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IGC has this on Alex. Forsyth. You will see there is no mention of a Thomas. IGC has a J Forsyth in London c 1860, but notes it was merely a name seen on a gun. Brown only has Alex. Forsyth listed, as does Gooding & Scott-Edeson.

Alexander Forsyth
Other Names Forsyth Patent Gun Co; Forsyth & Co
Address1 10 Piccadilly
Address2 8 Leicester Street, Leicester Square
City/Town London
Country United Kingdom
Trade Gunmaker
Other Address
Dates 1808-1852
Notes
Alexander John Forsyth (1768-1843) was the Presbyterian church minister of Belhelvie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, from 1791 to 1843. He was well educated, and particularly interested in firearms, the sciences, and explosives. Throughout the 1600s and 1700s people had experimented with explosive fulminating compounds, and in 1800 the Board of Ordnance allowed Edward Howard to test his mixture of fulminate of mercury and saltpetre with a view to using it to replace gunpowder. This mixture proved too powerful, but Forsyth realized that the mixture could be used as a primer, and that percussion ignition of gunpowder in a barrel could be swifter and more reliable than flintlock ignition. All that was needed was a reliable means of delivering the right quantity of the right mixture to the pan. By 1805 he had perfected the mixture. In 1806 he moved to London where his cousin, Henry Brougham, later Lord Chancellor, introduced him to Sir Joseph Banks. Sir Joseph introduced him to Lord Moira who was Master General of Ordnance. Lord Moira gave Forsyth premises at the Tower of London, and supplied him with workmen and materials so that he could develop the means of reliably delivering the mixture to the pan of any type of firearm or cannon in the right quantity. Forsyth employed Joseph Vicars to help him further develop his ideas.

It seems that the other gunsmiths working at the Tower copied and tried to improve on Forsyth's work, which did not please him, but it was the appointment of Lord Chatham as Master General and his termination of the arrangement with Forsyth that brought about Forsyth's return to Belhelvie in 1807. In spite of this setback, on 11 April that year, reportedly with assistance from James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, Forsyth patented "a method of discharging firearms by percussion powder" (No. 3032). He then continued developing his "roller magazine primer" ("scent bottle" shaped primer), sliding lock primer, and brass and steel faced touch holes. In June 1808 Forsyth went into partnership with his cousin, James Brougham (brother of Henry), under the name Forsyth Patent Gun Company at 10 Piccadilly, London. Joseph Vicars was employed as chief mechanic. The scent bottle primers were later made for Forsyth by Henry Maudslay. Between 1808 and 1809 the firm developed their sliding magazine lock. In 1809 Vicars' employment was reportedly terminated, Charles Bagley Uther joined as a partner and manager of the firm which was renamed Forsyth & Co. Vicars established his own business at 27 Seward Street, Goswell Street. In 1811 Forsyth had to go to Court to stop him making locks which infringed the Forsyth patent, similar actions followed against W A Beckwith, Jackson Mortimer and Joseph Manton. Forsyth & Co employed William Ling, then aged 14, he later rose to be Foreman and then in 1829 left to establish his own business, and Barnard (Bernard) Denyer who established his own business in 1838. William Webster was employed as a mechanic and lock filer prior to him establishing his own business. Robert Anderson was a journeyman working with the firm from 1812 to 1818 prior to running his own business. J McLachlan was a gun filer 1808-1818. James Purdey was a stocker and lock filer between 1808 and 1813, some reports say he was Forsyth's foreman.

Forsyth's ideas were developed by others into the percussion cap, the invention of which was most notably claimed by both Joseph Manton and Joseph Egg, but also Joshua Shaw, an an Englishman who emigrated to America. He was an artist but, because of the copper cap, called himself an inventor. He reportedly invented his cap in 1815 and patented it in the USA in 1822 (see Joshua Shaw). In 1808 S J Pauly, a Swiss gunmaker working in Paris, had invented a breech-loader which used a cartridge containing a fulminate which was ignited by a firing pin. The importance of Pauly's invention was not understood and he turned his inventiveness to hot air balloons. It was in 1815 that Durs Egg and S J Pauly patented a dolphin shaped balloon (patent No.3909) but at an unknown date around this time Joseph Egg claimed to have invented the copper percussion cap. Joseph Manton claimed the same, his claim was backed by Col Peter Hawker who said that he had proposed the idea to Manton. In 1816 the firm moved to 8 Leicester Street, Leicester Square. A licence to make guns on the Forsyth patents was granted to James Innes of Edinburgh. The Forsyth Patent Gun Co was not financially successful and in 1819 Charles Uther and his son bought the shares of Forsyth and Brougham. Forsyth returned to Scotland and continued as a minister until he died in 1843.

