Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Industrial Manifest Destiny: American Firearms Manufacturing and Antebellum Expansion

  • Lindsay Schakenbach Regele
Abstract

The years surrounding the origins of the term “Manifest Destiny” were a transitional period in the history of industrialization. Historians have done much to analyze the impact of major technological shifts on business structure and management, and to connect eastern markets and westward expansion. They have paid less attention, however, to the relationship among continental geopolitics, industrial development, and frontier warfare. This article uses War Department papers, congressional reports, and manufacturers’ records to examine how the arms industry developed in response to military conflict on the frontier. As public and private manufacturers altered production methods, product features, and their relationships to one another, they contributed to the industrial developments of the mid-nineteenth century.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Industrial Manifest Destiny: American Firearms Manufacturing and Antebellum Expansion
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Industrial Manifest Destiny: American Firearms Manufacturing and Antebellum Expansion
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Industrial Manifest Destiny: American Firearms Manufacturing and Antebellum Expansion
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All

1 Cooper, Carolyn, “A Connecticut Yankee Courts the World,” in Houze, Herbert G., Cooper, Carolyn C., and Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin, Samuel Colt: Arms, Art, and Invention (New Haven, 2006), 8.

2 John L. O'Sullivan, “Annexation,” The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, July/Aug. 1845.

3 Chandler, Alfred D., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1977). For business and technology, see also, Lamoreaux, Naomi R., “Entrepreneurship, Business Organization, and Economic Concentration,” in Engerman, Stanley L. and Gallman, Robert E., eds., The Cambridge Economic History of the United States II (Cambridge, U.K., 2000), 403–34. Two of the most compelling studies of expansion and industrial capitalism are, Cronon, William, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York, 1992); White, Richard, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (New York, 2011). For the frontier and economic growth, see also Cochran, Thomas C., “The Paradox of American Economic Growth,” The Journal of American History 61, no. 4 (1975): 925–42. Works on the social and cultural changes that accompanied a rise in the factory system include Tucker, Barbara M., Samuel Slater and the Origins of the American Textile Industry, 1790–1860 (Ithaca, 1984); Blewett, Mary H., Men, Women, and Work: Class, Gender, and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780–1910 (Urbana, 1988); Dawley, Alan, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn (Cambridge, Mass., 1976); Dublin, Thomas, Transforming Women's Work: New England Lives in the Industrial Revolution (Ithaca, 1994); Zonderman, David A., Aspirations and Anxieties: New England Workers and the Mechanized Factory System, 1815–1850 (New York, 1992); and Hounshell, David, From the American System to Mass Production, 1800–1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States, vol. 4 (Baltimore, 1985).

4 As Patricia Limerick reminds us, the settlement of the North American continent was about more than individual adventurism and violent bravery; it had everything to do with the brutal realities of capitalism. Limerick, Patricia Nelson, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York, 1987). For the original “frontier thesis,” which argued that the existence of a frontier provided opportunities for white Americans that were unavailable in Europe, see Turner, Frederick Jackson, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association (1893): 197227. Although Turner associated this frontier with violence, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Richard White, and others have done more to reveal the violence and economic exploitation involved in territorial expansion. Grossman, James R., The Frontier in American Culture: Essays by Richard White and Patricia Nelson Limerick (Berkeley, 1994). Historians disagree over the usage of “frontier” versus “borderlands.” The term “frontier” has more commonly been associated with Anglo-American dominance and colonial binaries, while “borderlands” often signifies more fluid zones of interaction. Cayton, Andrew R. L. and Teute, Fredrika J., eds., Contact Points: American Frontiers from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 1750–1830 (Chapel Hill, 1998); Hämäläinen, Pekka and Truett, Samuel, “On Borderlands,” The Journal of American History 98, no. 2 (2011): 343–44; and Adelman, Jeremy and Aron, Stephen, “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History,” The American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (1999): 815–16. David Silverman has recently and compellingly defined “frontier” as a “zone of contact in which indigenous people exercised significant and sometimes even disproportionate power and the outcome was uncertain and contested.” Silverman, David, Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America (Cambridge, Mass., 2016), 19. In general, all of these terms reflect larger epistemological shortcomings. Cayton, Andrew, “Not the Fragments but the Whole,” The William and Mary Quarterly 69, no. 3 (2012): 514. It is not my intention to enter into the theoretical debates surrounding these terms, but for the purposes of linking contested territory and Anglo-American-Native conflict to manufacturing, I consider “frontier” in the rather limited sense of a sparsely settled backcountry characterized by episodes of violent conflict, which required military and material support.

