springfield armory


Springfield Armory National Historic Site

Established on March 21, 1978 to preserve the history of the first National Armory, 1794 - 1968.

The Springfield Armory, until its phase-out, the technical and scientific center for American military weapons ranging from pistols, rifles and machine guns to aircraft armament, this year observes its 204th anniversary. Springfield was chosen as the site of a considerable number of skilled gunsmiths, blacksmiths and craftsmen.

Years ago Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited the armory and wrote his poem "The Arsenal at Springfield." In the poem he expressed the thought:

Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,

Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts,

Given to redeem the human mind from error,

There were no need of arsenals nor forts.

Thus, on the same soil where Longfellow stood when he recited that verse, Springfield Technical Community College is now fulfilling that age-old dream. Established in September, 1967, the College is located on One Armory Square, Springfield, Massachusetts.

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It is recorded that when George Washington passed through Springfield in October, 1789, he saw and approved of the present site of the Armory. Congress passed an act establishing it in April, 1794, and buildings were soon after built on the Hill and Mill river, the latter department known as "the Watershops."

The manufacture of small arms began in 1795, with a force of forty hands, and a production of 245 muskets the first year, and for over one hundred years it had been carried on without interruption, exceipt when the main buildings of the Armory were burned in 1824.

During that time many different models of muskets were made. The first guns were the French model, and the Kings's and Queen's arms, English models.The former had a small calibre, short barrel and light stock, and, for those days, was a handsome gun. The King's and Queen's arms were heavy, long-barreled, large-bore guns, and favorites with the Indians, one of whom, according to legend, expressed his preference for "big gun, big noise, big bullet."

The first American model was made with flint lock, in 1822 and improved in 1840. In 1848 the flint lock was abandoned and the percussion lock adopted, and a proud historian states in the Springfield Directory of 1848 that it was "confidently believed that arms made at this Armory since the adoption of the percussion lock are not equaled by any other establishment in the world." The new model was used in the Mexican war.

A model usually bore the name of the year in which it was adopted. The 1855, orMaynard Primer Model, was used effectively by the regular army in frontier engagements with the Indians. Of this model, when the great war of the North and South began, only about 40,000 had been made, many of which had been already distributed to the army, the Union volunteers had to take what guns could be got - Enfields, Austrians, Belgians, flint-locks, rifles, fowling pieces; anything, indeed, in the shape of a gun.

a large increase in the Armory force and the addition of new buildings followed the outbreak of the war. In 1864 there were 3,400 men employed and 1,000 guns a day turned out. At the time Fort Sumter was fired on, 1000 guns a month were made,but the production was steadily increased till the same quantity was finished every twenty-four hours, the works running day and night. Daily shipments of 1,000 guns were sent to quartermasters in different parts of the country. The payroll at this time amounted to over $200,000 a month, and the foundation of the home of many a thrifty Springfield mechanic was laid in those years of trouble

In 1873, the Breech-loader Model, was perfected, and many improvements were added in the next twenty years. The Krag-Jorgensen Gun, was adopted in 1892, and this model was modified in 1898 from experience gained by its use in the Spanish War. The later model has been generally supplied to the regular troops and the militia, but in the case of the "regulars" this was replaced by the 1903 model, or United States magazine rifle, a gun that shot farther and more frequently then any other produced at that time. A new sight and a new model of bayonet made for fighting service, were added features.

Before the Civil War, there were four arsenals that were used solely for the storage of small arms and their appendages. In 1860, under Capt. George Dwight, the middle arsenal was converted into a workshop, and later in the war, when guns were shipped as fast as produced, the east and west arsenals were used as work shops. The main arsenal was built in 1846 under the superintendencey of Colonel Ripley, and had a storage capacity of about 300,000 guns, 100,000 on each floor. The total storage room of all the arsenals packed to repletion was 1,000,000 stands of arms. It was of this that Longfellow wrote, in his poem:
This is the arsenal. From floor to ceiling,

Like a huge pipe organ, rise the burnished arms;

But from their silent pipes no anthem pealing

Startes the villages with strange alarms.
Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary,

When the death-angel touches those swift keys;

What loud lament and dismal miserere

Will mingle with their awful symphonies!

In the 1890's, a new function was assigned the armory. It became the Army's main laboratory for the development and testing of new small arms. After World War II this became the center's primary responsibility. By the time of the Vietnam conflict Springfield Armory developed not only rifles but also machine guns for ground and air use, grenade launchers, and associated equipment. many weapons were not manufactured at the armory, but plans and specifications were drawn up for the use of private contractors who built them elsewhere.

In 1968, in a controversial economy measure, the Defense Department closed the installation. For almost two centuries the hilltop overlooking the Connecticut River had been an important place for the development and manufacture of arms for the American soldier. The facility evolved from a place where skilled craftsmen built, piece by piece, one musket at a time, into a center pioneering in mass-production techniques, and finally into an institute famous for its research and development.

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Springfield Armory Interactive: Would you like to view more about the Springfield Armory Museum? Why not visit the Armory Interactive sites they include: Historical information about America's famous gunmaker, Springfield, the 1911-A1, Rifles, higher performance sporting rifles, the m-6 Scout, Sar-8, Sar-4800, and the famous MIA Rifle. Visit the Springfield Armory "On-line" shopping site. Here you will find clothing, magazines, stocks and barrels. Want to chat with other Armory and or gun enthusiasts? Click on the Springfield Armory Chat Room. And to keep up to date on all the latest news and information about firearms read the Springfield Armory Bulletin.

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