In 1829 William Ling left to open his own business. From 1834 to 1842 Forsyth fought the Government for recompense for the work he had done for them. On 11 July 1840 he petitioned Parliament, and in 1842 the Treasury awarded him £200, and in 1843 his surviving family was awarded £1000. The company traded for some years as Alexander Forsyth & Co, it exhibited a safety gun and patent locks at the Great Exhibition in 1851 but closed in 1852.

Goodman & Sons supplied gun cases to Forsyths.

I also read in 'The Sporting Goods Review & Gunmaker' magazine of mid 1930 that Forsyth had a plaque erected to his memory inside the Tower of London, one of only a handful of commoners so honoured.

Tim

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Thanks for all the research and replies. I was aware of Alexander Forsyth and his accomplishments but could find no connection to a Thomas Forsyth as, apparently, no connection exists. It seems that the theory that Thomas was a dealer or broker is more likely than that he was a previously unknown gunmaker.
The piece is valuable to me due to its history in my wife's family. As a fairly utilitarian gun, it is just the kind of firearm that a family of farmers in North Dakota in the 1870-1950 time frame would use on a daily basis. I have also inherited an 1920's era Iver Johnson single shot 16 ga. and a Remington Model 6 .22 rifle from around 1915, both well used but reasonably well maintained. These were guns that helped open up the frontier of America, but without the glitz and glory of a Peacemaker or a Winchester - working guns, bringing home food and holding off the varmints. If the gun proves sound, I can think of no better way to honor that homesteading family than to take it out and use it - to keep the memory alive.

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The J. Forsyth that trw999 mentioned ICG had a record of may be my bar action hammer gun. It is quite a bit later than your Forsyth and probably no connection.

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Ken61
Respectfully suggest you refer to the edit that I made to my earlier post.


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Good info. It seems unlikely (my opinion) that the Thos. Forsyth name would be purely spurious, unless it was a name associated with an importer or seller in America. Certainly possible, unless Thos Forsyth. guns were sold in Europe as well. The ironmonger reference seems very possible, but I wonder how the gun got to the American Midwest?

There was a Thomas Forsyth that was an Indian Agent and Trade Post operator at Rock Island, IL in the early 1800s. He, died in 1830 so is not a candidate for having the guns made. But, it's possible his name was co-opted later for a "Trade Name".. All purely speculation.

To me, the most plausible theory is that of a London Ironmonger using the defunct Forsyth name to market Birmingham-sourced guns.

Last edited by Ken61; 03/30/15 11:03 AM.

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Speak of the Devil. Here's a Thos. Forsyth Bar-Action hammergun sold several years ago. Without seeing the proofs, i'd say that the odds were good that this gun is considerably younger than your back-action sidelever.

http://www.nadeausauction.com/lotdetails/?lot=96698

Last edited by Ken61; 03/31/15 07:36 AM.

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I have a side lever 10 gauge marked W W Forsyth. Not sure seems to be a good quality gun. I will take a look at it when I get back home in a few days. Possibly post some pictures. Also check the proof marks.

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I actually remember I posted pictures and had comments on this gun 2 years ago.
http://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=343345&page=1

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Ken: I have seen that gun on Nadeau's before, when I first started researching mine. It was the only firearms-related J. Forsyth listing Google could come up with, and probably still is. I was disappointed that the photos were too generic to be able to see much in the way of similarities between the two, and I would have liked to see the proof marks as well. The only thing that I thought might be a connection was the forend attachment, as both guns use the older-style wedge, although the area around the firing pins does look similar.
Ghostrider: After looking at your pics from 2 years back I do see some similarities although since each gun of this type and vintage was essentially hand-made there are notable differences too. The proof marks appear to be from the same time frame, and mine also has an "A.B" marked on one, but not both barrels. As yours is initialed next to the view marks, could "A.B" be a Birmingham Proof House inspector's initials?

Without any more concrete documentation I suppose all we can do at this point is to speculate. I think that an ironmoger selling a Birmingham-made gun while using a famous name to add to the cachet is most likely, but I would really like to find out who actually made the bloody thing! Not likely to happen, though.

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I keep finding references to "W W Forsyth" being listed in an 1874 P Powell & Son catalog. There's some old auctions of a few of the guns still up, but lacking pictures. Since this is some 20 years after Alex. Forsyth and "Forsyth & Co." ceased operations, it possibly indicates a link with Thom. Forsyth, the possible Ironmonger. However, There's also a W.W. marked Sidelever Pinfire listed on an old auction, possibly indicating they'd been around for some time. (1860s manufacturing time frame?) I wonder if the initials "W W" were used with spurious intent, due to the similarity to Greener's tag-line.

Of course the seller may not have even been named Forsyth. It may have been an in-house trade name simply marked on their "Birmingham-trade" guns.


I prefer wood to plastic, leather to nylon, waxed cotton to Gore-Tex, and split bamboo to graphite.
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