A New History of Reilly of London, Gun Makers and a Serial Number Dating Chart

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Gene H. Williams 190
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A New History of Reilly of London, Gun Makers and a Serial Number Dating Chart

Post by Gene H. Williams 190 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:24 pm

I have written a New History of Reilly, published last summer in two parts by Diggory Hadoke. However, portions were not included in that article including the dating chart I've developed. The research can be read on this line,
https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ub ... 538&page=1
-- The cheat-sheet on dating Reilly trade labels is on P.44
-- Likewise the dated list of 380 extant Reilly's
Here is the article edited quite a bit since last summer:

This is the final version of the Reilly history (edited several times since published in summer 2019) which corrects dozens of erroneous writings on the company, including Brown's Vol III, Boothroyd, and every article written about Reilly in the last 45 years (see p.17 for numerous examples). I can write a justification with footnotes for each paragraph below).

And in the interest of not being politically correct..Reilly was an Irish Catholic..whether this influenced his ability to obtain a "Royal warrant" in Britain (he did in Catholic France, Spain and Portugal) or even a major contract with Arsenal is problematic.

Comment: The origin of the "Reilly was a retailer only" myth possibly came out of 1922. Riggs bought the Reilly name and put 20,000 guns on the market, none made by him, with "E.M. Reilly & Co., London" on the ribs from 1922 to 1966. A generation of gun makers grew up with this in their minds, without a reference to what Reilly was before, because by 1900, 22 years and a world war before, Reilly - the classic Reilly - was essentially toast.

Attached is also the latest SN date chart which I'm will get a Reilly owner close to the date his gun was manufactured. See two separate and previous charts for "Dating Reilly Labels" and for the detailed dated list of Serial Numbered extant Reilly's.

Most of the posts in this line have been dated in this color with source documents for the below statements.

====================== A New, Short History of Reilly of London, Gun Maker =======================

The Reilly firm of gun makers in London has long been viewed as enigmatic. Confusion exists on the location of the company, its products, and even whether it actually made guns or was just a retailer. Reilly's records were lost 100 years ago after bankruptcy. This new history should resolve these mysteries and re-establish Reilly as at one time perhaps one of if not the largest of gun makers in London during the mid-1800’s.

Joseph Charles Reilly was born in Ireland in 1786. He hailed from a well-to-do family and aspired to become a lawyer. In the mid-1800's he went to London to study (Irish Catholics could not study law in Ireland at the time); However, he had an independent streak; instead of law school, in 1814 he opened a jewelry shop, later described as also dealing in silver-plate, at 12 Middle Row, Holborn, hard by the "Inns of the Court." He registered a silver mark "JCR" in July 1818. His clientele included country gentlemen and barristers.

In 1817 his son Edward Michael was born, the third of four children. He prospered, buying a country estate in Bedfordshire in 1824.

Jewelry shops in London at the time often dealt in guns, engraving them and re-selling them (perhaps because of the influence of Joseph Manton at the time). (Some such shops called themselves "Whitesmiths"). By 1825 he was a member of the Worshipful Company of Gun Makers (the London Proof House) (this is not yet confirmed) and around this time numbered his first Reilly built gun which presumably was 001. (The oldest extant Reilly is SN 162, a single barrel 6 bore muzzle loader wild-fowler; Reilly is not mentioned in a list of London gun-makers in 1825; his first advertisement for guns so far found is 1827). The serial numbered guns included pistols, rifles and shotguns. His guns during this period often displayed the address “Holborn Bars.”

JC Reilly early on adopted a business model which did not change during the life of the firm: i.e. provide a quality hand-made product for a moderate price and deliver it rapidly, and "make what would sell." With this model he undercut more expensive and better known makers and made his profit on volume.

Reilly dealt in used guns taken on trade and sold guns under license. However he did not serial number guns he did not build and he numbered his guns consecutively for 90 years with certain exceptions during the move to New Oxford Street in 1847. Reilly had extensive finishing facilities in his large London buildings and at least early on may have stockpiled actions and barrel blanks imported in the white from Birmingham to allow him to meet orders three times as quickly as his competitors.

By 1833 all references to “jeweler” or "silver-plate" vanished from his advertisements and from that time forward he identified himself solely as “Gun-Maker.” (The first advertisement so far found with "Gun-Maker" appeared in 1831).

