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Old 03-17-2018, 09:18 AM
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Default Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases

I had a thread going discussing gutta percha pistol cases but got pulled because the gun was in a current auction. (hopefully mentioning the word "auction" doesn't get this one pulled too)
Anyhow, I'm curious about reproductions of these and how to tell repros from orininals. I think it was Opefec who said he has made repros?

Anyhow, over on the coltforum someone posted this very interesting link on the manufacture of these cases. Thought you might all find it interesting. I printed off a copy to keep in my Standard Catalog Of Smith & Wesson

http://americansocietyofarmscollecto...056_Eklund.pdf
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Old 03-17-2018, 10:11 AM
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Vern gave that talk at one of our annual meetings. The link you posted is actually the talk that he gave. I believe it is in one of our early journals.
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Old 03-17-2018, 10:11 AM
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WOW, that is a great article, definitely worth saving for future reference. I am still slightly confused as to whether these cases should be referred to as gutta percha or something else. If I am reading the article correctly, when the process was used here in MA, the product was shellac based. The gutta percha product was plant based and the shellac product was animal based.

We may need to rewrite history????
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Old 03-17-2018, 10:27 AM
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I had not ran across the Eklund piece before. It sheds a lot of light on production and expected serial numbers of Model 1 revolvers that should and should not be in gutta-percha cases. The last year they were offered by the company would have been 1862 and maybe 1863?? If so, only those with serial numbers below around 30,000 belong in those cases. Interesting, because I recently ran across a 3rd Issue in one of those boxes?? Also, a non-S&W case could show up from time to time with a Model 1 in it? There were also more cases delivered than I would have suspected.

Smith & Wesson records shed valuable light on purchases by that company. The following cases were purchased from Littlefield, Parsons & Co.:
1858 - 467 cases
1859 - 2553 cases
1860 - 1575 cases
1861 - 288 cases
1862 - 300 (Flag cases)
This gives a total of 5183 cases produced for Smith & Wesson


I was going to reply that the case you were originally looking at could have been restored? It was almost too good and there are people out there who restore gutta-percha. The brass hinges would have been cleaned, the finish would have been restored and if the bottom liner war replaced as Ed noted, it would have been done then as well. I have seen cases where the liner matched in color of the inside of the lid and also see some with a tan interior base liners. Maybe fading of the original dyes occurred?? Here are a couple of images pulled off from a search.
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Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-model-1-case-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-model-1-case2-jpg  
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Old 03-17-2018, 01:25 PM
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There are unrestored cases out there. The collection that Tom Lindner auctioned about seven years ago comes to mind. Tom had around eight cases and only two had defects. One had a small chip on a corner and the other had a repair on the side where the revolver discharged when being placed in the case 100 years ago. The bottom fabric in that case also was scorched at the cylinder gap.

Most of these cases are chipped or cracked as they are fragile. The most often found defects will be broken areas around the hinges, broken barrel mounts and the post on the cartridge block just in front of the trigger.

The repro Stand of Flags case has noticeable repairs to the bottom and right side as well as other smaller items. I have not seen a repro Pistol case so I can't comment on them.
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Old 03-17-2018, 02:06 PM
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I have previously posted the info. that I had obtained approx. 8 repo cases from a trial run a number of years ago. The cases were made from a mold made from Gen Geo. A. Custer's Model 1 "Pistol"case loaned from a friend's collection. Several small changes were purposely made to identify these repo cases from originals. One obvious change I will disclose here, to help collectors spot one of the repos, is the hinges of the case are attached with small screws, visible when the case is in the open position. There are other changes also, and it's possible an original case with broken hinges may have been repaired with screws to attach the hinges, so if you see a case with screws attaching the hinges, do not immediately assume it's a repo, but you can email me with clear photos of ALL areas of the case, inside & out, for my opinion. Ed.
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Old 03-17-2018, 04:13 PM
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Most interesting article. I'd love to see an original S&W case.
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Old 03-17-2018, 05:33 PM
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Does anyone know what the case that was the subject matter of this thread sold for? And was it a good price...or not?
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Old 03-17-2018, 07:53 PM
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"I'd love to see an original S&W case." Here are a few photos in no particular order.
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Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1269-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1270-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1271-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1273-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1285-jpg  

