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Thread: Belgian Spencer?

  1. #11
    John Holland is offline Moderator
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    Why do you think the follower has to be changed?

  2. #12
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    From my notes

    From Thomas K. Tate (2006) Under Iron Eyelids: The Biography of James Henry Burton, Armorer to Three Nations

    Burton left New York for Liverpool on October 19 and arrived on October 28, 1865. He took up residence at Harrogate, Yorkshire, above Leeds. On October 31st he met at the Albion Works with Mr. Batley and Caleb Huse to discuss the Spencer repeating rifle. Several days later the examined it in detail. In the meanwhile son Charles got a job in the drawing room at the Albion Works and daughter Helen enrolled as a day boarder at school. As always once he was employed, Burton had several projects going at the same time. He was in discussion with Batley and Huse about manufacturing machinery for the Italian government. One November 11th he drove to the rifle rang to test the Spencer rifle against the Whitworth. Presumably Greenwood & Batley were competing against the Whitworth. Burton wrote in his diary that the day was too windy to obtain any satisfactory results. No more is written in his diaries about further tests so maybe Greenwood & Batley abandoned the idea of following up on the Spencer. By December 8th Burton, Huse and Batley were in conference about the Italian proposal as well as discussing the Snider and Remington breechloaders.

    [Likely, the Whitworth in this instance referred to the “monkey-tail” breech-loading rifle produced in conjunction with Whitworth’s surrogate after 1863 the Birmingham Small Arms Company and Westley Richards, which had utilized the Jones metallic cartridge. The Spencer could hardly have been regarded as a competitor with the long range muzzleloading Whitworth rifle then capable of 2,000 yard accuracy.]

    Caleb Huse, the former Confederate purchasing agent, was acting as salesman and traveling throughout the Continent. He approached the Italian government and was arranging for possible business with Turkey and Egypt.

    The only quantity of Spencer arms sold were old surplus arms France purchased during the Franco-Prussian War when Burton was back in the United States. Greenwood & Batley hardly made a shilling from their association with Messrs. Cheney Brothers to be the European Agent for the Spencer Rifle Company. Their order for machine tools however may have been substantial because of the conversion from muzzleloaders to breechloaders. Although Tate could find no surviving records from Greenwood & Batley to shed light on their sales activities, Roderick Floud (2006) The British Machine Tool Industry, 1850-1914, provides some insights not only with regard to Greenwood & Batley, but Burton in England. For indeed, though he was in negotiations with Thomas Greenwood anent a job in Russia, there is no indication in Burton’s diary that he went to Russia but instead returned to Virginia due to his own ill health and the death of one of his young daughters at Leeds in May 1873.

    Unfortunately the Greenwood & Batley company’s business records no longer survive. Springfield Armory, for example, had to purchase ninety-five new milling machines and hire sixty-six additional toolmakers to convert to the “Trapdoor” model.

    Burton’s papers contain hints as to why he and his family returned to the United States. It is doubtful he encountered much business success in Europe. Burton may have received royalties from his rifle barrel rolling-mill patent. The Springfield “Trapdoor” model of 1868 used a barrel that was rolled from a short round bar through which a whole had been drilled.

    Mr. Walter C. Hodgkins, a former Confederate Superintendent of the Macon Arsenal and now an arms merchant in New York City, wrote to Burton explaining the military small arms market in the United States at the time. The mechanic in Burton was never still for too long and sometime late in 1870 Burton wrote to Enfield expressing a desire to return. By June of 1871 Burton accepted an offer to work for Greenwood & Batley to make arms making machinery for Russia.

    Thomas Greenwood wrote to Burton in Middleburg from St. Petersburg, Russia on March 19, 1871. Greenwood was in that city to negotiate for a small arms factory and had already signed a preliminary contract. This factory was to be built outside St. Petersburgh in Sextroretsk, an armory town since 1724.

    “My Dear Sir,” Thomas Greenwood’s letter began, “I hear from Enfield that you have been thinking of coming once more to the Old Country and trying your hand again at the old trade?” Greenwood wanted Burton, along with a suitable staff, to supervise the work of the Sestroretsk factory and spend eighteen months in Russia. This project was to be followed by a two or three year engagement at Tula, Russia where the Russian Government was to build a factory capable of making three hundred guns a day of the Berdan pattern. Tula, the oldest of three Russian armories was founded by Boris Godunov in 1595. This would be England’s first effort at supplying machinery to Tula. “The Gun is the ‘Berdan,’ pulled together by a committee and what the Birmingham Armoury Co. has done to it, Greenwood explained. They have a contract for 30,000 gins, but have only sent in some 200. Greenwood advanced Burton fifteen hundred dollars through the office of Messers. Cheney Bros.

