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Historian traces story of nation's arsenal

Nicholas Chandler is seen discussing the production of guns in the region during the 19th Century at Jacob Edwards Library Thursday, Nov. 18. Kevin Flanders. (click for larger version)
November 21, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Most people have heard of early gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson, but hardly anyone realizes that several pistol factories in central Massachusetts transcended the production of guns in America 15 to 20 years before Smith & Wesson was established.

For this reason, underhammer gun expert and author Nicholas Chandler has dedicated many years to researching 19th-Century guns and attempting to educate people about how these weapons were produced and sold.

He recently wrote a book titled "Early American Underhammer Firearms," which describes in detail the pistols made between 1826 and 1840.

Chandler visited the Jacob Edwards Library on Thursday, Nov. 18 to discuss his book and deliver a PowerPoint presentation highlighting his research findings about the early gun producers who established their own factories to lessen America's reliance on European weapons. Prior to 1830, the guns owned by most civilians had been made in England, and Americans were eager to completely break away from their colonizers.

"I did a lot of research to give people the proper perspective about the history of how small arms were developed in America," said Chandler. "It is important to place information in a better context than we have seen in the past."

The phrase a lot of research is something of an understatement — Chandler has spent countless hours visiting libraries in towns throughout New England where early guns were manufactured, reviewing property deeds, speaking with gun collectors, and researching tax records.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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