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National Endowment for the Humanities: Forge of Innovation

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Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for Teachers

Forge of Innovation:

The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry

One-week program offered July 7-12 or July 21-26 • Springfield, Massachusetts


Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry

Dates: Sessions July 7-12 and July 21-26, 2019.

Location: Springfield, Massachusetts

This workshop will investigate how the newly independent United States rose to become the world’s leading industrial power. Teachers will go on site at the birthplace of modern industry and learn from scholars as we investigate the richly resourced history of invention at the Springfield Armory in the 19th century. Participants will experience well-interpreted, hands-on sites and study a compelling variety of maps, letters, business records, paintings, manufacturing products, tools, and more. Teachers will contrast distinct ideologies and strategies for industrial development, and consider the impacts of industrial development on workers, communities, the environment, and culture.

A team of historians with extensive working with teachers will focus on the enormous economic, social, and political changes in America from the Revolution to the early 20th Century.

Seasoned teacher educators will guide a well-honed process of translating rich intellectual resources to the classroom. Teachers will create inquiry-based lessons on topics of their choice arising from the workshop. Time to work on class projects will be integrated through the week, facilitated by veteran educators. Teachers will research and include primary sources for their lessons from the robust archives of participating museums and from the Library of Congress and other national collections. Examples of lessons from prior years (edited for sharing) can be found by searching for industry topics in our library

Stipend Details: $1,200 for travel, meals, and other costs. ($100 of this will go to pay for all lunches and snacks on site over the course of the six days program, including a period meal at Old Sturbridge Village. Stipends are taxable.)

Graduate Credit: Optional 3 graduate credits in History from Westfield State University. Some additional writing and $325 for the three credits for those who choose.

Schedule Overview

An engraving shows ten small drawings of each process in musket manufacture, from shaping the barrel to putting the musket together Manufacturing Muskets, U.S. Armory, Springfield, Mass.

Sunday Afternoon and Evening (July 7 & July 21)

Museum of Springfield History

Welcome! to the Industrial Revolution in 1840s New England: Water power meets Yankee ingenuity and organization.  

  • Frame the investigation with scholars as we explore artifacts of Springfield and its high tech manufacturing history, from muskets to the early auto industry and beyond. Learn research tools for real-world and digital archives, from documentation to public interpretation to lesson design. (Time is integrated each day to work on your projects.)

Monday Full Day (July 8 & July 22)

Springfield Armory National Historic Site: Water Shops, Assembly, and Governance

  • With scholar and former machinist Bob Forrant, and National Park Service interpreters, explore the Armory campus and study the American System of Manufacture–where 19th century machinists first discovered how to make and fit interchangeable parts. Trace the long arc of innovations through the vast collection of product prototypes stretching from the American Revolution to the War in Vietnam.

Tuesday Full Day (July 9 & July 23)

Museum of Our Industrial Heritage – Greenfield Mill Complex – Precision and Machine Tools

  • Go onsite to a key Armory supplier for hands-on exhibits of manufacturing principles across the centuries. The Armory pioneered the concept of the supply chain, integrating gun parts from manufacturers throughout the region. Skilled Greenfield workers made machine tools precise enough to build factory floor machines around the world. Site of present-day, small-scale, high-tech manufacturing.

Wednesday Full Day (July 10 & July 24)

Carding Mill at Old Sturbridge Village

Sturbridge Village – 1840s Rural Craft Economy – Context of the Industrial Revolution

  • Experience a recreated 1840s village and the rich New England culture in which the modern Industrial Revolution began. Watch a wooden-geared water-driven mill at work. Study artifacts of centuries of glass manufacturing. Observe and even try a hand at simple crafts. Help to make and share a period meal.

Thursday Full Day (July 11 & July 25)

By Way of Comparison, Consider Alternative Models of Industrial Development: Historic Northampton; David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History & Underground Railroad Studies

  • Radical abolitionists, including Sojourner Truth and a sister of William Lloyd Garrison founded a utopian industrial commune in Northampton (Nonotuck), 1842-1845. They made silk as alternative to slave-grown cotton. See the homes and sites of this utopian community, which became a northern end point of the Underground Railroad.

Holyoke Heritage State Park; Wistariahurst (Skinner Mansion)

  • Walk the factory-lined canals of this planned industrial city of the 1870s. View the wealth and generosity of mill owners at Wistariahurst mansion and hear the stories of its workers and servants. Area industry still draws electric power from the canals, including a multi-university server hub.

Friday Full Day (July 12 & July 26)

Springfield Museums: Wood Museum of Springfield History and D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts; and Springfield Armory National Historic Site

  • Synthesize understanding with a return to the Springfield Armory and the Springfield Museums. Deepen understanding of Springfield’s diverse viewpoints and expression through the art and artifacts of the Industrial Era. Examine the impacts of industrialism on communities and the environment. Complete research and lesson-planning projects.  

Further information and extensive online resources: Forge RESOURCES


Program Sites

Springfield ArmorySpringfield Armory National Historic Site includes manufacturing and assembly buildings from nearly 200 years of production. The museum features exhibits of machinery, tools, and models of arms across that history. The Armory holds manufacturing records and military data, personnel records, newsletters and photos showing the diversification of the workforce through the integration of women and African Americans. Online resources include films of arms demonstrations and oral histories of Armory workers describing its final period of production. Springfield Technical & Community College offers high tech classes in old Armory buildings.

Springfield Museums: Museum of Springfield History features the city’s industrial and cultural development, manufactured items showing the variety of industries, products, and their uses (e.g., Duryea automobile prototype, Indian motorcycles, sewing machines, and ice skates). Maps of the region show settlement patterns and geography in development. Artifacts from clothing to groceries demonstrate daily life. D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts exhibits many landscapes including from the Hudson River School, American impressionists, portraits from colonial to modern eras, representative furniture, textiles, metalwork, glass, and ceramics, and a large collection of Currier and Ives prints.  