5 Smith, Merritt Roe, Harper's Ferry Armory and the New Technology: The Challenge of Change (Ithaca, 1977); Smith, Merritt Roe, “Army Ordnance and the ‘American System’ of Manufacturing, 1815–1861,” in Smith, Merritt Roe, ed., Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspectives on the American Experience (Cambridge, Mass., 1985), 3986.

6 Rosenberg, Nathan, Technology and American Economic Growth (New York, 1972), 8788. David Hounshell notes that while Rosenberg and others attribute the expression to a variety of British reports on American manufacturing in the mid-1850s, it was not really used except by historians, and not until the early twentieth century. Hounshell, David, From the American System to Mass Production, 1800–1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States, vol. 4 (Baltimore, 1985), 1617.

7 While Merritt Roe Smith and David Hounshell argue that armory practices led to the achievement of interchangeability by the 1840s, historian Donald Hoke asserts that interchangeability was far from an absolute concept for manufacturers and was not solely a product of federal arms-making. Hoke maintains that interchangeability varied not only across industries, but also from factory to factory, and developed slowly throughout the nineteenth century, largely in the private sector. Smith, Military Enterprise and Technological Change; Hounshell, From the American System to Mass Production; Hoke, Donald R., Ingenious Yankees: The Rise of the American System of Manufactures in the Private Sector (New York, 1989), 34. The first conventional musket made entirely of interchangeable parts was manufactured in 1844, but historians disagree about exactly when and by whom interchangeability was achieved. Smith, Merritt Roe, “John H. Hall, Simeon North, and the Milling Machine: The Nature of Innovation among Antebellum Arms Makers,” Technology and Culture 14, no. 4 (1973): 589. Not all historians of technology agree. Robert B. Gordon emphasized the importance of improvements in artificers’ handwork over the influence of ordnance officers and superintendents. Gordon, Robert B., “Simeon North, John Hall, and Mechanized Manufacturing,” Technology and Culture, 30, no. 1 (1989): 179–88, and Who Turned the Mechanical Ideal into Mechanical Reality?Technology and Culture 29, no. 4 (1988): 744–78. James Farley, on the other hand, argues for the persistent importance of the Ordnance Department in driving innovation. Farley, , Making Arms in the Machine Age: Philadelphia's Frankford Arsenal, 1816–1870 (University Park, Pa., 1994), xv, 64. Decius Wadsworth to Roswell Lee, 15 Dec. 1818, Letters Received from Officials and Officers of the War and Treasury Departments, Records of the Springfield Armory, Mass., box 1, target #2, RG 156, National Archives, Waltham, Mass. (hereafter, NAW).

8 Trebilcock, Clive, “‘Spin-Off’ in British Economic History: Armaments and Industry, 1760–1914,” The Economic History Review 22, no. 3 (1969): 474–90; Rosenberg, Nathan, “Technological Change in the Machine Tool Industry, 1840–1910,” The Journal of Economic History 23, no. 4 (1963): 442.

9 Meyer, David R., Networked Machinists: High Technology Industries in Antebellum America (Baltimore, 2006); and Meyer, David R., “Formation of Advanced Technology Districts: New England Textile Machinery and Firearms, 1790–1820,” Economic Geography 74, no. s1 (1998): 4243.

