Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Massachusetts; A Guide To Its Places and People - Springfield - Foot Tour #15

American Guide Series - Illustrated
The U.S. Armory and Arsenal

"Retrace on Chestnut St.; L. from Chestnut St. into State St." 

"15. The U.S. Armory and Arsenal (open by permission) occupies a site selected by George Washington and Colonel David Mason of Boston. It was established by Congress in 1794, and the first muskets were manufactured here in 1795. The Civil War brought a great influx of workmen and in 1864 over 3000 men were employed turning out 1000 rifles a day. The Springfield rifle is still made here. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stopped at the Arsenal on his honeymoon; his wife noticed the resemblance of the tiers of stacked arms to the pipes of an organ, and Longfellow afterward wrote 'The Arsenal at Springfield.' The Museum (open weekdays except Sat. 8.30-12, 1-4.30) has an excellent collection of small arms. Of especial importance is the old Blanchard lathe, an invention for turning gunstocks." 

Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts; A Guide To Its Places and People (Kindle Locations 9263-9269).
Boston, Houghton Mifflin company. Page 365, Published 1937

Springfield Armory

N 42° 06.420 W 072° 34.867

Short Description: 

The Springfield Armory National Historic Site is located at Federal and State Streets in Springfield, MA

Long Description:

Because of its strategic location on the Connecticut River, the Federal Arsenal at Springfield was established during the Revolutionary War on the recommendation of General Henry Knox. It produced small arms, repaired small arms, and made fuses, cartridges, wagons, and saddles. It also was the major location for the storage of gunpowder and other war materials.

After the war, in 1794, General Knox, now the Secretary of War, recommended to President Washington that the arsenal become the Nation's First National Armory.

In 1919, John Garand, at age 31, was employed by the Springfield Armory where he worked to develop a semi-automatic rifle. After several attempts he developed the world famous M1, or "Garand rifle". The army adopted the rifle in 1936 and production began in 1937. After World War II began the Springfield Armory made weapons for the U.S. Military, especially the M1 rifle which was the standard rifle used by U.S. Army and Marines. Production was greatly increased by hiring mostly women. The Springfield Armory eventually produced over 4.5 million M1 rifles.

The Armory continues to supply weapons during the Korean War and into the Vietnam War until it was closed in 1968. Several of the buildings were converted into a museum and others became part of the newly established Springfield Technical Community College. The museum preserves the one of the best examples of US military shoulder arms, pistols, machine guns, edged weapons, and production machinery.

Springfield Armory National Historic site is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm. The park is closed for the following holidays:
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • New Year's Day
Organ of Rifles:

The organ of rifles at the Springfield Armory was made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem "The Arsenal at Springfield". The arrangement of arms that inspired the poem is on display at the Springfield Armory Museum. A sign in front of the display reproduces the famous poem. The opening lines of "The Arsenal at Springfield" are:

This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But from their silent pipes no anthem pealing
Startles the villages with strange alarms.

Blanchard Lathe:

One of the most significant machines developed during the American industrial revolution was the Blanchard lathe. Thomas Blanchard worked for five years at the Springfield Armory during the 1820's. During that time he invented thirteen machines used to speed the production of musket stocks. The Blanchard lathe is the most famous of those machines.

A sign next to the machine explains its significance.

Original Blanchard Lathe

Thomas Blanchard's invention of the 
duplicating lathe, first used at Springfield
Armory, was one of the most significant
developments of the American industrial
history. It permitted exact duplication
of irregular wooden shapes, such as gun
stocks. This was an important step in
creating mass production techniques.
To see a reproduction Blanchard lathe
at work, watch the video to your left.
The original machine relied on
water power.


Introduction to Springfield, MA from:
Massachusetts; A Guide To Its Places and People

SPRINGFIELD The Metropolis of Western Massachusetts City: Alt. 69, pop. 149,642, sett. 1636, incorp. town 1641, city 1852. Railroad Station: Union Station, Lyman & Liberty Sts., for N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R., B. & M. R.R., and B. & A. R.R. Accommodations: Seven hotels. Information: Chamber of Commerce, 134 Chestnut St.; Automobile Club, 140 Chestnut St.; A.L.A., 1387 Main St.

SPRINGFIELD, the metropolis of western Massachusetts, lies on the east bank of the Connecticut River, holding a strategic position in the traffic of the New England states with New York and the West. Its situation on a series of terraces and in gently rolling country produces an effect of spacious leisure, and imposing architecture and tree-shaded lawns, parks, and boulevards give it an atmosphere of dignity, substance, and comfort. Its diversified industries, superior transportation facilities, large merchandising establishments, and fine residential sections make it an important center of industry, commerce, and finance; and its notable interest in music and the other arts make it an outstanding cultural center.

In 1636 a dozen families made their way to the inviting valley where the Agawam River joins the Connecticut. Their livestock inflicted so much damage on the cornfields of the Indians that they were forced to abandon the settlement. They moved on across the Connecticut River, to a barren terrain demanding heart-breaking labor and promising little reward for toil.

Fortunately, the leader of the group was stout-hearted William Pynchon. With such vigor did he build up the new settlement that even after a board had been elected determination of program and policy was left in his hands. His leadership was not questioned until 1650, when he published a theological work. The Puritan Fathers detected in the book germs of heresy. To protect the community from infection they administered the antitoxin of denunciation. The services of Pynchon were soon forgotten; he was badgered on all sides, and finally returned to England. His son, John, remained and assumed the management of the town.

In the next year the Springfield community indulged in a witch hunt — a sport more exciting than the battle against heresy. Hugh Parsons was a dyspeptic, of choleric disposition which had not endeared him to his neighbors. His wife was subject to periodic fits, probably epileptic. But such an explanation of their eccentricities was too simple, and the savants of the occult brought charges of witchcraft against the couple. Not a few good people were disappointed when the court acquitted the pair.

