Antique Artillery Shell Powder Canister

Any info on this US naval artillery powder canister would be appreciated. I’ve been trying to find historical photos of this canister in use with no luck. 20190709_123713%20(3)

Ken, is there a question related to this?
Or would you like to show the whole container and tell the background of it?

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I just acquired this antique US naval artillery canister along with the powder bag. It is made of brass and copper, 44 inches long and 8 inches in diameter. Marked 1879 RMk. Vll W.N.Y. 1905 with an anchor mark Does anybody have any history of these canisters or photos of them in use? 20190709_123713%20(3)|690x517

That is a really nice one and seldomly seen.
My documents on these are very limited (British navy docs are hard to find).
Maybe our British friends may have something.

I don’t know if it is British the W.N.Y making suggest the Washington naval yard.

Additional photo

Ok, then I totally got misslead by the B.L. and the Mk number. Sorry!

I hope our US friends will come up with details then.

Any info would be appreciated. I’ve spent hours online researching with no luck.


Very nice item! It is a 6" Powder Tank, Mark VII made in 1905 at the Washington Navy Yard.

Details of the cover construction:





Thank you for getting back to me. I’m looking for any historical photos or documentation in regards to the use of this type of powder tank. Any additional information would be appreciated.


Here is what I can tell you.

As the markings (6" BLR MK.VII W.N.Y. 1905 [anchor] E.C.P. s.p.f.) indicate it is a U.S. Navy “Powder Tank” to hold a “bag” type powder charge for the 6 inch breechloading rifle Mark VIII. The tank itself is Mark VII but they are a separate series of Mark designations than the guns.

The tank was made at Washington Navy Yard in 1905 and inspected by E.C.P. and probably s.p.f. as a sub-inspector. These would be used as long as they were serviceable. They are made of copper to prevent the chance of any sparks, basically a copper sheet with wooden slats riveted at intervals and the rolled into a cylinder with one end permanently closed, and the other end fitted with an easily removed waterproof cap. The wooden slats provide stiffness and protect the copper sheet from dents or puncture. Ammunition for a ship’s magazine would be shipped from a depot in these tanks and then stored in the magazines in the tanks and opened as needed. Similar tanks were used regardless if the powder was in a “bag” like this or in a brass “cartridge case.”

By WW2 the powder tanks were made of thin stamped aluminum or sheet steel without any wooden slats, and with ribs and grooves around the circumference so they would interlock when stacked. Attached in a poor photo of 5 inch powder tanks and projectiles recovered from a warship after battle damage in WW2. Similar tanks varying only in size were used fro 3" to 16" guns and are still in use today.

In the vast assortment of items in the U.S. Navy display there were powder tanks for 6" guns at both the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893:

and at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907:

Although there are no illustrations of them, the 1907 one was probably identical to yours.

Regarding the cloth bag marked
F.C. [29 or 39?] LBS.
I.V. 2800 F.S.
The bag is a silk bag to hold 29 or 39 pounds of powder, made or filled at the naval ammunition depot at Hingham, Mass., about 12 miles away from the Boston Navy Yard. The powder was a smokeless powder type “SPD” first used in 1908 but standard after 1912. Silk would burn easily and not leave smoldering remnants in the gun when fired. This was bag number 2 of a lot which may have been a few to a few hundred bags. The powder charge weight (illegible but either 29 or 39 pounds) was a “full charge” normally used and would give an initial velocity of 2800 feet per second.

The powder bag indicates the type of gun it was intended for:
(Best source on these is:
These were designed about 1908 and in service about 1903.
"Originally used on pre-dreadnoughts and armored cruisers built in the late 1800s. Also used on some auxiliary vessels during World War I. When many of these ships were scrapped after the war and as a result of the Washington Naval Limitation Treaty, the guns were then used as coastal artillery. Mounted afloat during World War II only on some older auxiliary vessels.

Thank you.

E.C.P. probably = Edward C. Pendleton who is documented as being at the Washington Navy Yard in the early 1900s.

OP-4 Ammunition : Instructions for the Naval Service, 1923-

This US Navy manual provides some insights into powder production and types of powder used.


Thank you.

Interesting, where did you find the illustration?

Ordnance & Gunnery, 2nd Edition, U.S. Naval Institute, 1905.

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Ken. In case didn’t notice. You’ve stumbled on the “real deal” ammunition site. You heard from some of the best in Europe, South America and CONUS

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Period photos of the powder tank which started the thread are going to be difficult to find as they were mainly found in magazines and there was no way to photograph them in place do to primitive lighting at the time.
Here is a Vietnam era shot of 8 inch powder tanks for the 8"/55 bag type guns aboard USS Boston (CA-69) 1 Aug 1969. These are empty tanks awaiting retrograde shipment back to an ammunition depot. Each had to be tagged as “certified to be empty” with name and date of unit returning it. Note the Terrier training missiles on the launcher and a Huey helicopter on the fantail. Source NARA 330-CFD-DN-ST-83-06184.jpeg is much larger.


Here are 5" powder tanks with fired 5"/38 cases (and some loose cases not in tanks) being shipped back for reuse in March 1966. This is USS Richard B. Anderson (DD-786) where the tanks have been stacked on the 01 level amidships by the ASROC launcher. Note how the ribs and grooves around the ends of the tanks allow secure stacking.

The USS Platte (AO-24) is steaming alongside about 100 feet to the left of the destroyer (you can see the mast and part of the hull) with a high line cargo transfer rig connected. Crew members are taking tanks off the stack and passing them over to the port side where they are being placed in pallets or nets which will be hauled over to Platte.

It is possible that while transferring the fired cases back, that they were also receiving loaded powder cases and projectiles from the Platte. The ammo being received would be handled by other crew members on the main deck and moved fore or aft and struck down into the magazines. Life jackets are required for anyone on deck during underway replenishment operations due to the risk of being washed overboard by wave action between the ships. Although this was a beautiful day, the same evolution took place day or night in all but the roughest weather.
Source- Official U.S. Navy photo (K-31131)