10 Henry Burden, for example, specialized in hot-working techniques in metal and moved from Scotland to the United States where he worked at the Springfield Armory before inventing machines for producing bar iron. Uselding, Paul J., “Henry Burden and the Question of Anglo-American Technological Transfer in the Nineteenth Century,” The Journal of Economic History 30, no. 2 (1970): 312–37; Rosenberg, “Technological Change in the Machine Tool Industry,” 421.

11 Rosenberg, “Technological Change in the Machine Tool Industry,” 418–31.

12 Rosenbloom, Joshua L., “Anglo-American Technological Differences in Small Arms Manufacturing,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23, no. 4 (1993): 684–85; Habakkuk, H. J., American and British Technology in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, U.K., 1962). Probate inventories reveal greater percentages of gun ownership in the first half of the nineteenth century than Michael Bellesiles's discredited study of gun ownership in early America showed, but dealers in eastern cities repeatedly told arms manufacturers that their customer base did not warrant an expansion of sales. Bellesiles, Michael A., “The Origins of Gun Culture in the United States, 1760–1865,” The Journal of American History 83, no. 2 (1996): 425–55; Groover, Mark D., “The Gibbs Farmstead: Household Archaeology in an Internal Periphery,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 9, no. 4 (2005): 229–89; Isely, W. H., “The Sharps Rifle Episode in Kansas History,” The American Historical Review 12, no. 3 (1907): 553. U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt: Complete Report of the Trial of Samuel Colt vs. The Mass. Arms Company, Tried June 30, 1851, in U.S. Circuit Court, Boston, Mass., before Hon. Levi Woodbury, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (Harriman, Tenn., 1953), 8. None of this is to say that Americans did not buy guns. From the earliest days of colonization, European-Americans and Native Americans purchased and traded for guns to hunt and fight with. Rather, there was not enough “natural” demand to entice the expansion of production. Russell, Carl P., Guns on the Early Frontiers: A History of Firearms from Colonial Times through the Years of the Western Fur Trade (Berkeley, 1957); Carey, Merwyn, American Firearms Makers (New York, 1953). For the “gun frontier,” see Silverman, Thundersticks, 18.

13 Haag, Pamela, The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture (New York, 2016), 5859.

14 Satia, Priya, Empire of Guns: The British State, the Industrial Revolution, and the Conscience of a Quaker Gun-Manufacturer (New York, 2018); Alder, Ken, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763–1815 (Chicago, 2010). The United States remained more self-sufficient in firearms supply than most European nations in the second half of the nineteenth century. Moravcsik, Andrew, “Arms and Autarky in Modern European History,” Daedalus 120, no. 4 (1991): 31.

15 Brown, Peter B., “The Problematics of Armory Modernization in Late Imperial Russia,” Russian History 21, no. 1 (1994): 6581, 65.1; Bradley, Joseph, Guns for the Tsar: American Technology and the Small Arms Industry in Nineteenth-Century Russia (Dekalb, Ill., 1990).

16 Fries, Russell I., “British Response to American System,” Technology and Culture 16, no. 3 (1973): 403.

17 Rosenbloom, “Anglo-American Technological Differences in Small Arms Manufacturing,” 688.

18 The Boston Directory (Boston, 1800).

19 Maine-born arms manufacturer John Hancock Hall, for example, went into debt financing his business in the 1810s and subsequently turned to government contracting. Huntington, R. T., Hall's Breechloaders (York, Pa., 1972), 9.

20 See for example, Danvers, Mass., General Store Daybook, 1789–1791, Account Books (unidentified) Collection, 1703–1852, folio vol. 6; and Worcester or Boston, Mass., Wholesale and Imports Account Book, Account Books (unidentified) Collection, 1703–1852, folio vol. 11 both in American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. (hereafter, AAS).

21 [Tench Coxe?], Rough Draft of Letter to Secretary of War, 5 Nov. 1807, Coxe Irvine Papers - Philadelphia Supply Agencies: Correspondence, Reports, Returns, Bill Accounts, Receipts, Vouchers and Contracts 1794–1842, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92, Entry 2118, box 136, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. (hereafter NARA).

