Folks, I'm posting this on behalf of Ray and Sheryl Cheely. Please ask any questions you might have here and those of us who are members of this new organization will attempt to answer your questions quickly and promptly. Several of the guys who frequently contribute to this section of the S&W Forum have already joined.
For those of us who collect pre 1950 Smith and Wessons this new foundation is going to have significant benefits in terms of tracking and researching our individual guns. I urge those interested to join up as quickly as possible and support the work already underway.
The Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation
So, what is the Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation (SWHF) and why to do we
need it? The SWHF is a charity established to ensure the long-term availability
of Smith and Wesson’s paper records. At present the bulk of these records,
roughly 700,000 documents, are stored at the Connecticut Valley Historical
Museum. They are kept in many hundreds of boxes and are not accessible to
collectors. The SWHF intends to digitize these paper records in such a way that
they can be searched and reproduced through the use of a computer database. As
the project progresses a process will be established to enable collectors to
request information relating to specific guns, probably in the form of letters.
What progress has been made so far? The SWHF was formally introduced at the 2008
annual SWCA meeting in Sturbridge. An initial batch of 2,000 documents has
already been scanned and a demonstration computer software package is
operational. Several dozen collectors have already joined and substantial
donations have been made.
Why would we want to be members of the SWHF? We are establishing a system that
will enable our current “factory letter” process to continue after the current
arrangement is no longer available. Factory letters are an essential part of
our collecting and SWHF will insure that they will always be available. In
addition, the digital reproduction of the factory records means that we will be
able to get copies of any historical document related to our guns. Imagine
being able to have copies of the original invoice, order form, owner
correspondence… Who knows what else might be in the records?
What approach is the SWHF taking? Obviously, digitizing 700,000+ documents is a
massive undertaking. Since the records are filed by date, we have decided to
break the records down into logical groups of years. The first such group has
already been selected, the factory correspondence records from 1935-1941. The
2,000 record test database is a part of this information. Before this project
has been completed we will have prioritized a list of subsequent groups and be
ready to start work on them.
How much will all this cost and how long will it take? These 2 questions are
closely related. The company handling the work is a commercial organization and
must be paid. We estimate that the total cost of digitally preserving the
records will be in the region of $1.5 million. There is a finite speed at which
the company can work. But, if the money were available today, we estimate
roughly 2 years work would be required to completion. The amount of money
available will ultimately dictate the time to completion. Because this is a
massive and expensive undertaking, the SWHF needs your support. Ask yourselves,
if we don’t do it, WHO WILL? And remember, all donations/memberships are tax
Does anyone make any money out of this? Other than the company providing the
digital scanning and software, NO! No member of the SWHF board or anyone
assisiting it is receiving any payment.
Who are the people behind the SWHF? The Board of Trustees of SWHF is made up of
some of the most influential historians and collectors of Smith & Wessons that
could be assembled. A full list is provided at the bottom of this post. All
board members are dedicated to making this project happen.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation
If you would like more details please post your question on this thread or email
me at skc102@...
Smith & Wesson Factory Records Project
The original factory records of Smith & Wesson are comprised of approximately
700,000 documents that are preserved at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum
(CVHM). These documents include correspondence, production records, invoices
and many other interesting items. Smith & Wesson Collectors Association (SWCA)
has provided significant funding over the last several years for the
preservation of these records. Currently, access to the records is limited to
hand-searching through boxes by date. Whenever a factory letter is requested
CVHM staff research invoices in these records. It is a time consuming process
and involves fragile documents.
The Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation has begun the process of digitally
reproducing and indexing these records. This will provide a database that will
have information accessible through various index keys such as serial number,
names, dates, etc.
A company specializing in digital reproduction has completed a sample box of
2,000 records. Some records are a single page and others have several attached
documents. The information found in this one box is extremely interesting. A
random search resulted in information regarding guns given to a friend of Doug
Wesson, Father Hubbard, also referred to as “the Glacier Priest”. The
information included the invoice (at no charge to Father Hubbard), order forms,
and various correspondence detailing shipment to Nome, Alaska. Also included
was the accounting entry where Smith & Wesson charged off the cost of the guns
to advertising expense, $11.74 each for four first model K-22s and $17.00 each
for six Registered Magnums. To our knowledge, this is the first reference we’ve
seen to the cost price of these 2 historical guns, and it came from a random
search on only a tiny piece of the information that will eventually be available
As this project moves forward, any information included in the years that have
been digitized will be available by a letter request. For example, if a request
was made for information regarding the index key “serial number 45768”, all
digitized material related to that serial number in the records would be
available—digital copies of the correspondence, order forms, invoices or
whatever was available for that index key.
The system for requesting a Foundation Letter is currently being developed. All
of this information is tentative. When the letters become available, details
will be announced.
Funding for this project will be provided by tax deductible donations and
memberships to the Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation as well as fees from
future letter requests. The following text of the brochure outlines the
different levels of memberships available. We are always willing to work with
you on contributing to the Foundation over time.
Below is the text from the SWHF brochure, copies of which can be obtained by dropping us an email to the address above:
Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation
A tax-exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3)
SMITH & WESSON has a long and storied history as one of the premiere firearms
manufacturers in the world. IN 1852, Horace Smith and D.B. Wesson started the
company whose name still today stands for high quality and leading design
technology. Along the way, the rich history of the company has provided a
source of fascinating archival information and firearms treasured by collectors
around the world.
OUR MISSION is to provide funding and guidance for research, preservation and
display of historical materials of Smith & Wesson. The Foundation will work
closely with Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, Smith & Wesson Collectors
Association and Smith & Wesson to attain our goals.
Significant Activities of the Foundation Include:
· Funding the digital reproduction and indexing of the Smith & Wesson
factory records at Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.
· Working with Connecticut Valley Historical Museum and Smith & Wesson
to insure a continuous flow of “factory letters” and other access to research
· Purchasing historically significant Smith & Wesson materials for
preservation at Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.
· Funding of specific research, publication, preservation or display
FUNDING of our activities will be provided by memberships and other donations.
All memberships and donations are fully tax-deductible as we are a public
charity under Section 501(c)(3).
· Member. $100. Available at any time.
· Founding Member. $1000. Available only within our first year of
operations (prior to June 30, 2009).
· Life Member. $1000. Available at any time after June 30, 2009
· Benefactor Member. $10,000. Available at any time.
Donations of any size, bequests from estates, or other forms of financial
assistance are always welcome. In addition, arrangements can be made to make
membership payments over time.
Members will receive semi-annual updates on the progress being made. They, as
well as members of the S&WCA, will receive a discounted rate when letters become
To become a member, send your check with your name, address and email address.
If you need additional information, please contact us at:
Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation
PO Box 1494
Great Bend, KS 67530
History of the Foundation
The Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation was organized on April 18, 2007 by Ray
and Sheryl Cheely. As avid Smith & Wesson collectors for over 30 years, they
felt there was a great need to provide a funding method for the activities now
being pursued by the Foundation. Their hope is to insure that the rich history
of Smith & Wesson and its’ products will continue to captivate collectors and
historians for many generations to come.
Board of Trustees
Ray A. Cheely, Chairman
Certified Public Accountant
William R. Cross, Vice-Chairman
President, Smith & Wesson Collectors Assn.
Sheryl K. Cheely, Secretary
Former S&WCA Administrative Assistant
Roy G. Jinks
Author and Smith & Wesson Historian
Joseph Carvalho III
President, Springfield Museums Association
Vice-President of Marketing, Smith & Wesson
Author and President of Old Town Station, LTD
Noted Smith & Wesson Collector