Discover the wealth of knowledge preserved in books and documents related to firearm history and technology. This collection of articles offers an in-depth look at various publications, manuscripts, and other resources that have captured the essence of early firearm development, ammunition, and the inventors who pushed the boundaries of innovation in their time.
The Hausbieble, also known as the “House Bible,” was a collection of three German-language Bibles printed in America by the Saur family in the 1740s-1770s. As the first European-language Bibles to be printed in America, the Hausbieble was important in helping German immigrants preserve their cultural heritage in the New World. Additionally, it played a role in the American Revolutionary War, as British soldiers used its pages to make paper cartridges.
I recently picked up a Robert rifle and of course had to find as many books with original source documentation in them as I could. The first and most unique is from a small book with 143 pages written by the Count of Langel that focuses on various topics relevant to hunters in the 1830s.
I have not come across many advertising posters like this that mention pinfire cartridges so I jumped at the chance to buy this one when it came up for auction. This early color lithograph was printed between 1885 and 1889 and was likely provided to various gunmakers and ironmongers who sold Eley cartridges to the public.
It would have functioned as both an in-store advertisement as well as a quick reference guide to the various types of cartridges and accessories that Eley manufactured, as shown when turning it over.
Born into a family of silversmiths and cartridge manufacturers, William Thomas Eley and Charles Eley took over their father’s business upon his death in 1841 and founded W. & C. Eley. They continued making percussion caps and their patented wire cartridges which the company had become well known for.
I have had the reprint of this book for some time and always thought it was a neat resource giving examples of various cartridges tested at the Frankford Arsenal. It is especially pertinent to me as there were experiments on a horizontal pinfire cartridge. The hope was that the front ignition would give higher pressure and a higher velocity which it did. However it was very complex and had many other issues in their trial.
C.M. begs to call the attention of Gentlemen to his PATENT FIELD CLOCK GUN. It is admirably adapted for Scaring Rooks, Wood Pigeons and other Vermin; also for the protection of Young Game in the Breeding Season. It can also be used as an ordinary Alarm Gun against Burglars, Poachers and other Trespassers. The construction of the Gun is simple, and can be managed by a boy. It holds nine 16 Pin-fire Cartridges at one time, these can be set to fire at intervals from 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, and can be set to fire a shot at any given hour during the night or early morn by winding and setting the night before. It is one of the most useful things ever invented for Farmers, Gamekeepers and Nurserymen. The works are strong, and with care, will last a lifetime,
This is a really unique poster detailing the price of each part of a firearm issued to men in the American Civil War. It measures 20 inches by 24 inches and was printed by the Adjutant General’s Office led by Lorenzo Thomas. It was likely provided to the regimental quartermasters in charge of accounting for ordnance stores.
There are 16 tables printed on this Civil War poster representing uniforms, garrison equipment, weapons and more. I think it likely served a couple purposes. The most obvious use was a quick reference guide to the prices of equipment to deduct from officer’s payrolls due to unaccountable losses. Most of these tables are also printed in the document, Instructions for Making Quarterly Returns of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores: As Prescribed by the General Regulations of the Army; Including Directions Respecting The Evidence Required In Settling The Ordnance Property Accounts Of Officers Leaving The Service. Prepared At The Ordnance Bureau, For The Use Of Officers Accountable For Such Property.
There have been many articles written about Jean Samuel Pauly and his contribution to the history of firearms development. One excellent source recently looks in detail at the patents by Pauly, Roux, Picherau and Lefaucheux. You can read about it here:
Priestel dives deep into the modifications by Pauly and the successors to Pauly’s company, but there are a few other improvements to the Pauly system by other prominent gunmakers of the day that are not addressed in this publication. A couple of these were mentioned in a French gun magazine’s article in the 1970s, but other than the brief mention there, there is nothing I could find published that goes into detail on the following improvements to the Pauly gun and cartridges.
So I gathered the patents, transcribed them and will detail the improvements here!
Jacques-Joseph Plomdeur | 1825-03-31
Jacques-Joseph Plomdeur was a well known gunmaker who had a business at 25 rue des Fossés-Montmartre and later at 5 bis, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière. He was best known for his improvements to primers and percussion caps which he held a few patents on. In the 1830s he took out many advertisements for his improvements to guns and primers such as the following:
On 31 Mar 1825, Plomdeur took out a French patent for 5 years for an improvement on Pauly guns.
There are two main areas that he addresses. First is how the hammer is connected to the plate, passing all the way through, which allowed for considerable fouling throughout the inside.
This book is an excellent source examining the company of Jean Samuel Pauly and his successors. It dives into the earliest documents and patents surrounding this revolutionary improvement in firearms design.
It is, by far, the most detailed contemporary look at these inventions and does a great job piecing together the information that was available to the author and updating many unfounded sources published in the past.
James Erskine, a gunmaker and inventor from Newton Stewart, Scotland had a prolific career inventing and patenting many improvements to guns and cartridge loading machines. His patented cartridge filler was universally accepted and used by all of the great British gunmakers of the day!
Erskine was born on September 12, 1812, in Penninghame, Wigtownshire, Scotland, the son of Mary Watson and Thomas Erskine. He married Elizabeth Sinclair on December 4, 1854, in his hometown. They had eight children over 21 years. He died on November 20, 1891, in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, Scotland, having lived a long life of 79 years.
During most of those 79 years Erskine was active learning and then working in the gun trade. The IGC Historical Database indicates that Erskine began his apprenticeship at 14 years old, working as a gun finisher for Williams & Powell, or their predecessor, Edward Patrick in Liverpool.
Sometime after 1841 and before the 1851 Scotland Census, Erskine moved to Newton Stewart and began working for himself as a gun maker.