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Old 03-17-2018, 08:16 PM
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As far as I know, the only two case lid designs that are correct for a S&W, are the Model One Pistol and Stand of Flags designs. However, be aware many other products came cased in Gutta Percha cases of the period, such as shaving kits, hair brushes, sewing tools, etc. These are various sizes, some being the same size as the two S&W cases. I have seen these non-S&W cases altered to fit a revolver. I once saw a larger case with a Model 2 Army in it ! Ed.
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Old 03-17-2018, 08:59 PM
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In addition to Ed's post adding the odd-size large size cases; there are examples of smaller cases holding the "short" barrel Model 1, 3rd Issue S&W but I believe those cases were intended for the Allen & Wheelock, side hammer revolvers. I have one example, while not correct for the S&W, it fits. None of the irregular cases are either the Stand of Flags case or the Pistol case but have other motifs.
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Old 03-18-2018, 09:38 AM
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Add to those details above, I am of the understanding that Distributors also had lots of cases made to put with various S&Ws they purchased from the factory. I have a box for a Model 1 1/2 short barrel that I assume was a distributor case. It might have been relined over the years and suppose it could be a re-purposed case, but it fits the Model 1 1/2 and perfectly.
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Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-p1010002-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-p1010009-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-p10101-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-p101007-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-p1010007-jpg  

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Old 03-18-2018, 11:47 AM
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One of my favorite revolvers with case and I believe to be original Smith Wesson ammo unmarked. July 1860.

Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-20180318_111715-jpgModel 1 gutta percha pistol cases-20180318_111748-jpg

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Old 03-18-2018, 01:55 PM
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The only gutta percha case I have is, unfortunately, a photograph case.

Anything that would fit into a 4" x 5" case??
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Old 03-18-2018, 04:50 PM
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Dean, That would make an awesome display setting for a S&W "Pistol Case" belt buckle for your display at the coming in June S&WCA Symposium, right ? I'm sure D.B.Wesson had one just like it ! Ed
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Old 03-18-2018, 06:32 PM
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Ed, Neat idea! Unfortunately I won't have a display this year.........
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Old 03-18-2018, 07:51 PM
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Default Another distributor supplied cased S&W.

I'm following Gary's lead. Here are a few photos of a distributor supplied case for the short barrel 1st Model, 3rd Issue.
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Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1296-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1297-jpg   Model 1 gutta percha pistol cases-dscn1298-jpg  
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Old 03-19-2018, 02:12 PM
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Thanks for all the replies and the great pictures. Love that nickeled short barrel. Lots of good stuff here!
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Old 03-19-2018, 03:54 PM
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Thanks for all the replies and the great pictures. Love that nickeled short barrel. Lots of good stuff here!
And thank you for the PM! Thumbs up!
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Old 03-20-2018, 02:04 PM
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My understanding is that these cases were made only during the production of the Model 1,1 and Model 1,2. I also understand that other gun manufacturers had similar cases made for their guns.

According to a conversation that I recently had with Roy, there is no record of which gun came with a case by serial number. The distributor would order 100 guns and maybe 20 cases so there is no record of which gun (by serial number) was put in a case and sold to a customer.

That would also lead me to believe that unlike the cardboard boxes, there was no grease pencil serial number placed on the case bottom to tie the gun and the case together.

What does the collective feel that one of these cases is worth? What about the gun and the case? Let's assume that both are in good condition. If that's too vague, what about a range of value?

I look forward to your comments and or corrections to any of the above.
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Old 03-20-2018, 02:55 PM
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James a case will bring $2,000.00 and up in very good condition. Depending on rarity, a revolver $1000.00 and up. Combination $3000.00 and up. Prices have come down, but are starting to go up again.
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Old 03-20-2018, 08:11 PM
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James, the cases were actually made during the manufacture of the 1st Model, 2nd Issue revolvers. BUT, the cases were available from dealer inventory and if a customer wanted a case for a 1st, 1st, 3rd the dealer would place them together. Even though the case was designed for the spring loaded latch with the side projections, there are known examples of period modified cases for the 'bayonet' type latch of the 1st, 1st, 1st and the 1st, 1st, 2nd. Personally, I think the mods made for the bayonet latch look crude and out-of-place in these cases.

