• View of Springfield Armory overlooking the city of Springfield, 1855

    Springfield Armory

    National Historic Site Massachusetts

Forging at Springfield Armory through time

Fire burned the central Armory building early in 1824.
In this dramatic contemporary picture, looking from where the Museum now is and across the Green toward present-day Federal Street, an early 1824 Armory fire is shown consuming the administrative building and stocking shops. The sparks from the forges where iron was shaped and welded, contained in the Forging Shop to the left with the row of narrow chimneys, were most often the source of the periodic building fires at the Armory.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
The Upper Water Shops, circa 1830
In about 1800, the Armory established three water-powered forging and wood-shaping shops along the Mill River a mile south of the Hill Shops, where the Museum is now located. This image, of the Upper Water Shops in 1830, shows the large Watershops Pond behind it from where the water came that turned the wheels and turbines driving machinery. Today, the Upper Water Shops, into which the Middle and the Lower Water Shops were condensed into about 1858, is a large brick complex that, though in private hands since 1968, continues as a prime industrial site.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
Water-powered forging hammers at Springfield Armory, circa 1840s
This view of the inside of the Forging Room of the Water Shops, in the 1840's, shows the use of water-powered trip hammers to shape hot iron and to weld it. Following the War of 1812, the Armory incorporated the most advanced technology available for shaping and welding iron and steel.
MARCO PAUL AT THE SPRINGFIELD ARMORY, by Jacob Abbott, 1853, p. 17.
 
Armory forges in WWII
By the 20th Century, steam and electrical power supplemented water power. This row of drop hammers forced the hot metal into the cavities of dies, like a cookie cutter, shaping much of the object in an instant.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
Armory workers in WWII
In WWII, up to about 42% of the workforce were women. In this scene, a woman is working alongside a man, most likely forging components for the M1 'Garand' Rifle.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
Forging dies for the M1 rifle receiver
On the lower face of the forge was a die, that is, a hardened steel former into which hot iron or steel was forced by the force of the hammer. In this case, the die is for the M1 'Garand' rifle receiver.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
Rough receiver forging
The rough forged receiver with most of the finish form created by the die.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
A partially-finished rifle receiver
After forging, the rough forged receiver was brought to its finished form by a series of machined cuts that removed excess metal.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
Cross-section of a forging
In this cross-section of a steel forging, the grain lines may be seen, illustrating how the process of forging compresses the metal and strengthens the finished product.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
cutting dies
Cutting dies, known as "sinking a die", was a highly-skilled art and of vital importance to the success of the forging operation at Springfield Armory.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
multiple die-making
Here may be seen three dies created in one operation. Being constantly hammered, dies wore out and were routinely replaced.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
Bringing the hot metal to the forge
Here may be seen the hot steel held in tongs by the Armory worker above the die and below the hammer.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
The hot metal is placed on the die
Next, the worker lowered the glowing hot steel onto the die. This was dirty, noisy, and hard labor.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
 
The sparks fly when the hammer hits the hot metal.
In the tradition of the blacksmith, sparks fly as the repeated blows of the hammer drive the hot steel into the die.
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Did You Know?

Workers at Springfield Armory

Springfield Armory functioned in tandem with its sister armory in Harpers Ferry, (West) Virginia, providing arms for the nation from 1795 until Harpers Ferry Armory was burned down during the Civil War. Today, both sites are units of the National Park Service. More...