weaponry wednesday

6

Trench knife
Landers, Frary & Clark
New Britain, CT
1917

The United States entered into the First Word War just as trenches erupted throughout the European battlefront. With no other tactic available than charging enemy lines on foot, US doughboys were now more than ever reliant on close-quarter, hand-to-hand weaponry. Taking advice from battle-weary French troops, American armorers put forth the US M1917 trench knife nicknamed the “knuckle duster.”  A scary implement indeed, pyramidal teeth protrude from the knuckle bow and the blade is actually a triangular spike purposely designed to puncture the thick overcoats often worn by the enemy inside their own trenches.

Landers, Frary & Clark, whose mark (“L.F.&C.”) is stamped at the hilt, opened just after the Civil War as a housewares company producing myriad kitchen appliances and utensils. In the spring of 1917, the company went to work making edged weapons for the US army.

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes

5

Maynard Carbine
Massachusetts Arms Co. 
Chicopee, MA
1857

As southern secession and even a possible war against the Union became more realistic by the late 1850s, many southern governments looked to bolster their armories. Thus, as demand for both edged weapons and firearms spiked around the country, arms production became big business – and not just for gunsmiths. Practically anyone with even a remotely practical idea on how to gain a battlefield advantage through superior firepower could cash in, and from the mid-1850s through to the end of the Civil War, an influx of firearm alterations, gadgets, gizmos and other weaponized curiosa emerged.

One such offering was the Maynard Carbine, named for its inventor, a New York dentist named Dr. Edward Maynard, whose southern advertising campaign emphasized ease of use:  “Nothing to do with a Maynard but load her up, turn her north, and pull the trigger; if twenty of them don’t clear out all yankee-dom than I’m a liar…” The ads worked. Southern armories ordered about 1,600 of these first-model, breech-loading pieces prior to secession, and the Confederate Congress placed an additional order of 1,000 guns for assorted Cavalry units throughout Virginia and the Carolinas.

Carrying a nickname of “pop-gun,” the Maynard was anything but. It was an efficient weapon to say the least. Factory warranted to fire 12 rounds per minute with an effective range of 1600 yards, it was simplistic in its workings as a breechloader and, moreover, utilized brass cartridges. But, despite its overwhelming popularity, the Maynard had its shortcomings. The lack of a forward stock, for instance, forced the shooter to place his hand on a bare metal barrel, which after six or so rounds became quite hot to the touch. More of a liability, however, was its paper tape primer (similar to toy cap guns still around even now). In an effort to cut down on reloading time, Maynard devised a rolled length of tape embedded with multiple mercury fulminate capsules. Unlike the single-shot percussion caps, however, these capsules were embedded at measured intervals inside the tape and would automatically feed into place when the hammer was cocked. 

To be fair, Maynard’s paper tape priming system worked great - at least until it started raining. Despite its varnishing, the tape roll still proved unreliable in damp conditions, and was soon replaced with the standard metallic percussion cap action. 

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes

6

Bolo knife with wooden sheath
unmarked
Philippines / South Pacific / Oceana
1830-1850

An intimidating and heavy tool to say the least, the term bolo appears to be of native Philippine origin as does the unique design itself. First developed as farming implement, the thick curved blade (typically around 18-inches length) widens considerably at its tip. This extra weight at the forward end created a powerful and effective cutting motion. Because of this, the bolo easily lent itself to all sorts of agricultural tasks including plowing. 

Although still today commonly used as field tools, Pacific Island peasants of the early 19th century learned to use them as self-defensive weapons, and militaries soon took notice. Armies in both Europe and the US eventually adopted the bolo knives for use in their artillery crews, who used extensively in both World Wars to clear brush and cut trails for their caissons. 

One of the more public and gruesome uses of a bolo occurred on December 7, 1972 when a would-be assassin used one to attack then-First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. On stage with cameras rolling, Marcos was stabbed multiple times in the midsection and received serious lacerations to her hands and forearms, but somehow survived. In this interview with Marcos, she discusses her distaste for the use of this particular knife. 

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes

4

Caisson (or ammunition chest)
Unmarked
Spanish (attributed)
c.1898

A standard design used in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, this compartmentalized ammunition chest was made to hold cartridges, case shot and canister shot. Made from pine with thick metal bands at the seams, when fully packed it could weigh as much as 450 pounds. Because of their weight, ammunition chests like these were loaded and secured onto limbers, two-wheeled horse- or vehicle-drawn carts. When in use the limber was detached and moved manually with the chest still in place. By World War I, military supply companies were producing most caissons with iron sheeting, which added a greater measure of protection for the explosive shells inside them.  

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes