Federal Arsenal

Image: Springfield Armory – Water Shops, 1899. Source: Library of Congress. 

On June 20, 1872, the delegation stopped in Springfield, Massachusetts to visit the Federal Arsenal. Only a few years earlier in Japan, wide-scale domestic conflict and political upheaval had made Western firearms a priority item for import. The delegation was interested in seeing the manufacturing process for small firearms in detail, in hopes of producing rifles domestically in the future. During the time of the Civil War, the Federal Arsenal had produced around 1000 rifles per day, though this number had fallen to 100 per day when the delegation made their visit.

The factory in Springfield had installed waterwheels to harness the power of the Connecticut River to run machinery. The workers were organized by station, forming small teams that specialized in each part of the rifle, such as the wooden stock or metal barrel. Once the gun was assembled, they were tested using electric wires to activate the triggers. The delegation received a demonstration, and all guns fired without a malfunction. They were impressed! Only a few years after the delegation’s return to Japan the Meiji government developed its own model, the Murata rifle.


Kume, Kunitake. “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” In Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe, edited by Chushichi Tsuzuki and R. Jules Young, 86-87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Fuess, Harald. “The Global Weapons Trade and the Meiji Restoration: Dispersion of Means of Violence in a World of Emerging Nation-States.” In The Meiji Restoration: Japan as a Global Nation, edited by Robert Hellyer and Harald Fuess, 83-110. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.