Bannerman's Priceless Surplus

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

pfcjking

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 15, 2014
Messages
2,115
Location
Memphis
http://www.guns.com/2015/11/07/bannermans-legacy-ultimate-army-navy-store/

I had never heard of this guy before. It's intriguing, to say the least.

I had often wondered what happened to all the Confederate made rifles and weapons surrendered at the end of the war. Now I know.
Also, do not read over the part in this article where they point out his stamping of CSA all over Union-made weapons. He was a salesman, after all.
 

chucksr

Sergeant
Joined
May 26, 2017
Messages
723
I remember those catalogs back in the late 40's and early 50's mixed in with "True Detective" magazines and "Grit" weeklies in my uncle's house! Great reading for a kid back in that post war era where army surplus stores were part of every community--kinda the Walmarts of the era. Wasn't hard to find a folding shovel or a web belt back in those days. I wonder how many of them are still hanging around in the back of garages all over America.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

pfcjking

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 15, 2014
Messages
2,115
Location
Memphis
I friggen love army surplus stores. Nothing smells quite like military surplus.

I usually go in and tour them like a museum where I can touch things, and rarely buy anything. I did buy myself a legit pea-jacket a few years back for about $40. Warmest jacket I own.
 

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Messages
1,340
Location
The Hoosier State
OH YES. Bannerman. THE original military surplus guy. As a collector, it is mindboggling to me that Bannerman's had stockpiled thousands upon thousands of Civil War period firearms, artillery, munitions, accoutrements, uniforms, and odd relics. You name it, he had it. What really is sad is that, up until the 1960's much of that surplus was still available out on the Island. But after the fire in 1967, that was the end of it. Just when the Civil War Centennial was taking place, and the interest in Civil War artifacts was preparing to explode, all of it went away. Out on the Island, Bannerman had two of the Dahlgren Navy rifles that came off of Admiral Farragut's ship Hartford. And as of the 1940's, they were still for sale!!!

I was acquainted with a life long collector and dealer who passed away several years ago, who told me he made it out to the Island in 1962, before the fire. He said the place was still packed full of surplus. He showed me a two black and white photographs that he took. One was a picture of a massive stack of original Civil War Artillery caisson spoke wheels, lined up against a wall in the castle. The other picture was a huge crate of mint, unissued CW canteens. They were without the fabric covering and straps, but they were unissued. Mint. Most of the surplus Cavalry and Artillery short jackets that you see on the market today were Bannerman's originally, as well as surplus Cavalry carbine slings. Bannerman shortened these slings, so it is hard to find one today in its original length. I have one of the "Bannerman" slings.

In Bannerman's New York City location on Broadway, aside from all the surplus for sale, he also had a museum of sorts, where he displayed non-surplus artifacts that he acquired which related to the war. Anytime he was able to acquire some rare artifact he did, and then displayed it in his museum, even though it was still usually for sale.

A life long collector sold his collection off at auction several years ago, and in that collection were two exceptionally rare artifacts that came out of Bannerman's museum, which I was extremely fortunate enough to acquire. Wish I could have visited the place myself in person, in the 1940's or 50's.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

chucksr

Sergeant
Joined
May 26, 2017
Messages
723
Not much on Bannerman's but it sure is fun to flip through those pages with my mouse Mike! What a great way to post up a book? Pamphlet? Catalog?--whatever.
 

archieclement

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Messages
4,893
Location
mo
Think bannermans wasn't the only guilty one of reboring beyond safety.......
 

Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
Messages
8,724
Not much on Bannerman's but it sure is fun to flip through those pages with my mouse Mike! What a great way to post up a book? Pamphlet? Catalog?--whatever.
Thanks! Less than 100 pages and photos of Presidents, MOH recipients, Civil War & Span-Am War vets.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

redbob

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
7,087
Location
Hoover, Alabama
Supposedly, the artillery shells (which were still live) were loaded up by the FDNY, taken under police escort and dumped in the river; since they didn't know what to do with them as far as rendering them safe. Also, I was told by a Vicksburg firefighter that at one time when they were tasked with disposing of live rounds; that they were handled in the same manner.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,537
The Bannerman Army-Navy Surplus Empire
Francis Bannerman was born in Scotland in 1851 but immigrated to New York with his family as a child. His father made a living selling goods acquired at auctions, and a young Francis often accompanied him to these sales where he’d pick up big lots of various knick-knacks himself, and then sell them in smaller lots to stores. It was the 19th-century version of eBay-esque arbitrage. On top of this little side hustle, Bannerman created a profitable business selling scrap metal and abandoned ships that he found in the harbor near Brooklyn, New York. All while he was still in primary school.

