My family and I visited the Springfield Armory National Historic Site on the way to my son's hockey game. It is operated by the National Park Service. The main attraction for my sons is that the Springfield Armory is part of the Jr. Ranger program and they can get a badge after completing the activity book. We gave ourselves just enough time for the boys to complete their work and for me to take a quick pass through all of the exhibits.
The National Historic Site is located on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College. See the map below.
To access the visitor center by car, you enter through STCC main gates and wind around campus. There is no charge to enter the visitor center or to complete the Jr. Ranger program. There are four main sections of the visitor center. On the right side there is an exhibit dedicated to the evolution of manufacturing technology that was used at the armory and drove the technological development up and down the Connecticut River valley. On the other side is a display of different types of guns that were made or stored at the Springfield Armory. In the center is the Jr. Ranger station and gift shop. In the center, across the aisle from the gift shop is a video room that houses large caliber guns from different eras.
In 1777, George Washington decided that the Continental Army needed a place to store weapons to ensure that they would have sufficient arms to fight the war. Washington, in consultation with Henry Knox, chose Springfield, MA. The city was chosen because of its location. It was centrally located for the armies fighting in the north and it was north of the first water fall on the Connecticut River which made it inaccessible to British war ships.
In 1786, Shays' forces attacked with the goal of using weapons to arm their rebellious forces to force Massachusetts to change laws that were harming farmers. The rebels failed to capture it. However, their actions convinced colonial leaders that a stronger central government was needed and more importance was put on the convention that was being planned in Philadelphia.
In 1794, the United States government decided that it wanted to manufacture its own muskets so that it would not need to be dependent on foreign production. George Washington selected Springfield, MA and Harper's Ferry, VA as sites for the federal armories.
It operated from 1794 through 1968. During this time it evolved production techniques to reduce variability and reduce production cycle time. It became the epicenter for improvements in metallurgy and manufacturing. These advancements spilled over to suppliers, competitors, and adjacent industries within the Connecticut river valley. Advancements in machining like the Blanchard lathe and production techniques like the assembly line were used at the Springfield Armory. Engineers and Entrepreneurs that worked there would help found businesses in the Connecticut River Valley.
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