The American Who Controlled The Mausers

Who was Samuel Norris? Just what part did he actually play in the development of the Mauser rifle P How did the Remington firm figure in Norris* association with the Mauser Brothers?

In contacts with the Mauser organization before the war, and in all my studies of original German contemporary records of the Mauser organization and its affiliates, I could never unearth any satisfactory answers to those questions.

Norris was European agent for Remington in the late 1860's. He entered into a contract to exploit the first Mauser rifle, then allowed his contract to go by default a bare year before the Prussian Government officially adopted the new weapon. Norris took out the first patent for the rifle in the United States

. . Those were the essential facts derived from German sources. Paul Mauser himself never discussed his early dealings. The subject was one he disliked to think about as years brought him money and power and distinction. Why?

I could get no answer, either from the records or from European historians. A search of French, Austrian and Spanish records did nothing to explain the dearth of German information, but it did unearth many interesting sidelights on both Norris and the Remington organization of that period. As the pieces of the mosaic fitted together, they told an amazing story of adventure, business and enterprise in those dim early days of the breechloader.

The parts of that story which apply to the Mauser brothers directly has a tremendously important bearing on the contents of this book. Those parts, told largely in the actual written words of the incredible Samuel Norris himself, explain Paul Mauser's reticence to discuss the early days of his organization. It was a bitter page in his life, one he sought to forget.

The name Mauser is known wherever firearms are known. The name of Samuel Norris is all but unknown today. A powerful figure in his time, Norris once held the destinies of the Mausers in the palm of his hand. The contract he drew for the signature of the destitute brothers is one of the strangest documents in all the strange history of firearms.

"1. (The Mauser Brothers) inventors of a system of breech-loading rifle and central percussion cartridge, agree to sell, cede, and transfer to (Norris) the ownership of the said invention, with all rights which result therefrom in order to secure patents in all countries whatever; "they engage likewise to transfer to him the ownership of every invention of this kind that they shall make hereafter and of every improvement that they shall bring to their system of rifle and cartridge."

That first article of the contract demonstrates graphically the extent to which Norris bound the impoverished Mauser brothers. For all this he was to pay them 80,000 francs over a period of fourteen years. If he personally decided to continue the contract that long! Even then there was a hoo\ in the contract. Norris' contacts with the French were excellent, and he had sounded out the French military with a view to selling them the Mauser system to transform their Chassepot needle rifles to metallic cartridge arms. The French encouraged him to believe they might buy the system. Buried in the contract, therefore, we find the following:

"10. In any event, it is understood that in case Mr. Norris should cease to pay completely the annual sum stipulated above, he shall retain meanwhile as indemnity for his trouble the French patent."

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