Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Springfield Armory: Where History and Technology Intersect

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.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A visit to the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts during 1843 inspired Longfellow to write a poem, "The Arsenal at Springfield." I found our visit to the site to also be inspirational but not for writing poems! Instead I marveled at the ingenuity that allowed men to advance the technology of guns as well as how to manufacture them.

Today the Springfield Armory is part of the National Park Service. Its manufacturing and warehousing of weapons for our country's military ceased many years ago. Rather than producing new weapons the site is dedicated to preserving the history of guns and teaching the history to new generations.

During a short film we learned that the Springfield Armory (along with the Harper's Ferry, VA Armory) were created by President Washington with the mandate to supply American soldiers with weapons. Back then it was a simple musket. Simple in design but not simple to make. Each gun had a hand carved stock and hand forged barrel and firing mechanism. It's no wonder that men began to design quicker and more efficient ways of manufacture guns!

I could go on and on with facts that we learned during our tour but I won't. You can visit the Springfield Armory website to learn more details.

The website states that tours are given daily, however, the helpful high school student/docent who met us at the desk stated he had never seen a tour given. We asked for and received a tour, though it was more of a hands-on demonstration by one of the park rangers than a tour. 

The park ranger was very patient with my little guys, answered a lot of questions, and knew to provide tactile examples for them to feel and look at. He truly was amazing!

Along with the tour/demonstration, there is an area set up for children to try on uniforms, work puzzles, and do activities. It makes for a great photo op! Doesn't Ben look handsome in his Junior Park Ranger uniform?!

If you have children with you, be sure to ask about the Junior Ranger program. There are worksheets for children to fill out and turn in for a certificate and junior ranger badge.

I found the Springfield Armory fascinating and definitely recommend it for a field trip and vacation activity. Even if you aren't into guns, the role of the Armory in the early years of America and during the Civil War are worth learning about. It's also a fun place to practice photography!

Have you heard of the Springfield Armory before? What about the Longfellow poem?

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