Springfield Armory

This article is about the former US Government arsenal. For the information about the contemporary commercial manufacturer of firearms, see Springfield Armory, Inc.
Springfield Armory National Historic Site
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
[[Image:|235px|Springfield Armory is located in ]]
Location: Armory Sq., Springfield, Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°6′29″N 72°34′54″W / 42.10806°N °W / 42.10806; -72.58167Coordinates: 42°6′29″N 72°34′54″W / 42.10806°N °W / 42.10806; -72.58167
Built: 1778
Architectural style(s): Greek Revival
Governing body: State
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966
Designated [[|]]: December 19, 1960
NRHP Reference#: 66000898[1]

The Springfield Armory was the primary center for the manufacture of U.S. military small arms and the site of many important technological advances in gun manufacture. Many different models produced at the armory from 1794 to 1968 were referred to as "Springfield rifles". The other major gun manufacturing center was the Harpers Ferry Armory, until its destruction during the American Civil War. It is now the home of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

Contents


History

Local and colonial militia used the land as a training field since the 17th century.

General George Washington selected the Springfield Armory site. Although small, Springfield, Massachusetts, offered obvious geographical advantages. The town of Springfield lay at the intersection of major highways and the Connecticut River but far enough upstream for safety from enemy naval attack. The area offered supplies, skilled manpower, and adequate waterpower for manufacturing. Therefore, Colonel Henry Knox, Chief of Artillery for General Washington, concluded that "the plain just above Springfield is perhaps one of the most proper spots on every account" for the location of an arsenal.

In 1777, patriot colonists established "The Arsenal at Springfield" to manufacture cartridges and gun carriages for the American Revolutionary War. During the Revolution, the arsenal stored muskets, cannon, and other weapons. Patriots built barracks, shops, storehouses, and a magazine. Some doubt exists regarding whether the colonists manufactured arms during the Revolutionary War.[2]

After the war, the Army kept the facility to store arms for future needs. By the 1780s, Springfield Arsenal functioned as a major ammunition and weapons depot. In 1786, Daniel Shays led poor farmers from western Massachusetts to try to seize the arms at Springfield. This key event led to the Federal Constitution Convention. Those involved in the rebellion planned to use the weapons to force the closure of the State and county courts, which allowed lenders to take their lands for debt. The cannons of an organized state militia confronted them, and their desperate attempt failed. The incident led many of the upper classes, who feared a popular uprising, to vote for the new federal Constitution and to support a stronger central government.

Springfield Armory in 1793 contained brass ordnance, howitzers, traveling carriages, shot strapt, canisters filled, quilted grape, iron shot, shells, powder, musket ball, cylinders, caps, paper cartridges, fuzes filled, muskets, swords, various military stores, and implements.[3]

In 1794 the new Federal government decided to manufacture its own muskets so that the United States would not be dependent on foreign arms. President Washington selected Springfield as the site for one of the two Federal Armories, the other being the Harpers Ferry Armory at Harpers Ferry), Virginia (now part of West Virginia). Production of weaponry at the Armory began in 1795 when 220 flintlock muskets were produced.

Springfield Armory soon became a center for invention and development. In 1819 Thomas Blanchard developed a special lathe for the consistent mass production of rifle stocks. Thomas Blanchard worked at Springfield Armory for 5 years. The lathe enabled an unskilled workman to quickly and easily turn out identical irregular shapes. The large drum turned two wheels: a friction wheel that followed the contours of the metal rifle pattern, and the cutting wheel that imitated the movements of the friction wheel to make an exact replica of the pattern in wood. In the 1840s the old flintlock gave way to a percussion ignition system that increased the reliability and simplicity of longarms.

In the period before the Civil War, Springfield Armory was largely involved in the growth and influence of the Industrial Revolution. Much of this grew out of the military's fascination with interchangeable parts, based on the theory that it would be easier to simply replace firearm parts than make battlefield repairs. Mass production of truly interchangeable parts demanded greater use of machines, improved gauging, quality control, and division of labor; all characteristics of the Industrial Revolution. From these individual components, the concept of the assembly line was devised.

The Springfield Armory also contributed to improved management techniques. Colonel Roswell Lee, hired as superintendent in 1815, brought centralized authority, cost accounting for payroll, time, and materials, and increased discipline to a manufacturing environment - all business practices still in use today.

In 1843, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited the Armory and wrote his poem "The Arsenal at Springfield."[4] The anti-war poem described the rows of finished guns, by that point 1,000,000 stockpiled there,[5] stored vertically in open racks: "Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms."[6]

With the destruction of Harper's Ferry during the Civil War, the Springfield Armory became the only federal manufacturing point for small arms until the 20th century.

