Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Do You Want A Gun?"

I was researching family history and ran across a little teaser article on the same page (11) as my Great-great Grandmother Susana Means obituary in the February 15, 1911 Adams County Union-Republican. The article was headlined Highest Grade Guns and read: "Elsewhere in this issue is an advertisement of particular interest to all our men and boy readers. Wallaces' Farmer, of Des Moines, Iowa, offer the very highest grade of shot-guns and rifles for a little help. Any hustling boy can easily earn his own gun. Mention the Union-Republican when writing them."
What? Wallaces Farmer gave away guns? I searched through the issue until I found the advertisement on page 4:

If click on the ad, it is fairly legible. The gist of it is that the magazine was offering free guns in exchange for boys soliciting their friends, neighbors, relatives to subscribe to Wallaces Farmer Magazine at a special 'club rate' of 75 cents a year. (Regular subscription price was $1.00 a year.) The Stevens 22 caliber, visible loading, 15 shot, repeating rifle was priced at $8.00, but it was free to a boy "with some real American hustle and grit" for only 37 new subscriptions.
How many boys and young men read that and dreamed of having their own gun? Thinking how easy it would be to find 37 people willing to subscribe? And how many of them actually settled for the Stevens "Crack Shot" single shot rifle for only 8 new subscriptions or the Stevens "Favorite" single shot rifle for 12 new subscriptions?
The last paragraph of the ad states: "We also offer watches, footballs, baseballs, skates and many other articles. Send for complete list and full particulars." I can just hear a couple boys bragging about all they would hunt as soon as they got their guns. But the one youngster who might have succeeded was the quiet kid who kept his plans to himself; immediately sent off his letter of inquiry and then forged ahead to solicit new subscriptions.

This cover shot is from the February 1912 Wallaces' Farmer Magazine. The magazine began publication in 1898. Three generations of the Wallace family owned and published the paper. It was just one of the farm magazines my own family subscribed to which I remember from my childhood. (But in the 40's-50's & 60's I don't remember any offers of free guns.)

I do remember a sign like this on the fence at the end of our lane: "This farm protected by Wallaces Farmer Protective Service. $50 Reward." Reward for what? If you read the fine print it is: "for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing from this property." I don't know if the protection service came with a subscription to the newspaper or if it was something you had to pay extra for. How many rascals bent upon thievery did a sign like this scare away? And $50 Reward? I guess that would have been quite a bit back then.

When I read the ad about earning a single shot rifle, I began wondering about the little 22 single shot Bud has that was his Dad's. Could he have earned it from Wallaces Farmer? But his gun is a model M-49 made by the Ithaca Gun Co. and wasn't manufactured until 1961.

Stevens Arms operated from 1864 until 1920 when it was bought by Savage Arms. Stevens company introduced the .22 Long Rifle. After 1920 they made training rifles for the military. The Stevens brand was discontinued by Savage around 1950.
Above is a 1907 Stevens 22 cal., visible loading, repeating rifle, the picture of which I found in Google images. It was in a blog by 'der Wandersmann' who is also a photographer. His was the only photo I found of a gun old enough to illustrate my blog. I hope he doesn't mind my using it. I found his blog about fire arms very interesting and his photography impressive.

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