MFR History of The West Point Foundry


From: The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea, by B. Lossing, 1866.
At Cold Spring, New York, was established by Gouverneur Kemble, who with others were incorporated under the name of the West Point Foundry Association. The first Works were erected in 1817, and were designed for the casting and boring of Cannon for the Navy and Army, requirements of the United States, official assurances of support and encouragement having been given should Ordnance for the government be satisfactorily made.

From the expiration of the time for which the charter of the Association was given, the Works have been conducted as a private establishment by one of the proprietors who leased the shares of the others. They were carried on in this manner by Mr. Gouverneur Kemble until 1851, and from that date to the present time by Mr. Robert Parker Parrott, who had become connected with the Foundry in 1836, and continued in it during the lease of Mr. Kemble upon the expiration of which, Mr. Parrott became the sole lessee, and has conducted the establishment up to the present time, assisted in its management by Mr. Gouverneur Paulding. Mr. Parrott was a graduate of West Point and Captain in the Ordnance Department of the United States.



Gouverneur Kemble
It was found by experience, that the Cannon called for were not ordered in such quantity, or with such regularity, as to give steady employment, and other work was necessarily sought for. By degrees, general castings, steam engines, and boilers, and all heavy machinery were introduced with a forging department, capable of executing the heaviest pieces.

Among the products of this Foundry were: the Engines of the United States Steamers Missouri, and of the well known Merrimac, the Cornish Pumping Engine at Belleville for the Jersey City Waterworks, and the Pumping Engine of the Dry Dock at Brooklyn, sugar mill machinery with steam engines, hydraulic presses, and blowing engines of the largest size have been turned out in large quantities. Much of this machinery has been exported from the United States, and has borne a high reputation in competition with that of other countries.

The establishment, though limited originally to a Cannon Foundry of moderate extent, costing about $90,000, has grown entirely by the application of means earned by itself, to one of immense capacity not only for Cannon, but heavy Machinery Steam engines, and general Castings and Forgings. The facilities for finishing and fitting up work, although very large, are exceeded by those for casting and forging, and at times large quantities of Water Pipes, Wrought-iron Shafts, and other forgings, have been added to the ordinary work.

The position of the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring was determined by two considerations; one the desire of the Government at that time, that a Gun foundry should not be too near the coast, and the other to obtain water power from a stream entering the Hudson at Cold Spring. This though quite insufficient for the power now required is still useful in the boring of Guns. Cold Spring having at the commencement of the Foundry consisted of only a small landing place of three houses, and West Point being the only well known place in the vicinity, (although on the opposite side of the river,) the name of West Point Foundry was given to the new establishment.


From: Harpers Weekly, Issued Sept 14, 1861
Mr. Gouverneur Kemble, the original proprietor, still lives to enjoy the vigorous growth of the Foundry, and of the Village, which may almost be said to have been founded with it, as well as to receive the tribute of universal regard for a conspicuous display of qualities commanding respect throughout a long succession of years.

This Foundry has recently been brought prominently into notice in connection with the manufacture of Rifled Cannon, a subject which has been much discussed since the Crimean War, although such cannon were not used successfully at that time. Numerous experiments in their manufacture have been made in Europe, and in 1858 and 1859 many trials of Rifled Cannon were made in this country, chiefly with Guns ordered by the Ordnance Department, according to plans devised and brought forward by different inventors. The Cannon were the usual Cast-iron Guns, bored somewhat smaller, and rifled. A projectile, frequently used at that time, was that of Dr. J.B. Read of Alabama, in which a cup or flange of wrought iron is cast in the projectile, and it was expected that the force of the powder would cause the rim of this cup to take the grooves. Better forms of projectiles have since been devised, although this was made to work moderately well in small Guns, owing in some degree to an improvement made by Mr. Parrott of swaging out the cup partially to the form of the grooves, and thus facilitating the taking of them by the projectile.

In 1860, Mr. Parrott introduced the first of the Guns, now known as Parrott Guns. It was the smallest size of bore, and called the ten-pounder, and this Gun has since been increased from two and nine-tenth-inches, to three-inches bore, and is called the three inch Gun. The principles upon which it was constructed have been observed in all, so that the same system has prevailed throughout. One peculiarity of the Parrott Gun is the band or reinforce of wrought iron made by coiling a bar of iron upon a mandril, and then welding this coil into a cylinder which is afterward bored, and turned, and shrunk upon the Gun. The manner of attaching the band to the Gun is another peculiarity, and the rifling is another. The thickness, length, and position of the wrought iron band, and thickness of the cast iron are also arranged by a regular rule.

