edited by Richard Colton, Historian, Springfield Armory NHS
In the depths of the Great Depression, high electrical power costs for industrial
sites like Springfield Armory became increasingly burdensome. However, the newly-developed
fluorescent light promised to make artificial light available at a significant
fraction of equivalent older incandescent lighting, thereby reducing costs. In
1939, as Europe was engulfed in war, Springfield Armory installed first twenty-five
new fluorescent fixtures in Building 36 at Federal Square. The new lighting allowed
Armory workers to begin get the illumination they needed to gear-up for increased
production of the M1 Garand rifle.
Armory News photo: Building 104
The next year, many more fluorescent fixtures replaced incandescent lights
in other Federal Square buildings as well as in a few older Armory Square buildings
across Federal Street. Groundbreaking for a new state-of-the-art industrial building
occurred in August of that year for Building 104, facing State Street on the
southeast corner of Federal Square. It was into this manufacturing building that
Collins Electric Company (still in business in the Springfield area) installed
over 800 new fluorescent fixtures. Within a year, production of M1 Garand rifles
doubled from about 8,000 in August 1940 to nearly 16,000 in August 1941. And
none too soon it was when Pearl Harbor was attacked just four months later. The
greatly enhanced lighting at Springfield Armory turned night into day for the
Armory’s staff and production crews. The production building model thus
first established at Springfield Armory became the pattern for many new industrial
production structures during the forthcoming war and post-war years.
Text from a newspaper article and photographs from 1939-
“The Springfield Armory (ordnance Dept. U. S. Army) has recently completed
a new factory which has caused a great deal of comment because of its lighting.
The Principal source of interest in this particular factory is the use of continuous
strip fluorescent lighting, employing the new 100 watt five foot fluorescent
lamp, probably the first installation of its kind in America.
“When the Ordnance Dept. decided last summer to erect a new factory,
it engaged the engineering services of Chas. T. Main, Inc. of Boston, and the
construction services of Fred T. Ley & Co. Inc., of Springfield, Mass. Shortly
after the decision to build was made, it came to the attention of the engineers
that the new 100 watt fluorescent lamp was almost ready for production, and feeling
that the new factory should have the best possible lighting for its precision
work, they quickly planned this continuous strip method which as proven so successful
“The factory manufacturing floor is 480 feet long and 190 feet wide,
composed of 60 bays measuring 40 x 38 feet each. Each bay is lighted by three
continuous strips of two lamp fluorescent reflectors, each strip consisting of
six R.L.M. reflectors with two 100 watt lamps. The reflectors are hung on guy
wires at mounting heights of 15 1/2 feet from the floors and are switched at
each bay with circuit breaker switches in the steel columns.
“The entire installation was engineered, designed, manufactured and
installed in a period of slightly over three months. The results have been so
satisfactory that scores of engineers from all over the United States have visited
the factory to inspect it, and their comments would indicate that this type of
lighting will probably be very generally used in the near future.
“Each bay (40' x 38') has a total of 36 lamps, which with the auxiliaries
consume a total of 4230 watts per bay. Computing the cost of current at the Springfield
Armory rate, each bay costs approximately 5 1/4 cents per hour. Reducing it to
man-hours, with an average of 20 men working in each bay, the current cost is
approximately 1/4 cent per man-hour--a surprisingly low cost for 50-60 candles
of lighting at the working plane.
“The initial foot candle readings are between 60 and 70 foot candles,
but after the lamps are 'seasoned" and depreciation and dust is considered,
it is expected that the year-round average will be between 50 and 60 foot candles.
“The original cost of this installation as compared with a 20 foot candle
installation of mercury-vapor and tungsten filament lamps would probably be almost
double, but against this might be computed so many items of increased efficiency
of the workers and lower the cost of current that the first cost is readily justified.
“The installation was made under a sub-contract from Fred T. Ley & Co.,
Inc., by Collins Electric Company, Inc., of Springfield, who completed the installation
well ahead of schedule. The manufacturer of the lighting equipment was the Miller
Company of Meriden, Conn., whose record of delivery was remarkable under the
“The entire installation was encouraged by Capt. R. J. Forsyth, the
Ordnance Department Engineer at the Springfield Armory, whose broad experience
in electrical engineering impelled him to be satisfied with nothing but the best
and most efficient lighting for the new factory.
“The Constructing Quartermaster in charge was Lieut.-Col. M. A. McFadden
who was succeeded by Capt. P. G. Petterson who was succeeded by Lieut.-Col L.H.
“Brig.-Gen. G. H. Stewart is Commanding Officer of the Springfield Armory.”