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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Question about W. Milton Farrow (Read 4538 times)
BullardShooter
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Question about W. Milton Farrow
Apr 20th, 2024 at 9:58pm
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I'm trying to find information about what rifles Farrow used in match shooting.  My keen interest is in the year 1884 when he was working for Bullard.  That year Farrow traveled the country competing (and primarily winning matches).  Scott Jamieson outlines much of this in his Bullard Firearms book.  He prints many excerpts from various Forest and Stream articles.  I've also just finished reading Farrow's, "How I became a Crack Shot" book.  All I know about 1884 is Farrow won all of those matches with a Bullard Repeating rifle.  But whether it was a large or small frame rifle, and in what chambering, is a mystery I cannot solve.  Interestingly, in his book I just read, he doesn't mention the slightest details as to what rifles he used in his various U.S. and overseas matches or even what caliber he was shooting.  I have seen examples of the, "Farrow rifle" but this came after 1884.  I am a great fan of Bullard repeating rifles, but I find it of particular interest that in 1884, Farrow was outshooting top match shooters who were using the finest single-shot rifles of the day and he was doing so with a repeating rifle.  Information, thoughts, comments, speculation much appreciated.
  

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Schutzenbob
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #1 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 1:16am
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This is a famous photo of W. Milton Farrow with his Ballard rifle
  
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Ranch13
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #2 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 9:28am
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It seems he was a fan of the 32-40 and 38-55 for the midrange stuff. 44-100 and 45-100 for th Creedmoor
You may want to dig a little deeper in the match scores, doesn’t seem as tho he was quite the great long range shooter as his book lets on.
  
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BullardShooter
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #3 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 10:07am
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westerner wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 7:23am:
Bullard. Ballard. So close!


Many times when I've mentioned Bullard to various gun guys, they correct me and say Ballard.  Bullards are not very well known.  I'd love to see a photo of Farrow holding a Bullard rifle.  As he worked for Bullard for over a year, I would think he handled many.  Of course, not everyone had a cell phone camera in their hands back then.  I'd also love to hear any detail at all regarding the rifle he used during that winning year of 1884.  It's difficult to logic-it out.  On the one hand, it would make sense he used a .32-40 Bullard or a .38-45 Bullard, but these were small frame cartridges and the small frame rifle didn't come out until a ways into 1884.  However, I suppose he could have used a pre-production rifle.   

I'll try and link a photo.  Here are a pair of .32-40's.  The top one is Bullard small frame repeater in .32-40 Bullard. A very different cartridge from the .32-40 Ballard.  It was a bottlenecked cartridge with a .317 bore and was referred to in the Bullard catalog as the .32 Special.  The bottom rifle is a Bullard solid frame single-shot in .32-40 Ballard.

The top rifle is one of the earliest known Bullard small frame repeaters. It is one of two known equipped with the Schuetzen style buttplate. One would assume it was ordered for target shooting.  It is a full pistol grip checkered deluxe rifle with at least 3x wood. The Lyman tang sight was added later.

I hadn't thought of this until writing this, but I suppose this could be a rifle Farrow used.  It is one of the first small frames made and with that target style buttplate, there is some speculative logic here.   

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marlinguy
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #4 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 11:27am
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It's pretty well documented that Farrow shot a Ballard rifle for a very long time, and was doing so from at least the late 1870's on. Whether he was still shooting it in 1884 specifically might be tough to document, but I find it tough to think he'd stop shooting a gun he won so many matches with for one year?
What I can guarantee is it wasn't a Bullard single shot rifle he shot in 1884 since they weren't patented until 1886. So if he didn't shoot a Bullard, then why change from the Ballard?
  

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Schutzenbob
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #5 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 12:51pm
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This is another famous photo from 1886 that has Farrow (forth from the right) holding a rifle, however I can't quite make out what it is...
  
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BullardShooter
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #6 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 12:57pm
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marlinguy wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 11:27am:
It's pretty well documented that Farrow shot a Ballard rifle for a very long time, and was doing so from at least the late 1870's on. Whether he was still shooting it in 1884 specifically might be tough to document, but I find it tough to think he'd stop shooting a gun he won so many matches with for one year?
What I can guarantee is it wasn't a Bullard single shot rifle he shot in 1884 since they weren't patented until 1886. So if he didn't shoot a Bullard, then why change from the Ballard?