22 Nathan Starr to John Rodgers, President of the Board of Navy Commissioners, 23 Mar. 1816, vol. 3, Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Record Group 25, Entry 328, NARA.

23 Older studies of small arms manufacturing offer exhaustive details about private and public gun production in early America. In addition to Smith, Harper's Ferry Armory, see Deyrup, Felicia Johnson, Arms Makers of the Connecticut Valley: A Regional Study of the Economic Development of the Small Arms Industry, 1798–1870 (Northampton, Mass., 1948); Whisker, James B., The United States Armory at Springfield, 1795–1865 (Lewiston, N.Y., 1997); Whisker, James B. and Spiker, Kevin, The Arms Makers of Massachusetts, 1610–1900 (Palo Alto, Calif., 2012).

24 Simeon North, Dec. 1826, Firearms Makers Collection, box 1, folder 1, Middlesex County Historical Society, Middletown, Conn.; North, Simon Newton Dexter and North, Ralph H., Simeon North, First Official Pistol Maker of the United States: A Memoir (Concord, N.H., 1913), 7879, 86; Smith, Merritt Roe, “John H. Hall, Simeon North, and the Milling Machine: The Nature of Innovation among Antebellum Arms Makers,” Technology and Culture 14, no. 4 (1973): 574–76.

25 Rosenbloom, “Anglo-American Technological Differences in Small Arms Manufacturing,” 691. Also, U.S. troops used rifles and muskets, which were less precise and so could more easily be made by interchangeable manufacture. Howard, Robert A., “Interchangeable Parts Reexamined: The Private Sector of the American Arms Industry on the Eve of the Civil War,” Technology and Culture 19, no. 4 (1978): 649.

26 Howard, “Interchangeable Parts Reexamined,” 645.

27 Drawings and Tables of Foreign Ordnance, vols 1 and 2, 1787, Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Record Group 156, Entry 69, NARA; York, Neil L., “Pennsylvania Rifle: Revolutionary Weapon in a Conventional War?The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 103, no. 3 (1979): 308, 314; Samuel Hodgson to John Harris, 3 Sept. 1798, Post Revolutionary War Papers, Record Group 45, NARA.

28 Richard Rush to Joel Roberts Poinsett, 18 Feb. 1838, box 10, folder 5, Joel Roberts Poinsett Papers (Collection 0512), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. (hereafter, JRPP).

29 McLemore, R. A., “The Influence of French Diplomatic Policy on the Annexation of Texas,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43, no. 3 (1940): 342–47.

30 “Report from the Secretary of War,” American State Papers (hereafter ASP), 28 Feb. 1839, 25th Congress, 3rd Session, no. 273, at 2, 554.

31 “Report of the President of a Board of Officers on Improvements in Fire-Arms by Hall, Colt, Cochran, Leavitt, and Baron Hackett, as Compared with the United States Musket,” ASP, 3 Oct. 1837, 25th Congress, 1st Session, Military Affairs, vol. 7, no. 743, at 528.

32 James Renelden to Poinsett, 2 Mar. 1838, box 10, folder 7, JRPP.

33 James Gadsden to Poinsett, 15 Dec. 1837, box 9, folder 14, JRPP.

34 For a recent analysis of the importance of Florida for Manifest Destiny, see Shire, Laurel Clark, The Threshold of Manifest Destiny: Gender and National Expansion in Florida (Philadelphia, 2016).

35 Weeks, William, John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire (Lexington, Mass., 1992), 107–10; “War with the Seminole Indians,” ASP, 25 Mar. 1818, 15th Congress, 1st Session, Military Affairs, vol. 1, no. 163, at 680.

36 “Seminole Hostilities,” ASP, 3 June 1836, 24th Congress, 1st Session, no. 271, at 19.

