Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Blanchard, Thomas

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BLANCHARD, Thomas, inventor, b. in Sutton, Mass., 24 June, 1788; d. in Boston, 10 April, 1864. He had a fondness for mechanical employment, and was associated with his brother in the manufacture of tacks by hand. This process was exceedingly slow and tedious, and in 1806 he invented a machine, which he subsequently so improved that five hundred tacks could be made in a minute, with heads and points more perfect than those made by the old-fashioned plan. This patent he sold for $5,000 to a company that afterward went extensively into the manufacture. After this he turned his attention to the manufacture of a machine for turning and finishing gun-barrels by a single operation; and this he accomplished, finishing the octagon portion of the barrel by changing the action of his lathe to vibratory motion. This invention, afterward extended to the turning of all kinds of irregular forms, was one of the most remarkable improvements made in the century. During the progress of its development he was employed at the Springfield armory, where he received nine cents allowance from the government for each musket made by his machines, and this was his only compensation during the first term of his patent, originally granted in 1820. In 1831 he received, a patent for an improved form of steamboat, so constructed as to ascend rapids or rivers having strong currents, which was used on the Connecticut river and in the west. He introduced several improvements in the construction of railroads and locomotives, and was the inventor of a steam wagon before any railroad had ever been built. In 1851 he devised a process for bending heavy timber. He also constructed machines for cutting and folding envelopes at a single operation, and several mortising machines. Mr. Blanchard was awarded more than twenty-five patents for his inventions, for some of which he received ample compensation.