I suppose the simple logic is he switched from his usual target rifle in 1884 because he was working for Bullard and primarily hired by Bullard to promote their rifles.  As you suggest, the Bullard single-shot wasn't available in 1884, so he shot the only option - which was a repeater.  Wouldn't this have been of big news back then - a fellow winning all those matches - with a repeater?  Who else was at the top of the match winners using a repeating rifle during that time period?
  

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GeneB
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #7 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 1:13pm
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marlinguy wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 11:27am:
What I can guarantee is it wasn't a Bullard single shot rifle he shot in 1884 since they weren't patented until 1886. So if he didn't shoot a Bullard, then why change from the Ballard?


Patent dates seldom are a good indicator of when something was made. I also have to question the 1886 patent being for the entire single shot and not just for an improvement of the existing design. The only 1886 patent that applies to the Bullard single shot I've seen is US287229, applied for Jan 28, 1886 and issued July 6, 1886. That patent is in the names of Solomon Hindley and Edwin Field and was never assigned to Bullard. You have 1 year from when a design is made public to apply for a patent, after that the design is free to copy, In Jamieson’s book on Bullard he lists an article about the single shot from March 20, 1884 Forest & Stream  – that also suggests the 1886 patent is not for the complete action. Another is from the Sept & Oct 1885 Forest & Stream about tests of Bullard rifles at Creedmoor.  He does not have the article shown/ 


The majority of the single shot design is the same as the rear of the repeater, so the 1881 patent, US245700, would cover the majority of it and Bullard would have had very little need for a separate patent.
The locking design of both the repeater and single shot are basically rolling block actions based on expired patents, so those parts could not be covered by any new patents. The majority of Bullard’s repeater design was based on older expired patents, just combined together in a very unique way. 

A good example of patent dates is the Savage Arms Model 1903 pump 22, patent applied for May 20, 1901; guns went into full production in May of 1903; the patent wasn’t issued until Dec 25, 1906. 
  
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #8 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 1:24pm
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Schutzenbob wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 12:51pm:
This is another famous photo from 1886 that has Farrow (forth from the right) holding a rifle, however I can't quite make out what it is...


So in this photo, Farrow is back row, third from the right?
  

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marlinguy
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #9 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 1:31pm
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Schutzenbob wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 12:51pm:
This is another famous photo from 1886 that has Farrow (forth from the right) holding a rifle, however I can't quite make out what it is...


Quite surprising to see a photo that's from 1886 and see so many ML target rifles still in use?
  

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marlinguy
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #10 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 1:40pm
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GeneB wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 1:13pm:
marlinguy wrote on Apr 21st, 2024 at 11:27am:
What I can guarantee is it wasn't a Bullard single shot rifle he shot in 1884 since they weren't patented until 1886. So if he didn't shoot a Bullard, then why change from the Ballard?


Patent dates seldom are a good indicator of when something was made. I also have to question the 1886 patent being for the entire single shot and not just for an improvement of the existing design. The only 1886 patent that applies to the Bullard single shot I've seen is US287229, applied for Jan 28, 1886 and issued July 6, 1886. That patent is in the names of Solomon Hindley and Edwin Field and was never assigned to Bullard. You have 1 year from when a design is made public to apply for a patent, after that the design is free to copy, In Jamieson’s book on Bullard he lists an article about the single shot from March 20, 1884 Forest & Stream  – that also suggests the 1886 patent is not for the complete action. Another is from the Sept & Oct 1885 Forest & Stream about tests of Bullard rifles at Creedmoor.  He does not have the article shown/ 


The majority of the single shot design is the same as the rear of the repeater, so the 1881 patent, US245700, would cover the majority of it and Bullard would have had very little need for a separate patent.



It may use similar workings that didn't require every part to be applied for a patent again, but the Bullard single shot action and rifle actions don't share much. The single shot actions being slimmed down from the repeater action and much lighter than their repeaters.
I'm not a Bullard historian, and others may know far more about what the patent was, or why sources tell me the single shot was first cataloged in 1886. I do know catalogs often date a year after models are actually built.
  