To reinforce Don's post; condition is everything with these cases. Post #5 lists the usually found problems. One crack or 100; the case is still damaged. Trying to find one of these cases in exceptional condition is challenging.
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Old 03-21-2018, 10:33 AM
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What are the chances of finding one of these cases in pristine condition? Just wondering if that alone should make one suspect when looking at these. Based on time and the way that these cases age is it possible to find one without cracks or defects?

I would love to add one to my collection but since I have only become interested in the antique S&W's recently I am afraid to make that much of an investment with such a limited knowledge.
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Old 03-21-2018, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmaher94087 View Post
James, the cases were actually made during the manufacture of the 1st Model, 2nd Issue revolvers. BUT, the cases were available from dealer inventory and if a customer wanted a case for a 1st, 1st, 3rd the dealer would place them together . . .
Think about the fact that the 3rd Change came out in 1868 and the last run of cases was 1862 and only 300 were made that year. I doubt that these cases were still available 5 years after the last ones were made, so remain convinced that a 3rd Change in a gutta-percha case did not start out life that way.
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Old 03-21-2018, 11:51 AM
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Gary, I think my shorthand has caused some confusion. Your statement about the date of manufacture for the First Model, Third Issue (3rd Change) is correct. What I was referring to was the First Model, First Issue, Third Type. There are Six Types of First Model, First Issue revolvers made between 1857 and 1860 that are recognized by collectors. (Neal & Jinks, 1975 Revised Edition. (Pgs. 20 - 23.)). I hope this clarifies my statement.

James, I searched and horse traded to get the two I have. It didn't happen overnight. They are hard to find, but when a long time collection is sold or auctioned they become available. Bring a boat-load of cash.
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Old 03-21-2018, 06:12 PM
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In the list provided above only the last group of 300 is identified as flags. Do we have more information as to the breakdown between the two styles and production by years?
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Old 03-21-2018, 06:50 PM
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It would seem that implies all others were "pistol design" cases?? I have read that the flags case was inferred to be a Union style Civil War inspired case maybe ordered at the outset of the war in 1861, then received and sold in 1862. Maybe there are only 300 flag cases in existence?? I have not found evidence to support the one year only production of flag cases.
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Old 03-21-2018, 07:02 PM
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Well as I continue to research these cases, I found the following on a web site dedicated to the daguerreotype photo cases.

What are those hard plastic cases called?

A "Union Case" and is an example of an early thermoplastic technology, being produced from about 1855 to 1865. Some people call them gutta-percha cases but that is not a correct term, better being "thermoplastic case" or, as we use, a "Union Case". Littlefield, Parsons & Co. was one such case manufacturers. A mixture of shellac and wood fibers were pressed into a steel mold. And to think we thought "plastics" were new in the 1950s, look at the quality they achieved in the 1850s!

FWIW, as I said in an earlier post, gutta percha is made from tree sap and the cases sold by Littlefield, Parsons were actually shellac based.
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Old 03-21-2018, 08:13 PM
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I have handled and owned a few dozen cases, both Stand of Flags and the Union cases. I've had mint cases and not so mint cases. Mint cases are still out there. They have had Model 1 3rd issues and Model 1 1/2's. So you never know what was put in the case. A fellow collector showed me a Stand of Flags case with a Model 1 first issue serial number 11 owned by D B Wesson. I guess if you owned the company you can do whatever you want
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Old 03-21-2018, 08:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSR III View Post
Well as I continue to research these cases, I found the following on a web site dedicated to the daguerreotype photo cases.

What are those hard plastic cases called?

