John H. Hall

Machine Tool Builder

Machine Tool Hall of Fame

John H. Hall (1781-1841)

John Hall is the only elected member of the Hall of Fame for whom we have been unable to locate an image in order to produce an etched master. If you are able to locate an image of Mr Hall, please notify the Museum.

Born in Portland, Maine, Hall worked in his father’s tannery, then set up shop as a woodworker, machinist, and boat builder, but turned to the making of guns. In 1811 he devised an odd-looking breech-loading rifle and ended up supervising the production of this rifle at Harpers Ferry Armory. For the 21 years that he ran the Rifle Works it served as a development laboratory for the Ordnance Department. He devised and built sturdy milling machines with guides and stops such that truly interchangeable parts were produced on machines operated by boys.

In 1826, friction between Hall and the Superintendent of the Armory led to a resolution in Congress calling for a study of the “fabrication, cost & utility” of Hall’s rifles. The detailed report “on Hall’s machinery” said, “Arms have never been made so exactly similar to each other by any other process. (The) machines we have examined effect this with a certainty and precision we should not have believed, till we witnessed their operation.” After this, Hall’s ideas spread rapidly to Springfield Armory and the private armories. He devised gaging systems to maintain accuracy and when Simeon North began building Hall rifles in Connecticut, the gaging system insured that parts were interchangeable between rifles from the two armories.

Elected 1996