For those native Ilionites, and others interested in the birth of Ilion and the firearms industry, this treatise provides an eye opening description of the Remington family and their contributions not only to Ilion, but also to the world.


That is the cover of the Remington Centennial Book that was written in 1916 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first Remington rifle. A copy of the booklet was provided to us by Carolyn Deming Bayer of Ilion.

Paul McLaughlin
Village of Ilion History Page Editor
May 2001


This little book is meant to do two things:
First, mark an important American industrial anniversary.
Second, plant some interesting facts in your mind, to grow like seeds, and enrich the garden of your imagination.

One hundred years ago, in 1816, the first Remington rifle was made at Ilion, New York. The person who made it was Eliphalet Remington, Jr., an American boy who wanted it for his own hunting. He was a born Yankee mechanical genius, of the generation of Fulton and Whitney. The only way to get a rifle was to make it himself. So he did that, and started something that is still going strong.

It is well worth while to step back a century, from 1916 to 1816, and see what men had to work with in the mechanical world.

There were no great steel centers then. Every state in the young Union had its own ore supply and iron works. In 1800, New York boasted of one iron works that turned out two thousand tons of pig iron yearly, and it was regarded as a wonder---today the United States makes that much pig iron every twenty minutes.

Each state having its own industry, and there being no railroads, the trade everywhere was largely local. The exchange of raw materials, tools and methods between states was on a very limited scale, and so was the distribution of products. When the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, however, and freight rates from Albany to Buffalo reduced from one hundred dollars a ton to ten dollars, the farmers of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois could get their plows and axes from New York State at a fraction of the old cost. Other states hastened to build canals to be able to compete with cheaper freight rates. Pennsylvania led in this new development, for Philadelphia up to that time had been our leading commercial city. The Erie Canal made New York City first, and while Pennsylvania built a fine canal system, it really took anthracite coal, and later petroleum, to put her back where she belonged in the industrial procession.

Everything in the shape of old metal had value in 1816. The famous Yankee tin peddler of song and story scoured the countryside for old iron, copper, brass, lead, pewter. The first Remington rifle, as we shall see, was made of scrap iron. Back in New England the present great industry in brass, nickel and non-ferrous alloys was being started by small manufacturers who took the old copper kettles and pewter dishes collected by tin peddlers and worked them up into buttons and trinkets and "Yankee notions," which were shipped down to the New York market by boat.

Factories in those times were small and scattered because water furnished the chief form of power. The steam engine had not yet come into very wide use as yet. If you wanted power, on a moderate scale, there was only the water wheel or the old horse turning a windlass to choose from. The horse and windlass were often used to turn lathes and other simple machines in a little shop with two or three hands, and that was literally a "one-horse-concern." But water power was better, except that you had to go where you could find it. Almost any stream large enough to turn a water wheel might have tiny factories strung along its length, each giving work to perhaps a single family. There were few industrial centers, Factories were located right out in the country, next to farms. The line between farmer and manufacturer was vague. For the farmer had to be mechanic enough to repair his tools and implements, and also to make lots of things for himself. Very likely he made shoes for the family, for instance. His knowledge of tinkering and blacksmithing often led him to set up a shop where he did work for the neighbors, or to occupy the winter months making shoes. From that, the step into manufacturing was easy, especially if he had a boy of an inventive or mechanical turn of mind.

And so it came that almost any place up the creek might be the scene of the beginning of a great industry.


It was in such a place that the first Remington rifle was made.

There were two of the Remingtons to begin with, father and son, Eliphalet the elder and Eliphalet, Jr.

The father was a Connecticut Yankee who had come to "York State" in 1880, settling about three miles southwest of the present Ilion, in the town of Litchfield. He was both farmer and mechanic, and efficient in each line. His farming prospered to such a degree that eventually he owned three hundred acres of land, including the part of what is known today as "Ilion Gulph." And because it was hard in those days to get other people to repair farm tools, the elder Remington set up a forge and blacksmith shop on his place, where both he and young Eliphalet worked.