A "Union Case" and is an example of an early thermoplastic technology, being produced from about 1855 to 1865. Some people call them gutta-percha cases but that is not a correct term, better being "thermoplastic case" or, as we use, a "Union Case". Littlefield, Parsons & Co. was one such case manufacturers. A mixture of shellac and wood fibers were pressed into a steel mold. And to think we thought "plastics" were new in the 1950s, look at the quality they achieved in the 1850s!

FWIW, as I said in an earlier post, gutta percha is made from tree sap and the cases sold by Littlefield, Parsons were actually shellac based.
James
They produced products of all kinds using both procedures. Look up their history. The cases Smith & Wesson bought were and are still called Gutta Percha. I think your trying to reinvent the wheel here. Talk to Vern Eklund, he knows more about the subject than Littlefield, Parsons & Co. By the way, he owns the mold for the Stand of Flags.
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Old 03-22-2018, 01:22 AM
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Don, I am not trying to cause trouble. If you read the article by Mr. Eklund that is linked in the OP's original post, he also states that the term gutta percha is used incorrectly. I reprint a section from the artice below:

Because of its early and widespread use and popularity, it is
not surprising that the name gutta percha at times has
been synonymous with "molded plastic."
In the 1850's, however, another natural shellac-based
thermoplastic made its appearance in the United States,
and it was this material that was actually used to make
the pistol cases we will be discussing. Shellac is a purified
product of the resinous secretion (lac) of an insect
found in India, Burma, and Thailand.
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Old 03-22-2018, 09:22 AM
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From Wikipedia: Shellac is a natural bioadhesive polymer and is chemically similar to synthetic polymers, and thus can be considered a natural form of plastic. It can be turned into a moulding compound when mixed with wood flour and moulded under heat and pressure methods, so it can also be classified as thermoplastic.

One issue of note in this description is that the finished product when using shellac base is a very early thermoplastic with the characteristics of thermoset plastic, being brittle and not easily melted. Once a thermoset polymer is cured, it cannot be re-melted or reformed, but will burn. So bakelite, epoxy, hard rubber, molded shellac, gutta-percha, etc. all fall into the same general family of polymers. Bakelite was the world's first fully synthetic plastic invented in New York in 1907, so all that were used before fell into a closely related family of natural polymers.

So it is not the characteristics of the material, but the source of the basic compound that is in question. Gutta=percha is a thermoset plastic also made of organic natural compounds. The author was wrong in the characterization that shellac is not a molded plastic, because where used in durable products like records, cases, and appliances it was formed the same way as gutta-percha, heat and pressure molded to "set" the polymer into a product shape. Wood flour was the additive that gave shellac the strength to become a durable product.
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Old 03-22-2018, 09:46 AM
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Gary, again you must blame my OCD for this. I was merely trying to inform the group that gutta percha was very popular around the time that these cases were made however, if I am reading the written material correctly the S&W cases were made using the shellac process thus making them something other than gutta percha.

Gutta percha comes from the sap of trees and shellac comes from the secretions of a bug. Similar but totally different. The resulting plastic is very similar but again different.

Reminds me that back in the 70's there was a Firebird and a Camaro. I owned a Camaro and my buddy owned a Firebird. Both had black interiors and sitting inside one could almost not tell which vehicle you were in however, they were two different vehicles.

Again, I have no first hand knowledge of either of these processes and am merely pointing out information that I have read.
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Old 03-22-2018, 10:07 AM
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I worked for a chemical company that manufactured products like Saran Wrap, Styroform, etc. These are very specific polymers, which have a very specific manufacturing method, and end up being products with very specific properties.

Problem is that they were great products and became popular. Both names turned into generic terms to describe very different products with different properties. Lawsuits had to be filed continuously to ensure that the company did not lose their trademark positions.

I suspect that gutta-percha was that very popular product of the mid-1800s and became the generic name used for all related products without concern about raw materials.
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Old 03-22-2018, 10:29 AM
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I agree it is like calling all tissues Kleenex. For those that care, Samuel Peck of New Haven, CT, filed for a patent for the process on October 3, 1854 under patent number 11,758. It was for an improved process for making daguerreotype cases. These were basically old style photographs. (Not sure if this is the same Samuel Peck that was involved in the Boston Tea Party) Research continues.

