April 3rd, 2009

The Remarkable History of Arthur Savage and his Model 99

Savage logoThere is a fascinating article in Investors.com about Arthur W. Savage, founder of Savage Arms Company. A brilliant inventor, Arthur Savage had a remarkable personal history, full of adventure. (Did you know that, in addition to being a great gun designer, Savage invented a torpedo, built race cars, and is credited as being the inventor of radial tires?)

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Arthur Savage was educated in Britain and the United States. In his 30s he explored the Australian outback with his wife and eight children, eventually coming to own the then-largest cattle ranch in Australia. But he soon sold the ranch and bought a coffee plantation in Jamaica. In 1892, still in his 30s, Savage moved to Utica, New York, hiring on with a Railroad and part-time with a gun parts maker. Savage turned his attention to gun design with the goal of producing a lever-action rifle that could shoot the sharp-nosed .303-caliber spitzer rounds favored by the military. To overcome the problem of pointed bullet tips detonating primers in a tubular magazine, Savage invented a new rotary magazine. Arthur’s new rifle also featured a spring-activated firing pin rather than a hammer. The design, perfected in 1893, became the classic Savage Model 99, credited as the first mass-produced hammerless rifle. In 1894 Arthur Savage founded Savage Arms Co. in Utica in 1894 to produce his new rifle. Savage’s Model 99 rifle stayed in production for 105 years, being produced with relatively minor changes through 1999.

Savage 99 engraved

Savage 99 engraved

Photos courtesy Hallowell & Co., Livingston, MT, purveyor of fine sporting arms.

Origin of Savage’s Indian Head Logo
You may wonder about the Indian head logo Savage arms still uses as its trademark. Here’s how it came into use. In 1919, Chief Lame Bear (illustration below) approached Arthur to purchase lever-action rifles for the Indian reservation and the two men struck a deal. The tribe would get discounted rifles and Savage would get their support and endorsement. It was at this time in the company’s history, that Arthur Savage added the Indian head logo–a direct gift from the Chief–to the company name.

Savage logo

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