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    Newly discovered Colt production and financial records

    [Samuel Colt]. Thomas J. Fales' Copy Letter Book. The Colt Armory, built in Hartford, Connecticut beginning in 1855, was the site of the manufacture of Samuel Colt's famous firearms. An extension to the original armory was added two years later to accommodate the overwhelming need for guns brought on by the fighting in the Civil War. At the height of production, the factory employed a population of nearly 2,000 workers. But on February 4, 1864, a massive fire broke out in the wing separating the old East armory from the new West armory. Thought to have begun in the attic, the fire destroyed all but the newer West armory, the forge, and the foundry. It was estimated at the time that the fire caused over $1,000,000 in damage, destroying not only the firearms and machinery, but also all records up to that period.

    This Hyde & Co. copy book, kept by Colt P. F. M. Co. Secretary Thomas J. Fales, contains some of the few extant company records of the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company up to 1864. Sadly, no serial numbers for the guns are held within these precious pages, but there is a wealth of information strewn throughout, including arms production during the war, accounting information, business correspondence, etc.

    A sampling of the information includes:

    Thomas Fales Autograph Letter Signed. Three pages, 8.5" x 10.5", London, June 18, 1862, to Elisha K. Root regarding the transfer of ownership of Colt's London Agency from the family to Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company after the death of founder Samuel Colt six months earlier. Elisha Root, a machinist by trade, was hired by Samuel Colt in 1849 to run his Hartford factory. On Colt's death, Root became president of the company serving in that position until his own death in 1865. Fales writes, in part: "Having completed the transfer of the Agency from the Estate of Col Sam Colt to the Colt Pat Fire Arms Manf Co. I accompany...documents relating to the transaction. There is £1650.14.9 due by the Compy to the Estate...has been transferred to the new Books. I have been very particular to have everything correct and clear on the old Books, however, as you observe by the statement of the Colonels wife there is a balance of £699.9.9." He goes on to discuss pending business including a shipment of gun barrels. He says he has passed " the Enfield Small Arms Factory and had a very pleasant interview with Col. Dixon, the Manager. I am truly sorry I have not been able to make more progression closing the matters of my mission over here but as soon as the...power of Attorney from the Executor arrives, I shall not be a moment. I am anxious to be home before summer is over." He ends his letter by weighing the possibility of having the former Prussian military officer Baron Friedrich von Oppen, Colt's brother-in-law and head of the London agency, continue to run the agency or give the reins over to "Mr. Lawrence." "...from personal regard to the Baron, I would be glad to have the Compy leave him in charge particularly as he would regain Mr. Lawrence's services, still if left to use my own judgment or to the Agency here I should place Mr. Lawrence in charge in preference to any of the to the other parties we have in view." This letter is located on page 299.

    On page 355, Fales submits a report concerning a contract with the U. S. War Department: "Since the last annual meeting of the stock holders the War Department Ratified our former contracts for making 5000 US Rifle Muskets...We delivered on Sept 1000, Oct. 2500, Nov 2000, Decemb 2500 - Making a total of 8000, but still leaving us behind...on our deliveries." Fales then makes a prediction for the year 1863: "The US Rifle Muskets are being turned out rapidly - 12500 having been delivered this year to date."

    On page 392 there is information on a contract to sell arms to the United States government to carry on the war against the Confederate States. On the second page of a several page entry, the date is highly obscured (circa 1863), Fales states: "The demand for arms has been not only great, but pressing, the United States government would have contracted with us last fall for some 5000 Army Pistols had we been in a position to make the arms...We are everyday...turning out pistols & gaining on the number of arms assembled now amount to about 200 per day." Directly under this entry, there is information about rifles provided to the U. S: "U. S. Rifled Muskets. On the 24th ...we delivered to the U. S. the last thousand rifled muskets on our contracts for the government for one hundred thousand at Twenty Dollars each." Seven pages of accounting information follow.

    Page 397 contains the following entry: "Our sales to the United States during the past two years are as follows" and include 58,801 Colt Army pistols, 269 Colt Navy pistols, 40 Enfield Muskets, 47,000 U. S. Rifled Muskets, as well as the cost of each with totals for the years 1863-4. The total coming to $941,178.07.

    This will appeal to any firearm or Sam Colt collector and deserves further research. Bound in wood with a stiff spine covering. The spine covering is detached at the front exposing the textblock, but the binding of the book is tight. Page edges are toned, but overall this is in fine condition.

    More Information:

    Thomas Fales left his father's plantation on the island of Cuba in 1832 and obtained a job with Fesser Albers & Co., one of the largest import/export firms on the island. He worked for the firm for fifteen years and, by the end, he was managing the operation in Albers' absence. In the meantime, he married a native of Hartford, Connecticut who found Cuba unfavorable to her health, and the couple moved to the United States, settling in Hartford.

    In 1849, he went into business with John R. Tracy and established Tracy & Fales which manufactured passenger and freight cars for the railroad. In 1852, Tracy was bought out and Tracy & Fales became Fales & Gray. Business went well until 1854, when a boiler explosion destroyed the factory and killed 25 men, injuring 50 others. Coupled with Robert Schuyler's stock fraud the same year, the company went under.

    Fales floated from one business venture to another until he was contacted by arms manufacturer Samuel Colt. Colt offered Fales a job as Secretary of the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, which he accepted in 1862. By this time, the war was on and business was booming. Fales worked for Colt for six years before he returned to Cuba with his family. Civil war broke out on the island, forcing the family to move back to Harford in 1870. He again moved from business to business, returning to Colt once in 1881, before dying sometime in the late 1880s. Lots 34056 through 34060 in this auction are from the personal papers of Thomas Fales.

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    Auction Dates
    April, 2012
    11th-12th Wednesday-Thursday
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