Many times while reading you will also see the term "Union Cases" which was Peck's term for the "union" of shellac and wood fibers used in his new process. The term "Union Case/s" has no connection to the Union of the Union/Confederacy era as some have assumed.

Now, the only missing piece of the puzzle is to determine which process was used by Brown, Littlefield and Parsons when making the S&W cases.

I realize that to many this is an exercise in futility however, as caretakers of history I feel that it is important to pass along correct information.
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Old 03-22-2018, 02:03 PM
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Gutta Percha - Shellac - Union case . etc. The answer is before us! Who will donate their S&W case to be dissolved for a forensic analysis to determine the actual chemical makeup of the material used to produce the case? The mystery would then be solved for all time! Ed.
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Old 03-22-2018, 02:38 PM
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Ed, since you are one of a few in our group that were around during this timeframe, I would think that you would have first hand knowledge. If that is not the case, then as the richest member of our group, I would think that YOU would be willing to donate one of your cases for such a scientific endeavor.
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Old 03-22-2018, 03:34 PM
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Ed, what a tempting proposition. It would probably be worth what I have in it to solve this mystery.
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Old 03-22-2018, 04:07 PM
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The only thing I can add to this really interesting thread is a snippet from the excellent (and rare) book titled "Union Cases" (by Clifford and Michele Krainik), which is the only printed authority I have ever found on these cases. And while they wrote specifically about photographic cases, the Smith & Wesson thermoplastic cases that this thread talks about were made by the same company (Littlefield, Parsons & Co.). To wit:

"Today's photographic case collectors and historians often use the names Union, composition, or hard case interchangeably. The terms most often used in the 19th century were Union or composition — never, as we shall see later, gutta-percha.
...
Union cases of the mid-19th century are by today's standards true man-made plastic products. Yet, it is not uncommon to hear them referred to as "gutta-percha cases." This misnomer is a relatively new phenomenon. During the daguerreian era plastic cases were commonly known as "Peck," "Union," or "Composition" cases. Although gutta-percha has plastic capabilities (it can be shaped and molded), it is an entirely natural substance with properties different from thermoplastic. However, considering the similar appearances of the two substances and their early industrial application, it is understood that some confusion exists."

For those that are really interested in these things, I highly recommend finding a copy of this book. I spent a good bit of time researching Peck, Littlefield and the various other characters involved in this little industry, and then I realized just how little I knew when I read through this material.

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Old 03-23-2018, 12:17 PM
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This is a little off subject but were "hard rubber" grips actually made out of natural rubber or something else?
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:21 PM
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This is a little off subject but were "hard rubber" grips actually made out of natural rubber or something else?
The first entirely synthetic plastic wasn't invented until the early 1900's (the data 1910 rattles around in my brain), so if we're referring to the hard rubber grips on guns from the latter half of the 19th century, then it would have to have been one of the natural, or semi-synthetic thermoplastics. Anecdotally, those grips seem to me to be a bit more durable than the thermoplastics we're talking about that were used in the gun cases and photo frames, but that's the only justification I can think of to suggest that it was anything different.

(this is a long way of saying -- I don't know. :-)

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Old 03-23-2018, 12:44 PM
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Mike, In your research on the subject did you ever come across any mention of a patent on the process, or formula, used to make these cases? I would think that whoever came up with the process might have had the smarts to patent his ( or her) idea, since it was used widely to fulfill the markets demand for the product. Ed ( James, I would be happy to donate a case for forensic analysis, however I'm fresh out of them, having used my last one to case an old Iver Johnson I sold to a pigeon for big bucks ! I will accept donations, however.)
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:16 PM
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Post #32 Bakelite was the world's first fully synthetic "thermoset" plastic invented in New York in 1907.

Bakelite was based on a chemical combination of phenol and formaldehyde (phenol-formaldehyde resin), two compounds that were derived from coal tar and wood alcohol (methanol), respectively, at that time. This made it the first truly synthetic resin, representing a significant advance over earlier plastics that were based on modified natural materials. Because of its excellent insulating properties, Bakelite was also the first commercially produced synthetic resin, replacing shellac and hard rubber in parts for the electric power industry as well as in home appliances.