Young Eliphalet Reminigton was the typical Yankee boy genius of his period - long and lank, keen and dry, curious in the "Now, I want to know!" spirit of New England, forever trying out things for himself, and with the nice balance between earnestness and humor that gives ballast to the New England character. That he grew up and developed in New York State made him none the less a Yankee temperamentally. Fully alive himself, and always growing inside, he had the knack of drawing out and inspiring others who were alive and growing.

Young Remington wanted you to tell him. But you had to tell him only once.

There is a story of his boyhood that shows his bent of mind.

One of his sisters was to be married, and the family planned to give her a set of silver spoons. Nothing of that sort could be bought at the stores in their part of the country, so it was necessary to take silver dollars to a silversmith in Herkimer and have them made into spoons. Young Eliphalet was sent off with the dollars one morning, to have this job done. When he returned he brought back, not the spoons, but the dollars.

"Where are those spoons?" his father asked. "What is wrong?"

"Nothing wrong, sir," replied the son. "I watched the silversmith make spoons, and there's nothing very hard about it. So I thought I'd like to make them myself." Which he did, turning out a thoroughly creditable job, and some of the spoons are still in the Remington family. It was when he was about twenty-three years old that young Remington wanted a rifle - the hills about his home were alive with game. But his father said they could not afford to buy one - guns were expensive then, and the best came from Europe.

The boy set his wits to work. Looking around the forge, he picked up enough scrap iron to make a gun barrel, and with this set to work to make a rifle for himself. At that time gun barrels were made, not by drilling the bore out of a solid rod of metal, but by shaping a thick, oblong sheet of metal around a rod the size of the bore, and lapwelding the edges. When the rod was withdrawn, there was your barrel.

It took him several weeks to work out this job and get it right, but he succeeded. He had no tools to cut the rifling. There was a gunsmith in Utica, and he walked there, fifteen miles over the hills, to have his barrel finished. The gunsmith was so impressed by the boy and his accomplishment that, after rifling the barrel, he fitted it with a lock. Then when Remington fitted on a wooden stock his weapon was ready.

This was the first Remington rifle, and it proved a surprisingly good one. Neighbors tried it, and wanted guns like it. Remington made them. The first rifle - or one exactly like the first one, at least - that Remington made is still in Ilion, the property of Walter Green. Before long the demand was so brisk that Remington would take as many barrels as he could carry over to the Utica gunsmith to be rifled, bringing back a load that had been left there on a previous trip, a journey of thirty miles on foot.

When a new business grows at that rate, of course, it soon needs power. So later in 1816 the two Remingtons went "up the creek", building a shop three miles from home, at Ilion Gulph, which was part of the father's farm. That was the actual beginning of the plant and the industry of which the centennial was celebrated in 1916. During its early years this shop made anything in its line that could be sold in the neighborhood - rifles, shotguns, crowbars, pickaxes, farm tools. The power was taken from a water wheel in Steele's Creek, and the first grindstones for smoothing down the welded edges in gun barrels were cut from a red sandstone ledge up the gorge.

Guns sold better than all other products. Orders came from greater distances. By and by shipments were made on the new Erie Canal. For a while, as packages were small, they were taken to the canal bridge, a board lifted from the floor, and the package dropped onto a boat as it passed under. There was no bill of lading. Remington took down the name of the boat and notified his customer by mail, so the latter would know which craft was bringing his guns.

When the trade had extended into all the surrounding counties, however, the new business needed another prime essential of industry - transportation facilities. Shipments were growing larger, and materials like grindstones, bought outside, had to be brought from the canal to Ilion Gulph. In 1828, therefore, the elder Reminigton bought a large farm in Ilion proper, and there, on the canal, the present plant was started. This was also the beginning of Ilion, for at that period the place was nothing more than a country corner. In 1828 the elder Remington met his death through accident, and the business was carried on by his son, who brought water for several power wheels >from Steele's Creek, built a house to live in, and installed in his wooden shop quite a collection of machinery for gunmaking - the list names a big tilt hammer, several trip hammers,boring and rifling machines, grindstones, and so on.