37 “Estimates and Appropriations for Suppressing Hostilities of the Seminole Indians in Florida,” ASP, 15 Sept. 1837, 25th Congress, 1st Session, no. 739, at 466; “Expenditures in Suppressing Indian Hostilities in Florida,” ASP, 15 Dec. 1840, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 8, at 10. Annual federal expenditures, exclusive of public debt, were $17.5 million in 1835, $30.9 million in 1836, and $39.2 million in 1837. “Statement Showing the Amount of Annual Estimates Submitted by the Secretary of Treasury, and Annual Expenditures,” ASP, 29 June 1838, 25th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 497, at 16–20.

38 Welch, Andrew, A Narrative of the Early Days and Remembrances of Oceola Nikkanochee, Prince of Econchatti (London, 1841), 212–15. For the coercion and negotiation involved in the removal of Creek Indians from the Southeast before the infamous Trail of Tears, see Haveman, Christopher D., Rivers of Sand: Creek Indians Emigrations, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South (Lincoln, 2016).

39 “Seminole Hostilities,” ASP, 3 June 1836, 24th Congress, 1st Session, no. 271, at 246–47.

40 “Hostile Indians in Florida,” ASP, 5 Jan. 1836, 24th Congress, 1st Session, no. 38; “Estimates and Appropriations for Suppressing Hostilities of the Seminole Indians in Florida,” ASP, 5 Sept. 1837, 25th Congress, 1st Session, no. 739, at 466.

41 William Maynadier, Circular, 1 Oct. 1838, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

42 “Documents Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 5 Dec. 1840, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, at 50; “Expenditures in Suppressing Indian Hostilities in Florida,” ASP, at 6.

43 “Bond of the Officers of the Tallahassee Volunteers,” 10 Feb. 1840, vol. 2, Contracts for Ordnance and Ordnance Supplies, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 78, NARA.

44 Andrew Jackson to Poinsett, 27 Aug.1837, box 9, folder 3, JRPP.

45 Ibid.

46 Meyer, Networked Machinists, 231.

47 Smith, “John H. Hall, Simeon North, and the Milling Machine,” 588.

48 Uselding, “Henry Burden and the Question of Anglo-American Technological Transfer,” 327; Smith, “John H. Hall, Simeon North, and the Milling Machine,” 589.

49 For a description of the nature of warfare in Florida, see Sprague, John T., The Origin, Progress, and Conclusions of the Florida War (New York, 1848).

50 Jackson to Poinsett, 14 Oct. 1837, box 9, folder 8, JRPP; Brown, “Notes on U.S. Arsenals,” 450.

51 “Report of the President of a Board of Officers on Improvements in Fire-Arms,” ASP, at 526.

52 “Documents Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 5 Dec. 1840, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 1, at 58.

53 U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 39.

54 Jonathan Amory to Francis C. Lowell, 10 July 1836, box 6, folder 5.6, Francis Cabot Lowell II Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Mass.

55 Rohan, Jack, Yankee Arms Maker: The Incredible Career of Samuel Colt (New York, 1935), 23; U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 39.

56 For the nineteenth-century patent system, see Khan, Zorina B., The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790–1920 (New York, 2005); Khan, Zorina B., “Premium Inventions: Patents and Prizes as Incentive Mechanisms in Britain and the United States, 1750–1930,” in Costa, Dora L. and Lamoreaux, Naomi R., eds., Understanding Long-Run Economic Growth: Geography, Institutions, and the Knowledge Economy (Chicago, 2008); Lamoreaux, Naomi R., Sokoloff, Kenneth L., and Sutthiphisal, Dhanoos, “Patent Alchemy: The Market for Technology in U.S. History,” Business History Review 87, no. 1 (2013): 338.

57 Haag, The Gunning of America, 25–26; Barnard, Henry, Armsmear: The Home, the Arm, and the Armory of Samuel Colt: A Memorial (New York, 1860), 197.

58 Lubar, Steven, “The Transformation of Antebellum Patent Law,” Technology and Culture 32, no. 4 (1991): 932–59.

59 The board reported: “However ingenious therefore may be the invention however credible the skill of the manufacturer, the board is of the opinion that the arm of Cochran is an unsafe weapon . . . the arm of Colt may be usefully applied in special cases . . . naval service . . . but not adapted to the general purposes of the service.” “Report of the President of a Board of Officers on Improvements in Fire-Arms,” ASP, at 528.

