America Loses Its Oldest Factory—
Yeah, a Gun Factory

Image: Mike Groll/AP

By Frank Miniter. Feb 21, 2024

Gone is America's oldest factory, Remington Arms in Ilion, N.Y. Silenced are machines making Model 870 pump-action shotguns and Model 700 bolt-action rifles in the nearly one-million-square-foot facility. Gone are jobs for the men and women in a small town in upstate New York. Gone is a factory founded in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington.

It's gone to the dust heap of American industrial history. Like many, I have visited this multi-level series of brick buildings in Ilion many times and found it filled with row after row of humming computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines and grating, pounding, half-a-century-old, grease-stained lathes and barrel reamers. Over more than two centuries, the factory grew into such a complex series of buildings and floors, it would give an architect an anxiety disorder. You could walk from one building to another and change floors without using stairs or an elevator or even getting the notion you're going up or down. Indeed, this old soot-soiled factory was America's oldest factory still making its original product—guns. In October of 2013, about 1,400 employees were making 4,900 guns per day in this factory. More recently, the Ilion plant had about 230 workers.

Now its old floorboards, reeking of machine oil and smoothed by the boots of men and women for generations, will gather dust. And this would be a little less painful if this old factory had simply been slain by the creative destruction of American capitalism, of newer factories with more modern machines staffed with engineers with more-popular ideas. But politics is part of the reason for the death of this historic factory.

Remington's press release was corporate and polite when it said, "Chief Executive Officer, Kenneth R. D'Arcy today announced that RemArms, America's oldest firearms brand, will consolidate its firearms operations in LaGrange, Georgia. .....


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