Making Arms in the Machine Age traces the growth and development
of the United States Arsenal at Frankford, Pennsylvania, from its
origin in 1816 to 1870. During this period, the arsenal evolved
from a small post where skilled workers hand-produced small arms
ammunition to a full-scale industrial complex employing a large
James Farley uses the history of the arsenal to examine larger
issues including the changing technology of early
nineteenth-century warfare, the impact of new technology on the
United States Army, and the reactions of workers and their families
and communities to the coming of industrialization. Shortly after
the War of 1812, the U. S. Army founded several new arsenals,
including Frankford, to build up supplies of arms and ammunition
then in short supply. At that time, the Army was held in low regard
because of its perceived poor performance in the war, so the
arrival of arsenals was not welcomed. By 1870, however, the arsenal
at Frankford had integrated itself into the community and become a
valued and respected member of it.
Farley argues that the Ordnance Department of the U. S. Army
created an industrial system of manufacture at Frankford well in
advance of private industry. He also contends that the evolution of
the Army into an employer of a large-scale civilian workforce
helped to end the isolation and anti-militarism that plagued it
after the War of 1812. Farley's study joins recent work in the
history of technology, such as Judith McGaw's That Wonderful
Machine, that seeks to understand technological change in its
social and cultural context.
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