- Robert E. Petersen Collection
- Ancient Firearms - 1350 to 1700
- Road to American Liberty - 1700 to 1780
- A Prospering New Republic - 1780 to 1860
- The American West - 1850 to 1900
- Innovation, Oddities and Competition
- Theodore Roosevelt and Elegant Arms - 1880s to 1920s
- World War I and Firearms Innovation
- WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Beyond - 1940 to Present
- For the Fun of It
- Modern Firearms - 1950 to Present
- Hollywood Guns
- A Nation Asunder - 1861 to 1865
L. C. Smith Drilling
Lyman Cornelius Smith (1850-1910) started his career as a businessman in 1873, when his father, a well-to-do Lisle, New York sawmill operator, gave him capital to start a livestock commission business in New York City. That business failed dismally after only two years, and Smith returned home with only the clothes he was wearing and a family bible given to him by his parents. That same year he went to Syracuse, New York and worked as a clerk for a short while until his father once again financed the establishment of a lumber business. Smith allegedly borrowed so much money from his father that the elder Smith eventually went bankrupt.
In February 1877, Smith married the daughter of Peter Burns, former mayor and one of Syracuse's wealthiest citizens. Gunmaking held a greater appeal for the young Smith than did operating a sawmill, and in September of that year, he and his brother Leroy joined experienced gunmaker W. H. Baker in forming W. H. Baker & Co. at 20 Walton St., Syracuse. According to a lecture given by Prof. Arthur J. Brewster at Syracuse University in 1941, Smith's prominent father-in-law "made it possible for Smith to acquire a small gun manufacturing plant."
The partners produced a three-barrel combination gun for which Baker received U.S. Patent number 167,293 on August 31, 1875. The Baker combination gun was manufactured in Smith's hometown of Lisle for approximately a year before production moved to Syracuse. The firm also made a Baker double-barrel shotgun, very similar to the three-barrel gun, but without the rifle mechanism. Baker left the firm in about 1880, and, with several associates, established the Ithaca Gun Company. By February, 1883, Baker had perfected a new gun design which was manufactured by his new firm. Alexander T. Brown, a gifted mechanic and designer, joined the firm as a lathe operator in 1878.
Born in 1854 on a farm near Scott, New York, Brown had always been intrigued by mechanical devices. As a boy, he had gained valuable experience while working in a neighbor's machine shop. At age 20, Brown designed a self-binding harvester, and he later worked as a salesman for the Osburn Harvester Co. of Auburn, New York. He abandoned the sales job after one year and accepted employment as a lathe operator in Smith's well-equipped gun factory at Syracuse.
In a short time he became Smith's most valuable employee. Smith put Alexander Brown to work designing a new shotgun which later bore Smith's name. Brown later received U.S. Patent No. 274,435 which covered his rotary bolt mechanism that became the Smith gun's most renowned feature. A hardened steel cylinder, closed at the rear, was loosely fitted into a hole drilled in the frame below the tang. A "T" shaped slot was cut in the forward portion of the cylinder formed an arm. This arm engaged a corresponding mortise cut into the barrel extension rib, while another part of the bolt passed over a notch in the rear of the extension rib. The bolt was operated by a top-lever which was connected to an upright rod. An arm connected this rod to the rotary bolt in such a way that the bolt rotated to the left when the top-lever was pushed. Pressing against a collar On the rod's lower end, a spring pressed against a collar to hold the bolt mechanism closed, forcing the rotary bolt to engage deeper into the barrel extension to compensate for wear.
Brown's patent also featured pins attached at right angles to the firing pins. These fitted into cam recesses cut into the sides of he rotary bolt. Firing pins were withdrawn when the bolt was rotated to open the action. Locks for the L. C. Smith hammer gun were also designed by Brown. The inside face of the lockplate had a mainspring recess that was deep enough to bring the center of the mainspring claw in line with the center of the tumbler. The mainspring was held in position by the upper and lower walls of the recess, and because no screws or flanges were needed to support it, all L. C. Smith mainsprings could by manufactured exactly alike. One spring fitted either right or left lock. Despite his success with shotguns, Smith's interest shifted once again. He formed the Smith Premier Typewriter Company between June 1889 and June 1890 and produced typewriters designed and patented by Alexander Brown.
After 13 years, Smith organized a new company, L. C. Smith and Brothers Typewriter Company, which merged in 1925 with the Corona Typewriter Company to become Smith-Corona. Manufacturing rights to the L. C. Smith shotgun were sold to Hunter Arms Company in 1889. They continued manufacture until 1945, when the business was sold to the Marlin Firearms Company. Marlin produced the guns under the trade name "The L. C. Smith Gun Company, Inc." until 1950, when production was stopped because of high labor costs. Marlin reintroduced the L. C. Smith line through limited production in 1967.