1913 Francis Bannerman Catalog

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The Bannerman Company dated from the Civil War. They were one of the first merchants to recognize the value of surplus military goods and became the premier private arms dealer in the world. They bought 90% of the surplus from the Spanish American war and after they were told not to store the 90 tons of explosives in New York, they bought Polopel Island in the Hudson River near West Point. The company prospered until the 1970s. Catalogues of their goods were routinely issued for almost one hundred years. These early Bannerman catalogs were printed on very cheap newspaper type stock and the quality of the printing deteriorated in the later years and pages were reproduced as such. It’s miraculous that they survived at all. This 91 year old March 1913 catalog measures 12"H x 9"W x 1" thick and contains 420 pages.

The March 1913 pre-WWI catalog is especially significant to the Luger collector as it features advertisements for the U.S. Army auction sell off of a major portion of the 1901 purchase of 1000 Model 1900 U.S. Test Eagle Lugers from DWM and 1000 Rock Island Arsenal made holsters for the U.S. Army Test Eagle Lugers. Approximately 780 of these Lugers and an unspecified amount of holsters were auctioned off by the United States army and purchased by Francis Bannerman and Company sometime in 1910-1911.1

This March 1913 catalog shows two ads for the surplus U.S. Test Eagle Lugers, one on page 112 advertised as an 8 shot repeater and the other on page 121 advertised as a 9 shot repeater and one separate ad on page 321 for 100 of the 1000 Rock Island Arsenal Holsters. If one is to believe the ad that Bannerman acquired only 100 of the RIA Luger holsters and 780 Luger pistols, that leaves the whereabouts of 680 RIA Luger holsters in question. An alternative answer could be that by March 1913 after possibly 1-2 years of advertising, only 100 holsters were left for sale, again assuming Bannerman was advertising the subject Lugers since 1911 and assuming that the pistols and holsters were sold as a rig, although the separate ad for 100 RIA Luger holsters seems to refute the rig theory.

There is also an ad on page 166 for the old model Luger carbine for a very high price of $48.00 as compared to the other weapons on the same page. The ad caption incorrectly describes the Luger carbine as: “Made by the famous Mauser rifle makers,..." and misspelling Lugar vs. Luger.

It is very interesting that in 1913 Bannerman used an engraving of the pre production 1899 Borchardt-Luger in their ad of which the identical engraving was used in a 1902 Baker & Hamilton correspondence envelope ad. The ad used the recent U.S. Army tests of the Luger to promote sales of the 1900 regular commercial version of the American Eagle Luger.

Since the Test Eagle Lugers were auctioned off to Bannerman in 1911 and they were still being advertised two years later by Bannerman in 1913 indicates slow sales of these Lugers. Also confusing are the two ads for these Lugers in the same March 1913 issue at different prices, $18.45 vs. $17.85. This indicates either

  1. Poor editing by Bannerman and in order to “move" the items the price was reduced.
  2. Noting that lower priced ad uses an early instruction manual drawing showing the old model internal workings may indicate that the ad was for the regular M1900 commercial American Eagle.
Although the fact that both ads advertise the RIA Army holster, conflicts with the second assertion.

1 U.S. MILITARY AUTOMATIC PISTOLS 1894 – 1920, Edward Scott Meadows, p386, Copyright 1993.


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