Frankford Arsenal

United States historic place

The Frankford Arsenal is a former United States Army ammunition plant located adjacent to the Bridesburg neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, north of the original course of Frankford Creek.



Opened in 1816 on 20 acres (8.1:ha) of land purchased by President James Madison, it was the center of U.S. military small-arms ammunition design and development until its closure in 1977. Among the many other products manufactured at the arsenal were fire-control and range-finding instruments, and gauges for these components.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, the arsenal's commander, Josiah Gorgas, resigned and joined the Confederate States Army in deference to the wishes of his Alabama-born wife and reported to the Confederate capital in Richmond with a large supply of U.S. Army guns and ammunition. By the end of the war, the arsenal employed over 1,000 workers. It served as a major site for the storage of weapons and artillery pieces; a depot for the repair of artillery, cavalry and infantry equipment; repair and cleaning of small arms and harnesses; the manufacture of percussion powder and Minié balls; and the testing of new forms of gunpowder and time fuses. During the Gettysburg Campaign, the arsenal provided tens of thousands of muskets and vast supplies of ammunition for Pennsylvania's "Emergency Militia" regiments. Among the innovations extensively tested at the Arsenal was the Gatling Gun, an early form of machine gun that saw extensive service in the Indian Wars.

During World War I and World War II, the arsenal was again busy with supplying the war efforts, providing a major source of jobs and income for the region. At times, employment reached 22,000.

The Frankford Arsenal was an entity unto itself, a virtual city within a city, and contained everything from its own police and fire departments, dining halls, mot... more

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