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Name Street Town State From To
Sharps       1848 1876

Patent Date Remarks

Contract for

see Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company, Sharps, Christian, A. S. Nippes, Sharps & Hankings, Sharps Rifle Company, Sharps, C. & Co., Harpers Ferry, Jesse Butterfiled, Butterfield & Nippes, Robbins & Lawrence, C. Sharps & Co., Maynard, Edward, George Leonard

Christian Sharps, born in Washington, New Jersey in 1810. He started his career in the early 1830s by working at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal as filler. This was the lowest position in the gunmaking business at the arsenal. At his time Harpers Ferry was the most important firearms manufacturers in the States. Sharps became acquainted with the Hall breechloaders which were made in the arsenal.

A huge number of experiments were conducted at Harpers Ferry. Beyond, breechloaders of Hall, Colt, Leavitt, Cochran and of Baron Hackett, an Englishman who presented french guns called Fusil Robert in Europe.

The Hackett guns were the Fusil Robert (M. Robert, gunsmith of Nancy, France, had invited several breech loading guns in the 1820s). Hackett arrived in the States in 1837 with Robert guns. When no contract could be obtained he returned to Europe.

"The Robert guns were produced between approximately 1831 and 1840 and were an early attempt at using a self contained cartridge. Unlike it's slightly more successful contemporary, Pauly, the Robert system used a fulminate cap on the side of the cartridge that was crushed by the mechanism on firing. The special cartridge had a special notch to ensure correct alignment, and could almost be considered as the ancestor of the pinfire cartridge."

These Robert guns were never manufactured in the states and his name in almost uncommon to collectors.

His first Sharps were patented in 1848 (patent 5,763 of September 12, 1848, patent model was a modified Model 1841 Mississippi rifle). Jonathan M. McCalla, a business man from Washington proposed $500 to Sharps in 1848 in order to find an established manufacturer for making the Sharps guns but without great success. In February 1849 Sharps met Albert S. Nippes, Philadelphia who managed a shop, owned by Daniel S. Nippes at Mill Creek. Albert S. Nippes and Christian Sharps contracted for 100 to 200 guns on March 14, 1849. The first Sharps Rifle (wheel-primer model) was produced by April 20, 1849.

.36 caliber or 90 bore, octagonal barrel, half stock, patch box for a second wheel-primer

.44 caliber, 30" octagonal barrel, half stock, patch box for a second wheel-primer

left side
right side
primer view
open primer view
marking on barrel

About 100 to 150 of them were made.

A second contract was signed by Nippes and Sharps on November 24, 1849. Nippes should form a company to manufacture the Sharps rifle as well as the Sharps pistol. Sharps was requested to obtain the permission to use Maynard’s primers on his rifles. Furthermore he had to obtain from George Leonard permission to use his patent number 6,723 of September 18, 1848 on pistols. A supplement to this contract was signed on December 29, 1849. It was agreed that when Nippes failed to form a company by April 1, 1850 he was permitted to sell the patent rights to whomever he would and Sharps would be allowed to contract to any other to manufacture and sale his rifles. Nippes failed. Sharps on the contrary got the permission to use Maynard primers on May 10, 1850. Finally, Nippes was able to create a new company by August or September 1850 which was the A. S. Nippes & Co (A. S. Nippes, Daniel S. Nippes and Jesse Butterfield). Sales-agent became the company of Butterfield & Nippes, Kensington, Philadelphia.

Nippes made the Model 1850 Sharps with 24” to 34” octagonal barrels, all parts were browned, some with double-set triggers. Production ceased on June 4, 1851 and only about 100 rifles were made.

In the meantime George Leonard had sold his patent rights on the Sharps pistol to Robbins & Lawrence, Windsor, Vermont.

Due to the fact, that the 1849 contract couldn’t be honored by Nippes Sharps had the right to create his own company. He and Arba K. Maynard, New York became partner. This new company was permitted to the Washington Arsenal trial of November 12, 1850. Competitors were Klein’s rifle, Jenks carbine, Perry’s rifle and Welsh’s rifle. Sharps won. However no contract was received.

During this time Sharps was introduced to George H. Penfield a dealer in military goods. Sharps and Penfield joined by contract of January 8, 1851 and searched for manufacturing facilities at Hartford for 5,000 guns/year. However the only factory able to produce such many guns was Colt. This was why they contracted with George King to build a factory able to turn out 10,000 rifles/year. During construction of their factory they hired a shop on Pearl Street, Hartford. 10 hands were engaged to make Sharps.

The Sharps made at Pear Street were the Model 1850, identical to those made by Nippes. However, some were made without the patch-box and a different sight. About 100 were made until February 1852. The remaining parts, tools and machinery were sold to William H. Robertson.

When the King building was finished it was flooded and Penfield refused to accept it. King proposed to build a new one which was agreed by Penfield despite the fact that the later already agreed (June 25, 1851) with Robbins & Lawrence for 5,000 Sharps to made in Windsor.

The first government contract was finally offered on August 15, 1851 for 200 caliber 32 bore rifles, 21” barrels with Maynard primer. However, due to problems (financial ?) between Penfield and Sharps the contract could not been fulfilled. On October 8, 1851 the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was incorporated. Stockholders were:

Thomas Belknap 200 shares
M.W. Chapin 800 shares
Virgil Cornish 200 shares
James Goodwin 200 shares
William Jarvis 200 shares
R. S. Lawrence 250 shares
William T. Lee 200 shares
C. H. Northam 200 shares
John C. Palmer 200 shares
George H. Penfield 500 shares
Guy Phelps 200 shares
S. E. Robbins 250 shares
Horace Sage 200 shares

Negotiations were made in order to get all of Penfield’s contracts with Sharps, Nippes, Maynard and Robbins & Lawrence.

A second government contract was offered on December 2, 1851 for 200 carbines. The Sharps company entered in a new contract with Robbins & Lawrence to manufacture these guns.

Sharps Cartridge Conversions

In 1867 the government had Sharps to convert about 31000 carbines and 1000 rifles to the .50-70 cartridge. Most had 3 grove relined barrels however, some original six grove barrels are found.

Approximately 1000 rifles and 300 (308?) carbines were prepared to the .50-70 cartridge for troops issue. Rifles were made with 35 ˝” (sometimes barrel-length is indicated with 32.6”) and carbines with 22” barrels. The first 300 trial rifle muskets were ready on March 4, 1871.

On March 16 Belknap asked to withhold the guns as the lever had to be changed. Lawrence (inspector of these guns) and Porter (master machinist at Springfield) agreed that the levers could not be altered with the roller in the lever. Therefore, Lawrence asked Sharps for 1300 new levers.

1000 new levers were thought for the rifles altered from old weapons. The 300 additional levers were used for 300 additional rifle muskets were entirely built of new parts. For that behalf Springfield purchased 300 Model 1874 receivers and locks from the company in 1871. The other parts for the 300 new guns were made at Springfield. These guns were numbered in a separate serial number range. Totally 1300 Springfield Sharps rifle muskets and 250 Springfield Sharps carbines were finished on June 30, 1872.

980 Sharps Springfield Rifles were issued to troops

Which were the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 11th,12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 23rd, 24th, 25th Infantry and the 2nd and 3rd Artillery