In 1860, was also made the Parrott, twenty-pounder Rifle, and before April 1861, the thirty-pounder Gun, and the Parrott projectile, first and exclusively used for this Gun as well, as for all the larger calibres, afterward made, and subsequently adopted for the ten and twenty-pounder Guns.

This projectile is cylindrical, with a flat base, and rounded but pointed end. It is made to take the grooves by the expansion of a brass ring cast upon the projectile near the base. The ring being so disposed as to be flush with the sides and bottom of the projectile, no irregularity whatever is presented, and the projectile can be entered with perfect freedom into the Gun. For the larger calibres, the Parrott projectiles appear to be peculiarly well suited, and have performed well up to six-hundred pounds in weight, from a Gun of twelve-inch bore.


From: Harpers Weekly, Issued Sept 14, 1861
Before April 1861, Mr. Parrott had made the ten, twenty, and thirty-pounder Guns. This he had done without any order from the Government, and entirely according to his own views of the principles to be followed in Rifled Ordnance. At the commencement of the late Rebellion, all those he had on hand were taken by the Ordnance Department, and to their performance alone is he indebted for the pressing orders which flowed in, and the very large number supplied in consequence.

Late in 1861, Mr. Parrott made the one-hundred-pounder and early in 1862 the eight-inch or two-hundred-pounder Gun. These Guns were in each case, made and offered for trial, without any order, and the large calls for them were the result of the impression made by the Guns themselves. Both were mounted in the batteries at Yorktown, and their powers as there exhibited were highly commended. An interesting account of them was given by the Prince de Joinville, an eye witness showing that they were in advance of any other attempt at making heavy Rifled Cannon.

In pursuance of the same course of action, Mr. Parrott made in 1862, a ten-inch or three-hundred-pounder Rifle. This was only tried in service at Charleston, the first one was unfortunately disabled by the bursting of a shell, which carried off about three feet from the end of the Gun. It was however, used to a considerable extent after the accident, while another Gun of the same kind, was fired twelve hundred rounds, and then only failed from the same cause as the first.


Gettysburg ©Michael Kendra, December 2019
The Parrott Guns continued to be largely used in the war both in the Navy, and Army, and while it was not claimed that they were perfect in their results, or that disappointments did not occur, yet when due allowance is made for the novelty of the subject in actual war, the immense extent of the demand and the necessary want of experience under the circumstances, it may be fairly concluded that the system so often doing that well which had never been accomplished before, must be based on correct principles, and only required a reasonable measure of practical experience, and care, to make it equally successful, at all times.

In the capture of Fort Macon, the Parrott Guns were singularly distinguished, and they also contributed largely to the success at Fort Pulaski. At the bombardment of Fort Sumter, from Morris Island as well, as in the shelling of Charleston, the Parrott Guns were almost wholly used.

The performance of these Guns and projectiles at the destructive bombardment of Fort Sumter, at distances over four thousand yards, after the assault upon Fort Wagner had failed, was a most brilliant as well, as a timely success, and may almost be said to have inaugurated a new era in siege warfare.

So important had the success of these Guns made them, that Mr. Parrott was called on for about three thousand Cannon, more than half of which were of the thirty pounder, and larger calibres, together with Projectiles, Iron Carriages for Fortifications, Fuzes, etc. constituting chiefly the Rifled Ordnance of the country.

From: A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860, by John Leander Bishop, Philadelphia, 1868, Page 485-488
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James N.

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Feb 23, 2013
East Texas
Supposedly during a wartime visit to the Cold Spring foundry, President Lincoln replied to the offer to witness a demonstration of the test firing of one of Parrott's large-caliber guns across the Hudson with something like "I have no doubt that he can hit the mountain from here - let's go have lunch."

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Jul 8, 2015
The town of Cold Spring is an interesting visit for history lovers. When I lived in the area the foundry site was tigthly fenced off, but I think I read somewhere that they have since openend an area for visitors. But there are many other historic building and sites in the immediate area, including the West Pont Military Academy right across the river. It's also a nice scenic Hudson River area. It's particularly notable for a large number of American Revolution historic sites.


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Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
May 7, 2016
One think about WPF you don't have to do a whole lot of looking at a cannon to tell if it was made there.