In August 1835 JC Reilly with 17 year old EM as an apprentice moved to 316 High Holborn Street. The first serial numbered extant gun with the High Holborn address is SN 1024, an 8.5mm pocket pistol. By circa 1837 pistols were no longer numbered in the Reilly chronological numbering system; His serial numbered guns seemed to be limited to bespoke long-guns made to order.

In August 1840 the firm’s name in advertisements changed from J.C. Reilly to just “Reilly,” which may mark the advent of 23 year old EM as a full partner in the company. (EM is listed in the 1841 census as living with J.C. and his occupation, like that of J.C. is "Gun maker.") The names on the gun ribs continued to be “J.C. Reilly" or "Joseph Charles Reilly.” Case/Trade labels were styled like an embossed business card with "Joseph Charles Reilly," "Gun Maker," and the High Holborn address.

JC Reilly during this period also became known for his air cane guns. Young EM was billed as the expert and was so mentioned In advertisements, identified as “Reilly Junr." In 1847 EM wrote a widely disseminated pamphlet on air guns (mostly an advertising brochure highlighting the company's ability to produce all sorts of air-guns and parts) which is cited to this day. The pamphlet title page noted the author was "Reilly junr," used the (new) 502 New Oxford Street address and included the phrase "removed from Holborn" (see below).

In late March 1847 Reilly moved from High Holborn to 502 New Oxford Street, a large building In the "Elizabethan" area on a new extension of Oxford Street. And with this move, Reilly demonstrated another trait of his business acumen, i.e. "Location." He always chose prestigious, high-traffic locations for his stores. The last extant gun with High Holborn on the rib is 3329, a 10 gauge SxS percussion rifle..

At the time of the move the main serial number chronology for Reilly long-guns was jumped up 5000 numbers from about SN 3350 to begin anew at around 8350 (called for simplicity the "8400" series) probably with production supervised by EM Reilly. The name on serial numbered guns after the move ultimately became simply “Reilly” with exceptions.

The first extant main-line SN’d gun from the new building is SN 8378, a SxS 12 bore muzzle-loading shotgun with “J.C. Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London” on the rib. The original label in the old High Holborn case label format had the 502 New Oxford Street, London address and noted the firm had “removed from Holborn." The first extant SN'd gun in the new series with only "Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London" is SN 8463, a .390 cal SxS rifle muzzle loader, also with "removed from Holborn on the label. (Reilly used this phrase in advertisements after the move from April 1847 to November 1847. By December 1847 it had disappeared from his ads.).

Preceding this move to New Oxford Street, around the end of 1845, perhaps anticipating the (planned) change in the main serial number chronology, J.C. Reilly appears to have kept a series of numbers for himself, called for simplicity the J.C. "7000" series. He numbered about 1200 guns over the next 11 years in this series beginning around SN 7000 and ending around 8200 when he retired in 1857. JC Reilly sometimes (but not always) put his full name or initials on the ribs of these serial numbers but with the 502 New Oxford Street address; yet the trade/case labels with "Reilly" as the firm's name and the advertisements/publicity remained the same for the “8400” main-line series and the J.C. “7000” series.

The first extant SN’d gun in the JC “7000” series is SN 7023, an 11 bore SxS percussion shotgun, a gun with “J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London” on the rib, probably numbered in early 1846. SN 7201, a .577 percussion single barrel rifle, was the first in the J.C. 7000 series with the new "502 New Oxford St., London" address on the rib, probably numbered around September 1847. It has the old style “J.C. Reilly” trade label with the new 502 New Oxford Street address and also with "removed from Holborn.” The last extant gun in the 7000 series (no doubt made in late summer 1857) is SN 8186, a .650 mimi ball single barrel muzzle-loader rifle.

Soon after the move, possibly around December 1847, the trade label changed to "Reilly, Gun Maker," was rectangular shaped with scolloped corners and featured a sketch of the estimated 12,000 sq foot building at 502 New Oxford Street. Note: From 1847 to 1859 long guns and hand guns can be found with “Edward M.,” “Edward Michael,” or "E.M" on their ribs; however, unless serial numbered these were not built by Reilly - they were only engraved and marketed.

