City Spotlight: Springfield, MA

By the 1940s, Springfield had become a city of institutions and nationally known manufacturers. 
Reprinted from Postcard History Series: Springfield by G. Michael Dobbs (Pg. 12, Arcadia Publishing, 2008.)

Brief History of Springfield, MA

Springfield, Massachusetts has a history which dates back to early colonial America. The original settlement was founded in 1635 by William Pynchon, one of the original patentees of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, it wasn't until 1636 that the town was officially founded. Pynchon ruled the colony autocratically until 1652, when he returned to England, following condemnation by the Massachusetts General Court for a book attacking the Calvinist doctrine of atonement.

Skirmishes with the Native Americans occurred frequently following the town’s settlement, mostly as a result of the damage suffered by the Native American’s cornfields, due to the grazing habits of the colonists’ livestock. This all came to a head when, in 1675, the town was nearly destroyed during King Philip’s War.

Though the town survived the war that is considered to be one of the bloodiest conflicts (per capita) in U.S. history, it failed to avoid a prominent position in future wars. Springfield became home to an arsenal of the well-known Springfield muskets, and served as a critical source of arms during the American Revolution. Later, it was a target of attack during Shays’s Rebellion in 1786. The Armory, built in 1794, now serves as a national historic site. It became a principal manufacturer of small arms and later developed the Springfield and Garand rifles, though it eventually closed in the 1960s.

From a farming town to a manufacturing town, Springfield ultimately became an industrial town. Enjoying the benefits of abundant waterpower and the connection by railroad to Boston, in 1835 Springfield was producing paper, railroad coaches, locomotives, and even ice skates. Though its production changed throughout the decades, its main sources of income now are healthcare, insurance, and other miscellaneous services.

Today, Springfield is home to Springfield College (founded 1885), it serves as the headquarters for the publisher of Merriam-Webster dictionaries, and the city’s Basketball Hall of Fame commemorates James Naismith, who invented the game. The town is also home to two theatres and a memorial commemorating another famous figure in history, the renowned children’s writer, Theodor Seuss Geisel, who was born in Springfield in 1852.

Now that we’ve explored a brief history of Springfield, Massachusetts, and made mention of some its most noteworthy contributions to United States History, let’s have a look at some vintage photos of the city.

Historic Photos of Springfield, MA

This stone, erected by Joseph Wait in 1763, attests to the travel made along this road between Boston and Springfield. Many of the city's earlier settlers came to the plantation from Boston on foot, which usually involved a two-week trek that covered 100 miles. (Courtesy of National Park Service, Springfield Armory NHS, Springfield, MA; 674-SA.a.1.)
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield: Volume I by Ginger Cruickshank (Pg. 10, Arcadia Publishing, 1999.) 

This statue of Miles Morgan, an early settler, was erected as a tribute by a fifth-generation descendant of his. The Forbes & Wallace building can be seen in the background, and it is interesting to see, even then, the somewhat crowded parking conditions along the city streets. (Courtesy of Ramon Blood.)
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield: Volume I by Ginger Cruickshank (Pg. 10, Arcadia Publishing, 1999.) 

The congestion of a busy city is clearly visible in this photograph, c. 1908. Car  no. 51 of the Hartford & Springfield Street Railway Company is heading for Court Square. It would then return to Hartford via West Springfield; Agawam; Suffield, Connecticut; and Windsor Locks, Connecticut. (Courtesy of Larry Gormally.)
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield: Volume I by Ginger Cruickshank (Pg. 14, Arcadia Publishing, 1999.) 


The old Springfield Post Office and Customs House was built in 1899, on the corner of Main and Worthington Streets. To the left of the picture, the glass top of the L-shaped block can be seen. The glassed-in area was a studio for the Springfield Photo Engraving Company. (Courtesy of Larry Gormally.)
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield: Volume I by Ginger Cruickshank (Pg. 15, Arcadia Publishing, 1999.) 

B'sharas Restaurant is pictured, c. 1946, in Brightwood at the corner of Main and Grace Streets. The restaurant was started by a Lebanese man, B'shara B'shara. His grandson now runs the business, which was relocated to West Springfield after a fire destroyed the original building. (Courtesy of Paul B'shara.)
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield: Volume I by Ginger Cruickshank (Pg. 25, Arcadia Publishing, 1999.) 

In late 1777, captured British officers, forcibly marching eastward through Springfield, noted that "this place is a veritable magazine for the storage of weapons for the Americans... The store of magazines houses were filled from top to bottom; and workmen of all trades were seen in the houses engaged in the manufacture of ammunition, wagons, guns & c."
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield Armory by Alex MacKenzie (Pg. 12, Arcadia Publishing, 2015.)

The green at the center of Armory Square at the Hill Shops, which still remains, took shape under Lee's administration. In the center of the green was a liberty a pole, a symbol of the American Revolution borrowed from ancient Rome. In the workshops at the far end, the Model 1816 musket was assembled and finished. At a cost of about $10 per musket, Springfield Armory manufactured over 300,000 of these between 1816 and 1840.
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield Armory by Alex MacKenzie (Pg. 20, Arcadia Publishing, 2015.)

"This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling, / like a huge organ, rise its burnished arms." Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made a trip to Springfield Armory on his honeymoon in the early 1840s. The racks of finished muskets inspired him to write the poem "The Arsenal at Springfield" as a metaphor for the horrors of war.
Reprinted from Images of America: Springfield Armory by Alex MacKenzie (Pg. 26, Arcadia Publishing, 2015.)

Court Square around 1905, with Old First Church on the left and the 1822 courthouse on
the right. (Library of Congress.)
Reprinted from Lost Springfield, Massachusetts by Derek Strahan (Pg. 47, The History Press, 2017.)

Hampden County Courthouse
The Hampden County Courthouse in its original appearance, shortly before its 1906
remodeling. (Library of Congress.)
Reprinted from Lost Springfield, Massachusetts by Derek Strahan (Pg. 51, The History Press, 2017.)

Main Arsenal
The Main Arsenal at the armory, around 1910–20. (Library of Congress.)
Reprinted from Lost Springfield, Massachusetts by Derek Strahan (Pg. 63, The History Press, 2017.)

To learn more about the history of Springfield, MA consider these other sources:


Springfield Firefighting

Springfield Armory

Hockey in Springfield

Springfield: Volume I

Springfield: Volume II

Lost Springfield, Massachusetts

Baystate Medical Center

Smith & Wesson

Old Route 7: Along the Berkshire Highway

Knox Automobile Company

The Big E: Eastern States Exposition

For all Springfield, MA titles click here.