    Roderick Floud (2006) The British Machine Tool Industry, 1850-1914

    The ending of the American Civil War produced depression in the private sector of the armaments industry, and through it in sales of machine tools, although the traditional trade, still largely unmechanised, benefited from the Prussian-Danish War of 1865-6 and the Austro-Prussian War of 1868. Although B.S.A. were occupied between 1866 and 1868 in the conversion of 100,000 muzzle-loading Enfield rifles to breech-loaders, using the Snider action, they do not seem to have bought new machinery for this purpose, and the government factories were presumably also well-equipped. Purchases of machine tools are thus low in this period. Some recovery in the trade came with the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, and Greenwood and Batley received further large orders in the period from B.S.A., and from the two other factory small-arms manufacturers, the London Small Arms Company and Westley Richards Limited, and the latter’s successor, the National Arms and Ammunition Company. After the war “For some years… the two Birmingham firms were busy supplying British and foreign governments with the new types of breech-loader…” (the small-bore rifle), and the large orders placed by the National Arms and Ammunition Company for machine tools in 1872 show the effect of this demand in an expansion of capacity in the private industry.
    [Note: Burton was employed by the National Arms and Ammunition Company]

    B.S.A.’s new armory at Small Heath “Stocking” machinery from Massachusetts and rifling and boring machinery from (Greenwood & Batley of) Leeds. In 1861 the newly established Birmingham Small Arms Company ordered 100 machine tools worth £6101 from Greenwood and Batley, following this in 1872 with orders for five more machines worth £450. The major purchaser in this period was however Fraser Trenholm and Co, of Liverpool, and it seems likely that the 348 machine tools worth £30,319, which they bought in 1863, were in fact shipped to the United States, since Fraser Trenholm were no prominent as manufacturers of small arms.

    [Burton had allowed Greenwood & Batley access to the machinery obtained by the British government from Ames Manufacturing with which to make modifications to the machinery at Enfield, and so Greenwood & Batley were able to reproduce and market the same machinery to supply Birmingham Small Arms and other armories with the latest pattern machine-made Government Enfield rifles. Greenwood & Batley was who supplied the machinery purchased by the Confederacy intended for the C.S. armory at Macon].

    Fascinating isn't it?
    First Cousin (7 times removed) to Brigadier General Stand Watie (1806-1871), CSA
    1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles | Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation 1862-66

  3. #13
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    More notes

    Like many of the later “salvage” efforts to re-utilize surplus Spencer rifles and carbines by conversions into shotguns, or from rim-fire to center-fire, or the multitude of sporting configurations, many of the surplus Spencer rifles and carbines had all their original manufacturer’s marks removed, and often still other marks put in their place. This may be the very case in the instance of an alleged Russian Spencer, and the dealer who was trying to sell the carbine added these other details to fit the story of how British and Belgian arms dealers came about acquiring such arms from the United States at the close of the American Civil War.

    Certainly the Liege firm of Falisse & Trappman manufactured some Spencer rifles and carbines following the Franco-Prussian War, and in 1877 converted many to center-fire. Although some have posit that the firm produced the Spencer under license from Spencer, while this may upon the surface seem logical, it was more likely from the Messrs. Cheney Bros, who at this late date still held the manufacturing patent rights in Europe. While it seems clear enough that Forgaty purchased all the property formerly belonging to the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company, including its machinery plant, and Forgaty continued to supply replacement parts for the Spencer to the U.S. Government through the winter of 1868-69, everything in the Spencer factory was sold to Winchester in September 1869. Exactly what Winchester elected to do with the machinery remains unknown?

    While the Liege (gun) trade was long renown for making (brevete) copies of various model or patented arms, the Falisse & Trappman Spencer appears to be the genuine article, and is not merely just a close copy but in fact that many parts are interchangeable with the American production. No doubt it is such, as according to Marcot, the Falisse & Trappman repeaters were a combination of left-over factory stock and U.S. Government surplus, purchased at auction. But Greenwood & Batley could have supplied this machinery to Falisse & Trappman as they were the European Agents for the late Spencer Repeating Rifle Company, and were in the business of making small arms manufacturing machinery. And as late as 1871 they were still conducting business with the Messrs. Cheney Bros.
    though France had acquired thousands of surplus Spencer rifles and carbines for use in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1), the Falisse & Trappman Spencer was not manufactured for France because they were not produced until 1873, and even the conversion of the breechblock to center-fire involved merely altering the block rather than in manufacturing a replacement block and discarding the original like is often done today. The Falisse & Trappman Spencer was evidently made exclusively for the Brazilan cavalry hence why only about 1,000 carbines were made.
    First Cousin (7 times removed) to Brigadier General Stand Watie (1806-1871), CSA
    1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles | Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation 1862-66

  4. #14
    John Holland is offline Moderator
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    Richard - Thank you for the very interesting and informative information regarding the Falisse & Trappman Spencer Carbine! I very recently had the opportunity to examine one of them much closer than before. Now I see how the conversion to CF was done, and very nicely, too, and isn't an easy carbine to add to a collection, either.

  5. #15
    Old Rvr is offline
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    Spencer

    I just traded my 1865 Spencer 56/50 for a Mint Sharps . I used to shoot it with a Center Fire Breech Block which I will be listing F/S here . I put the Carbine back to original Rimfire Configuration. I'll probably ask $150.00 with a partial set of Dies .
    When I get around to it . , O.R.

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