Collection Highlights

Model 1903 Serial Number 1

The Model 1903 rifle was based on the design of the German Mauser, a bolt action, military rifle.  Because it was designed and first produced by Springfield Armory, it is commonly called the Springfield.  Beginning in 1904, Rock Island Arsenal produced the Model 1903 rifle.  The first 18,000 examples were the rod-bayonet style type.  Production of the rod-bayonet was halted under orders of President Theodore Roosevelt on January 4, 1905.  He requested that a knife-bayonet replace the rod-bayonet.

The serial number 1 rifle was immediately sent to the museum after its fabrication on December 20, 1904.  The 1905 date on its stock refers to the fiscal year in which it was manufactured.  The stock is also marked with a “CN/1905” cartouche indicating that Conrad Nelson inspected the rifle in fiscal year 1905.  Conrad Nelson was the final inspector of small arms at Rock Island Arsenal from 1904 to 1915.

M1 Garand Serial Number 2

The M1 is known as the Garand, because John C. Garand of Springfield Armory developed it.  In 1932, several semi-automatic rifle designs were under consideration by the War Department Board at Springfield Armory.  Eighty samples of the T1E1 submitted by John C. Garand were manufactured and tested. The first 2,902 M1 rifles were manufactured by Springfield Army in 1938.  It was the standard weapon used during the Second World War.  Although manufacturing ceased in the 1950s, it was still in use in Vietnam as late as 1963.

The M1 was primarily produced by Springfield Armory and by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  This early example of the M1 was manufactured before the gas port was moved back into the barrel.  Its gas port is in an adapter ahead of the muzzle.

Model from Centennial Exposition

This model was part of a display in the Government Building at the 1876 International Exhibition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The topographical model illustrated the middle section of Rock Island Arsenal from Sylvan Slough to the Mississippi River.  The original model was cased in glass and exhibited during the 1876 International Exhibition from mid May to mid November.

In the 1876 Report of the Chief of Ordnance, Lieutenant Henry Metcalfe provides great detail on the model of Rock Island Arsenal.  The model’s buildings were created by Frederick W. von Egloffstein of New York using a process called photo-sculpture which was quite innovative at the time.

The buildings on exhibit were made on a scale of 1/300. The process used photographs to create a three-dimensional object.  Photographs of the actual buildings were exposed to a thick film of sensitized gelatin transferring the image onto the gelatin. Once the image was transferred, portions of the gelatin were washed away leaving only the image. The gelatin was then swelled with cold water until a low relief was created. Plaster was poured over the gelatin relief creating a permanent mold.  Each side of the building was then cast from the mold, creating a perfect replica of the existing building.

This model is listed in the 1909 museum inventory and pictured in an early photograph of the exhibit hall.

Battle of the Little Bighorn Weapons

New Model 1859 Sharps Carbine

New Model 1869 Sharps Carbine

Model 1870 Springfield Carbine – transferred to the National Museum of the US Army

Model 1870 Springfield Rifle

Model 1873 Winchester Rifle

The Little Bighorn National Monument in Crow Agency, Montana, was excavated in 1983 after a brush fire removed the undergrowth from the battlefield.  During the excavation, a thorough archeological survey was conducted to uncover all remaining objects related to the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Among the objects found during the survey were cartridge cases that were fired from weapons used by the Sioux and Cheyenne or by the Seventh Cavalry. 

The archeologists located surviving weapons with known Native American provenance.  Cartridge cases were dry fired in these weapons to capture their firing pin marks to compare against those collected on the battlefield.  The dry firing of weapons in the Rock Island Arsenal Museum’s collection yielded five positive matches.  This is the largest known collection of weapons used by Sioux or Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. 

The weapons were part of the original collection of the Ordnance Museum at Rock Island Arsenal and appear in the 1909 catalog.

Wall Gun

Wall guns filled the tactical gap between hand-held firearms and cannon.  They were mounted on the tops of fortification walls by means of the yoke attached to the stock.  The guns were then easily aimed in all directions despite their considerable weight.  This weapon weighs 50 pounds.

The wall gun was made between 1775 and 1780 at the Rappahannock Forge, established in Falmouth, Virginia by James Hunter.  Besides wall guns, Hunter manufactured muskets, pistols, bayonets, and swords.

Only five Rappahannock Forge wall guns are known to exist.  Two are in the museum's collection; the West Point Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and Springfield Armory each have an example.

General Officers M15 Pistol Serial Number GO1

Only 1,004 General Officers M15 pistols were produced at Rock Island Arsenal from 1972 to 1974.  The M15 was designed at Rodman Laboratories at Rock Island Arsenal and was standardized on October 12, 1972.  It was designed to replace the Colt “Model M”, .32 and .380 caliber, pocket pistols that had been issued to General Officers since 1941.

The M15 was very similar to the National Match pistols.  In fact, both were rebuilt Model 1911A1 pistols that were produced by the same armorers at Rock Island Arsenal.  The distinctive features of the M15 included a chromed barrel, high visibility fixed national match sight, distinctive horizontal grooves on the back grip, checkering on the front grip strap, checkered walnut grips, national match trigger, and plate for officer’s name.

The GO1 pistol belonged to Major General Henry A. Rasmussen, Commanding General of U.S. Army Weapons Command at Rock Island Arsenal at the time of the development of the M15.  It was General Rasmussen who secured final approval to produce the M15 from then Chief of Staff General Abrahms.

The M15 pistol was given to General Rasmussen in a wooden presentation case, one of only two presentation cases made by Rock Island Arsenal.


This life size taxidermy horse was part of the War Department exhibit in the Government Building at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri. Six horse models were used to display artillery equipment which was being manufactured by the U.S. Government.  At the close of the exposition, the six horses were sent to Rock Island Arsenal and became part of the museum’s original collection. 

One remaining example is presently on display.  The horse is a full size, chestnut mare.  The horse skeleton is intact inside a wire and plaster framework upon which the hide is mounted.  The other five horses were removed from the collection at different times because of disrepair.  The remaining horse is enclosed in a plexiglass case to further protect this important artifact.

Civil War Violin

One year after Rock Island Arsenal was established, a prison camp was built in 1863 to house Confederate prisoners of war.  During the twenty months that the prison was in operation, 12,192 prisoners were confined at the Rock Island Barracks.

Prisoners occupied their time in a variety of ways.  There was a prison library, church services, and a debating society.  Games would help pass the time and the prisoners enjoyed marbles and tag.  Some prisoners carved rings, buttons, and trinkets from shells taken from the Mississippi River.  One prisoner even carved violins by hand to sell to other prisoners, guards, and visitors. 

Private H. E. Purdee, 7th Florida Infantry, made this violin which he sold to Mr. E. M. Cralla of Moline, Illinois on August 16, 1864.  Glued inside the violin is a note which states, “is manufactured expressly for E. M. Cralla by H. E. Purdee of the 7th Fla. Reg. rebel prisoner of war.  Made with a pocket knife in Barracks 33 Rock Island prison Ill. Aug. 16 – 1864”.