There are outlier SN'd guns associated with JC,
-- 4573 – c1842, a 6 bore single barrel water-fowler with “J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London” on the barrel,
-- 5514 – March 1847, a 16 bore SxS muzzle loader shotgun, which has “J.C. Reilly 316 High Holborn now 502 New Oxford Street, London” on the rib, (the only such gun found so far with both addresses and obviously numbered around the time of the move),
-- 2008 – C1850-56, a 14 bore SxS muzzle-loader shotgun with “Joseph Charles Reilly, New Oxford Street, London” on the rib, and
-- 3514, a 13 bore SxS percussion shotgun with "Reilly" and the New Oxford Street address on the rib, apparently made (per the trade label in the case) after 1855,
which do not fit any sort of pattern, illustrating the sometime quirkiness of JC Reilly.

Reilly exhibited at the 1851 Crystal Palace International Exposition (as Edward M. Reilly) were he was much taken by the Casimir Lefaucheaux center-break gun. Reilly, Lang and Blanch became the major advocates for these new types of guns in England.

Advertisements from 1851 papers show that Reilly had a 300 yard shooting range near his London establishment located off Wood Lane, Shepard's Bush.

Reilly also exhibited at the 1855 Paris Universelle Exposition, where he received much acclaim, "all guns were sold," and "many orders were booked." The exhibit was in the name of E.M Reilly; however, advertisements make clear that though EM won the medals, the firm was still "Reilly, Gun Maker."

(Note: In 1855 the British government required that bore sizes be stamped on barrels; Reilly, however, along with Greener and Manton, appears to have been amongst the very few gun makers stamping bore sizes for years before the formal requirement.)

Reilly case labels changed after 1855 to illustrate the 1851 and 1855 world's fair medals and to highlight “Fusils a Bascule," French for center-break guns (made on the "Lefaucheux principle") and other breech loaders such as Prince Patent bolt action guns, and the Terry Patent breech loaders which he marketed and promoted.

In September 1857 J.C. Reilly retired to his country estates at Bourn End, Cranfield, Bedfordshire, where he died a wealthy man in January 1864; his last guns in the "7000" series were engraved with Caesar's words "Veni, Vidi, Vici" possibly as his swan song story of his life. "Formerly Gun-Maker, London" is chiseled on his tombstone.

(Speculation: J.C.'s retirement appeared to have been quite abrupt. At the time the debate over center-break breech-loaders, a French invention, divided families and flame wars raged in the British press. One must wonder if J.C., the traditionalist, broke with his son E.M, a very early promoter of the Lefaucheux break-action gun, over this issue - much like what happened between the Greener's father/son a few years later).

Reilly, who had begun building center-break guns as early as 1855/56, participated in the March 1858 trial pitting muzzle-loaders against breech-loaders run by "The Field." The oldest extant Reilly break-action SxS gun found to date is 10655, a "Lefaucheux" type pin-fire probably numbered around the time of this trial - March 1858.

By Fall 1858 Reilly (along with Lang and Blanch, the original promotors of break-action guns in UK) was reported to be "overdone with orders for his breech-loaders" per "The Field." Reilly provided 4 guns for the follow-on muzzle-loader/break-action breech-loader trial run by the "The Field" in July 1859, all built on the "Lefaucheux" principle, his 16 bore being singled out for excellence by the editor of "The Field."

In January 1859 with new partners (unknown) EM opened a branch store/factory in a large building at 315 Oxford Street, probably because of the surging demand for break-action breech-loaders. The branch early on was also referred to as "Armoury House" (Salvation Army hall was located behind the building) or on labels (a separate format from the 502 labels) "The Manufactory." It had a 50 yard shooting gallery attached. It was three doors down from Purdey (located at 314 1/2 - the numbers are deceiving).

(As an observation, Purdey was located at 314, 315 Oxford St. Their buildings contained the Purdey factory/workshop, display/fitting area, and offices and was called 314 1/2 as a compromise. The entire Purdey buildings at that location were about the same size as Reilly's new 315 Oxford St.)

Reilly also began advertising rifles sold wholesale to equip "Yoemanry" militia, organizing in UK to repell a threatened French invasion.

