For those of you who are not readers of the Double Gun Journal , The Parker Story is a forthcoming two volume book on Charles Parker and the well known Parker Brothers shotguns. One writer in a sporting magazine has dubbed this book as "the mother of all Parker books." We refer to it as the "ultimate Parker book." Started in mid-1992, the first of two volumes is scheduled to be available before the close of the year and the second volume to follow in 1998. This is the story of how this book came to be written.
The June, 1990 issue of The Gun report contained my article, Charles Parker, the Man and His Guns. This article covered the earliest of the Parker guns, a subject which no one had previously written about. Charlie Price, an mechanical engineer and Bill Mullins, a realtor, close friends, and long time collectors of Parkers, contacted me. Charlie suggested that we collaborate and write a Parker book. He had done considerable research and had documented the physical evolution of the Parker gun over the years of its production. He had not published any of this material. I was reluctant to tackle as big a project as a book, but agreed to collaborate with him on some articles. This resulted in The Evolution of the Parker Double, parts I & II appearing in the Double Gun Journal , volume two, issues 1 & 2. Charlie Price and Bill Mullins then collaborated on parts III & IV which appeared in volume two, issues 3 & 4. These articles were well received. Many readers then suggested that we do a book, where everything about Parker was in one place.
In early 1990 I was at Remington doing research for an article entitled Remington Hammer Doubles, which was being written by myself, Charlie Semmer and Bill Furnish. (This was published in The Gun Report, July & August, 1991.) While there, in a dusty storage area, I came upon the surviving Parker Brothers stock books and order books, reposing in old, dirty, wooden crates with hinged covers. (Louis Parker, III, when he first saw these records, sometime later, described the experience as being similar to rummaging through an old musty tomb and suddenly coming upon the holy grail.) Upon seeing these records I knew we had to have access to them if we were to write something other than just another Parker book. I immediately started negotiations with Remington. Many people over the years had tried to gain access to these records and failed. I was told by everyone that Remington would never grant us access. Along with my formal request I gave Remington copies of all The Gun Report magazines that contained the articles that I had previously written. This proved to be the clincher. Remington later told me the articles showed that I was a serious writer and not someone after the records for monetary gain. (For a description of the surviving Parker records see Charlie Price's article The Parker Paper Trail in the Double Gun Journal , volume 7 issue 1.) A year later, we had approval. Now Bill, Charlie and myself were committed to a book. We started to look around for someone with expertise in those areas in which our knowledge was slight. My expertise lay with the early Parker hammer guns, while that of Bill and Charlie were more in the area of the hammerless guns. Charlie and Bill contacted Louis Parker, III. Louis is a corporate attorney and the great, great grandson of Charles Parker. Louis had the Parker family history, the largest collection of Parker gun catalogs, a significant collection of Parker ephemera and other items made by the Charles Parker Company, and most importantly, tapes of his 1970 interviews with the late Charlie Parker, last president of the Charles Parker Company. Louis had thoughts of doing a Parker book in the 70's but had realized the project was too large to be done by any one person. He readily agreed to join with us.
Next, we needed someone with some publishing experience and turned to Daniel Cote, publisher of the Double Gun Journal . He also agreed to join us. That left us with two areas, that of Parker shot shells and Parker loading tools, where we had to find experts. We were able to convince Windy Klinect, editor for the Shotshell Historical & Collectors Society Newsletter to write the chapter on shotshells. Jack McNearney, a long time gun collector, agreed to write the chapter on Parker loading tools. By late 1992 we had our team assembled and embarked upon what is probably the most ambitious project undertaken by a group of gun writers.
Of all the Parker records, the Parker stock books proved to be the most valuable. They contained almost every gun made, by serial number, date started and completed and described each by grade, stock style, action type, gauge, barrel length, stock measurements, and extras such as beavertail forearm, single trigger, etc. The data in the stock books was so voluminous that we decided that we had to convert it into a computer data base. Since Remington would not allow us to remove the records, we decided to Xerox every page of the stock books. This proved to be a eight hours per day, three week project. ( In the process we burned up one of Remington's Xerox machines.) We then designed a data base and hired two assistants to key the information into the data base. With this data base and the computer software, we were then able conduct sorts to determine how many of any particular configuration of gun were made. The book will have in Chapter VIII, The Grades, extensive tables showing the quantity of all configurations of every grade of gun made.
The order books were not copied, but each was read and interesting data extracted. From these order books we were able to obtain lists, by serial number, of the guns Parker displayed at the various fairs and expositions over the years. These books also gave us the serial numbers of guns owned by notables such as Annie Oakley, Zane Grey, John Phillip Sousa and others. The order books also enabled us to fill in the information on a good number of the guns that were in the missing stock books.
While we had assembled a team of experts, these people were spread all over the eastern half of the country. Communicating and obtaining a consensus on anything proved to be very time consuming. In addition each person had his own ideas of how things should be done, and this wasn't always how the rest of the principals felt. This made for very slow progress, but did result in much better quality over a single-author set-up. If one of the writers tended to say "that's good enough" the others were promptly down on him.
In writing the book we met with former employees of the Charles Parker Company, and children of these employees. We were able to obtain invaluable material from these people. We also visited a number of Parker collectors to view their collections, and to pick their brains. The Meriden Historical Society was a treasure trove of old photographs and historical material. Several days were spent there, and visits were made to Parker related sites in Meriden.
The book has grown to two volumes, in a 9 x 12 format with close to 500
pages in each volume.
The chapters are as follows: