Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Wealth of Data

One of the insane tasks that I took on when writing Armed America (2006) was compiling a spreadsheet of all the gunsmiths that I found in primary and secondary sources, working  before 1840, at least in part to refute the Bellesiles/Haag claim of a lack of early gun culture.  I ended up with 2445 entries for which I could establish dates and location.  I started searching a resource that was not available in the 2000s: and what an overwhelming wealth.

While revising this chapter, I took advantage of the dramatic expansion of searchable online books and soon realized that examples such as the following have expanded the available data to a level that would enlarge this book dramatically were I to include all: An 1831 request from the War Department to Maj. F.W. Armstrong requests that he repair all the old rifles belonging to the Choctaws, authorizing him to hire “an additional gun-smith” if needed.[1]  Similarly, War Department instructions to Lewis Cass specify maximum wages to be paid to gunsmiths providing repair services to the Indians.[2]

[1] Commissary General of Subsistence, Correspondence on the Subject of the Emigration of Indians, Washington: Duff Green, 1835), 2:372-3.
[2] Ibid., 2:848.

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