Hard rubber was an early thermoset plastic made from natural rubber and sulfur. As you raised the percentage of sulfur, you got increasingly harder product. The hard rubber used in making S&W stocks was as much as 50% sulfur.

I found a couple of interesting commentaries on how shellac based plastic was made and it was basically wood fiber or powder and shellac. first was a old-time video that shows how the raw materials were formed into records. That segment starts at 2:55.
A second source states that the two main ingredients are shellac and wood powder. Both are combined by adding heat to make the basic thermoplastic and additives were used depending on the exact performance requirements.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:22 PM
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I believe the hard rubber grips and other products such as mid-1800's bowling balls were made from a material known at the time as Vulcanite then, later to current, Ebonite. Ebonite is a compound of natural rubber, sulfur, linseed oil and other fillers such as zinc oxide that was created by Charles Goodyear during his development of the latex vulcanization process. It was called ebonite because they wanted to use it as a replacement for ebony wood.

Gutta-percha, another source of latex, was also used to make handgun grips. So, people who call the material that 19th Century grips are made of gutta-percha aren't wrong. Calling them Bakelite is wrong because it wasn't developed until the 20th Century.

I see Gary was posting as I was writing.
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Old 03-23-2018, 02:29 PM
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Mike, In your research on the subject did you ever come across any mention of a patent on the process, or formula, used to make these cases? I would think that whoever came up with the process might have had the smarts to patent his ( or her) idea, since it was used widely to fulfill the markets demand for the product. Ed ( James, I would be happy to donate a case for forensic analysis, however I'm fresh out of them, having used my last one to case an old Iver Johnson I sold to a pigeon for big bucks ! I will accept donations, however.)
If I did, Ed, it would have been in Krainik's book. I seem to recall he makes mention of the ingredients, but I don't know if there are any specific recipes in there. I'll check this weekend.

In terms of gun grips: I took a look at a Sharps Pepperbox, and the grips on it strike me as different than some of the late 19th century plastic grips that my S&W's came with. I can't quite say how they look different (I'll need to look at them side-by-side a little more closely this weekend), but I'm wondering if the Sharps grips are gutta-percha, or they're just some other semi-synthetic thermoplastic recipe?

Either way, this is making me realize that I need to be a bit more careful about how I toss the term "gutta percha" around. It sounds like "thermoplastic" is a better catch-all term.

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Old 03-23-2018, 02:47 PM
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For those that enjoy the behind the story stories, I read that the molding plates that were used for the original S&W cases were engraved by a Frederick B. Smith and a Hermann Hartman. They received $3,000 for their work which in today's dollars would be around $43,937. A tidy sum in either time period.

Ed, as soon as the weather around here breaks a little I plan to do some follow up research in the Florence MA area to see if there are any records that might explain the process used by Littlefield, Parsons Co. I found a reference to some "Parson's papers" at an area museum and they may reveal more details.
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Old 03-23-2018, 02:56 PM
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Ed, as soon as the weather around here breaks a little I plan to do some follow up research in the Florence MA area to see if there are any records that might explain the process used by Littlefield, Parsons Co. I found a reference to some "Parson's papers" at an area museum and they may reveal more details.
The "Parsons" you're looking for is Isaac Parsons (8 Feb 1830 - 31 Mar 1910). My research suggests that he was a lifelong resident of Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Old 03-23-2018, 04:30 PM
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After some more research, I found that Goodyear patented his vulcanization process using Brazilian latex 8 weeks after Hancock in England patented it using Indian Rubber (gutta percha). So, these very similar thermoplastics were virtually discovered at the same time. My suggestion is that the hard rubber stocks be called ebonite since that is what Charles Goodyear called his thermoplastic.
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Old 03-23-2018, 05:42 PM
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Ebonite is a thermoset plastic, since it cannot be re-melted like shellac based plastics. Rubber with lots of sulfur, like Ebonite, is often considered to be an elastomeric rubber, but actually belongs to the thermoset family.
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