Twenty peaceful and constructive years followed. In 1675, however, King Philip declared war on the Colony, and Springfield did not escape. The town was almost totally burned. The townspeople pushed reconstruction, building on a larger scale. Early in the eighteenth century the citizens of Springfield made the river a capital asset. They erected sawmills and gristmills and took their first step away from a complete agricultural economy. The large clay deposits were utilized in the manufacture of brick. Acute financial depression resulted from the Revolutionary War; farmer and mill-owner were bogged in a morass of debt. Thousands banded themselves together under Daniel Shays, and for six months tramped up and down western Massachusetts in an attempt to prevent the convening of the courts and the entering of judgments against debtors. Although their cause won numerous sympathizers, it failed. Springfield became Shays's Waterloo when an attempt to capture the United States Arsenal was frustrated.

The manufacture of metal goods was given an impetus in 1794 by the passage of a bill in Congress establishing the United States Armory at Springfield. The advent of the railroad, about 1835, stimulated business. At that time the town already had seventy-three mechanic shops, six cotton mills, four printing offices, thirteen warehouses, two card factories, two forges, one rifle factory, one powder mill, six sawmills, four grist mills, three tanneries, two jewelers' tool factories, one sword factory, and one spool factory.

Developments in the manufacture of textiles brought French-Canadians, English, and Scots. Skilled artisans of all races were attracted by the openings in the machine shops. Irish, Italian, Swedish, and German labor was plentiful. Long hours and meager wages were the lot of those whose labor enriched the town. But aside from the general agitation that accompanied the crisis of 1830, there was no real organization of labor until after the Civil War.

The year 1824 marked the founding of the Springfield Republican by Samuel Bowles. The excellent style of this journal, under the editorship of Dr. J. G. Holland, and the liberal philosophy of its editorials, made the paper almost a national institution. The first newspaper in Springfield, however, was the Massachusetts Gazette and General Advertiser, published in 1782, which failed to survive, posting this notice: 'Those gentlemen who engaged for their papers in grain are once more requested to make immediate payment, as the printers are in much want of that article.' Other papers published during this period were the Hampshire Chronicle, the Hampshire Herald, and the Federal Spy.

In 1847 John Brown of Akron opened the warehouse of Brown and Perkins, wool merchants. The business enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity, but John Brown was absent from business the greater part of the time, his real enthusiasm being centered in the Abolitionist movement. Said Emerson,' If he kept sheep, it was with a royal mind. And if he traded in wool, he was a merchant prince, not in the amount of wealth, but in the protection of the interests confided to him.' He organized the United States League of Gileadites, which assisted fugitive slaves to escape.

Shortly after his arrival in Springfield, John Brown was visited by Frederick Douglass, Negro orator and scholar, who found him living in a cottage near the shacks occupied by Negroes. ' Plain as was the house on the outside,' wrote Douglass, ' the inside was plainer. Its furniture would have satisfied a Spartan. There was an element of plainness about it which almost suggested destitution.... The meal was such as a man might relish after following the plow all day, or performing a forced march of a dozen miles over a rough road in frosty weather.' John Brown lived in Springfield for two years, and during this time hundreds of runaway slaves were harbored in the town, then were passed along to the next station of the Underground Railway.

The termination of the war once more allowed the free flow of commerce. An expanding market aided in Springfield's prosperity. Factories were rebuilt and enlarged, the population swelled. Simultaneously labor took its first organized steps toward improving working and living conditions. Following the example of the horse-car drivers, who in 1861 had established a benevolent association, which was forced by a threatened wage reduction to transform itself into a trade union, workers in many industries began to wage a united battle for the eight-hour day. In 1864 cigar-makers, stonecutters, pianoforte-makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and tailors were organized to secure higher wages and shorter hours. The Massachusetts Legislature investigated the possibilities of regulating and limiting hours of labor, and eventually the eight-hour day became a reality. In the later i88o's all the trade unions in the city participated in the formation of the Central Labor Union. To Bishop N. Saltus, first president of this federation, belongs a chief share of the credit for its vigorous development.

Since 1890, such large industries have been established as the Van Norman Tool and Machine Company, the United States Envelope Company, the Fiberloid Company, the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, and the Milton Bradley Company, makers of toys, games, and school supplies. Motorcycles have been manufactured here since the beginning of the century. On the West Springfield side of the river numerous industries have located. The Gilbert and Barker Company makes gasoline pumps and oil-burners. Matches, packaging machinery, radios, magnetos, hot-water heaters, air-conditioning equipment, and forgings are also manufactured here.

Between 1910 and 1920 the population increased 117 per cent. Of the present residents of Springfield, about one-fourth are foreign-born. The largest racial group is the Irish, which numbers nearly 6000. The Italians follow with about 4500, Russians with 3800, French-Canadians with 3700, and Poles with 2400. Scotland, England, Sweden, and Germany each contribute about 1000 to the foreign-born population. The high percentage of skilled workers among the population has been a strong influence in the social and political life of the city. The general housing situation, for example, is considerably better in Springfield than in most industrial cities of its size. The civic life is heightened by the social clubs, singing societies, and physical culture centers of the various racial groups.

A flood in 1927 caused considerable loss when the Connecticut River overflowed its banks; but it can hardly be compared to the catastrophe of 1936, when the worst flood in the history of New England inflicted untold suffering on Springfield and caused property losses amounting to millions of dollars. Only efficient organization, prompt action, and many deeds of heroism prevented wholesale loss of human life.

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