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Springfield Armory


The southwestern Massachusetts town of Spring-field, on the Connecticut River, first became an important weapons center during the American Revolution (177583) when a sizeable arsenal was built there in 1777. The town was considered to be ideally situated close to two major overland routes and on a strategic waterway, but far enough inland from the Atlantic Ocean to be defensible. Springfield had been the site of a militia training field since the 1600s; during the war, the Continental Army added barracks and storehouses, which held muskets, cannons, and other weapons. The new republic continued to keep arms at the site after the war was over. In 1794 a U.S. Armory was established at Springfield; it was one of two federal arsenals personally selected by President George Washington (178996); the other was Harpers Ferry, in present-day West Virginia.

In 1795 musket manufacturing began at Spring-field, with forty workers producing 245 muskets per month. Soon Springfield became a center for innovation in arms production. In 1819 American inventor Thomas Blanchard (17881864), who worked at the armory for five years, developed a lathe (a machine for shaping metal) that allowed for the mass production of rifle stocks. During the Industrial Revolution the Spring-field Armory focused on mass production of interchangeable parts, which had the advantage of being replaceable (in case of malfunction) on the battlefield.

In 1903 the Springfield rifle was approved for production. Nicknamed the "Springfield Model '03" (the gun was marked with 'M1903'), it soon became standard issue for U.S. Army troops. The model was improved in 1906 to accommodate new ammunition; the resulting model, called the Springfield .30-06, was one of the most reliable and accurate military firearms in history. By the time World War I (191418) began, the armory had manufactured just over 840,000 Spring-field rifles; during the war, it made another 265,000.

The Massachusetts city, which was incorporated in 1641, remained home to the weapons facility until 1974. Another milestone in the history of the armory was the 178687 siege by rebel leader Daniel Shays (1747?1825) during the so-called Shays Rebellion. Just downstream from Springfield, American inventor Samuel Colt (181462) opened an armory in 1853 at Hartford, Connecticut, where he utilized 1,400 machine tools to revolutionize the manufacture of small arms.

See also: American System of Manufactures, Colt's Manufacturing, Harpers Ferry Armory, Harpers Ferry Raid, Industrial Revolution, Massachusetts, Shays' Rebellion

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