An Act of Congress established Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) in 1862, and as early as 1875 RIA manufacturing operations included a harness shop, a carpenter’s woodworking shop, a cloth and canvas shop and an equipment shop. The arsenal's ability to produce equipment to support troops in the field was first successfully tested during the Spanish-American War, when carriages for breech loading rifles and siege howitzers were manufactured. Large quantities of equipment for men and horses, such as canteens, tin cups, watering bridles, and saddles were produced. By 1902, the arsenal was producing sets of cavalry and infantry equipment.

The Model 1903 rifle was first manufactured at RIA from 1904 to 1913. Production was reestablished for the Model 1903 in September 1916 during the First World War. WWI was the only time the arsenal was involved with ammunition production and loaded 155mm howitzer shells. Between the wars, RIA concentrated on tank and artillery development. In WWII, emphasis was placed on artillery production, and almost 25,000 recoil mechanisms for various artillery pieces were manufactured. RIA also produced machine guns and ammunition metallic disintegrating belt links during WWII. RIA also contributed during the Korean War manufacturing the highly publicized “superbazooka.”

By 1962 RIA was responsible for stocking and fielding 65,000 different items, including hand tools, band saws, and grinding machines. During the Vietnam War, the M102 105mm lightweight howitzer was developed and produced at RIA. By 1967, the arsenal was responsible for product engineering, research and development, and manufacturing support of small arms. During the 1980s, RIA improved its manufacturing facility as part of REARM initiatives and that complex is known as the Kingsbury Manufacturing Complex. This complex houses the Department of Defense's only complete in-house forge, foundry, and plating shop. During the Gulf War, RIA manufactured component parts for artillery, tanks, and tracked vehicles. Today, Rock Island Arsenal Garrison is the only U.S. Army facility that assembles tool sets, kits, and outfits that support equipment in the field. The arsenal manufactures gun mounts, recoil mechanisms, artillery carriages, and other combat equipment. Over 56 tenant organizations are headquartered on the island with various missions to support the military.

RIA’s historic significance was identified by the State of Illinois in 1969 when the arsenal was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1989, when the original arsenal buildings were designated as National Historic Landmarks. In addition, RIA is home to a number of historic landmarks including: the Confederate Cemetery; the Rock Island National Cemetery established in 1863 as the post cemetery for Union prison guards at the Rock Island Prison Barracks; Quarters One, a 50 room Italianate villa style house built by General Thomas Rodman was completed in1871; the site of the first bridge to cross the Mississippi River and the first ever government bridge which replaced the original in 1872 and was modernized in 1896 with a 360 degree turning span; the Clock Tower building completed by the first Commander of Rock Island Arsenal Major Charles P. Kingsbury; and 10 original stone shops that line Rodman Avenue constructed from limestone between 1863 and 1886 in a Greek revival architectural style.

Publications on the Rock Island Arsenal
A Short History of the Rock Island Prison Barracks (Revised Edition)
Rock Island Arsenal: Flood Control Effort Book During the Great Flood of 1993  
An Illustrated History of Rock Island Arsenal and Arsenal Island  
Rock Island Arsenal Historical Tour Guide 

Army Sustainment Command - History Office Publications
Quarters One on Rock Island Arsenal
Misunderstandings to Massacres: The Black Hawk War of 1832

COL Davenport House Website

Corps of Engineers - Mississippi River Visitor Center

You are making history everyday at JMC, tell your Command Historian!

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Last updated: 09/19/2023 5:18 PM