Begun as a major arsenal under the authority of General George Washington early in the Revolutionary War, the first national armory began manufacturing muskets in 1794. Within decades, Springfield Armory had perfected pioneering manufacturing methods that were critical to American industrialization. On a chill Spring morning in 1968, amid speeches and farewell addresses, the men and women of Springfield Armory bid each other goodbye as the Stars and Stripes were lowered for the last time. After nearly two centuries of continuous production of rifles and muskets used by America's armed forces in every war in the nation's history, the armory closed its gates and fell silent. Reopened in 1978, the original 1840s arsenal houses the world's largest collection of American military firearms.