1896-1912. Archive of Naval Commander, Inventor and Ordnance Supplier W.H. Driggs, 1896-1912
A small archive (about 35 documents) in Very Good condition overall with some toning, scattered spotting and a few small tears.
William Hale Driggs (1847-1908) was a Commander in the United States Navy. From the 1880s he designed and invented a series of weapons, some of which were produced by the American Ordnance Company in the 1890s. Along with his brother Louis Labadie Driggs and Navy Officer Samuel Seabury, he invented machine guns and ran the Driggs-Seabury Ordnance Corporation (founded 1897), which supplied the Army and Navy with guns and ammunition. W.H. Driggs died in 1908 but Louis ran the company until at least 1935, merging with Savage Arms during World War I. An interesting aside is that Louis Driggs’ daughter is the noted painter, Elsie Driggs.
This collection includes correspondence between the brothers (6 typed and 2 handwritten letters), showcasing different letterheads and names of the corporation between 1899 and 1907. These and other letters relate to the testing of weapons, the management of the company and Driggs’ patents. A few letters were written by Louis after his brother’s death and involve haggling with lawyers over his estate; there are also handwritten letters from Louis to William’s widow, Mrs. Mary Eddy Driggs, including a history of the organization and patents awarded. A few other materials document Mary’s involvement. There are her copies of Driggs’ patents and drawings for his semi-automatic gun (stapled and difficult to photograph), which was patented in 1913 and which noted M.E. Driggs as “Administratix.” Checks and receipts made out to Mary, as well as a handwritten memo to her on a Department of Justice card, are also present.
Other materials include an Act of Corporation document for Driggs-Seabury Gun and Ammunition Company in 1897 and a typed “Memorandum of Driggs-Seabury Co. patents” with handwritten notes. There is also a copy of a report from the testing of one of Driggs’ guns on the Naval Proving Ground in Indian Head, Maryland in December 1907.
OCLC locates a few entries for individual publications of the Driggs-Seabury Ordnance Co., each with only one holding (at Yale) as well as instructions for using one of Driggs’ guns, held at the U.S. Army War College, but nothing similar to the material found in this collection. Item #524