The company may have used "Reilly & Co." for a short while in Spring-Summer 1859 per a few advertisements & references in books; no trade labels exist with this name. One extant gun has "Reilly & Co." along with "Oxford Street" allegedly on the barrel - SN 10811, a Prince patent breech loader, probably ordered in fall 1858, but delivered in Spring 1959. No photos were available to confirm the name/address on the barrel of 10811 but, relying on Christie's advertising integrity, this is probably the first extant gun made at 315 Oxford Street.

(Note: From this time forward guns with only "Oxford Street, London" on their ribs will have been built at 315 Oxford Street. Guns built at 502 New Oxford street would have (without a street number) simply "New Oxford St." The first gun with the number "315" physically on the barrel is a 3-band Enfield SN 11419, probably numbered in spring 1860.)

By October 1859 the company’s name changed definitively to "E.M. Reilly & Co," a name which continued in use until bankruptcy in 1918 and beyond when the name was bought by Charles Riggs. His labels changed at that time to reflect the new name, "E.M. Reilly & Co., Gun Maker." This label referred only to 502 New Oxford St.; 315 Oxford Street continued to have a different label but with the E.M Reilly & Co. name.

The first extant serial numbered gun with E.M. Reilly & Co. on the rib is a 3 band Enfield SN 11227. (Note: pre-1859 serial-numbered guns with "E.M Reilly" on the rib but without the "& Co.," have been found - 10655, dated cMarch 1858, is an example).

A year later In circa August 1860 the company's description on labels and in advertisements changed from “Gun Maker” to “Gun Manufacturers” and at that time the sketch of 502 New Oxford Street was dropped from his case labels. The separate label for 315 Oxford St. also was dropped. The basic format for the new label remained consistent for the next 30+ years with variations (additions of medals, branch addresses, occasionally mention of royalty, etc.) (There were a few outlier labels). (See the separate chart dating Reilly labels).

Business anthologies at this time identified EM Reilly as both gun and pistol manufacturers and sword/cutlery makers. Reilly’s name has been found engraved on bayonettes and swords from the era.

During this time frame Reilly in advertisements claimed to be making every piece of every gun he serial numbered in his two workshops on Oxford Street and invited customers to "view the progress of their order." This would make Reilly one of the very few "vertical" gun companies in London. The London (and Birmingham) gun trade at the time relied for the most part on out-sourced parts and materials, which were assembled and finished in-house.

In 1862 Reilly showed at the London International exposition and won a medal for an exhibit which included a gold washed 12 bore muzzle-loader shotgun which may still exist (SN 12532).

Throughout the 1860's Reilly guns were purchased by various members of the British royal family, usually to give as gifts to foreign dignitaries or persons who had done favors for the family. Reilly tried to obtain, but without success, a Royal Warrant as "Gun Maker to the Royal Family."

From at least the 1840’s the Reilly’s tried mightily to win a lucrative military contract from the British government.
-- JC Reilly exhibited brass mortars in 1845.
-- EM Reilly promoted the Prince patent breech loader in the late 1850’s (joining other London gun-makers in urging Ordinance re-open the 1853 Army rifle competition which had selected the Enfield rifle-musket).
-- He worked with the Green brothers to win a contract for their patent breech loader, to which he had manufacturing rights, in the early 1860’s (competing against the Snider which won out).
-- He put forward the Comblain breech loader from Belgium, to which he gained patent rights in England, in 1868-70 (competing against trial guns such as the Martini and the Henry, a combination of which was adopted).
-- And, he patented an explosive bullet in 1869, a sort of early M-79 idea.
However, he never obtained a major contract (as far as the present day evidence goes).

Reilly did sell and engrave British military guns - Enfields, Snider's, Martini's and later Lee-Speeds; He hawked these guns to the Yoemanry Volunteer Militia and to rifle clubs at wholesale prices, versions of them to Military personnel going abroad and to big-game hunters for 50 years. But, unless he built them himself he did not serial number these guns.

EM Reilly always seemed to be enamored with Paris and as the 1867 Paris Universelle exposition approached, he meticulously prepared an exhibit that was extensively lauded. It won him gold and silver medals, led him to became a “gun maker” for Napoleon III, and in February 1868 to open a branch office (EM Reilly & Cie.) at 2 rue Scribe, Paris where orders for his guns could be taken. The store was located in the Grand Hotel near the Gare du Nord, a prime location (British travelers to Paris arrived at the Gare du Nord). This branch office remained open for the next 17 years. The first extant gun with 2 rue Scribe on the rib is 14983, an 8 bore SxS under-lever, hammer gun, shotgun.