In 1865, Master Armorer Erskine Allin introduced the "Allin Conversion", which incorporated the far more advanced design of breech-loading into the now-obsolete muzzleloaders, thereby extending their service life. In 1891 a new function was assigned to the Armory –– it became the army's main laboratory for the development and testing of new small arms.

One of the most distinctive elements of the Armory is the fence surrounding the site which was started after the Civil War and completed in 1890. Unable to find funding for the purchase of a fence, Major James W. Ripley requested obsolete cannons from government storage, some from the Revolutionary War. He had the cannons sent to a local foundry to be melted down. The foundry kept some of the iron as payment, and the remainder was cast into 9-foot palings, formed as pikes and spearheads which were then sunk into a red sandstone base.

During the Spanish-American War, it was recognized that the Spanish Mauser Model of 1893, exhibited characteristics superior to the "trapdoor" Springfield and Krag-Jørgensen rifles carried by the United States troops. On August 15, 1900, Springfield Armory completed an experimental magazine rifle which they believed to be an improvement over the Krag. They fashioned a clip loading magazine rifle in which the cartridges were contained within the stock, preventing damage to an otherwise exposed magazine. It was approved for production in as the Model 1903. Mauser later sued for patent infringement and won royalties from Springfield.[7]

By the time that the United States entered World War I, approximately 843,239 standard service Model 1903 rifles had been manufactured. However this was insufficient to arm U.S. troops for an undertaking of the magnitude of World War I. During the war Springfield Armory produced over 265,620 Model 1903 rifles. In addition, the War Department contracted for production of the M1917 Enfield Rifle to help aid American troops. These, along with the additional 47,251 rifles produced by the Rock Island Arsenal and the weapons already in service, were enough to supply the war effort.

In 1919, when John Garand was 31, he came to Springfield, where he worked to develop a semi-automatic rifle. Over the next five years many designs were submitted for the rifle, but none met the army's rigid specifications. In 1924, Garand offered a design that was approved for further testing. This was the famous M1, or "Garand rifle" as it came to be known after the name of its inventor. The army adopted the rifle in 1936, and production began the next year. Thus began what was to become the greatest production effort in the history of Springfield Armory. During the entire production history of the M1 rifle, Springfield Armory produced over 4.5 million of them.

The M1s accuracy and durability in battle earned it high praise. General Douglas MacArthur reported on the M1 to the Ordnance Department during heavy fighting on Bataan that: "Under combat conditions it operated with no mechanical defects and when used in foxholes did not develop stoppages from dust or dirt. It has been in almost constant action for as much as a week without cleaning or lubrication." Further testament to the M1s role in combat was given by another well respected military officer. General George S. Patton, Jr. reported to the Ordnance Department on January 26, 1945: "In my opinion, the M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised." In the face of overwhelming odds, the capability of the M1 rifle to deliver superior firepower would most often carry the day.

The last small arm developed by the Armory was the M14. The M14 has evolved over the years into a more modern sniping rifle –– the M21.

By the time the U.S. was involved in the Vietnam conflict, Springfield Armory developed not only rifles but 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.

Modern times

In 1968, with a controversial personal and political decision, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara closed the Springfield Armory. For almost two centuries the hilltop overlooking the Connecticut River had been the most 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 mass-production techniques, and finally into an institute famous for its research and development.

The site is now a museum run by the National Park Service, as the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Some of the Armory buildings house Springfield Technical Community College (STCC).

The Main Arsenal Building and the Commandants House were extensively renovated by Eastern General Contractors of Springfield, MA between 1987 and 1991.

In 1974, the Springfield Armory name was used by Robert Reese, to form Springfield Armory, Inc., a new company to manufacture semi-automatic versions of the M14 rifle. The company is not located near the former armory site and has no association with the authentic Springfield Armory but rather is in Geneseo, Illinois.

See also

References

  1. . . National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://www.nr.nps.gov/. 
  2. . . National Park Service (US Govt). http://www.nps.gov/spar/historyculture/springfield-arsenal-in-rev-war.htm. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  3. . . http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsp&fileName=016/llsp016.db&recNum=50. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  4. Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. . . University of Toronto Libraries. http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1318.html. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  5. . . http://members.tripod.com/~FeatureWriter1/armory1.html. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  6. . . National Park Service (US Govt). http://www.museum.nps.gov/spar/vfpcgi.exe?IDCFile=/spar/DETAILM.IDC,SPECIFIC=9341,DATABASE=29426021,. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  7. . . http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Battlefield+tack+driver:+the+model+1903+Springfield+in+WWI.-a0150451303. Retrieved 13 September 2010.