There is nothing new about nails. They were used to nail Jesus to the cross and must have existed a long time before that.
Its wrong to think that timber framing is a "no nails" method of building - its just the opposite. Please don't loose sight of the fact that lath has to be nailed inside and sometimes outside as well to accomodate plaster and the quantity required can run into to tens or even hundreds of thousands depending on the bulding concerned. I find myself perplexed sometimes when I see attempts made by some to make us believe that compound joinery employs wood joint solutions when historicaly the more widely adopted solution has usually been to employ simple butt joints and nails.
I am not as informed about the development of nail making machinery as Chris How but I am familiar with Yankee inventiveness and find no surprise that manufacturing techniques developed rapidly in the USA especially once the break with mother England took place when this would have become a necessity and we all know that necessity is the mother of invention.