Return to Home Page

Picture Archives


Email The Old Ammo Guy

Home of the Old Ammo Guy's Virtual Cartridge Trading Table

Picture Page

September 2018

Please note: Unless otherwise indicated, the pictures on this web site are my property, and should not be used by anyone without crediting the source.

The Centennial Expo .45-70 draw set, Part 2...

I was contacted in early May of 2013 by a gentleman from Minnesota who had inherited a Centennial Exposition .45-70 draw set from his father some 20 years prior that he was interested in selling. Looking over the photograph he sent (shown here), I was surprised to see that the black cover of the box with it's gold labeling was still present and in very good condition, although the sliding tray portion was missing. In the exchange of emails that followed over a period of 2 1/2 weeks, we were unable to reach a deal and, somewhat reluctantly, I had to let it go. Fast forward to this past March and I received an email from this same gentleman, once again wanting to know if I was interested in the draw set. Another weeks worth of exchanged emails followed and I was successful in buying the set for a little less than he had originally asked in 2013 but a bit more than I had offered at that time, as well. After another week and a half of waiting for the completion of what had been a five year process, it finally arrived.


These boxed draw sets consisted of an assortment of shaped pieces of copper and lead that showed the stages of manufacture of the .45-70 Springfield cartridge. They were produced on the Army Ordnance Department's ammunition manufacturing equipment displayed at the 1876 International Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. This display was made up of all of the machinery and personnel that were required on one of the Frankford Arsenal's cartridge manufacturing lines, which was removed from production at the arsenal and set up in the U.S. Government display building at the exposition.


Back in November 2005 I wrote about the first set of these Centennial Exposition draw sets (shown here) that I was fortunate enough to find; the write-up can be found here.

That set did not include the box, and consisted of a different combination of 11 pieces. The new set is missing the stages in the production of the (primer) cup anvil, items 12 thru 15 in this photo, and my first set is missing the lead bullet, perhaps a couple of draw pieces, and the unloaded headstamped case. When I was writing the November 2005 article, I looked at pictures of several other draw sets from an assortment of sources, including one from a Robert Buttweiler 1994 auction (shown below) which included 16 pieces and was described in the catalog as the only "full 16 piece set" known. Items 6, 7 and 8 (please note that the numbers in the two pictures were added by me) in the 16 piece auction set were described as being intended for blank cartridges, with item 8 being a completed blank cartridge. This wasn't actually a loaded blank cartridge, but rather an empty finished case for a blank. That set did not include the long draw piece that my first set had (the piece second from the top right with the question mark in the photo above). Nor did it have the largest cup-shaped piece in the top left corner (item #2) in the photo of my first set. Based on these observations, I reached the conclusion that there was no such thing as a standard or 'full' set as far as these boxed draw sets were concerned. Each boxed set, I believe, would have consisted of the blank copper disks for the case and cup anvil, a group of draw pieces that showed the general progression of the stages of production of the case and cup anvil, a bullet, an unfinished headed cartridge case, and a finished cartridge. These last two items would have been headstamped.


Because of the limited capacity of the box (1 1/8" x 1 3/4" x 3 1/2"), not all of the production stages that were required to produce a complete cartridge could be included in a set. making it necessary for the Ordnance Department workers who were putting these boxed sets together to be selective when pulling the various components to ensure that they would fit.  The sizes of the individual draw pieces selected determined how many would fit in the box and therefore the number of pieces in that particular set. I do believe however that the typical set would have included around 14 pieces.


Below is a photo taken from The .45-70 Springfield, by Frasca & Hill. Note the dark stain on the large blank copper disk on the upper left in the photo and compare it to the copper disk in the Buttweiler auction set. My photo from the catalog is poor quality, but a comparison to the original catalog photo will reveal that they are obviously the same disks, indicating that the two photos are of the same draw set. This is a 16 piece set if the two cases on the



right showing their headstamps are included, however, they probably shouldn't be. These two cartridge cases are labeled on the display as "souvenirs cut to 1 9/16" and given to the public". This labeling tells me that at the time this display was photographed for the book, it was a known fact that the two short blank-length (1 9/16") cases were not part of the original draw set, but somewhere between the photo being taken for the book and the description being written for the Buttweiler auction, the correct identification of the two 1 9/16" empty blank cases was overlooked, and this 14 piece draw set became the only "full 16 piece set" known. These two incorrectly identified pieces are numbered 7 and 8 on the auction photo; item 6 is just another of the draw pieces and is probably an original part of the draw set.


One of these blank cases is pictured in George Hoyem's  The History and Development of Small Arms Ammunition, Vol 2. I've included the picture of the case here. The description in the book is "Sample empty cartridge case produced by U.S. Ordnance at the Philadelphia 1876 Exposition and presented to attendees as souvenirs." 


Following the close of the Centennial Exposition, a large collection of ammunition that had been assembled for display at the exposition was moved to the museum in the basement of the Frankford Arsenal. At the start of World War 2, all space at the arsenal was considered critical for the war effort, and preparations were made to scrap the collection. Fortunately, it was saved, moved to a secure location for storage, and in 1958 sent to the Smithsonian Institution by Colonel Berkley R. Lewis. Included in the collection was the set of .45-70 draw pieces that is pictured here with the original box. Disregarding the box, this set has 13 pieces. The head of the cartridge at the bottom depicting the headstamp probably was not a 14th piece, but was most likely included in the photo merely to illustrate the headstamp that was on both the unfinished headed case (k) and the completed cartridge (l). It should be noted that no pieces for the production of a blank cartridge are included in the draw set that was assembled by the Ordnance Department to be included in their museum cartridge collection. This would provide further support that the short blank cartridge cases were not a part of the boxed sets.


I've included a photo here of my latest draw set, arranged as closely as possible to the arrangement of the museum set above. Comparing the museum set with this photo, the most obvious difference is the missing cup anvil stages that were mentioned previously, three of which were in the museum set, and that I assume were misplaced from my set over the years. I make this assumption because the cup anvil is specifically mentioned in the labeling on the front of the box (see the enlarged photo below of the front of the box), along with the cartridge shell and the bullet, as being the component parts or 'specimens' that were in the box, with no mention of a blank shell. But missing from the museum set is the short wide copper cup that I have included above the bullet in the photo above of the new set. This is the first stage of drawing out the cartridge case from the flat copper disk. I would be surprised if any of the original components of the museum set could have been misplaced; if that is the case it supports my belief that there was no such thing as a standard set of components in these boxes. Incidentally, I have not seen a picture of a draw set, besides the museum set and mine, that includes it's original box.


Shortly after I received the new draw set, I made the replacement sliding tray shown here to fit the original box. While trying to pack the component pieces into this tray, it was necessary to take full advantage of the ability to 'telescope' some of the pieces into others in order to get all of the pieces to fit. This little exercise has convinced me that all 16 pieces from the Buttweiler auction draw set could not be fit into one of the boxes.







Photos of the ammunition production line and the US Government Display Building, and general Exposition information, Small Arms Ammunition at the International Exposition, Philadelphia, 1876, Berkley R. Lewis, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1972


Photo of the 16 piece draw set from Robert Buttweiler's Collector's Ammunition auction catalog, Vol. X, Number 1, lot 86 (1994),

Photo of 16 piece display (14 piece draw set pus 2 short souvenir cases), The 45-70 Springfield, Albert J. Frasca and Robert H. Hill, Springfield Pubishing Company, Northridge, California, 1980

Photo of the single short enpty case, The History and Development of Small Arms Ammunition, Vol 2, George A. Hoyem, Armory Publicatopns, Tacoma, Washington, 1982.


Return to Home Page