Shedding Light on Springfield

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Date: October 23, 2012
Contact: Richard Colton, (413) 271-3977

SPRINGFIELD, MA: On Friday, November 2nd at 1:30pm, Associate Professor Donald Linebaugh, author of The Springfield Gas Machine: Illuminating Industry and Leisure, 1860s-1920s, will tell the fascinating story of a one-of-a-kind invention, the Springfield Gas Machine. Assisted by Park Historian, Richard Colton, visitors will learn of Springfield Armory employee, John Barker, inventor of the Springfield Gas Machine. Linebaugh will be available for a book signing following his presentation.Admission is FREE.

John Barker developed a truly unique gas lighting system for use in homes and businesses separate from a city's gas works that were too often controlled by monopolistic corporations. Middle- and upper-class American families benefited from light that usually was a comfort found in the city. Industry found that the lighting system allowed for longer work hours.

The story ends in the early twentieth century when electrical lighting became more available to families and industry at considerably less expense than gas lighting. However, John Barker's invention was, for its time, a major innovation in domestic and commercial lighting. It changed daily life and social behaviors in the late nineteenth century.

Donald W. Linebaugh is also the author of The Man Who Found Thoreau: Roland Wells Robbins and the Rise of Historical Archaeology in America and co-editor of Saugus Iron Works: The Roland W. Robbins Excavations, 1948-1953.

Springfield Armory National Historic Site commemorates and preserves the site of our Nation's first armory, established in 1794 and closed in 1968. The site is open daily, 9am-5pm. Admission is free. For information call 413-734-8551 or check


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Springfield Armory National Historic Site
One Armory Square
Suite 2

Springfield, MA 01105


(413) 734-8551

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