Rock Island Arsenal Museum
The Rock Island Arsenal Museum was established on July 4, 1905. We are the second oldest US Army Museum in the United States. Our primary mission is to preserve and display the history of Rock Island Arsenal and Arsenal Island. Our secondary mission is to preserve and display the history of small arms development.
The Ordnance Museum at Rock Island Arsenal was opened to the public on July 4, 1905. We are the second oldest US Army Museum in existence. The West Point Museum was opened in 1857 at the US Military Academy, and is the oldest US Army Museum. The Springfield Armory Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts, was opened in 1871, and is now operated by the National Park Service.
There were three unrelated, important events that led to the founding of this museum.
First, on October 1, 1903, Chief of Ordnance Major General William Crozier notified Rock Island Arsenal that fifteen boxes of ordnance materiel would shortly be arriving “for the purpose of preserving it in a Military Museum to be established at the Rock Island Arsenal.” The boxes included a large accumulation of weapons and accoutrements from foreign countries that had been forwarded over the years through US Embassies to the Office of the Chief of Ordnance for study. In correspondence to Colonel Blunt at Rock Island Arsenal, Major General Crozier directed that a “suitable building be selected as a museum to display this ordnance materiel for research and for the interest of the general public.”
Second, a small arms plant for manufacturing the Model 1903 rifle was established at Rock Island Arsenal in 1904. In order to make room for the manufacturing plant, the weapons and obsolete materiel that had been warehoused at Rock Island Arsenal were sold at auction in the East. Before this materiel was shipped, two examples of each gun were selected and retained for the museum.