Monday, March 26, 2012

Circa 1893-95 Watervliet Arsenal Seacoast Cannon Shop Cabinet Photo

I recently acquired this cabinet photo off ebay for a mere $30. The seller speculated that because of the signature and Troy, NY at the bottom right of the backing, that it might be either the Watervliet Arsenal or the Burden Iron Works. After doing a little photo research online, I guessed it was the Watervliet Arsenal because of the small window right above the top row of workers and the large cannons which can be seen in the photo.

My assumtion was confirmed by Robert Pfeil, who is the curator at the Watervliet Arsenal Museum. He said the photo was taken inside the Seacoast Cannon Shop, which is now called the "Big Gun Shop." He dated the photo from around 1893-1895. He also pointed out that the gentleman in the top row with the bow tie is most likely Carl Alfred Christiansen, the shop's foreman. Christiansen, born on July 16, 1856, joined the arsenal in 1885 and in 1891 was named Master Gunmaker. At the time of his death on January 16, 1903, his team was manufacturing a 16-inch gun that weighed 385,400 pounds, was 49-feet long and fired a 2,370 pound projectile 21 miles. The guns first firing was the day after Christiansen's death. The "Big Gun Shop" was dedicated to his memory in 1984. He was inducted into The Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame in 1989.

Master Gunmaker Carl Alfred Christiansen

I pretty much knew nothing about the arsenal up to this point, but soon found out it has an incredible history. The arsenal was built in 1813 and is the U.S. Army's oldest continuously active arsenal in the states. It has manufactured everything from haversacks to artillery projectiles. In 1883 the facility became more focused and specialized in heavy ordnance-particularly artillery pieces. The arsenal produced some of the largest cannons in the U.S. Army's inventory. The arsenal was named a Historic landmark in 1966.

Watervliet Arsenal postcard

For more information on the Watervliet Arsenal click here.

A big thank you to Robert Pfeil for providing information on the photo. Mr. Pfeil was also nice enough to provide two other photos showing Carl Alfred Christiansen and his crew. The first shows the crew outside one of the shops and is undated. The second from 1902 shows Christiansen in front of one of the 16-inch guns mentioned above.

Provided by the Watervliet Arsenal Museum

Provided by the Watervliet Arsenal Museum

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