New Book Club Selection Explores Intersection of Combat and Commerce

February 24th, 2022 News and Events



The Washington Crossing Historic Park Book Club will begin a new book, Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution by Robert F. Smith, at its March meeting.

The meeting will be held March 21, at 5:30 PM, on Zoom. Participation is free and open to everyone, but registration is required. To register, please visit DCNR’s website. Zoom meeting details will be provided upon registration.

Participants should be prepared to discuss the introduction through Chapter 2.

Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution

The American colonies were not logistically prepared for the revolution, and this became painfully obvious in the war’s first years. With information obtained from Europe through both commercial exchange and French military networks, Smith writes, the Continental Congress became familiar with the latest manufacturing techniques of the budding European industrial revolution. With that knowledge, it initiated an innovative program of munitions manufacturing under the Department of the Commissary General of Military Stores.

The department employed craftsmen and workers in the large-scale production of weapons. It also provided private manufacturers with materials and training so that they could inspect the finished products.

The initiative not only kept the Continental Army armed – and able to outlast the British – it also created a springboard for domestic manufacturing after the war, becoming a model for how the nation could produce goods for its own needs.

“Manufacturing Independence draws light to the fact that war is simultaneously catastrophic and innovative,” museum curator and book club leader Kimberly McCarty says. “There was a wealth of scientific, technological, and medical advances during this particular war. Because of this war. Although it’s a bit of diversion from what we normally discuss, I think our club will find it intriguing.”

McCarty says she most interested in sharing stories about the people who lived through the revolution, which Manufacturing Independence also does.

“We’re looking at ways to more effectively wage war, as well as ways that more effectively help us survive it,” she says. “And then, at the conclusion of the war, those advances are applied in other parts of our lives.”

Smith is provost of the Valley Forge Military College. He received a master’s in American history from Villanova University and a doctorate in early American history and technology from Lehigh University. He written numerous articles on military history and the history of technology.

Upcoming Book Club Meetings

Book club meetings are free and open to all. Members should provide their own books.

March: Introduction-Chapter 2
April: Chapters 3-4
May: Chapters 5-6
June: Chapter 7-conclusion