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, Francis (who, let’s keep in mind, was only 14 years old) used profits from his scrap metal business to acquire large lots of military surplus at government auctions. One particularly successful acquisition netted him over 11,000 captured Confederate guns. Because the teenage entrepreneur bought this gear at such heavily discounted prices, he was able to mark it up so the products remained a bargain for the customer, while still netting himself a nice profit.

Francis kept all his military surplus inventory in various places around New York City, but eventually consolidated it all in one store on Broadway in Manhattan: the world famous Bannerman’s Army & Navy Outfitters. Known simply as “Bannerman’s,” the store eventually grew to cover a block in length and seven floors in height, encompassing over 40,000 square feet of floor space. It also issued a 350+ page Sears-Roebuck-like catalog from which subscribers around the globe could mail-order horse saddles, swords, African spears, Civil War rifles, and even cannons if they fancied.

Explorers, military commanders, and adventurers of all kinds were some of Bannerman’s biggest clients. Admiral Matthew C. Perry and Frederick Cook outfitted their expeditions using Bannerman’s catalog. Mercenary soldiers fighting in the Spanish-American War and conflicts in the British empire would go to Bannerman’s to get the arms and gear they needed before heading to battlefields abroad.

In the latter quarter of the 19th century, Bannerman continued his prolific military surplus buying. The Spanish-American War was a particular boon to Bannerman’s business, as he won several bids on thousands of captured Spanish rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition, and ended up acquiring 90% of the war’s surplus.

Whenever the military switched to a new kind of uniform, weapon, or equipment, Bannerman was there to scoop up the discarded models and bring them back to NY. By 1900, he had run out of space in his colossal Army & Navy Outfitters store, and didn’t deem it safe to store his cache of thirty million surplus munitions cartridges in the city. So, he bought an island on the Hudson River upon which to build a large storage facility. Styled like a Scottish castle, the surplus warehouse was constructed out of cement (that he acquired at auction, of course) and was accompanied on the island by a residence for Bannerman and his family.

As global conflict increased in the early 20th century, Bannerman’s was there to supply the armies of nations around the world. For example, the Japanese military shopped at the surplus store to stockpile arms and munitions during the Russo-Japanese War. African and South American countries engaging in wars of independence were also big customers for Bannerman. When the United States found itself in WWI and short of supplies, he gave the military the guns and munitions needed to help bootstrap the war effort.

After Bannerman died in 1918, his surplus empire began to crumble, both literally and figuratively. Huge piles and stacks of firearms, bullets, artillery shells, swords, and uniforms began to molder and gather dust in his Manhattan store and island arsenal. The cache was not only disorganized, but dangerous; in 1920, 200 tons of shells and powder exploded inside a building on the island’s storage complex.

While his family continued the Bannerman business, mail-order and retail sales began to dwindle in the 1930s. Unlike the Civil War, there wasn’t much military surplus after WWI, due to the United States’ comparatively limited, short-term involvement in the conflict. So Bannerman’s was relegated to continuing to primarily sell their 19th-century wares, for which there was naturally diminishing demand.

What’s more, federal and state firearms acts passed in the 1930s prevented Bannerman’s from selling military weapons to civilians, as well as to foreign countries. Consequently, the enormous arsenal of weaponry Francis Bannerman had accumulated during his lifetime became useless.

While Bannerman’s family continued to use and periodically visit their island, it was all but abandoned in 1950 when the only ferry which serviced its shores sunk in a storm. Interest in the business waned at the same time. None of Bannerman’s descendants wanted to continue running the Broadway store, so the decision was made in 1959 to sell the famous institution and move the remaining inventory to a warehouse on Long Island where it was still sold through the catalog. By the 1970s, even Bannerman’s catalog sales ceased.

Full article with pics can be found here - https://mbtimetraveler.com/tag/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-army-surplus-store/

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

mofederal

Captain
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Messages
6,709
Location
Southeast Missouri
I used to have a lot of paperwork from a guy who dealt with Bannerman's before they closed down. He even had some of the catalogs. He bought several rifles from them.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Messages
1,340
Location
The Hoosier State
The only down side is that the date stamped on the saber is 1865. More than likely it wasn't issued.
If was still packed in grease, it would not have been issued anyway. Bannerman's bought up unissued and used equipment. but my guess is the bigger bulk of it was unissued surplus.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top