Now, those were mighty interesting years for anybody who liked to make things as well as Remington did, and any fellow of our own day who is keen about the way methods have developed will enjoy going back in fancy, comparing the past with the present - especially any fellow whose work lies in the machinery field. When Remington moved to Ilion the whole modern machine industry was being wrought out of nothing.

Take dimensions, for an illustration.


Not so many years before that, in England, James Watt was complaining about the difficulty of boring a six inch cylinder for his steam engine with sufficient accuracy to make it a commercial success. No matter how he packed the piston with cork, oiled rags and old hats, the irregularities in the cylinder let the steam escape, and it was believed that neither the tools nor the workmen existed for making a steam engine with sufficient precision. When a young manufacturer named Wilkinson invented a guide for the boring tool, and machiined cylinders of fifty inches diameter so accurately that, as Watt testified, they did not err the thickness of an old shilling in any part, it seemed as though the last refinement in machinery had been achieved. That was not very accurate by present day standards of the thousandth part of an inch, for a shilling is about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness.

Remington was right in the thick of development with a gun-making plant, of course, for as his business grew he had to invent and adapt machines to increase output. The lap-welded barrel was standard until 1850, and he got together a battery of trip hammers for forging and welding his barrels. Finer dimensions became a factor in his business when the output grew large enough to warrant carrying a stock of spare parts for his customers, and so he improved those parts in ways that gave at least the beginnings of interchangeability.

Materials were very crude. There was no buying of foundry iron by analysis, no high carbon steels, no fancy tool steels - nor any "efficiency experts" with their stop watches and scientific speed-and-feed tables. Iron was secured by sending teams around the neighborhood to pick up scrap, and when the scrap was all cleaned up, fresh metal was brought from ore beds in Oneida County. Coal was scarce, and charcoal made the chief fuel, burnt in the hills round about Ilion. And the world was fairly swarming with inventors!

That was long before invention became a factory process, carried on by a research department full of engineers. The individual inventor, with a queer-shaped head and a rough model in his carpet-bag, had a chance to influence industry. Few of the useful contrivances had been invented yet, and almost any one of these chaps might be a genius. So, from the very first, Remington was interested in inventors. He was an inventor himself! His pioneer spirit was so strong that Ilion became a place of pilgrimage for men with ideas. Inventors came from everywhere, and Remington listened to them all. Some brought models, others drawings, still others a bare idea, and a few, of course, had just a plain "bug." But if there was anything promising in what they brought, Remington put his money, time and skilled mechanics behind it for development, and the Remington plant, both during his period and afterward, was such a center for new contrivances that the list cannot be printed here - it will be found by itself in another part of our little book. Not all of these inventions were commercially successful, but many that made no money were still very much worth while mechanically, and the spirit in which new ideas were welcomed and tried out gave a permanent progressive slant to the Remington business.


The first government contract came in 1845, War with Mexico loomed up on the horizon. William Jencks had invented a carbine, and Uncle Sam wanted several thousand guns made in a hurry under the patent. A contract had been let to Ames & Co., of Springfield, Mass., and they had made special machinery for the job. Remington took over the contract and the machinery, added to his power, secured by putting in another water race, erected the building now known as the "Old Armory," and made the carbines.

In 1850 the art of gun-making began to improve radically. The old lap-welded barrel gave way to the barrel drilled from solid steel. This was accomplished for the first time in America at the Remington plant, in making Harper's Ferry muskets. Then followed the drilling of small-bore barrels from solid steel, the drilling of double-barrel-shotguns from one piece of steel, the drilling of fluid steel and nickel steel barrels, all done for the first time in this country at the Ilion shops. Three-barrel guns were also made from one piece of steel, two bores for shot and the third rifled for a bullet, A customer wanted some special barrels with nine bores in a single piece of steel. These were made at Ilion, and the Remiington plant soon became noted for its ability to bore almost anything in the shape of a gun, from the tiniest squirrel calibers up to boat guns weighing sixty pounds or more, which were really small caliber cannon.

In the fifties the plant began making revolvers, one known as the Beale being produced in hundreds of thousands for twenty years, followed by the Rider, with double-action, the first self-cocking revolver. The revolver principle was applied to a cylinder rifle, and then came the Beale rifle, one of the first breech-loaders.

