Thomas Wilson, his Patents, Arms and Ammunition

From what I can remember and my notes I made contact with the HBSA a few times over the last seven years and although the first approach solicited no real response, I believe this was because Thomas Wilson and his firearm systems are hardly known in the UK to most of your members. I think it was Rob Davidson who placed my request on the HBSA Forum back in 2008. I again approached the association in 2012 and my request for information brought a reply from Bill Curtis, but unfortunately nothing new.

My more recent request was to Tony Cattermole and Stephen Barrett in 2012 and as far as I can remember this related to informing and providing details for your members about a London bookseller who had bought up the old Manchester Patent Library and amongst the 1.5 million patents he had 10,000 firearms patents going well back into the 1840’s which were available for purchase. I thought this would be of interest as I this interested many of my contacts in Australia who possess some very interesting and rare examples of early breech-loaders. It was after noting their interest I decided to advise amongst others the HBSA and the MLAGB.

Many of the patents were snatched up by collectors particularly the early patents of Colt , Winchester, Snider, Westley Richards, Manton, Forsyth, etc, etc. Some patents went for thousands of pounds but many of their updates and variations went for several hundreds and there are many still available for just £ 100 each for well-known names of the 1860’s/70’s. Of Wilson, I purchased the key patents and drawing, so I am happy. Interestingly two contacts of mine recently purchased the primary patents for the rare George Kufahl Needle rifle of 1852, the Johann von Poppenburg breech-loading rifle of 1865 and the George Fosbery breech loading rifle patent, November 1868, all at £ 100 each.

I had a computer glitch a while ago so I cannot check, but I am sure I sent out the attachment you have just received to Tony Cattermole for publication in your newsletter. I saw this as my last approach to institutions in the UK before focusing my efforts to complete archiving my data etc, before getting down to the process of writing.

Concerning the MLAGB, I contacted David Minshall who took all my material as sent to you and he loaded this onto their Discussion Forum and also linked my request to Research Press and its research projects which have yielded some good results particularly a new find in Australia. David must have had some spare time on his hands as he got stuck in and supplied me with whatever he could find about Wilson on the Web which in most cases I had already archived, but some useful contacts came up. This exercise has proved fruitful to me because it demonstrates just how little Information exists and also how few Wilson Long/Short rifles and Carbines are in circulation in the UK. There is more information available in the UK , but I have been there twice for research purposes, but I really need to live there for a few months to travel and spend more time in the library archives. Unfortunately the exchange rate prohibits this and in reverse that is why thousands of UK visitors and Germans etc. descend on South Africa during your Winter.

Just for interest Australia regards the Wilson capping breech-loader as one of the country’s rarest small arms and is well documented. Through contacts in Tasmania I have been able to trace and compile a list of owners with details of their individual pieces. Tasmania originally placed an order to equip the Tasmanian Volunteer Cavalry with Wilson carbines and to date I have traced about 30% of the original order on the London company – Hebbert and Co.

Prices in Aussie run from A$3000 to A$5000. One rifle (Possibly a barter exchange for provisions when the Shenandoah docked down there at one time), with it sword bayonet and scabbard with Confederate markings was purchased by an American from an Australian auction house and later put on the block some years later in Dallas, where it sold for $22,705 back in 2006. America has cottoned onto these rifles and a superb example was sold only last year in June by an online retail operation in the states to a high end private buyer for $23,000.

I must stop here and apologise, as I seem to have rambled on, but it does give you some insight and flavour of the information and work I am currently involved in. Again thank you in advance for help and anything that you might find in your archives

Andrew Appleby

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