60 “Report of the President of a Board of Officers on Improvements in Fire-Arms,” ASP, at 526.

61 Brown, “Notes on U.S. Arsenals,” 454.

62 See for example, George Bomford to Superintendent, Springfield Armory, 5 Oct. 5, 1833, Letterbook, vol.1, Letters Received from Officials and Officers of War and Treasury Departments, Records of the Springfield Armory, Mass., RG 156, NAW.

63 Meyer, Networked Machinists, 278.

64 Rohan, Yankee Arms Maker, 93–94; Neff, Jacob, The Army and Navy of America: From the Period of the French and Indian Wars to the Close of the Florida War (Philadelphia, 1845), 610.

65 Barnard, Armsmear, 166–68, 198.

66 Haag, The Gunning of America, 28.

67 Barnard, Armsmear, 166–68.

68 Secretary of War Joel Poinsett, for example, said he didn't want to waste any more government resources on trying to increase the rapidity of firing “without long-tried experiments in the field.” “Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 5 Dec. 1840, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, at 21.

69 “Report from the Secretary of War, transmitting the report of a board of dragoon officers appointed to witness an exhibition of the repeating fire-arms and water-proof ammunition invented by Samuel Colt,” ASP, 16 Dec. 1840, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 14, at 2.

70 Ibid., at 3.

71 “Documents from War Department,” ASP, 1 Nov. 1836, 24th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 2, at 328; M. W. Edwards to Asa Waters, 15 Dec. 1834, box W 3, Waters Family Papers, 1749–1873, AAS.

72 Contract with Simeon North, 2 May 1839, vol. 2, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 78, NARA.

73 Contract with Lemuel Pomeroy, 24 Feb. 1840, vol. 2, Contracts for Ordnance and Ordnance Supplies, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 78, NARA.

74 Waters to George Talcott, 14 Nov. 1840, and Waters to Bomford, 28 Aug. 1841, folio vol. 1, Waters Family Papers, AAS.

75 Waters to Eli Whitney Jr., 8 Dec. 1845, Octavo vol. 7, Letterbook 1837–65, Waters Family Papers, AAS.

76 Stearns, Charles, The National Armories: A Review of the Systems of Superintendency, Civil and Military, Particularly with Reference to Economy and General Management at the Springfield Armory (Springfield, Mass., 1853), 13, 74.

77 Brown, “Notes on U.S. Arsenals,” 453.

78 Haag, The Gunning of America, 28.

79 “Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 13 May 1846, 29th Congress, 1st Session, no. 344, at 2.

80 “Documents from War Department,” ASP, 14 Nov. 1842, 27th Congress, 3rd Session, no. 2, at 208.

81 Brown, “Notes on U.S. Arsenals,” 449–51; “Expenditures in Suppressing Indian Hostilities in Florida,” ASP, at 9.

82 U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 8.

83 Sturdevant, Paul E., “Robert John Walker and Texas Annexation: A Lost Champion,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 109, no. 2 (2005): 196.

84 McLemore, “The Influence of French Diplomatic Policy on the Annexation of Texas,” 342–47.

85 Greenberg, Manifest Destiny, 103–8.

86 Gouverneur Kemble to Poinsett, 21 Oct. 1847, box 16, folder 18, JRPP.

87 The North American (Philadelphia), 23 May 1846, 1.

88 “List of Papers Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 5 Dec. 1846, no. 1, at 165.

89 “List of Papers Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 30 Nov. 1847, no. 8, at 686.

90 Brown, “Notes on U.S. Arsenals, 449–51; “Expenditures in Suppressing Indian Hostilities in Florida,” ASP, at 9.

91 “List of Papers Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 5 Dec. 1846, at 162.