All these developments improved and enlarged the plant. Between the time when Remington made his first rifle at Ilion Gulph and the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the basic things in machine tools had been adapted to general production - the slide-rest lathe, planer, shaper, drill press, steam hammer, taps and dies, the vernier caliper that enabled a mechanic at the bench to measure to one-thousandth of an inch, and so on.

The Remington family had also increased with the years, and three sons were now active in the business. Philo Remington, the eldest, born in 1816, the year the plant was started in Ilion, was an executive and inventor, like his father, responsible later for the Remington breech-loading rifle and the Remington typewriter. Samuel Remington was the general agent, making contracts on the selling end of the business, and also purchasing materials and equipment. Eliphalet Remington, the youngest, was known for his command of language and penmanship, and had charge of the correspondence and accounting. In 1856 the firm of E. Remington & Sons was formed, with the boys as partners of their father.

By that time, Ilion had become a busy village, and everything about the business was unconsciously being shaped to meet a great national crisis - the Civil War.

When Fort Sumpter was fired upon, Uncle Sam turned to the Remington plant, among others, for help out of his dilemma of "unpreparedness." The first contact was given for 5,000 Harper's Ferry rifles, and it took two years to complete it. Five thousand Harper's Ferry muskets came in to be changed so that bayonet or sabre could be attached, and this particular job was finished in two weeks, every man and boy in Ilion working at it. There was a big contract for army revolvers, and that had to be taken care of by starting a separate plant in Utica, which ran until the end of the war, when its machinery and tools were moved to Ilion. Steam power was now installed, and the plant, increased by new buildings, and machinery, ran day and night.

In 1863, the Remington breech-loading rifle was perfected, and proved to be so great an improvement over previous inventions in military arms that an order for 10,000 of them was obtained from our government. The Ilion plant being taxed to its utmost capacity, the contract was transferred to the Savage Arms Company, of Middletown, Connecticut, which completed the job in 1864 [Note: this would be a typographical error on the original; date should be 1894].


The Civil War brought a new era in more ways than one. In its first few months the founder of the business, Eliphalet Remington, died as a result of the terrific strain of war demands, on August 12, 1861, and the management was taken by his three sons. At the end of the war, in 1865, the partnership was succeeded by a million dollar corporation under the same name. The plant was then valued at a million and a half. Peace brought business depression to Ilion. Government contracts were cancelled, production stopped short, men were laid off, financial obligations for material and equipment had to be met. The local bank was a large creditor, and this crisis forced it to close. When prosperity returned the Remingtons paid all depositors and stockholders of the bank in full, with interest.

The war had shown that the old muzzle-loading weapons must give way to the handier, quicker breech-loader.

The tools and fixtures used in making Remington breech-loading rifles for the United States were brought back from Connecticut in 1866, and an inventive genius named John Rider was set to work, with a staff of the best mechanics obtainable, to develop this gun still further. He devised the famous system of a dropping breech block, backed up by the hammer. Equipment was installed for making this gun on a large scale, and its merits were such that it quickly brought prosperity back to Ilion. The first lot that went through the works was 200 of the new Remingtons for France. Then a commission from Denmark visited Ilion, saw the new arm, and placed an order for 10,000. A few months later Sweden ordered 10,000, then the United States Navy ordered 12,000, Spain 85,000, Sweden 30,000 more, Egypt 50,000, and presently, the world being at war again, France called for the utmost capacity of the factory.

Along with these contracts there were various interesting little jobs of gun-making, secured largely by Remington ingenuity. Uncle Sam had a great number of muzzle-loading Springfield rifles left from the Civil War, for instance. By the Berdan system, these were turned into breech-loaders at the Ilion plant, the breech being cut out of the barrel and a breech-block inserted, swinging upward and forward. Spain had 10,000 muskets to modernize by the same system, and the breech-block attachments were made at Ilion.

The Berdan system, with a slight alteration, was the foundation of the Allen gun, made by the United States government for the army until superceded by the Krag-Jorgensen.

