Saturday, January 27, 2018

Firearm Factory of the Month: Hartford Arms and Equipment Company

My Ghost Gun Factory post was immensely popular, people really seemed to like seeing where their guns came from and what happened to the factory.
I decided to make it a monthly post, focusing on one company and the factories they occupied. The posts will go a little deeper into the history of both.

This month's focus is the Hartford Arms and Equipment Company.

As you could guess from the name Hartford Arms was based in Hartford Connecticut.

The Hartford Arms and Equipment Co. was started by Hartford resident and former Colt employee by the name of
Lucius M. Diehm in 1925.
Mr. Diehm had no doubt been inspired by the Colt .22 pistol (which became known as the Woodsman) which had been built by Colt for 10 years before Hartford Arms started production.

It was August 6th, 1921 when Mr. Diehm filed for a patent on his .22 pistol, it was awarded patent number 15111510 on Oct 14th, 1924. No one would argue that the gun doesn't look a copy of the Colt Woodsman

Here is a picture of the Hartford Arms model of 1925, below it a 1921 vintage Colt Woodsman

While it was not that uncommon to have two companies making pistols that resembled each other,  the similarities seem like there should have been some breach of patent.
I could find no record of Browning or Colt defending their patent. 
It could be that Diehm's design differed enough internally as to not infringe on the Browning patent.
My guess is that Diehm thought he had a better "mousetrap" and sought investors. In 1925 he opened production in a building located at 618 Capitol Avenue in Hartford. It is doubtful that Hartford Arms rented the whole building, most likely they rented some space in the building already set up for manufacturing. This could explain the #28 next to the street address (618-28 Capitol Ave).

As far as I can tell the building was built for the Hartford Woven Wire Mattress Co. sometime before 1898.

Some records indicate that the 80,000 sq ft building was built in 1920, so maybe the original was torn down and rebuilt? I am not certain the records are accurate, as I have found records of a brick building of the same size and shape to be at that location prior to 1920, some more searching may be in order. Moving on....
In 1931/32 The Hartford Arms & Equipment Company had fallen on hard times, it was the Great Depression. Unemployment had doubled to 16.3%, many companies were shutting their doors. 
During the six years they were in production Hartford Arms had only managed to make 5000 pistols.

The news of Hartford Arms finical situation found its way to a Carl Swebilius who was working for Winchester in New Haven and running a small enterprise called High Standard Manufacturing Company to make tools used in the manufacture of guns and other items.
He got some coworkers to invest and for $800 he purchased the Hartford Arms and Equipment Company and all its patents. That is the equivalent of $13,229 today.

High Standard was able to turn the company around and by 1935 they relocated the business to New Haven.  

Other occupants of the building over the years included:

The Hartford Woven Wire Mattress Co.
The Organ Power Co.
The Spencer Turbine Cleaner Co.
The Sachs Company
Capitol Archives and Record Storage.

The old factory still stands, it is currently occupied by Capitol Archives and Record Storage.

It sits at the corner of Capitol Ave and Laurel Street in Hartford, just west of downtown Hartford and north of Pope Park.

The Living Church vol. 55
Geer's Hartford City Directory 
High Standard Info


  1. So what does a Hartford arms Model 1925 fetch these days?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Check out Hartford Arms & Equipment Company on Facebook.