The Federal Armories
In April 1794, the Congress of the United States appropriated $81,865 “for the erecting and repairing of Arsenals and Magazines,” an act that created the Federal Armories at Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Although both establishments were to produce weapons for the United States Army, it is apparent by comparing the products of the two factories that there were important differences in their weapons.
Springfield Armory had a number of advantages. It lay in the midst of the Connecticut River Valley, an American center of arms manufacturing and inventiveness, and its early superintendents, especially Col. Roswell Lee, had frequent contact with many nearby inventors like Eli Whitney. As a consequence, very early on Springfield Armory came to use machinery to ease production and standardize parts of the weapons it produced. On the other hand Harpers Ferry was somewhat isolated, and was slow to change from the hand craft methods with which it had begun arms production.
The results can be seen in the products. Harpers Ferry’s weapons, such as the M1803 and the M1819 breechloaders, were both early production rifles and show ingenuity of design. They have also been called “prettier” because of the greater use of brass and higher level of hand craftsmanship in their manufacture. Springfield’s arms, however, exhibit the characteristics of machine made products: standardization in shape and uniformity of parts.
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The Products of Springfield
U.S. Flintlock M1795, .69 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 933
Bayonet M1795, Cat.#: SPAR 943
US Percussion Musket M1842, .69 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 926
Bayonet M1842, Cat.#: SPAR 942
U.S. Percussion Rifle-Musket M1855, .58 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 931
Bayonet M1855, Cat.#: SPAR 941
U.S. Percussion Rifle-Musket M1861, .58 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 928
Bayonet M1855, Cat.#: SPAR 940
U.S. Springfield Rifle M1873, .45 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 930
Bayonet M1873, Cat.#: SPAR 944
US Krag Jorgensen Magazine Rifle M1892, .30 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 935
Bayonet, Krag M1892, Cat.#: SPAR 939
US Springfield Magazine Rifle M1903, .30 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 932
Bayonet M1905, Cat.#: SPAR 938
U.S. Semi-Automatic Rifle M1, .30 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 929
Bayonet M1, Cat.#: SPAR 937
U.S. Rifle M14, 7.62 millimeter, Cat.#: SPAR 927
Bayonet M6, Cat.#: SPAR 936
The Products of Harpers Ferry [link to Harpers Ferry NHP]
U.S. Flintlock Musket M1795 type II, .69 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 951
U.S. Flintlock Rifle M1803, .54 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 947
U.S. Flintlock Musket M1816 type III, .69 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 946
U.S. Breech-loading Flintlock Rifle M1819 (Hall’s Patent), .52 caliber, Cat.#: SPAR 952
Did You Know?
Some of the first fossilized dinosaur bones discovered in North America were inadvertently unearthed during construction at Springfield Armory in the mid-1850s. More...