40 Rounds of WWI .45 ACP In Wooden Box from Raritan Arsenal


#1

All,

A friend of mine recently purchased a sealed wooden box containing 40 rounds of .45 ACP, for delivery to an unknown recipient, sent from the C.O. of Raritan Arsenal. This appears to be a shipment from WWI, or shortly thereafter, perhaps delivered via Railway Express. The addressee portion of the shipping label is missing. The portion that is still attached says, “From C.O. Raritan Arsenal, Contents 40 rounds of 45 Cal. Ball cartridges.”

The wooden box has now been opened, and the contents examined. My friend has the following comments and questions…

“The wooden box had two 20 round boxes of US military U.S.C.Co 17 head stamp nicely fit inside.
The crimp at the base of the projectile half way up the case is serrated, not just a flat line crimp.
Not sure if all the WW1 ammo had the crimp that way?”

Photos below show what was found within.





The question that comes to mind is why would such a small amount of ammunition be sent in this manner? Was 40 rounds some kind of individual military allotment? Perhaps we will never know, but I welcome your comments on the subject.

David Albert
dalbert@sturmgewehr.com


#2

Dalbert - your friend has a very nice and interesting item. There is nothing unusual at all about the contents of the Wooden box, but that is fine, because it is the wooden box and its label that makes this what it is - a very interesting addition to almost any ammunition collection.

Without knowing the recipient’s name and address, any answer about the why, when, where and who of this box would be nothing but a guess. It could have been sent as a sample lot to somewhere for any number of reasons - sample for testing, sample for some crime lab (which could be civilian police, sent at their request. Criminals made a national passtime in the “roaring 20s” breaking into National Guard Armories and stealing Tommy Guns, BARS, .45 Pistols and the like, probably along with ammo), replacement for a damaged part of a bigger shipment to some army base or smaller facility, or probably dozens of other reasons.

Again, anything about that would be a guess. With no shipping company labels it is hard to tell how it was shipped, but it could have gone by Railway Express Agency, or even by courier depaending on how far from the arsenal it was going.

By the style of the tag, handwriting, and shipping box, it appears to me to be from a time somewhat contemporary to the ammo’s production date, although it could be from a few years later, and more important, it appears to be totally “legitimate.”

Nice find. Thanks for sharing the photos with us.


#3

That is a great box and two great cartons of Cal .45.

Could it be that the box was never meant to be shipped? Maybe just a gift to someone? The box and label look to me to be more ornamental than a practical packaging for shipment, especially since it came from Raritan Arsenal which, ordinarily, did not distribute ammunition?

The knurled bullet seating cannelure is not necessarily unusual. I have others, most notably WWI from REM-UMC, with the same feature. And quite a few others from the WWII era.

But, regardless, a neat item. Thanks for sharing.

Ray


#4

Ray,

The wooden box and ship labeling are typical of the time period. I have one other example of a similar type of box/labeling combination in my collection. (From a 1930’s Fed Labs shipment) I have also seen many others. We’ll never know for sure what this box represents, and your suggestion of it as a gift is certainly possible, but I think it was most likely shipped.

David Albert
dalbert@sturmgewehr.com


#5

Until the 1960s, wooden crates and boxes were the normal shipping containers used for ammunition (and many other items). Somewhere I have a very small wooden shipping box, maybe 3" to 4" square, which contained some .22 ammunition I received from Remington back in the mid-1950s, sent by Railway Express Agency. That was in the days before UPS and FedEx, and many goods were shipped via REA that could not be sent through the U. S. Post Office. I don’t remember REA having home delivery - you had to go to the railroad depot to pick it up from the freight office.


