyance echoes of his contemporary Phineas T. Barnum. But Colt was not a blowhard. Distilling Yankee ingenuity to a high art, he radically transformed one of the most innovative technologies of his day.
In 1849 Colt made his most brilliant personnel decision. He offered Elisha K. Root twice his current salary, or “such compensation as you think fair and reasonable,” to take over pro-auction of Colt pistols. Root was acknowledged to be the most skilled engineer in New England. By the end of the year the factory that he organized was turning out a hundred revolvers a week. The methods that Root and Colt would bring to pistol manufacture would have implications for modern life that went far beyond the impact of the multishot firearm.
As he traveled to the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition, Colt was already an international celebrity. His Hartford factory employed 300 men and was manufacturing around 20,000 pistols a year. He had introduced the wildly popular .31-caliber pocket pistol to supplement his military models and could hardly keep up with the orders for it. He was traveling to capitals around Europe to search out buyers for Colt revolvers. In 1852, when he started a factory in London, he became the first American manufacturer to establish an overseas branch. “The good people of this wirld,” he wrote (he never did master spelling), “are very far from being satisfide with each other & my arms are the best peesmakers.”
He was always tinkering with and improving the design of his guns and continually reduced their complexity, from 36 moving parts in early models to only 7 in later ones. “Every day adds an improvement now,” he wrote in 1854. He brought the weight of his military handguns to less than three pounds.
During his Crystal Palace visit he was invited to speak before England’s prestigious Institution of Civil Engineers. He used the occasion to give a sales pitch for his guns, but he also described what was becoming known as the “American system” of manufacturing. He had not originated this system, but he was one of the first to make practical use of it.
Since the eighteenth century U.S. military officers had wanted increased uniformity in the manufacture of weapons and ammunition. Their goal was to simplify logistics and to make repairs of firearms in the field more feasible. To this end George Washington had established two federal armories, at Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). He borrowed the idea of interchangeable parts from the French, who had been pursuing standardization since 1760. In 1813 a toolmaker named Simeon North contracted to provide the government with 20,000 flintlock pistols in the first agreement to stipulate the use of completely interchangeable parts. But with guns still made largely by hand, true uniformity was more of an ideal than an achievable goal.
Firearms had traditionally been constructed by skilled craftsmen who worked on small batches, forging individual parts and then filing and shaving them to fit together. The armories established a system of models and jigs to guide fabricators. Precise gauges were especially important, so that a workman could test each part and reject any that wouldn’t fit. The armories required their contractors to share technology with one another too, and as a result, the Connecticut River Valley became, in the words of the historian William Hosley, “what California’s Silicon Valley is today, the vanguard of an internationally significant, technology-based transformation that changed the world of work.”
Colt understood the value of uniformity and interchangeability to his government customers, but a deeper motivation for his adoption of the new system was cost. Laborers had always been scarcer and more expensive in America than in Europe. To hold and expand markets, Colt needed to be able to produce guns more cheaply than his competitors. Machines for manufacturing, already common in the textile industry, offered a way to achieve uniformity while reducing costs. “With hand labour it was not possible to obtain that amount of uniformity, or accuracy in the several parts, which is so desirable,” Colt said in 1851.
IN THE 1850S THE NOTION OF USING MACHINERY TO DO metalwork was still very new. Elisha Root had experimented with the concept as an engineer with the Collins Axe Company and devised an automated dropforge. This machine, based on the blacksmith’s hammer, brought a heavy weight onto a soft piece of hot iron that had been positioned in a steel die. The force formed the material roughly into the shape needed. Root brought dropforging to the firearms business. He used lathes, milling machines, drill presses, and other equipment to speed each process and to make parts more nearly uniform. Each elaborate power-driven machine performed a single function, such as drilling out the bore of the barrel or adding rifling grooves to its inner surface. Root broke the work of making a gun into discrete units, and more than 450 steps were required to fashion each pistol. In 1868 Mark Twain described the enormous Hartford factory, which became a tourist attraction, as a “dense wilderness of strange iron machines.” Power came from five steam engines, including a 250-horsepower monster with a 30-foot flywheel. “Neat, delicate-handed, little girls do the work that brawny smiths still do in other gun-shops,” a journalist observed on visiting the London Colt plant in 1852.
Colt steadily reinvested his profits into new machines, many of which he manufactured in his own factory. He used his automated processes to hold costs down, expanded his market on the basis of his low costs, and thereby achieved the sizable production runs needed to make the machines economical. The initial $50 price tag for the gun dropped to $19 by 1859.
In his enthusiasm for his original design, Colt missed out on one crucial development in firearms technology, the metal cartridge. Until the 185Os the only reliable way to contain the explosive force when a shot was fired was to include a powder chamber at the rear of the barrel made from a single piece of metal. The front of this chamber was sealed by the bullet; the rear was pierced by a narrow touchhole for introducing fire. Shooters had to load these weapons from the front, inserting gunpowder and ball into the powder chamber. Colt’s revolver was a multichambered variation on this traditional system.
In 1855 a gunsmith named Rollin White patented a revolver whose powder chamber was not a closed container but consisted of a hole drilled straight through the cylinder. The shooter inserted a copper cartridge, with bullet and primer already attached, into this hole from the rear of the gun. The metal of the cartridge formed the back of the powder chamber.
Loading was much quicker for these cartridge pistols than for guns using the cap-and-ball technology. According to legend, White offered the technology to Colt and was turned down. The oversight allowed Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson to introduce the metal cartridge into revolver design and to make inroads into the market in the 1860s. Smith & Wesson eventually surpassed Colt’s company in pistol sales. When the White patent ran out 1869, every pistol maker adopted the design, and the cap-and-ball system passed into history.