Museum of Our Industrial Heritage is in a 19th century machine shop and features artifacts, machinery, and documents from the cutlery, tap and die, machine tool industries. One of the Armory’s most important suppliers and machine tool builders, the museum features hands-on exhibitions of evolving tools and principles of manufacturing, interpreted by machinists.

Old Sturbridge Village boasts working farms, workshops, water mills, and public and commercial buildings. Collections include 50,000 artifacts from 1790-1840 and 35,000 volumes on history and material life in rural New England in the Early Republic.

Wistariahurst Museum, home to the Skinners, 19th century silk mill owners, hosts and exhibits archives documenting employment records, photographs and personal records of domestic servants and mill workers employed by Skinners. Business and private records highlight the social activities of a wealthy family during the Gilded Age.


Holyoke Heritage State Park interprets the extensive canal and mill landscape of this designed city. The museum exhibits artifacts of Holyoke cultural life, and maps and business records demonstrating the creation of integrated canal and factory systems.

Nonotuck is the historic name of Florence, MA

Ruggles Center stands next to an early water mill site and inhabits the home of one of a community of escaped slaves attracted to egalitarian Florence industrial opportunities. 





Project Team

Rich Cairn, Project Director, has 32 years of state and national-level K-12 professional development experience. He earned a B.A. in American Studies at Yale and a Masters in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota. He has published dozens of curricula and instructional guides in varied media. Rich Cairn built Emerging America into a vital partnership of scholars, museums, and archives, and a cadre of vital K-12 teacher-leaders. He supported dozens of teacher-student teams to research and publish online community histories. In 2010, Emerging America joined the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Consortium, training hundreds of teachers yearly.  He is adjunct Education and History faculty member at Westfield State University.

Kelley BrownMaster Teacher, teacher at Easthampton High School, will guide teachers to research and write curriculum for their classrooms. Since 2006, she has led teacher professional development programs for MA Department of Youth Services, Emerging America Teaching American History, and since 2011 for TPS. She was 2010 MA History Teacher of the Year.

Robert Forrant, UMass Lowell, will lay out the region’s outsized role in the Industrial Revolution. He will draw on his published research on the metals industry and deep experience as lead scholar for ten years of NEH Landmarks program at Tsongas Industrial History Center (Lowell). He will speak also about his many years as a Springfield machinist.

Michael Frisch, University at Buffalo, will present the workshop model of the arc of industrial rise, decline, and rebuilding. He will access his own research on Springfield and help guide teachers using digital tools to conduct research using images from the field.

Carrie Brown, cultural historian, museum curator (including on bicycles, early automobiles, the air age, women in industry, and impact of interchangeable parts), will speak about the groundbreaking opportunities for women in Armory-related manufacturers in WWI and WWII.  

Chris Clark, University of Connecticut will illustrate how dispersed rural capitalism grew into concentrated industrial landscape in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. Chris will deepen the picture by contrasting alternative, ideologically motivated models of development.

David Glassberg, UMass Amherst, will explore the impacts of industrialization on workers, especially on opportunities for African Americans and immigrants, and on the environment.  

Tom Goldscheider, David Ruggles Center, will help participants compare models of industrial development and of slavery through the lens of an abolitionist utopian industrial community.

Tom Kelleher, Chief Curator and Historian, will introduce Old Sturbridge Village, explaining the context in which the Industrial Revolution arose, and anticipating its many impacts.

Bruce Laurie, UMass Amherst, will place the planned city of Holyoke in context and discuss politics of the 19th century, including labor movements and conflicts with the slave economy.

Alex MacKenzie, Curator and Historian, Springfield Armory NHS will guide and interpret the Armory’s vast site and collection of 200 years of artifacts and documents.

Penni Martorell, Curator and City Historian, Wistariahurst, Holyoke, with the staff of the Holyoke Heritage Center will examine that planned industrial city, lead teachers through the house mansion, and engage them in the stories of workers, owners, and servants.  

Jim Terapane, Director, Museum of Our Industrial Heritage, and fifty-year machinist, will involve teachers with the tools and the machinists who create them.


photo of 8-story hotel against a blue sky

A block of rooms are being held for NEH Forge of Innovation workshop participants who wish to stay at the newest Springfield hotel, the Holiday Inn Express on State Street, close to the Springfield Museums Quadrangle and the Springfield Armory, as well as to restaurants, the new Springfield Casino entertainment complex, and the Basketball Hall of Fame (the modern game of basketball was invented in Springfield in 1891).

  • The newly designed and appointed hotel makes use of a century-old building on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1917, The Radding Building for many years housed the Mutual Fire Assurance Company founded in 1827.
  • Inside the classically-detailed exterior, a $10 million dollar update has created a modern, fresh hotel which was opened with ceremony in 2018.
  • Program bus will pick up and drop off participants at program sites and return to the hotel.
  • Downtown Springfield is 25 minutes from Hartford’s Bradley International Airport. Amtrak serves Downtown Springfield with 6-9 trains daily.
  • Participants will access several archives and collections, featuring the Museum of Springfield History, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and collections of the Library of Congress.
  • Online exhibits and model lessons help teachers to bring project learning to their students. See Forge of Innovation Resources.

Contact Us

Rich Cairn, Project Director: 413 588-5936

Alison Noyes, Assistant Director of Emerging America: 413 588-5940

Collaborative for Educational Services, 97 Hawley Street, Northampton, MA 01060

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