92 Bomford to G. N. Briggs, 20 Feb. 1839, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

93 Bomford to Edwards and Goodrich, 9 Mar. 1839, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

94 Waters to Whitney Jr., 8 Dec. 1845, Octavo vol. 7, Letterbook 1837–65, Waters Family Papers, AAS.

95 Houze, Cooper, and Kornhauser, Samuel Colt: Arms, Art, and Invention, 65.

96 Barton, Henry, “The United States Cavalry and the Texas Rangers,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 63, no. 4 (1960): 510; Samuel Colt to Samuel Walker, 10 Dec. 1846, in Colt, Samuel Colt's Own Record of Transactions with Captain Walker and Eli Whitney, Jr., in 1847 (Hartford, 1949), 1617; Colt to S. R. Hamilton, 16 July 1846, in Mitchell, James L., Colt: A Collection of Letters and Photographs about the Man, the Arms, the Company (Harrisburg, 1959), 3.

97 Russell, Carl P., Guns on the Early Frontiers: A History of Firearms from Colonial Times through the Years of the Western Fur Trade (Berkeley, 1957), 217–18.

98 David E. Twiggs to Thomas Jefferson Rusk, 21 Apr. 1848, in Colt, Samuel Colt's Own Record, 84–85.

99 “List of Papers Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 30 Nov. 1847, no. 8, at 133–34, 166–67, 190.

100 The North American, 19 May 1846, 1.

101 Talcott to Colt, 14 Feb. 1848, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

102 Talcott to Colt, 8 Apr. and 14 June 1848, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

103 Hoke, Ingenious Yankees, 3–4.

104 U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 20.

105 Paul Uselding, for example, focuses on the changes in machinery that enabled mass commercialization. He argues that Elisha King Root, factory foreman and general superintendent of Colt Armory in Hartford, Connecticut, was largely responsible for the “commercialization” of the revolver because of his role in developing die-forging, one of the most important processes in modern mass-production industries. Uselding, Paul, “Elisha K. Root, Forging, and the ‘American System,’Technology and Culture 15, no. 4 (1974): 567; Haag, The Gunning of America; Livesay, Harold C., “Marketing Patterns in the Antebellum American Iron Industry,” Business History Review 45, no. 3 (1971): 269–95.

106 Some Americans sold arms to Mexico before the war, but these sales increased after. See, for example, Asa H. Waters and Co. to Richard M. Jones, 13 Oct. 1842, Octavo vol. 7, Letterbook 1837–65, Waters Family Papers, AAS; DeLay, Brian, “How Not to Arm a State: American Guns and the Crisis of Governance in Mexico, Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries,” Southern California Quarterly 95, no. 1 (2013): 11.

107 “List of Documents Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 28 Oct. 1851, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 2, at 448; “Report of the Secretary of the Treasury, Showing the Receipts and Expenditures, &c., for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1850,” ASP, 16 Dec. 1850, 31st Congress, 2nd Session, no. 11, at 65. The federal government's ability to protect settlers had long mattered for its relationship with frontier settlers. American military and commercial benefits encouraged residents of New Mexico to acquiesce to the United States during the Mexican-American War. Moorhead, Max L., New Mexico's Royal Road: Trade and Travel on the Chihuahua Trail (Norman, Okla., 1954), 193.

108 “List of Documents Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War,” ASP, 21 Nov., and 23 June 1851, 26th Congress, 2nd Session, no. 2, at 61, 328–29.

109 U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 8.

110 Howard supports his argument about civilian markets by citing the 400,000 firearms produced by Colt and Sharps between 1851 and 1860, versus the 218,493 produced by the federal armories. This evidence obscures the fact that both manufacturers also sold their arms to federal troops on the frontier, but indeed, the civilian market for firearms grew in the decade following the Mexican-American War. Howard, Robert A., “Interchangeable Parts Reexamined: The Private Sector of the American Arms Industry on the Eve of the Civil War,” Technology and Culture 19, no. 4 (1978): 634.