During his early adulthood Colt’s personal life was as tumultuous as his business dealings. He took up with an illiterate German woman during a trip to Scotland, may have married her, and fathered a child he later referred to as his “nephew,” always in quotation marks. He came to the aid of his brother John, after he murdered a man in New York, and the case turned into a penny-dreadful melodrama, complete with an alleged escape from the shadow of the gallows and the substitution of a cadaver for the prisoner.
With his wild oats in the ground, though, Colt reformed. Or at least he took on the trappings of a solid pillar of the community. In 1856 he married Elizabeth Jarvis, a preacher’s daughter. Like many who met him, she was dazzled by the “magnetism of his presence.” During their honeymoon trip he arranged for them to be presented at the czar’s court in St. Petersburg. She described her husband as “quick, hightempered, impulsive,” but under her tutelage the former rake developed an interest in religion and culture.
To Colt the marriage brought the only period of real stability in his life. The couple built a large house in Hartford overlooking the Colt factory and assumed a role among the city’s most prominent citizens. Of their four children, only one son, Caldwell, survived infancy. Colt himself, whose own health was beginning to fail, was cast into prolonged grief by the deaths of his offspring.
The new system of manufacture he had adopted quickly spread through and then beyond the firearms industry. Its effect was to transform the nature of work. Employees needed to be broken in to the factory system, working to the clock for the first time in history. Discipline followed military lines. Workers had to be at their stations at 7:00 A.M. , when the steam engines were fired up, and if they were late, they were not admitted to the shop. They labored for a set number of hours, and sobriety was mandatory. Specialization became the rule, as tasks were divided and made uniform, under the direction of a hierarchy of managers.
Gunsmith guilds in England staunchly opposed the introduction of this factory system. Their ancient trade, based on a system of apprenticeship, embodied a way of life as well as a livelihood. But their resistance could only delay, not stop, the adoption of the modern alternative. The British government was soon borrowing the American system for its new firearms factory at Enfield. Colt had a sense that these methods would alter the life patterns of his employees and was determined to avoid generating the kind of squalor and degradation that the Industrial Revolution had wrought in some parts of Europe. His answer was Coltsville, a compound in downtown Hartford that contained a factory, worker housing, and amenities like parks and a social hall. Baseball teams and glee clubs were organized, and generous wages for the time were paid.
Colt was also one of the first manufacturers to embrace the panoply of modern promotion techniques to expand the markets for their products. He was, after all, selling a new and unfamiliar tool. He avidly collected endorsements from War Department bureaucrats, Indian fighters, and pioneers. Impatient for favorable newspaper stories about his revolvers, he wrote some himself. When a piece he liked appeared, he instructed his agent, “Send me 100 copies … give the editor a pistol.” He kept engravers busy preparing presentation revolvers to be handed out to heads of state, government officials, and anybody who could steer a contract his way. He made early use of what came to be standard product promotion techniques: advertising, discount sales, the steady introduction of “new” products, even the use of window displays. He was among the first manufacturers to offer a user’s manual, for those put off by the revolver’s novelty.
ONE EFFECT OF HIS EFFORTS WAS TO MAKE CIVILIAN HAND guns cheaper and more lethal. The debate over the social impact of firearms had been going on since the sixteenth century, but Colt’s pistols made the issue more urgent. “There are probably in Texas about as many revolvers as male adults,” Frederick Law Olmsted noted during a trip in 1850. Guns became status symbols. Fashionable pistoleros flocked to shooting galleries in Newport and other resorts during the 1850s.
“A gentleman armed with my invention can keep a dozen ruffians at bay,” Colt proclaimed. He promoted the handgun as an equalizer, an arbiter of justice. But whether a multishot pistol favors the criminal or the peaceable citizen bent on self-defense is a debate that continues today. A similar controversy emerged about the effects of more efficient guns on war. “Men of science can do no greater service to humanity than by adding to the efficiency of warlike implements,” the Hartford Daily Times opined in 1852. The American Institute, a society for the promotion of commerce, awarding Colt a medal in 1837, predicted that “wars will diminish in proportion as the arts progress.” The idea that improved weaponry would keep nations at peace became a commonplace in the nineteenth century.
The Civil War brought unprecedented demand for firearms of all sorts, and the Colt factory produced 137,000 guns in one year at the peak of the conflict. The war added greatly to the prosperity of Colt’s enterprise, but he himself did not live to enjoy his wealth. Plagued by gout and rheumatic fever, he died in January 1862, only 47 years old. Penniless a decade and a half earlier, he left an estate of $15 million, one of the largest fortunes in the country.
His widow, Elizabeth, oversaw the continuing operation of the Colt enterprise. The company remained in the family for the rest of the century, reigning as the nation’s leading firearms maker. In 1873 the firm introduced a new single-action Armymodel pistol. This was the versatile .45-caliber straight-shooting revolver that came to be known as the Peacemaker. Immensely popular in the West, it used the metal cartridges that had become standard. It was the most famous of the Colt pistols, but its debut marked the end of Colt’s own direct influence on firearm design.
In any case, the invention of the revolver was not what would emerge as Colt’s most lasting legacy. The broad vision of mass production, mechanization of metalwork, and innovative marketing that he embraced raised American manufacturing to a new level and set a pattern whose impact continues to be felt around the world. Colt anticipated Henry Ford in taking an expensive product with a limited market and finding a way to make it practical, popular, and cheap. The production techniques that he helped introduce into gunmaking soon spread to typewriters, sewing machines, and bicycles, and would eventually influence the manufacture of almost everything.