A History of Drill and Training Rifles Part 16

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These drill rifles were made by F.A. Requarth Co. in Dayton, Ohio. Frederick August Requardt was born in Germany in 1835. The family emigrated to the United States (Verona, Ohio) and Americanized their name to Requarth. In 1852 he left their Ohio farm and became an apprentice wood turner with a Dayton firm called Blanchard & Brown Co. In 1860 he opened his own wood turning business in Dayton where the business prospered. The Wright brothers bought spruce from him to build their first airplane. He guided the business for 50 years until his death in 1910. The company is still in the lumber business today. They suffered two setbacks in the early 1900’s. In 1913 a huge flood damaged their business and in 1915 they suffered a catastrophic fire that destroyed their building.

They made a drill rifle that was patterned after the 1873 Springfield Rifle and sold to a variety of youth organizations and military schools. The exact dates of this production is unknown. However, it is possible to piece together an educated guess. Literature indicates that some of these drill rifles were made for the Boys Brigade. The Boys Brigade was a youth organization that promoted rifle drill, as well as other fun activities having Christian values. It was a world wide organization that started in Scotland in 1883. The American branch of the Boys Brigade was started in 1887. The drill rifle production probably started shortly after that date and ended at the time of the flood in 1913. By the time they had rebuilt the business, the demand for drill rifles had started to diminished and by the end of WWI in 1918 the demand was practically non existent. I would speculate that they produced these drill rifles between 1887 and 1915. Some of the drill rifles had a brass plate on the left side of the stock. This plate always carries the name THE REQUARTH GUN and some also carry the name and address of the distributor.

It has been determined that at least three different distributors sold these drill rifles. The following names have been found on this plate.

  • Cincinnati Regalia Co. Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Pettibone Mfg. Co. Cincinnati, Ohio
  • William Read & Sons, Boston Mass.

All of these companies sold sporting goods and/or military and band items. One specimen only lists The Requarth Gun and the Dayton, Ohio address. It is presumed that this specimen was sold directly from the factory. There are also specimens that have no plate or any other form of identification. The drill rifles was generally patterned after the 1873 Springfield in that it had a side hammer and a hinged breech block but in all other features it was unique. It is 47 1/4″ long, which is about an inch shorter than the 1873 Springfield Cadet model. The lock mechanism was made of cast iron and was rather crude in design and execution. For all of it’s shortcomings, it was more elaborate than many other drill rifles of that period. It would be interesting to find an advertisement that indicated the cost. There were two different models (A &B) that were basically identical with the exception of a bayonet lug on the Model A. Little is known of the bayonet other than that it was a socket bayonet and that it was held in place by a cylindrical pin in the front sight location.

The stock appears to have been made of maple and stained or painted to look more like walnut. The barrel is an integral part of the stock and was stained or painted black. There is a short barrel section the extends past the end of the stock. This extension has a short metal sleeve over it. The butt plate is made from a thin piece of sheet metal. There is no evidence to suggest that they ever had any barrel bands or sling swivels. All of the metal parts appear to have been originally nickel plated but are now often found to be well browned from rust. The trigger mechanism was simple but not well designed or heat treated. Many of the surviving specimens have a trigger that no longer  functions to catch or release the hammer.

From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson

The next installment: Unidentified Drill Rifles

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