Sep 27, 2013

Christopher Miner Spencer

Christopher Miner Spencer was an American inventor [ June 20, 1833 – January 14, 1922 ] from Manchester, Connecticut, who invented the Spencer Repeating Rifle that was introduced in the Civil War used by the Union cavalry. He was also the inventor of a steam-powered vehicle called a horseless carriage, a silk winding machine, the first fully automatic turret lathe and 38 other inventions.
The Spencer rifle was developed in 1859, but was not used by Union soldiers until 1863 after Christopher Spencer walked into the White House carrying one of his rifles and some cartridges. Security was not at a high level because he walked past the sentries and into President Lincoln's office. 

After a brief discussion, he returned the next day joined by Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War and other officials who gathered at the Mall near the Washington Monument and began target shooting with his new invention. Lincoln was impressed and Ulysses S. Grant declared that the Spencer rifle was the best breech-loading arms available. By the time the Civil War ended, 100,000 rifles were produced for the war effort. Veterans took their firearms home and it was soon introduced on the western frontier. However, with so many surplus rifles available, sales dropped and Spencer had to declare bankruptcy in 1868, of which his assets were acquired by Oliver Winchester for $200,000 in 1869.
In 1882, Spencer started a new company after working for Billings & Spencer and produced the Spencer Pump-Action Shotgun that was produced between 1882 and 1889, the first successful slide-action pump-action shotgun. They were mostly manufactured in 12-gauge and 10-gauge. However, once again, Spencer had financial difficulties and he sold his patents and company in 1890 to Francis Bannerman & Sons of New York who continued to manufacture the Spencer shotgun until 1907.
The Windsor Historical Society website has a Christopher Spencer Collection page.
Wikipedia has a bit more detail concerning the history of the Spencer rifle.
Christopher Spencer is on the list of ingenious inventors and prolific firearm manufactures of the United States. He was an amazing fellow in personal life. A few years before he died at the age of 88, he had an interest in aviation and made 20 flights.
His rifle was renowned in the Old West before the Winchester 94 became the symbol of the taming of the West – the American Frontier.
In design it was a rife that loaded from a magazine in the buttstock with rim-fire cartridges in .56-50 caliber with a necked down version developed in .56-56. It was the instrument of transition from muzzle-loading black powder rifles. The magazine held seven rounds, which provided an advantage toward the end of the Civil War and Indian Wars of the frontier. It was rapidly loaded by dropping cartridges in the magazine from the Blakeslee Cartridge Box that contained thirteen tubes with seven rounds in each that allowed the shooter to quickly load the magazine tube. The quick load system was designed by Erastus Blakeslee of the 1st Connecticut Volunteer Cavalry.
The Spencer rifle was the beginning of great changes in individual weaponry of the US Armed Forces. Compared to the Colt and Browning firearms, Spencer rifles and shotguns had a short history as far as common use.
Today, the Spencer is collected for museums and by private collectors. 

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