The Remington breech-loader made Ilion such a busy place in the years following the Civil War that Samuel Remington went to Europe to live as sales agent, while Philo Remington managed the factory. Facilities were increased so that as many as 1,850 employees were busy twenty-four hours a day, turning out 1,300 rifles and 200 revolvers daily. France bought 145,000 arms, New York State 21,000 for her militia, Porto Rico 10,000, Cuba 89,000, Spain 130,000 more, Egypt 55,000, Mexico 50,000, Chile 12,000, the great New York sporting goods house of Hartley & Graham 144,000, part of which were sold to the Chinese army. All told, the sales ran to the million mark.

Then the prosperity tide went out once more from Ilion. The day of big foreign orders passed after the world settled down to peace, following the Franco-Prussian war. Other countries established arms factories. It often became necessary to bribe officials for government orders in many nations, and this the Remingtons would not do.

The Remingtons themselves were wealthy, and thought of retiring. But there was the Village of Ilion, full of their workers, a place built at a country cross-roads by their father and themselves. Ilion depended upon the factory, absolutely. So they went ahead with inventions of peace. Philo Remington brought out the first commercially successful typewriter. Sewing machines and farm implements were also made. Meanwhile, they were busy with better types of firearms.

The repeating rifle now seemed an interesting possibility and large sums were spent in developing a weapon of this type. It did not prove to have merit, however.

Then James P. Lee designed the first military rifle with the bolt type of cartridge chamber, the parent of the military rifle of today. The model was made at Ilion, but another type of bolt gun, the Keene, seemed to offer still greater possibilities at the moment, and the plant was being prepared to manufacture this. The Lee gun was taken up at Bridgeport, but not made successfully, and finally, as the Keene gun had not met expectations, falling short of government tests, the Lee type was brought back to Ilion, tools worked out, and manufacture undertaken in quantities. It afterwards became the basis for the famous British army rifle, the Lee-Metford.

At this period the plant made many other interesting guns. The Whitmore double-barrel breech-loading shotgun was designed, and later developed into the Remington breech-loading shotgun. Eliott hammerless breech-loading pistols with one, two, four and five barrels, discharged by a revolving firing pin, were made in large quantities, as well as a single-barrel Eliott magazine pistol. The Eliott magazine pump rifle was perfected in Ilion, but afterwards made in New England. Vernier and wind gauge sights, attachable to any rifle, were made, and novelties like the "gun cane," which had the appearance of a walking-stick, but was a perfect firearm, carried as protection against robbery.

But the business had spread out in too many directions. Fully two million dollars of the Remington family's money had been invested in sewing machines, cotton gin, farm implement, electric light and other enterprises, in the effort to find new channels of demand, and of these miscellaneous projects, almost the only one that proved successful was the Remington typewriter. That was sold to the present owners in the hope that the firearms business could be put on a sound basis, but this was not enough to save the day.

In 1886 the corporation was placed in the hands of a receiver, and in March, 1888, a large interest was purchased by Hartley & Graham, of New York. A year after that, Philo Remington died, worn out by the struggle, and the old business, established more than seventy years before by a Yankee mechanical genius, in the backwoods, came under the guidance of one who was as decidedly a genius in organization and business methods - Marcellus Hartley.


Really, a new man was needed, for a new generation had arrived.

The Remingtons were pioneers in a generation when manufacturing had to be developed out of nothing, and had prospered through the following period, when the very ability to make things on a large scale brought customers, and competition was still negligible. They had dealt almost entirely with production problems, and on the sales end were accustomed to securing large contracts from governments, a single one of which kept the plant busy for years.

Now there was competition at home and abroad. Big government contracts were becoming scarce. During the next fifteen or twenty years an entirely new type of customer for firearms was to appear - the American consumer, with increased purchasing power due to our national industrial expansion, who would want firearms and ammunition for sport instead of war. Men trained in business ways of the previous generation often lacked the imagination to see possibilities in millions of such customers, served through thousands of merchants, for John Jones' purchase of a single shotgun seemed insignificant beside Jean Crapeau's contract for a hundred thousand army rifles. Even if the vision was clear, not many men of the passing generation had the knowledge and patience to build the new kind of trade by service, mercantile organization and publicity.