#6

REA’s deliveries were predicated somewhat on location and what was shipped. There was some home delivery. In fact, in the earlier part of the 20rh Century, some REA delivery agents were armed. I have a Pre-War Colt Police Positive .38 S&W Caliber Revolver marked “RY EX AY” on the back-strap. I know that they had a lot of Model 97 12 Ga Shotguns also. My mother was Secretary to the VP for Air Express until she pass in the early 1960s. I was in the Army in Alaska when REA offered the employes the Model 97s for some cheap price, like 5.00 each, but she didn’t buy one for me because she knew I didn’t own any shotguns and thought I wouldn’t want it. :-(

I still have a typewriter desk she bought for me as surplus furniture from the Agency when I was in about the 8th Grade. It has an REA property plate on it.

In the 1940s, I clearly remember the U.S. Postal mail pickup drivers, the guys who picked up mail from the street corner boxes, were armed. Most wore a version of the Army 1917 Holster, but which was “butt rear” not “butt forward” like the military ones, and had the U.S. Post Office insignia stamp on the lid, not just “US” in an oval, like military ones. They carried Colt and S&W Model 1917s, probably given to them during the war as part of the Civilian Guard security measures taken then.


#7

A great post John.

Can you imagine your local USPS mail person being armed in this day and age? But, I am old enough to remember when certain occupations earned the respect and admiration of everyday citizens, especially young boys. Among them were military, police, truck drivers and mailmen. Just about anyone that wore a uniform and tie. Even the milkman and the guy who delivered ice to your house for the ice-box.

Happy 2014 to all of you guys and gals. :-)

Ray


#8

[quote=“JohnMoss”]REA’s deliveries were predicated somewhat on location and what was shipped. There was some home delivery. In fact, in the earlier part of the 20rh Century, some REA delivery agents were armed. I have a Pre-War Colt Police Positive .38 S&W Caliber Revolver marked “RY EX AY” on the back-strap. I know that they had a lot of Model 97 12 Ga Shotguns also. My mother was Secretary to the VP for Air Express until she pass in the early 1960s. I was in the Army in Alaska when REA offered the employes the Model 97s for some cheap price, like 5.00 each, but she didn’t buy one for me because she knew I didn’t own any shotguns and thought I wouldn’t want it. :-(

I still have a typewriter desk she bought for me as surplus furniture from the Agency when I was in about the 8th Grade. It has an REA property plate on it.

In the 1940s, I clearly remember the U.S. Postal mail pickup drivers, the guys who picked up mail from the street corner boxes, were armed. Most wore a version of the Army 1917 Holster, but which was “butt rear” not “butt forward” like the military ones, and had the U.S. Post Office insignia stamp on the lid, not just “US” in an oval, like military ones. They carried Colt and S&W Model 1917s, probably given to them during the war as part of the Civilian Guard security measures taken then.[/quote]

John,

I have the same Railway Express Colt pistol, along with a marked holster.



I have also seen the USPS holsters you mentioned.

David Albert
dalbert@sturmgewehr.com


#9

Back in the 1930s-1950s, when most inter-city mail traveled by rail rather by truck or plane, there were mail cars where mail clerks sorted mail between stops. Due to the occurrence of some holdups of mail cars (there was a lot of money shipped by mail for factory payrolls, etc. at that time), the clerks back then were armed, often with Colt and S&W Model 1917s. I suppose they were WWI surplus guns given to the Post Office. I knew one of those mail clerks many years ago who told me many tales about those days. I don’t remember much about them however.


#10

Drivers of security vans, delivering cash to banks and their customers, are armed here in Europe, at least in Germany and Luxembourg where I have seen it myself. Didn’t have a chance to inspect too closely, but they looked like stainless .38 S&W or Taurus 2" barrelled revolvers.
Soren


#11

Some background on Raritan Arsenal. I had never heard of it before.

[quote]Description
Raritan Arsenal occupied approximately 3,200 acres and
was bounded by Woodbridge Avenue and the Raritan
River between Mill Road and Clearview Avenue in
Edison, New Jersey. The former Raritan Arsenal was
used extensively for U.S. Army operations from 1917 to
1963.
Area 18E is located in the northern portion of the former
Arsenal property currently owned by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Area 18E
once occupied three Army Buildings (14, 15, and 19)
used as a small arms shop, a machine shop, and a
vehicle rebuild assembly shop. These buildings were
constructed in 1918 and demolished in 1997. Operations
of these buildings resulted in soil contamination in
several areas. The soil chemicals of concern include
TCE, PCE, and arsenic.

