Springfield: A city of firsts

Hampden County

MGM Springfield is the first full-scale casino in Massachusetts, but the city has a long tradition of making history.

22News found out why Springfield has been known as “The City of Firsts.”

Springfield is probably best known as the Birthplace of Basketball.

It was here in 1891 that Dr. James Naismith invented the game while teaching at the International YMCA Training School, now known as Springfield College.

Some of the famous firsts that Springfield is known for, however, started more than 200 years before Dr. Naismith nailed up the first peach basket.

William Pynchon is the pioneer who founded the city in 1636, and four years later it was named after his hometown in England– the first “Springfield” in the New World.

Pynchon also has an infamous claim to fame. 

Maggie Humberston is the Head of Library and Archives at the Museum of Springfield History. She holds one of only four copies left of Pynchon’s book The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption published in 1650. It was the first banned book in New England.

“When the Puritan community in Boston read the treatise they were offended and they felt it was heretical,” Humberston said. “So it was the first book that was banned in Boston. It was burned on Boston Common by the Boston Town Executioner”

In 1777, General George Washington approved another famous first as the Springfield Armory became the primary Federal arsenal during the Revolutionary War.  

That’s where the famous Springfield Rifles were designed and manufactured beginning in 1855 used by both sides during the Civil War, and redesigned in 1903 and used as the primary weapon for American troops during World War I.

It was also in Springfield in 1860 when an entrepreneur named Milton Bradley created the first popular American Board game, the game of Life.

In 1893, the Duryea Brothers road-tested the first-ever American gasoline-powered automobile in Springfield.

And, in 1901, the first successful motorcycle was designed by the company that became known as the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, based in Springfield.

In 1920, British automaker Rolls-Royce opened a plant in Springfield and nearly 3,000 vehicles rolled off the assembly line, including a 1925 Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster formerly owned by S. Prestley Blake, the co-founder of Friendly’s–another Springfield first.

Those famous firsts continued right through the 20th century and included the long career of Springfield’s own Dr. Seuss and the founding of our own WWLP-TV.

We were the first UHF TV Station in the United States when we went on the air March 17, 1953.

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