Obviously, the man needed now was one with mercantile training and selling experience, and such a man was Marcellus Hartley.

The Remington business was thirty-one years old in 1847, Marcellus Hartley, a youngster of twenty, started out on his career by landing a job as entry clerk in the hardware store of Francis Tomes & Sons. This concern had a large trade in sporting goods, and young Hartley found the gun department very interesting. By and by the house sent him on the road to sell goods, and after several years' experience as a drummer he felt that he had the basis for entering business on his own account.

In March, 1854, with two partners, he started the firm of Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, opening a sporting goods store on borrowed capital in Maiden Lane, New York. Hartley's share of the work was buying and selling. He went to Europe to purchase firearms, and also traveled through the West supplying dealers. In six years this young concern was the largest sporting goods house in America.

When the Civil War broke out, Uncle Sam's long arm reached out for Hartley immediately.

He was sent to Europe to purchase firearms.

While on his successful mission abroad his firm at home prospered during the war, and when peace came in 1865, Mr. Hartley returned and began to broaden the business along new lines. He contracted for large quantities of the new Remington guns to supply his trade. He started a plant at Bridgeport, Connecticut, to make firearms accessories such as ramrods, extractors and powder measures. And as a spare outlet for his energy he backed up the electrical experiments of Hiram Maxim, which later laid the foundation for the Westinghouse electrical business.


Two years after the war, Mr. Hartley, with associates, founded the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. Years before, while traveling in the West, a roughly made metallic shell for loading a gun was shown him, and he secured it as a souvenir. The new Remington breech-loading rifles and shotguns had made cartridges an important factor in the firearms business. Several different manufacturers had been struggling to develop the cartridge industry, but without success, and their factories and patents were for sale. Mr. Hartley's sporting goods house bought two of these plants, moved them to Bridgeport, Connecticut, and made them the basis of the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, in August 1867.

This enterprise was successful from the start, because it had behind it the organizing genius of Mr. Hartley and the growing demand of his house. The first product was rim-fire cartridges, the only kind known then. But Mr. Hartley soon got hold of a mechanical genius in Alfred C. Hobbs, and during the next twenty years the latter perfected better kinds, as well as the machinery for making them cheaply and well in vast quantities. Mr. Hobbs was the Yankee who, back in the fifties, had startled England by picking every burglar-proof lock to which he was allowed access, including one on the Bank of England that required fifty-one hours to open. Then he came home and was active in the Howe sewing machine plant until Mr. Hartley found him. Colonel Berdan, who had been associated with the Remingtons in gun improvements, was also interested in the Bridgeport plant, and developed the center-fire idea in cartridges.

During the years that followed, with various wars going on in Europe and elsewhere, the Bridgeport cartridge plant was busy as the Remington firearms plant at Ilion, for it had then a remarkable capacity for turning out cartridges by the million, and of such uniform excellence through the perfection of its machinery and the accuracy of its inspection systems that twenty thousand test cartridges taken from a shipment of two million showed not a single defective specimen when fired.

Mr. Hartley was getting on toward sixty when the interest in guns and ammunition swung from war to peace during the early eighties. But he saw the new tendencies plainly, and entered the new era with all his energy, backed by years of experience in dealing with people and their needs. It was this new trend in the demand that led him to add the Remington plant to his business. All his life he had sold guns and ammunition together, and he knew that they were inseparable. When he started the cartridge business in Bridgeport, indeed, there was a department for making firearms. But that was soon given up, partly because of the overwhelming demand for cartridges, and partly on account of the difficulties of gun-making. In the plant at Ilion he acquired what was practically the other half of the industry which he had been building up all his life, a going, gun-making concern with equipment, organization, methods, reputation and history that made it the foremost in this country, as well as famous all over the world.

Mr. Hartley lived until 1902, and thus was responsible for the close knitting together of the two plants in the distribution of product, the organization of dealers, the building up of demand among consumers, the stimulation of firearm sports, and the general foundation of business policy upon which they have since grown, and upon which they will continue to grow in future. At his death, control of both corporations passed to his grandson and heir, Marcellus Hartley Dodge, the present owner.


This little book is an Ilion book.