111 Livesay, “Marketing Patterns in the Antebellum American Iron Industry,” 286.

112 Salem Register, 4 Oct. 1847, 2.

113 Connecticut Courant, 20 Jan. 1849, 10.

114 Richard A. Dillio, “Samuel Colt's Peacemaker: The Advertising that Scared the West,” History of Media Technology, 9 Dec. 2017.

115 Herbert C. Houze, “Samuel Colt and the World,” and Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, “George Catlin and the Colt Firearms Series,” both in Houze, Cooper, and Kornhauser, Samuel Colt: Arms, Art, and Invention, 185 and 203–24 respectively.

116 Carey, A. Merwyn, American Firearms Makers (New York, 1953), 22. According to William N. Hosley, Colt cared even more about courting favor with European monarchs such as Czar Nicholas than he did with making sales. Hosley, , Colt: The Making of an American Legend (Amherst, 1996), 94.

117 Haag, The Gunning of America, 34; “Petition of Samuel Colt,” Referred to the Committee of Military Affairs, ASP, 12 Dec. 1848, 30th Congress, 2nd Session, U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Miscellaneous, no. 3, at 2.

118 U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 22.

119 Talcott to Whitney Jr., 27 Mar. 1848, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

120 Whitney Jr. to Colt, 8 Dec. 1846, in Colt, Samuel Colt's Own Record, 14.

121 Hornback, Jack, “A Brief Historical Introduction to Oregon Firearms,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 50, no. 1 (1949): 47; Smith, Winston Oliver, The Sharps Rifle: Its History, Development and Operation (New York, 1943), 8.

122 The population was 17,069,453 in 1840, 23,191,876 in 1850, and 31,443,321 in 1860. United States Census, 1840, 1850, 1860, NARA microfilm publications M432, M653, and M704, NARA; FamilySearch, http://FamilySearch.org.

123 Smith, “Army Ordnance and the ‘American System’ of Manufacturing,” 78; Haag, The Gunning of America, 113.

124 Disturnell, John, The Emigrant's Guide to New Mexico, California, and Oregon: Giving the Different Overland and Sea Routes Compiled from Reliable Authorities with a Map of North America (New York, 1850), 6

125 Root, Riley, Journal of Travels from St. Josephs to Oregon with Observations of that Country, Together with Some Description of California, Its Agricultural Interests, and a Full Description of Its Gold Mines (Oakland, 1955), 9.

126 “In Senate of the United States,” ASP, 30 Jan. 1851, 31st Congress, 2nd Session, no. 257, at 1–2

127 Isely, “The Sharps Rifle Episode in Kansas History,” 553.

128 Ibid., 565.

129 Howard, “Interchangeable Parts Reexamined,” 638.

130 Ibid., 635; “Expenses National Armories,” ASP, 12 Jan. 1848, 30th Congress, 1st Session, Ex. Doc. no. 22, at 2.

131 Talcott to Robbins and Lawrence, 10 Feb. 1848, Records of the Chief of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Entry 3, NARA.

132 U.S. Circuit Court, The Trial of Samuel Colt, 86.

133 Haag, The Gunning of America, 60.

134 Nor should we view its wars as exceptional. See Geyer, Michael, Bright, and Charles, “Global Violence and Nationalizing Wars in Eurasia and America: The Geopolitics of War in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 38, no. 4 (1996): 652. For the comparison of the U.S. Civil War and German Wars for Unification, see Satia, Empire of Guns; and Alder, Engineering the Revolution.

135 Rosenbloom, “Anglo-American Technological Differences in Small Arms Manufacturing,” 683–84.

I would like to thank Merritt Roe Smith, Kate Viens, Kara Swanson, William Childs, Emilie Connolly, Andrew Fagal, and Andrew Offenberger, as well as the anonymous reviewers at Business History Review for their feedback on various versions of this article. I am also grateful to the staffs at the American Antiquarian Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Middlesex County Historical Society, the Huntington Library, and the National Archives for their help locating materials.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Business History Review
  • ISSN: 0007-6805
  • EISSN: 2044-768X
  • URL: /core/journals/business-history-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed