1902 William Read & Sons Sports Catalog

Featured herein is a large 9" x 11-˝" format, 104 page 1902 William Read & Sons sports catalog published in Boston, Mass. The cover and first page along with the last page is present but separated from the catalog. The rear cover is missing entirely. What makes this catalog so interesting, other than its rarity, is that it is one of the first American gun catalogs to advertise the Luger, on page 35, describing it as:

The New "Luger" Rapid Fire Automatic Repeating Pistol
Invented by George Luger a former Officer in the Austrian Army.
116 Shots a minute.
Adopted by the Swiss Government in 1899.
Our U.S. Government has already ordered 1,000.

Apparently the summer of 1902 is the first appearance in U.S. commercial sporting catalogs of printed sales advertisements for the M1900 new Luger that cited recent US Army Springfield Armory test results. The test results described in the subject William Reed and Sons catalog ad apparently refer to the earlier March 1901 US Army Springfield Armory test results. In 1901, 2 pistols were submitted by Hans Tauscher. The initial field tests results of the 1,000 Lugers purchased by the US army were not submitted/received by the army until August 1902 and were actually quite negative. As such, the subject William Reed and Sons catalog ad refers to the "1,000 U.S. Government order" only and not the test results.

As to Old Model Luger sales ads in the United States prior to the summer of 1902, there are no earlier pre-1902 dated catalogs as yet identified advertising the new Luger. The first ads for the new Luger seem to reference the U.S. Army order and test results, some noting the earlier Swiss Army order. There are no ads, for example which could be considered earlier, with for example only reference to the Swiss Army contract award and no mention of the U.S. Army order. Also none of these early Old Model Luger ads show or mention the American Eagle chamber crest which wasn’t popularized until after the appearance of the 1,000 "Test Eagle" Lugers.

There is no doubt that Hans Tauscher, the U.S. DWM representative, was promoting the commercial sales of the new Luger prior to the U.S. Army 1,000 order. However, early pre-1902 Tauscher advertising, if any exist, are not dated which makes it difficult to identify a publication date. Also the "earliest" identified Tauscher flyers advertising the Luger mention the 1,000 US army order test results, dating the materiel to 1902 or later.

With the circa 1902 Baker & Hamilton envelope, a 1903 Sunset Magazine Baker & Hamilton Borchardt-Luger ad, A.H. Funke box cover, Schoverling Daly & Gales ad, William Reed and Sons ad, Von Lengerke & Antoine ads and certainly other U.S. commercial Luger ads, there were some M1900 commercial, plain and American Eagle chamber stamped Lugers in stock for sale. The first small group of about 200 American Eagle chamber crested Old Model Lugers identified are in the low 2,000 serial number range. Some of these are identified with the "Germany" export stamp thus dating the U.S. sale of these Lugers to as early as late 1900 to early 1901 based on production rates and delivery events. The earliest identified ads showing the M1900 production Luger configuration are the circa 1902-3 A.H. Funke catalog ad and the January 1903 Abercrombie and Fitch catalog ad.

The subject William Reed & Sons cover has several ink stampings of a "Henry W. Sargent", H. W. S., apparently, at one time the owner/collector of the catalog. The catalog has a hand written in ink date of "Nov. 8, Sat, 1902" at the top of page 1 along with the owners’ initials H. W. S. This could be the date the catalog was acquired as the printing date of the catalog could be earlier as corroborated by a one page insert (shown below) advertising additional weapons for sale, dated July 28, 1902.

The most unique feature of the Luger ads is the use of a line drawing rendering of the 1899 Borchardt-Luger and not the 1900 production configuration. This particular rendering, although of a smaller format, has been used in an earlier May 1902 Shooting & Fishing Journal showing a Schoverling, Daly and Gales catalog Luger ad. The rather large 6" x 3-˝" size of the subject William Reed & Sons picture ad is sufficiently detailed and clear as to identify the no-slope rear link sight, the broad receiver flair and the narrow trigger of the original 1899 Borchardt-Luger.

Additionally as a result of the very thin, transparent paper used in the catalog in conjunction with the early letterpress print method1 vs. the later photo offset process print method, one can readily notice the raised text on the page by tactilely running ones finger over the text and, in the case of the 1899 Borchardt-Luger large format picture, on page 35 of the subject catalog, one can actually feel the wooden grip diamond checkering pattern. This is the closest most collectors will get to an 1899 Borchardt-Luger.

Page 36 of the catalog advertises the "Borchardt" which because of the paper transparency can be clearly seen looking at page 35. However, the print used to illustrate the C93 Borchardt has been used many times and is not as clear and sharp as the larger format 1899 Borchardt-Luger picture opposite on page 35. Rarely are the C93 Borchardt and the Luger advertised in the same catalog and in this case, ironically representing the ascent of the Luger and the decline of the C93 Borchardt.

Although the Luger ad states that the Luger uses a .32 caliber cartridge, the ammunition page carries no listing for the Luger, only for the C93 Borchardt, the C96 Mauser and the Mannlicher.

The index on page 104 is the last page of the subject 1902 William Reed and Sons catalog and it shows the Luger, Mauser, Mannlicher and the Colt under P for Pistols.


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