Friday, April 18, 2014

P.W. Porter, Inventor of The Porter Rifle

Colonel P.W. Porter, inventor of Porter's Rifle, died at his residence, near Memphis, on the 7th inst., of inflammation of the brain.
Originally posted in the Nashville Daily Patriot, November 13 1856

Parry W. Porter was born in 1807.  He was the son of  Joseph B. Porter who was born in 1770 and died Oct. 21 1828.  Joseph Porter is interred at Lytle Creek/Brown/Old City Cemetery in Maury County TN. His son Parry married Jane M. Looney on Feb. 9 1832 in Maury County Tennessee.  Jane was the daughter of Abram Looney and his wife Elizabeth Gammon.  A detailed history of the Looney family can be found in Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans by William Speer, published in 1888.

In the 1850 Census P.W. Porter and wife Jane are living in Memphis with their children.  The Porter Household in 1850:
P.W. Porter, age 43. His occupation was "none" and his real estate was valued at $3000.
J.M. Porter, age 38. Jane died Dec 28 1877 from malarial toxemia.  She was 66 at her death.
Joseph Porter, age 17.  Joseph died Jan. 30 1923.
Jane Porter, age 15. Jane died Oct. 30 1900 from paralysis. She was 65 when she died.
Lucian Porter, age 13.  Lucian died October 18, 1860 from hemorrhage.  He was 24 when he died.
Betty Porter, age 8.  Betty died Dec 18 1930.  The death certificate says she was 87 at the time of her death and a widow.  Her parents are listed on the death certificate as Parry W. Porter and Jane M. Looney.  The informant was E.W. Porter. Cause of death, senility. Bettie married E.H. Porter in 1861.  Their son, Elias W. Porter was the President of the Memphis Cotton Exchange 1903-1903.
Mary Porter, age 6.  Mary died Dec 8 1927 from cancer of the bowels. She was 82 at the time of her death.

Parry Porter and his family are interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis yet one would never know that buried in grave 1, Lot 1410-1411, Turley Section are the remains of a man still remembered today for his innovation in firearms.

P.W. Parry 1851 Patent
Porter's occupation may have been "none" on Census records but he could easily have been classified as an inventor.  In July of 1851, P.W. Porter patented his innovative multiple shot firearm known as The Porter Rifle. According to the Virginia Military Institute website "The rifle (left) was automatically loaded when the leaver was operated rotating the vertical cylinder (turret) under the silver magazine which housed bullet, powder and primer.  All three ingredients were loaded into the vertical cylinder in the proper proportions." Porter changed the mechanism on later models relying on hand loading.

The 1851 patent can be seen at the American-Firearms website.

The Athens Post reprinted the following article on February 25 1853:
A New Gun Patent--We were shown today a very ingenious constructed rifle, invented by Col. P.W. Porter, of Tennessee, which to all appearance, is the most destructive weapon for its size which the ingenuity of man has yet devised.  It is provided with a cylinder at the base of the barrel capable of holding an indefinite number of charges, by the aid of which it may be practicable to make sixty discharges a minute. The patentee claims that, by the arrangement of his lock, the power obtains more complete combustion than in any other gun now in use, because the ignition takes place nearer the ball.  The lock opens on hinges as easily as the door of a closet, so as to permit the freest success to the cylinder and all the parts of the machinery, for cleaning, repairing, or any other purpose.  It is self-capping and self priming, and is said to shoot with unparalleled force and precision.--New York Post

In addition to his firearm inventions it was reported in the Nashville Union and American, July 15 1855 that he had invented a cotton picking machine.  "He says that with his machine one man and two horses will pick and gather up, without loss, four acres of cotton per day, about equal to the labor of thirty men."

But before he came to Memphis and invented the Porter Rifle and the Porter Cotton Picking machine he had patented a Cotton Press when he was living in Columbia Tennessee, 1842  

P.W. Porter 1842 Cotton Press Patent

In 2009 a Field & Stream article said "the gun was as complex as the average lunar rocket."   Porter produced 1250 of his rifles, mostly in Manhattan.  In 2004 a Porter Second Model Nine-Shot Percussion Revolving Turret Rifle sold for $10,042. 19th Century Weapons has a nice offering for a Type 2 Porter Rifle for $11,400.  Definitely a gun for the discerning collector.

1 comment:

  1. You found another good story that I'd never heard. I hope you never stop!