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Rare DC Sage Packet of .36 Caliber Cartridges with Caps Retailed by WJ Syms

Rare DC Sage Packet of .36 Caliber Cartridges with Caps Retailed by WJ Syms

  • Product Code: BP-1050
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $495.00

This is a VERY FINE condition original packet of six .36 caliber combustible cartridges manufactured by the D.C. Sage Company of Middletown, CT. produced for sale by the W.J. Syms & Brother company of New York City. William J. Syms was a partner with Orison Blunt in the firm of Blunt & Syms, which operated from 1837-1867. According to Syms’ obituary, the firm was the largest gunmaking operation in New York City for a quarter century. Both Syms and Blunt also operated businesses under their own names. The Syms firm, initially named W.J. Syms, was established in 1848 and was renamed W.J. Syms & Brother in 1858. This company continued in business through 1867 as well. By the time of Syms’ death 1889, Syms was one of the wealthiest men and largest landowner in New York City. According to his obituary Syms’ residence was at Fifth Avenue & East 41stStreet, certainly a high rent district today! He as one of the founders of the Metropolitan Gas Company and the Forty-Second & Grand Street Railroad Company. He also served as the President of the Franklin Telegraph Company as well as Vice-President of the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company, which was purchased by the Western Union Telegraph Company. However, according to the obituary, Syms’ name is now more well known in NYC for the William J. Syms Operating Theater of the Roosevelt Hospital at the southwest corner of 59th Street and 9th Avenue. It was built between 1890 and 1892 with $350,000 left by Syms—$250,000 to build the theater, and the remainder to be invested as an endowment for its work. Syms expressed in his will the desire to erect an operating theater which would be "an enduring monument to himself" and of "great service to suffering humanity." It is the only surviving remnant of the old hospital complex, and is currently being adapted for use as a private school. It was designed by William Wheeler Smith and built in consultation with, and especially for, Dr. Charles McBurney, later one of the doctors summoned to Buffalo, NY to treat President William McKinley for his ultimately fatal wounding by an assassin carrying a pistol NOT made by Blunt & Syms.”

The cartridges are contained in a wooden block, which is wrapped in brown paper with a block printed label that reads in nine lines:


Six Seamless Skin


With Percussion Caps


Navy Pistol, 36-100 Caliber

Hotchkiss’ Patent, Feb. 11, 1862


                                                300, Broadway, N. Y.

By D.C. SAGE, Middletown, Conn.


The rectangular packet measures 2.65” long, by 1.56” wide and is .50” thick. The patent referred to in the label was US Patent #34,367 issued on February 11, 1862 to Julius Hotchkiss. According to Hotchkiss’ patent application, quote in part below, his new system to prepare the cartridges made of intestine would eliminate the problems with some other, earlier combustible cartridge designs.


The object of my invention is to prepare a cartridge which, while it possesses the requisite strength to resist the wearing away to which it is ordinarily subjected, and be, in a great measure, impervious to water, will at the same time permit of the certain ignition of the powder enclosedby it by the contact of flame with its outer surface from burning, priming, or by the contact of a percussion spark, and will also be carried from the barrel of the gun in which it is used at the moment of its discharge, in case it is unconsumed, and which may be used either connected with a ball, as shown in the drawings, or be formed simply to hold the powder. 

For this purpose I use either mutton or hog’s gut, prepared in the usual way with a view of its application to the purposes of a cartridge, this material being of such a character as to always crisp or shrivel under the action of heat, so that when a cartridge composed of it is exploded in a gun that portion of it which remains unconsumed will form, as it were, an irregular corrugated wad, which, by the force of the explosion, will be carried from the gun, instead of being converted into a charred residuum, adhering to and fouling its interior, as is usually the case with the common paper cartridge.

An objection, however, has heretofore existed to the use of the material named from the fact that the fibers of the gut, in the direction of its width, or at right angles to its length, are so fragile and tender as to be easily separated, and hence the cartridges now made up from this material are liable by the incidents of use to split lengthwise and waste the powder unless they are wound from end to v end, either by thread or ligatures of India-rubber, or bands of other material foreign to the gut itself; whereas the gut is capable of resisting a very considerable strain if at right angles to its width, or in the direction of its length, a resistance amply sufficient to meet the requirements of its use for the purpose named. 

The nature of my invention consists in so manipulating and applying a sheet or fillet of gut in the act of forming a cartridge as to utilize its strength in both the directions stated, thus dispensing with all subsequent winding by thread or other material, as now commonly practiced.”

The combustible cartridge for use in Colt’s patent revolvers had been developed during the mid-1850s. Colt had experimented with a variety of combustible materials to contain the powder charge and attach it to the bullet. In addition to being sturdy enough to secure the powder and attach it to the bullet, the cartridge needed to be moisture resistant, if not completely waterproof. Colt experimented with paper, skin (animal intestine) and foil. Interestingly, the foil experiment proved most sturdy and water resistant, but American made tin foil was of such poor quality that it was literally porous and would not serve. As a result, nearly all of the “foil” cartridges produced by Colt used imported foil from Germany. The combustible cartridge did not become universally popular for use in percussion revolvers until the outbreak of the Civil War, which resulted in an unprecedented increase in demand for the cartridges. As a result of the significant demand, the use of German imported foil was no longer practical or cost effective and the less sturdy materials paper and skin were turned to. In the case of paper, the material was also more permeable.

Colt produced cartridges in his own factory, the Colt Cartridge Works. This was essentially a joint venture with “Colonel Hazard”, of Hazard’s Powder Company. Other major cartridge manufactures soon established themselves in Connecticut as well, including the firm of D.C. Sage of Middletown and Robert Chadwick of Hartford. In London, the premier cartridge maker was the firm of Eley Brothers.

This package of Six Seamless Skin Cartridges for Colt’s, Whitney or Remington’s .36 Caliber Navy Pistol is in VERY FINE condition. Most cartridge packets of the period were not packaged with percussion caps, as the caps were typically sold in tins of between 100 and 250 caps. The package has been wrapped in plastic to protect it from handling damage. The block printed label remains in wonderful condition with all of the print clear and completely legible. The package remains fully sealed and shows some minor discoloration and foxing to the outer wrapping from handling and age. The packet has no tears or any notable damage and the original pull-string to tear open package remains intact. 

Overall this is a really wonderful condition example of an original and complete Civil War era cartridge packet intended for use with any of the popular .36 caliber “Navy” revolvers. This is a particularly scarce and desirable pack because it contains the percussion caps as well. This would be a fantastic addition to a high condition cased Colt, Whitney or Remington Navy revolver, or simply to display with one of the guns, or even add to a cartridge collection. This packet is a fantastic, no excuses example that you will be very proud to own!

Due to the presence of black powder, this item must be shipped via UPS Ground with an explosives/ammunition tag. This may not be shipped via air or US Mail.

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Tags: Rare, DC, Sage, Packet, of, .36, Caliber, Cartridges, with, Caps, Retailed, by, WJ, Syms