What is this?

Flintlock FowlerOur exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more, Continue reading

Colt’s sold hay forks?

I know it is a good day when I learn something new. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Colts Patent Fire Arms Company made and sold hay forks! We recently acquired two documents, one giving exclusive rights to C.E. Warner to sell horse hay forks throughout the United States, with the exception of New York and Michigan, 1870. The second document explains the exclusion of New York. This one authorized Colt Patent Fire Arms Co. to make and sell caliper horse hay forks in the state of New York, 1871.

Copy of an agreement to sell hay forks,1870,  Ms 101583

In the same lot we also acquired a transfer of patent for the “Improvement in Revolving Fire Arms” by the executor of Elihu Root’s estate to Colts, dated 1866. Root was an engineer by training and when he was hired by Colt in 1849 as factory superintendent, he further refined the automated production of guns to increase speed and reduce errors. He also patented any number of improvements to fire arms.

Finally, in the same acquisition we received lists of pistols on hand at the New York City firm Moore & Baker. In January 1853 the firm had 1 army pistol, 2 navy pistols, two six-inch, 2 five-inch, one five-inch with no flint, and  two four-inch pistols, seven small cases and two navy cases. The list from April shows a dramatic increase in the pistols “on hand”.

This newly acquired collection can be accessed in our Research Center. Ask for Ms 101583 Colt Patent Fire Arms Co.

Eli Whitney orders supplies for his armory

Eli Whitney, best known for inventing the cotton gin, was also a pioneer in mass-producing firearms.  There is little documentation, however, about this aspect of his engineering prowess. In a letter CHS recently acquired, Whitney himself provides some specifics.

The letter was written to John Adam of the Forbes & Adam foundry in Canaan.  Whitney (through his secretary who wrote the missive) specifies that the trip hammer be “made about one inch wide and let it be left without hardening.”  He also requests that Adam “forward my gudgeons, stakes, husk, hammer &c to Litchfield.”  Next he asks for help building a workforce, including “one or two nailers who are expert workmen & masters of the business . . . It is my intention to employ them in forging some of the light limbs of the musket.”

Accompanying the letter is an order sheet, seemingly in Whitney’s own hand, with specifications for three pieces of rolled iron, two “gudgeons made to patterns”, a husk, socket, 10 stakes, and a hammer and “Half a ton of rolled iron . . .”  On the verso are pencil patterns of the gudgeon.  These two documents complement our Forbes & Adam account book collection and provide valuable insight into and documentation of Eli Whitney and his gun manufacture.