During the early years of the Revolutionary War, Williamsburg blacksmith James Anderson expanded his small, commercial site into a public armoury. As public armourer, Anderson maintained and manufactured many of the weapons, tools, and other equipment used by the American military. The armoury had a diverse workforce of more than 40, working in several shops and fed from the site's kitchen. In 2012, Colonial Williamsburg opened the newly reconstructed armoury complex. Extensive archaeology, primary source research, digital modelling, collaboration among the trade shops, and a grant from Forrest E. Mars made the reconstruction possible. For more about the Armoury, see Michael Olmert's article "Of Arms, Armorers, & Armories." For more on the reconstruction process, see Edward A. Chappell's article "Complex Reconstruction: The James Anderson Armoury."
3D Rendering of the Armoury Site
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
In 2012, Colonial Williamsburg opened a reconstructed armoury on the site of the eighteenth-century complex. The largest building is the armoury itself, with several chimneys and forges at which blacksmiths and gunsmiths work. There is also a tin shop, a workshop, and two storage buildings. A kitchen provided food for the people—more than 40 men—who worked there. This illustration of the armoury site was created by Colonial Williamsburg's Digital History Center.
The Next Electronic Field Trip
is The Industrious Tradesmen
April 11, 2013
The Idea of America: How Values Shaped Our Republic and Hold the Key to Our Future
Want a new way for you and your students to explore American history and civics? This new student- and teacher-friendly book argues that at the heart of America is a great debate. And at the heart of that debate are our shared values: law and ethics, freedom and equality, diversity and unity, common wealth and private wealth. The Idea of America: How Values Shaped Our Republic and Hold the Key to Our Future describes these values and shows how the tensions between them have shaped and continue to shape our history. Want a class set? Bulk discounts are available. Comes with a companion classroom kit with ready-to-use lesson plans. Read a sample chapter, download discussion questions, and see what prominent historians and Colonial Williamsburg President Colin Campbell have to say about the book here.
New podcasts posted every Monday!
This month's vodcast: Gown in a Day, part II
The Idea of America
A digital American history program that inspires and prepares high school students for active citizenship, developed by Colonial Williamsburg and distributed by Pearson Education.
**Learn more in America: The Pocket Guide, a quick yet comprehensive look at our revolutionary framework for understanding and teaching American history.**
James Anderson was a blacksmith in Williamsburg who ran an armoury there from 1778 to 1780, and employed a variety of skilled workmen—soldiers, skilled Frenchmen working under contract, enslaved men, prisoners of war, apprentices, and tradesmen. Blacksmithing focused on repairing weapons and making bayonets, ramrods, and musket balls. The tinsmiths created camp items such as cups, plates, and kettles, essentials for soldiers' daily lives. In this lesson, students play a board game and discover what work was done at the armoury, who did the work, and why the facility was so vital during the American Revolution.
Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of quality American history instructional materials, including:
- Earning a Living as a Tradesperson in Colonial America Lesson Unit
- Discovering the Past Through Archeaology Classroom Simulation
- Soldier's Haversack Hands-on History Kit
Check out our specials, including 50% off lesson units!
Quotation of the Month
"What we make aids our preservation and presentation of centuries-old technology. The products themselves are, in a way, a by-product. That they are faithful reproductions or plausible reconstructions is important—they look, feel, sound, smell, taste like eighteenth-century things. It's more important that they are that way because we went about making them as they would have been made two-hundred-odd years ago."
— Jay Gaynor, Colonial Williamsburg's director of Historic Trades since 2001. "Why Do We Cast Cannons, Make Wooden Wheels, and Build Coffeehouses?" Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Spring 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg for Teachers
21st Century Award
for Best Practices in Distance Learning,
United States Distance Learning Association, 2010
Distinguished Achievement Award Finalist 2011
Association of Educational Publishers