- Robert E. Petersen Collection
- Ancient Firearms - 1350 to 1700
- Road to American Liberty - 1700 to 1780
- A Prospering New Republic - 1780 to 1860
- The American West - 1850 to 1900
- Innovation, Oddities and Competition
- Theodore Roosevelt and Elegant Arms - 1880s to 1920s
- World War I and Firearms Innovation
- WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Beyond - 1940 to Present
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Fabrique Nationale Model 1900 Semi Automatic Pistol
This firearm is on exhibit at the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum in Springfield, MO.
This factory engraved pistol with mother-of-pearl grip panels was owned by President Theodore Roosevelt. Family tradition holds that this semi-automatic pistol was one that Theodore Roosevelt used as a nightstand gun during his years in the White House.
Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 27, 1858. The son of a wealthy merchant whom Roosevelt described as "the best man I ever knew," he inherited both his father's status and his concern for the plight of those less fortunate. In his youth, the future author, naturalist, and statesman also developed an interest in both natural and U.S. history. He devoted many hours to the collection and study of various specimens, and while still a student at Harvard, he began his first book, The Naval War of 1812, which, after its publication in 1882, stood for years as the definitive work on the subject. Roosevelt graduated with honors in 1880, and in October of that year, he married Alice Lee. Mrs. Roosevelt died four years later shortly after giving birth to the couple's only child, the future Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
In 1886, Roosevelt married Edith Kermit Carow, and the Roosevelt family grew to include sons Theodore Jr., Kermit, Archibald, and Quentin, and daughter Ethel. Theodore Roosevelt's political career began in 1882, when he was elected to the New York State Assembly. While serving in the legislature, he became known as a young man of integrity who opposed the abuses of power that had long been a part of the political scene. He made an unsuccessful bid for Mayor of New York in 1886, but he served as both Civil Service Commissioner and Police Commissioner in the city. While serving in the latter role, Roosevelt furthered his reputation as a foe of vice and corruption.
He resigned this position in 1897 to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy in President William McKinley's administration, where he worked to modernize the U.S. Navy. When war broke out between the U.S. and Spain in 1898, Roosevelt resigned from this position as well to accept a commission as lieutenant colonel in the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. While serving with the "Rough Riders," as they would later be known, Roosevelt's reputation and stature continued to grow, culminating in his election as governor of New York in the election of 1898. He was nominated as the Republican Party's candidate for the office of Vice President of the United States in 1900, and, after the assassination of William McKinley a year later, Roosevelt became the nation's 26th president. Roosevelt's term as president marked a high point in Progressive Era-reforms.
Under his leadership, anti-trust and pure food and drug legislation was passed, as were regulatory measures governing the railroads. His love of nature and the outdoors, and his belief in conservation of natural resources led to significant expansion of the national forest and national park systems. In the international arena, Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in mediating a settlement to the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and a new, modern navy, dubbed the "Great White Fleet," set out on an around-the-world voyage intended to demonstrate U.S. naval power. The Panama Canal was also constructed during Roosevelt's administration.
Although eligible for election to a full second term, Roosevelt blocked his own renomination and threw his support to William Howard Taft, who had served as Secretary of War in Roosevelt's administration. After Taft's election, relations between the two men became strained when the new president's policies drifted sharply from those of his predecessor. Consequently, Roosevelt challenged Taft's 1912 bid for a second term. Although the Republican Party leadership had supported Roosevelt's candidacy in 1908, the former president found a different set of circumstances four years later. Failing to secure the Party's nomination, Roosevelt bolted and formed the Progressive, or "Bull Moose" Party, which enjoyed the support of prominent reformers including Chicago settlement house founder Jane Addams.
Roosevelt's bid to recapture the White House failed, but his candidacy split the Republican vote and cost Taft the election, enabling Democrat Woodrow Wilson to emerge victorious. Roosevelt continued to speak out on issues of importance of the time. He vigorously opposed various aspects of Wilson's foreign policy regarding affairs in Mexico and Europe. When the United States entered the First World War, the old warrior-statesman made a bid to raise an American division to fight in France, but the offer was refused by the War Department. His sons entered military service, and Quentin, the youngest of the Roosevelt clan, was killed when his airplane was shot down behind German lines.
In addition to his political and diplomatic accomplishments, Theodore Roosevelt is also known as a man who loved the outdoors and who believed in the conservation of natural resources. Between 1883 and 1886, he lived and worked on a ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota before returning to the political arena and to public service on a full-time basis. As president, he established 51 bird sanctuaries, four major game preserves, the National Monuments system within the National Park Service, the National Conservation Commission, the Inland Waterways Commission, and he also worked to rebuild the once-great bison herds of the Great Plains.
After leaving the White House in 1909, he traveled to Africa on an extended hunting and scientific expedition under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution. Roosevelt spent the winter of 1913-14 in Brazil collecting specimens for the American Museum of Natural History. His superior intellect combined with his love of nature, and over the course of his lifetime, he became a noted authority on North American mammals, and his knowledge of birds equalled that of many experts. His interest in hunting is well-known, but Roosevelt encouraged sportsmanship as well as knowledge of the habits and habitat of game animals. He also wrote extensively on the outdoors, hunting, and related topics, publishing 20 books on these subjects.
