BLAKESLEE QUICK-LOADING CARTRIDGE BOX FOR SPENCER CARBINES & RIFLES

$1,950.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 1081-03

The Blakeslee “quickloader,” in soldier slang, was designed to load the Spencer rifle or carbine about as fast as it could be fired. Seven cartridges, the full magazine load for a Spencer, were carried in separate metal tubes secured in the wood block of the cartridge box and could be literally poured into the magazine tube, rather than being fed in one by one, increasing the repeater’s already impressive rate of fire. The box was the invention of Col. Blakeslee, 1st CT. Cavalry, whose men had used the Spencer carbine. The first 500 purchased by the army in September 1864 held just 42 rounds in six tubes. At the same time, however, ten-tube boxes carrying 70 rounds were being manufactured, which were the termed in company literature and U.S. Ordnance records as the “cavalry style,” and were distinct from thirteen-tube boxes for infantry.

This one is made and marked on the front of the box by Emerson Gaylord, the well-known supplier of accouterments, and just one of two contractors for the box. Gaylord received contracts for 2,000 of these boxes in November 1864; 10,000 in December; and 10,000 more in March 1865. The only other maker, Wilkinson, had one contract for 10,000, also in March 1865. Marcot discusses these boxes in his book on Spencers and notes that despite the large number ordered and delivered, few have survived and they are actively sought by collectors for their association with the Spencer.

This one shows signs of issue and use, but is in very good condition. The initials “JK” are carved twice into the lid of the box, but with no further identification. The Gaylord maker stamp is visible on the face of the body, a little light, but with the U.S. visible, much of the name “Gaylord” and some of the patent text. The leather body of the box is complete, as is the lid. The hexagonal wood block has shifted up slightly or the leather has slightly shrunk, exposing its tinned iron collar with its piano hinge, to which the leather lid is riveted, but there is no leather missing and one can see where the base of the latch tab finial marked the tin of the collar when the block was lower. We have not tried to reseat it: the leather is tight and doing so might split a seam.

The upper portion of the latch tab is riveted in place in the lid. The lower portion is missing. The latch tab finial is gone as well, but the hole for it is present near the upper edge of the box front and is not enlarged. The upper and lower rings for the shoulder sling are both in place and secure, as is the vertical waist belt loop and its retaining straps. The leather is very good overall. The seams are tight. There is crazing to the surface, but good color, very little flaking, and just some rub spots to the lower forward side edge on one side. All ten tinned iron tubes are in place inside. One or two show slight dings to the top edge.

As Marcot notes, these boxes are scarce. Most that survive are in comparatively poor condition. The initials on the lid indicate this one saw some use, but the condition is good and the surface has never been treated with any leather dressing, polish, or treatment. It would great in a Spencer or cavalry collection.  [sr] [ph:L]

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