It marks Ilion's centennial.

In August, 1916, the people of Ilion dedicated three days to celebrating the making of the first Remington rifle by Eliphalet Remington just one hundred years before. The celebration included an elaborate program with speeches by prominent men, parades, banquets, etc. The thriving village of 10,000 population entertained thousands of visitors anxious to pay tribute to the energy and foresight of the young blacksmith-farmer, who, by his pluck and determination, laid the foundation of a great American industry. To commemorate the occasion, the village of Ilion gave bronze trophies portraying Remington at his forge, to the Militia of every State in the Union as a perpetual prize for proficiency in marksmanship. More than 80,000 dealers at home and abroad contributed to the celebration by displaying centennial posters in their stores and windows, together with Remington firearms, during centennial week.

From time to time, people speculate as to why the two great branches of an industry that seems to be really one should be maintained in places so widely separated as Ilion and Bridgeport. The truth of the matter is, that the products of Ilion and Bridgeport come together only when they enter trade and are distributed to the sportsman-consumer. Firearms and ammunition in the making are widely separated. In the making of firearms, and particularly sporting weapons, Ilion excels. That industry is in its daily thoughts, its life ambitions, its past and its very blood. As it has held its place in the past through great changes by experience and craftsmanship, so it will surely continue to hold its place in future.


While the fame of both Remington and Ilion have been built almost entirely on firearms and typewriters, many other American products and industries now carried on elsewhere can find their beginnings in the experimental work carried out by the Remingtons in their Ilion factory.

The first machine for cutting, dipping, drying and packing matches at one operation was made in the Remington plant, and furnished the foundation for match-making machinery as it is known today. The first model of a Yale lock, opened with a flat key, was made here.

Burglar-proof bank vaults were made in Ilion, and some set up for government use, notably one for the Treasury Department at Washington.

In early days the flats of the Mohawk Valley around the village grew broom corn, and for some time broom-making was carried on by Samuel Remington, as well as the making of handles for brooms, hoes, rakes and pitchforks. The Chas. E. Lipe machines for making brooms were perfected in Ilion, and afterwards made in Syracuse.

The first hundred velocipedes made in the United States were turned out at the Remington plant, and thus it may be regarded as the birthplace of the bicycle. The wheels were of wood, like buggy wheels, with crank pedals on the front wheel.

Many years before the bicycle began to take its present form the Remington plant turned out the model of a tandem velocipede on much the same lines as the tandem bicycle today, except in the position of the pedal crank.

When the bicycle itself appeared it was a product of the Remington plant for a number of years. Besides the standard type of sewing machine, manufacture of which was begun in the early seventies and carried on in a large way for a number of years, machines for doing other work of a similar nature were developed and made. One made button-holes in all sizes. Another pleated shirt fronts, laying and sewing as many as eight pleats at once. Another made a tobacco bag at one operation, even to the draw string. The Halligan machine for sewing leather with waxed thread had a capacity for sewing an inch of leather, waxing its own thread, and is remembered for the tragedy connected with its inventor, Mr. Halligan, who was killed by a train at Ilion station just when the machine was perfected. A machine for sewing buttons on shoes was perfected at the Remington plant, as well as machines for making, lasting and sewing welts.


Much was done by the Remingtons to develop printing machinery. Fowler job presses were made at one time in all sizes, The McMillan typesetting machine was developed, setting individual type by an operation like typewriting, justifying the lines, and afterwards distributing the type automatically.

The Remingtons were among the first experimenters in electric lighting and power. Dynamos, arc and incandescent lamps were made, and plants installed on the Parker system in Utica, Dolgeville, Schenectady, Cohoes, Oswego, Rome and other places. Thus the present home of the General Electric Company was first lighted by Remington apparatus. The first transmission of electricity for power in printing, and perhaps in any line, was accomplished when a dynamo in the Remington plant was connected with another dynamo in the office of the Ilion "Citizen," following an accident that deprived the paper of power, and the edition was run off in that way.

A model of a mercury scale was made at the Remington plant - it was equal to weighing tons, yet would register the weight of an ounce.

