At the Eli Whitney Museum

I spent part of today at the Eli Whitney Museum, in Hamden Connecticut, just across the street from Hamden Hall School and down the road a ways.  What an amazing place.

In the video, do you hear all the sawing, drilling, bells and whistles? That’s the sound of kids building a fleet of ships.  If you’re a maker, and you’re ever in Connecticut, you really have to go see this place.  I tried to avoid video-taping the kids (one of them appears briefly through the plexiglass), but this place is doing extraordinary stuff.

How extraordinary?  Let me put it this way: There were fewer miracles in the workshop of Jesus of Nazareth than in this place.  And hanging in the middle of this crazy workshop space, surrounded by kids drilling and hammering and glueing, and learning to work with LEDs and batteries and wiring diagrams, and building a marble-rolling Rube Goldberg machine, with erector sets and a 1950s-era Nuclear Engineering Playscape (Jesus! turns out my dad had one of those!) nearby… is the rifle that may have started the American Industrial Revolution, the Eli Whitney Contract Rifle, a musket designed to be put together with duplicate parts.

It blows your mind.

And then, on the opposite wall, is the Cotton Gin. Designed by the same man.

The first two great tools of American power — and in some ways the originators of the two great American shames —  produced in a factory, designed and patented by the same man!… half-an-hour’s drive from my home.  Truly, I live in a place of fireflies, as Gordon likes to call ’em.

You really should consider visiting the Great River Valley of Connecticut someday.

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