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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #11 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 3:06pm
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I found that the July 1886 patent is the one that is stamped on single shots, if they have a patent stamp. Here's patents for the repeater and the single shot for comparison, it would be interesting to compare the actual parts from the large & small frame repeaters and the single shot. I see more than just a little similarity between the two, the single shot needed an extractor added and a link to operate the breech block, but the rest looks much the same to me. The two drawings were just scaled to be close and are not to any exact scale. 

  
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #12 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 6:46pm
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Gene, I think those patents were actually issued on a Tuesday
  
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #13 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 9:49pm
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Terry Buffum just dragged me into this discussion. As some here know, I've been working on a Farrow biography since back in the last century.  This is my spin on Willard Milton Farrow (WMF):

Farrow's principal interest was his family. He needed money to support them.  He operated a successful jewelry and sporting goods store in Newport, Rhode Island, the wealthiest place in America. In September, 1874, WMF (age about 24) & girlfriend attended the first Creedmoor match (as spectators).  The match generated a lot of public interest and a lot of money was wagered.  WMF was a hustler, always after a buck.

Farrow's clientele were the wealthiest young men in America.  If he had a few dozen Creedmoor type rifles in stock (plus ammo, etc.), he could sell all of it. He became a distributor for Ballards, maybe others.  If he sold long-range rifles, his customers had to have a place to shoot them.  He started the Newport Rifle Club (or some such), with a 1,000 yard range, and organized local matches.  His wealthy customers gambled on the matches.  If WMF won the matches, he'd make more money, so he learned to shoot accurately.  

Winning rifle matches was the method he found that gave maximum reward (prize money & side bets) for minimum effort & risk.  He shot Ballards because he sold Ballards (at first) and then because he was paid by Marlin's marketing organization to shoot Ballards.

You could sell a hundred or more short or mid-range rifles for every long-range model sold, and that's what Farrow concentrated on. He toured the country, entering matches, giving demonstrations and selling Marlins (not just Ballards) until 1884.

On Jan. 1, 1884, WMF signed a 1-year contract with Bullard to tour the country selling Bullard repeaters & ammo. Same business model, just a different company. No Ballards, no single shots.

In either case, I don't think Farrow was a one-man band. He was traveling by train from NYC or Springfield, Massachusetts to San Francisco and a dozen or more stops between, with several dozen rifles and a lot of ammunition. Thieves were as bold & plentiful then as now.  He must have had assistants, probably a PR guy traveling ahead, but I've never read about them.

When Farrow returned to Springfield, Massachusetts, in Dec. 1884, after a trip to new Orleans, Bullard was broke, but Farrow wasn't. Bullard laid off almost everybody.   

Continued next message.

« Last Edit: Apr 22nd, 2024 at 4:33am by waterman »  
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Re: Question about W. Milton Farrow
Reply #14 - Apr 21st, 2024 at 10:32pm
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More about WMF after Dec. 31, 1884.  My ideas from here on:

Farrow had the basic design of his single shot action in mind. I think Farrow borrowed or rented Bullard's tool room or machine shop and Bullard's stock-making shop and employed their principal machinist and their head stock-maker to (a) teach Farrow how to be a machinist, (b) to teach Farrow the stock-making trade, (c) to teach Farrow how to rifle barrels accurately, (d) to develop a working prototype action, and (e) to build a demonstration model rifle.

Farrow wasn't working from a new box of crayons. He was an accomplished watchmaker (gears, levers, pins and springs) and he'd been in the gun business for at least 11 years. Going from memory (re: Dick Chamberlain's 1962 Gun Digest article), the first Farrow was demonstrated in April, 1885.

With ZERO proof, I'll advance the idea that ALL of the 200+ Farrow stocks were produced on Bullard machinery, and from wood that Farrow purchased from Bullard.  I suspect all the work was done in 1885.

All of Bullard's and Marlin's action parts were forged by Rogers & Spencer, Hartford, CT.  I'll continue with my ZERO proof idea that all of Farrow's parts also came from Rogers & Spencer, again in 1885.

I'll get back to this tomorrow.
« Last Edit: Apr 22nd, 2024 at 3:18am by waterman »  
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