He displayed two guns at the 1851 Great Exhibition and was awarded a bronze metal.
On July 20, 1859 he delivered the following provisional specification to the British patent office for an update to the Lefaucheux-style pinfire shotgun:
Description des Machines et Procédés spécifiés dans les Description des machines et procédés spécifiés dans les brevets d’invention, de perfectionnement et d’importation, dont la durée est expirée was the official printed record of the patents granted in France that were issued under the 1791 patent laws. These patents were not printed until after their expiration date of either 5, 10 or 15 years from when they were issued.
From 1791 until 1844 it was incredibly expensive to get a patent issued. The patent tax for 5 years was 300 francs, for 10 years it was 800 francs and for 15 years it was 1500 francs. At the time the average worker’s daily wage was 1.5 francs.
This feels like a very high quality book with thick linen rag pages, gilded pages and marbled inside covers. It even came with a bookmark!
But the content inside the document is what is really important. This is the official record of what the Conservatoire royal des arts et métiers (i.e. the patent office) believed the patent was about, looking back after it expired. This document is not always a full transcription of the patentee’s original document but rather detailed abstract that specifically describes the patent and heavily focuses on describing the drawings that accompanied it. It does quote specific sections sometimes though, Additionally, all of the drawing in the original patent may not always be reprinted here.
L’Ecole du chasseur is an early book with reviews and information on birding, fishing, and hunting. They devote around 60 pages to print an extract of Henri Roux’s publication, Fusils De Chasse, Et Principalement Des Fusils a Pistons De L’invention Pauly, Avec Quelques Observations Sur La Fabrication Des Armes a Feu, Sur La Chasse, Sur La Poudre Et Ses Effets, a book all about the benefits of the new Pauly rifle and pistol, a system which Henri Roux owned the patents and company for.
Roux also created a detailed drawing which is referenced in both of these books throughout the text.
As a reminder, The Ironmonger & Metal Trades Advertiser was a British trade journal whose purpose (according to the publisher) was “concerned with helping people to make a living.” It is full of articles and exposition reviews and trade news and advertisements related to Ironmongers, which would be similar to modern-day hardware stores. I have began a series of publishing some of the guns and ammunition related features and ads from these historic journals that have largely been lost to history and are not published anywhere else.
This post will focus on the contents in the July-September 1901 Issues. The August 31, 1901 weekly issue had a nice two-page section on Guns and Ammunition. I will transcribe these articles here!
A Top-lever Hammerless-gun.
Following a well-established custom, Robert Hughes & Son, of the Universal Firearms Works, Moland Street, Birmingham, have issued an abridged list of their productions illustrating the leading lines in sporting-guns which they are this season offering to the trade. The list embraces some two dozen weapons, ranging from a simple farmers’ gun listing at 4l. 4s., up to the highest class of Anson & Deeley ejecting hammerless-gun retailing for about 50l. One of the best selling lines is the No. 4,4640, illustrated in fig. 1. This is a top-lever hammerless-gun, with cross-bolt action, and either plain damascus or steel barrels.
It is fitted with many modern improvements and is nicely finished in every detail. It retails at about 11l. Another popular line is the “Gentleman’s” gun, No. 4,456. This is a good-looking and well-finished weapon, with nicely-figured damascus barrels and figured stock, and it lists at 7l. to 8l. 10s.
The last issue in September of The Ironmonger and Metal Trades Advertiser was often the most important issue of the year. It was the biggest and contained the most ads. This issue each year also had this fancy colored cover.
This September 26, 1896 issue of The Ironmonger lists Arms and Ammunition trade marks, brands or special names for the following companies: Lane Bros., Ammunition for Air Guns Hay, Merricks & Co., Limited, Gunpowder F. Joyce & Co. Ltd., Manufacturers of Sporting Ammunition; Percussion Caps, Cartridges and Gun Wads Eley Bros., Lim., Sporting, Military, and Revolver Cartridges, Percussion Caps and Gunwads G. Kynoch & Co. Limited, Sporting and Military Ammunition The King’s Norton Metal Co., Limited, Rolled Metals, Ammunition for Small Arms, Quick Firing and other Guns
The Ironmonger & Metal Trades Advertiser was the first trade newspaper. It was first published as Morgan’s Monthly Circular & Metal Trades Advertiser on May 31, 1859 and soon changed its name to The Ironmonger & Metal Trades Advertiser.
It began as a monthly journal and by 1878 it was switched to being published weekly, every Saturday. They also published the yearly volumes capturing the 52 weekly issues in 2-4 large volumes per year. I recently acquired a set of these yearly volumes that cover the years of 1879 – 1903.
There is a wealth of information in these related to the hardware and metal trade across the United Kingdom. They had weekly stock performance, tabulated results on UK exports to the US, foreign news and intelligence, reviews of agricultural shows and other exhibitions, articles about guns and ammunition, listing of patents and trademarks applied for, information on liquidations and bankruptcies and advertisements; many many advertisements.
Hello, my name is Aaron Newcomer. I am a collector and researcher of early 19th century breech-loading firearms systems, with a particular focus on the work of Jean Samuel Pauly and Casimir Lefaucheux. I collect cartridges and documents related to these types of firearms and conduct research on these topics, furthering my understanding and knowledge of these historical firearms and their place in the evolution of firearms technology. My collection and research reflect my dedication to preserving and understanding the history and technical innovations of these early firearms systems.
The Pinfire Page was a recurring column I had in each issue of the bimonthly publication, The International Ammunition Journal. This compilation book combines together the first 5 years of my column, showcasing my research, images and other documents related to the pinfire system which was the first major breakthrough in modern ammunition.