The former Raritan Arsenal was used extensively for U.S. Army operations from 1917 to 1963. Operations
included receipt, storage, and maintenance of ammunition shipped from other ordnance facilities or returned from
overseas; renovation of ammunition designated for long-term storage; the salvage of outmoded or seriously
deteriorated ammunition; ordnance research and development; and shipment and receipt of weapons. The arsenal
was closed in 1963.[/quote] nan.usace.army.mil/

Cheers,
Lew


#12

Raritan Arsenal was also a major rebuild point for small arms, and for shipment of arms sold through the old Director of Civilian Marksmanship Program, predecessor of the current CMP program.

Small arms overhauled, or inspected at Raritan Arsenal are marked “RA-P”, not to be confused with the WW2 era original manufacture inspection marking “RA [ordnance wheel]- FJA” found on Remington made M1903A3 rifles.
The RA-P mark will be found on many M1903, M1903A3 and M1917 rifles, and probably M1 Garands, and handguns and machine guns as well but I don’t pay much attention to those.

The mailing address was “Metuchen, NJ” even though it seems to be part of Edison now.


#13

Albert - you have a very nice REA Colt. Our store, years ago, bought all of the REA Colts from the S.F. Bay Area Offices. We even had a few marked “Adams Express” on the back strap. I guess that was a pre-REA company they acquired. We had mint ones and mint holsters identical to yours. At the time I had no interest in them.

Unfortunately, we had a fire in our store and one bin full of our backup stock of those guns with holsters was in it. We never did anything with them. They were ruined for collectors, but found to be still safe to shoot, but we did not want to seel them. We sold parts off of many to one of the gunsmiths that worked on our guns at a very cheap price but with no guarantees.

When we closed, the remaining guns were given away to a dealer/gunsmith, and he managed to build some serviceable pieces out of the mess. All the holster were ruined and thrown away. He gave me one as a gift, because he knew my mother had worked for REA and that I regretted not buying one. It has repro grips on it - the grips got all dried out from the heat of the fire and the the water from putting it out. The finish is just gray. I will never shoot it but the gunsmith said it is safe to shoot. sStill, I like having it because of the tie to my mother’s job of years with REA. She was still employed there when she passed away at too young an age.

At any rate, I thiank you very much for posting that picture of yours. It brought back memories of that great purchase we made, and of many other things to do with the store. That was a major part of my adult life, of course.

I apologize for my mutterings here - I am at the age now, I guess, when I have become very sentimental. Believe it or not, when younger, I was not that way at all.


#14

Just an aside…more on a bygone era…Most if not all passenger trains carried mail and REA shipments…but many were through trains and went blasting by a lot of small towns without stopping. When one of these was due to pass through soon, the railroad employee manning the station would hang a mail bag out on a swinging arm. The passing train had a similar arm protruding from the mail car door to snatch the hanging bag, which it did as it passed by. This same train would drop off a mail bag as well, usually one of the mail clerks on the train kicked it out the door. The station agent would clear the platform of people about 5 minutes before the arrival of the train, not wanting anyone hurt by 50 lbs of mail and canvas bag…Those were the days !!

Randy


#15

JohnMoss,

I’m glad I could bring back some old memories with the photos…

30army,

I like your account of the “flyby” train dropoffs and pickups.

All,

Just one more note on Raritan Arsenal…They also had a Publications Department that reprinted many Technical Manuals during WWII. They are marked with their own origin indicator, and typically have just a slighly different format to their covers.

David Albert
dalbert@sturmgewehr.com


#16

Raritan Arsenal also printed the carton labels for much of the Match ammunition manufactured by Frankford Arsenal in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Ray