1884 Autograph Letter Signed by Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss, Machine Gun Inventor, Artillery Engineer, writing to his sister.
1884 Letter written one year before his death, writing of his health and his ordnance and firearms business
Written less than one year before his death, ordnance and firearms industrialist Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss (1826–1885) writes to his sister—either Dothea Anna Hotchkiss (1831–1906) or Sarah Minerva Hotchkiss (1832–1927), concluding his letter “Your loving Bro Berk”.
Benjamin Hotchkiss’ light and portable artillery pieces, improved artillery shells, and his rifled, rapid-fire revolving barrel machine guns—the Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon—were instrumental in modernizing warfare on land and sea. Built at his Hotchkiss & Co. factory in suburban Paris, Hotchkiss guns were used by American, Russian, French, and British armed forces. The company’s gas-operated machine guns were used extensively in World War I.
Hotchkiss here writes familiarly to his sister, regretting that her letter has taken a long time to arrive at Paris. Pleased to hear of her improving health, he writes about his own situation:
I am not yet all right but much better and my Doctor says I must not expect to be all right for 3 mo[nth]s. to come a long time to wait especially with this large business on my hands such is life.
Benjamin was born in Watertown, Connecticut, the son of Ashael Augustus Hotchkiss (1799–1885) and Althea Guernsey. Benjamin Hotchkiss’ and his brother Andrew’s improvements to rifled cannon projectiles were critical to Union forces in the American Civil War. Benjamin opened his first munitions factory in France in 1867 and began manufacturing arms near Paris in 1875. “In 1882 he organized the firm of Hotchkiss & Company, with headquarters in the United States and branch factories in England, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Italy. Out of the thousands of guns made in these factories prior to his death, only two failed to meet the required standard. Such was the quality and extent of his work that he won the reputation of being the most expert artillery engineer in the world.” (DAB)
Benjamin Hotchkiss died in his mid-fifties in Paris in February, 1885, less than a year after he penned this letter upon his company’s illustrated letterhead. A scarce autograph of a significant figure in the modernization of military weaponry.
Description: 1884 Autograph Letter Signed by Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss, Machine Gun Inventor, Artillery Engineer, writing to his sister.
Paris [France]. April 4, 1884. p. Quarto; on lined “Hotchkiss & Co. Paris” stationery illustrated with artillery-themed logotype. Approx. 108 words. Folds, light creases, very good.