The Rabbeth spindle for cotton machinery was invented and first made in the Remington plant, afterwards being taken to Rhode Island for manufacture, and coming into general use.

Surgical instruments, particularly forceps and pocket folding scissors, were made in some quantity. So were machines for the rapid production of medical pills and tablets.

In the seventies the manufacture of cartridges for rifles, shotguns and revolvers was begun on a large scale, as well as the building of cartridge machinery. This activity was later transferred to New England. A complete outfit for making cartridges was made at Ilion and sent to South America, where it was set up by men from the Remington plant.

Among the many gun inventions out of the ordinary that were worked into practical shape was the Naylor battery gun, which was of the rapid-fire type, with a series of barrels to which cartridges were fed from a case. Also, a portable gun for throwing a lifeline into upper floors of a burning building. The projectile was a tube, closed at the end, which slipped over the barrel with an air-tight fit - it weighed about two pounds, and could be thrown about two hundred yards when carrying the life line. Another peculiar gun was made for the vineyards of France to throw an immense vortex ring into the clouds to break up hail storms.

The Remington typewriter, of course, is a matter of history. It began with the first crude mechanism in 1873, was developed into a machine that gave good satisfaction in offices, yet was still looked upon as a curiosity, and by steady improvements was made one of the most valuable labor-saving machines in general business.

The Remington typewriter business was sold to the present owners, The Remington Typewriter Company, many years ago. While the typewriter company, since that time, has not been allied in any way with the arms company, the splendid publicity devoted to the typewriter has helped to impress the name "Remington" upon the public mind the world over.

Much other typewriter work was done by the Remingtons. The Hammond machine came to Ilion as nothing more than an idea in the inventor's mind, and was sent out a perfected machine. The Caligraph was developed in the Remington plant, and much experimental work done on other typewriters. The drop cabinet for typewriters was invented in the Remington plant and made there until the reorganization, when the industry was moved to a suburban town. This town, largely through the typewriter cabinet, has become the leading desk making center in the world.


The first test of high power ammunition for firearms was made at Ilion. At one time gun-makers believed that soft steel was the only kind fit for gun barrels, many even thinking it should be soft enough to cut with a jack-knife. Extra heavy charges soon expanded the breech of the barrel, rendering it useless.

An inventor named Merriam came to Ilion about 1880 and had a gun made which used a large charge of black powder. This charge was divided in a bottle-shaped cartridge, the first exploding and starting the bullet, and also igniting the main charge, which was much heavier, and accelerating the bullet. There was no recoil to this gun.

The making of agricultural implements, begun in the earliest days of the Remington business, later on became a large and varied industry, and in the Remington plant many implements now in general use were devised. Most of them were of original type, or made in original ways. The hay tedder was developed at Ilion, for Mr. Burdick, the inventor. Hoes, rakes and forks were first made by the rolling system, now in general use. Other tools of a farm character were plows, harrows, rakes, hay-making machinery, two improved types of wagon, a mowing machine with reversible bar, a cotton planter, cotton gins, sweep horsepower machines for driving threshers, patent hames, machines for stripping hops from the vines, and a steam plow on which much money was spent, and which proved a failure - it was designed to spade the land instead of plow it.

And so the list goes.

Experiments made in braking trains by electricity, bridges of iron and steel, a gas engine made before 1850, horsepower fire engines, some of the first iron enameling in America, deep well pumps, rock drills, lathing and nailing machines, a radial hammer for forge work, a water meter, a machine for scouring paper in paper mills, many thousands of burglar alarms, machines for making cigars, for laying carpets and driving the tacks - these are a few more of the ideas that were brought to the Remingtons, tried out, perfected, manufactured, taken elsewhere. The electric streetcar was preceded by a Remington steam street car that worked successfully in Philadelphia and Albany, and the first successful propulsion of canal boats by steam was accomplished by the Remingtons.

They often made mistakes, frequently wound up in blind alleys, and from a purely selfish standpoint might have been more prosperous had they been less interested in new contrivances. But they were alive and growing all the while, and if anything was lost through these investigations in themselves, there is no doubt but that much more was gained in the spirit of the firearms organization.

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Created: 5/27/01
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