Roosevelt possessed a keen interest in firearms and the shooting disciplines. He was a Life Member of the National Rifle Association, and he taught proper shooting technique and stressed the importance of firearms safety to his sons and to members of his extended family. They regularly engaged in target competitions at their Oyster Bay, Long Island home, and the younger Roosevelts accompanied their father on safari and expeditions. The senior Roosevelt was fond of Colt revolvers and Winchester lever-action rifles, and he owned several of each, including a Winchester Model 1876 in .45-75 caliber that featured a shotgun butt, half magazine, half octagonal barrel, engraved pistol grip and fore end, and engravings by noted artist John Ulrich. He also owned rifles produced by Sharps, Freund, Ballard, and Holland and Holland, pistols from Smith & Wesson and Luger, and shotguns manufactured by Lefaucheux, Parker, Fox, and W & C Scott & son, as well as the Fred Adolph double rifle and FN pistol featured in the National Firearms Museum. After a long life dedicated to public service, conservation, and humanitarian pursuits,
Theodore Roosevelt died quietly in his sleep at his Oyster Bay home on January 6, 1919. John Moses Browning (1855 - 1926) was a true genius of mechanical design. The son of a Mormon gunsmith, he began working full-time in that profession at age 15. His 1878 design for a single-shot metallic cartridge rifle resulted in the first of many patents that he would receive during his lifetime. In partnership with five of his brothers, Browning later opened a machine shop in Ogden, Utah, but the firm's output of three guns per day could not keep up with demand for his products. One of his rifles was purchased by a representative of Winchester Repeating Arms Company and shipped to Thomas G. Bennett, the firm's General Manager, who purchased the patent rights for $8,000 and hired the Browning brothers as Winchester "jobbers".
At this time, Winchester's popular Model 1873 lever-action rifle could not handle large-caliber ammunition such as the .45-70 cartridge. Browning set himself to this task, and he designed and patented a simple but strong lever-action rifle with a smooth action. This rifle, which would become the Winchester Model 1886, could handle cartridges as large as the .50-110 Express, and is considered by some to be the finest lever-action rifle ever. Browning's association with Winchester continued until 1902 and resulted in the Model 1885 Single Shot Rifle, the Model 1887 lever-action shotgun, the Model 1893 and Model 1897 pump-action shotguns, and the Model 1892, Model 1894, and Model 1895 lever-action rifles. The Model 1894 alone resulted in over five million sales for the company and is still in production.
Additional Browning patents were purchased by Winchester but never produced to prevent competing firms from bringing them to market. In the summer of 1896, Browning traveled to Colt's Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut with four patented semi-automatic pistols of his design. Two of these guns were forerunners of such famous arms as the Fabrique Nationale Model 1900 and the Colt Model 1911. All possessed features that are still commonly used on semi-auto pistols such as slides, slide springs located over, under, or around the barrel, grip safeties, and detachable magazines located inside the butt.
As a result of this visit, Browning signed an agreement that licensed Colt to produce his pistols and promised additional licenses for improvements in these designs. In return, Colt agreed to provide royalties, something that was foreign to Winchester at that time, as the firm bought patents outright from their designers. A year later, while visiting the Colt offices, Browning met Hart O. Berg of Fabrique Nationale of Belgium. Browning, Colt, and FN entered into a licensing agreement that gave the North American market to Colt, the European continent to FN, and a shared market in Great Britain. In addition, the two firms agreed to pay cross royalties for territorial "infringement." Browning was no stranger to Colt.
In 1888, he came up with the idea of harnessing propellant gas from the muzzle of a rifle to cycle the gun's action. Three years later, he took his patented design for the world's first gas-operated fully-automatic "machine gun" to Hartford. Under Colt auspices, he demonstrated this gun for the U.S. Navy, which was interested in obtaining machine guns that were capable of firing continuously for three minutes. Browning doubted the ability of his prototype, with its 600 rounds-per-minute rate of fire, to stand up to this punishing test. Although the barrel turned red-hot, the gun successfully completed the trial, and Browning signed a licensing agreement with Colt. These machine guns later saw action in both the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion.
In 1915, Browning anticipated U.S. entry into the war that was then raging in Europe, and designed two machine guns that would see wide service over the next several decades. The first was a water-cooled machine gun, chambered for the .30-06 cartridge, that successfully fired 20,000 rounds during two different trials without a malfunction.
This gun also fired a continuous burst for over 48 minutes, ending only when the ammunition belt was completely expended. The second of these designs was for the B.A.R., or Browning Automatic Rifle, a 15-pound light machine gun that also chambered the .30-06 cartridge. When the United States went to war in 1917, the government bought production rights for these two guns, as well as the Colt Model 1911 pistol, for $750,000. Browning moved to Hartford to supervise the manufacture of these guns by Colt and other contractors, but by the time production reached its peak, the war had ended. However, these guns played an important role during the Second World War and other conflicts.
Browning's post-First World War military designs included both water- and air-cooled .50 caliber machine guns, and a 37 millimeter automatic cannon for use in aircraft. For the civilian market, he was responsible for the Auto-5 semi-automatic shotgun, the Superposed double shotgun, the Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol, and several other designs, including a .22 caliber rifle with one spring and a single moving part. All told, John Browning received over 120 U.S. and foreign patents for over 80 different firearms, and his designs were produced by a variety of manufacturers. He died of heart failure in 1926 at age 71 in the Fabrique National office of his son, Val.