His case labels changed at this time to feature the two medals won at the 1867 World’s Fair and often (but not always) mentioned both branch addresses.

Two and a half years later after the battle of Sedan Napoleon III fell from power; the medals disappeared from Reilly’s case labels for awhile yet continued occasionally to resurface on both labels and in advertisements for the next 15 years.

(Reilly's affinity for France was well known. In Fall 1870 he was prosecuted for attempting to smuggle 2,000 shells to his rue Scribe address, a violation of UK neutrality in the conflict, and in 1871 offered to sell 6,000 Chassepot rifles (stored in Birmingham) to the new French Republic).

Also around 1869 he changed the description of the company in ads to "Gun and Rifle Manufacturers" (as did many other English gun makers). This description was sometimes but not usually used on his trade/case labels for the next 15 years.

In 1876 some Reilly labels and publicity began advertising a connection to the King of Portugal and by 1882 to the Kings of Spain and The Netherlands. In addition around this time 315 Oxford Street began to use a slightly different case label and later, also for a short time, a different label for revolvers but with the same shape advertising "Breech Loading Gun & Rifle Manufacturers."

From as early as 1868 Reilly had evinced an interest in penetrating the American market. He acquired an American agent (Joseph Grubbs, Philadelphia), had his guns advertised in mail order catalogs, and exhibited at the 1876 Philadelphia centennial along side very high-standard British guns such as Purdey, and won a medal.

Reilly again exhibited at the 1878 Paris exposition and again won medals. By 1880 Reilly sold a third more - soon to be twice as many - serial numbered, hand made bespoke guns than both Holland and Holland and Purdey combined, this in addition to:
-- a very active business in guns sold under license from well known gun makers including revolvers (Trantor, Baumont-Adams, Walker, Colt, etc), rook rifles, repeating rifles (Sharps, Winchester, etc.),
-- as well as merchandising every type of gun accoutrement - reloaders, cartridges, shells, cases, etc.
-- and sustaining a huge business in previously owned guns.

Reilly told the 1881 census taker that he employed some 300 people in his firm, an extraordinarialy high number for the times, an indication of the extent of his gun manufacturing and sales business. (WW Greener in the same census claimed to employ 140, less than half the number of Reilly; Purdey in 1871 said he employed 58, 1/5th the number of Reilly workers).

Around 1881 per advertisements it appears that Reilly made a business decision to stock ready-made guns and sell them off-the-rack as well as selling his usual bespoke made-to-order guns. This might account for the soaring number of guns serial numbered per year, which grew from about 650 numbered in 1880 to some 1050 in 1882. It might also account for certain discrepancies in serial numbered guns from this time forward such as 303xx which would have been numbered in late 1888-early 1889 but still has "Not For Ball" on its barrels (a stamping discontinued in 1887). If this were the case, Reilly probably serial numbered his off-the-rack guns when sold and his bespoke guns when ordered and a deposit put down.

In November 1881 Oxford Street was renumbered; ”502” became “16 New Oxford Street” and “315” becoming “277 Oxford Street.” The first extant gun with either of the new addresses on the ribs is SN 23536, a 12 ga. SxS BLE shotgun. (In spite of the formal change in numbering, the old numbers occasionally appeared in Reilly ads and on gun ribs for the next couple of years; Reilly trade labels, however, did not appear to change to the new numbering system until circa 1885).

Reilly’s business was booming and gun production topped 1000 a year. Reilly reportedly was making long guns for other London gun-makers and around this time began importing cheap Belgian-made revolvers in parts which he assembled in his buildings, engraved and sold. (Reilly, like Trantor and others, possibly was involved with the Belgian manufacture and "assembly trade" much earlier...perhaps dating to as early as the 1850's).

He exhibited at the 1882 Calcutta fair (a British Empire only affair) and won a medal and was highly praised for his exhibit at the 1885 London International Inventions Exposition where he again won medals.

Reilly guns figured well in live pigeon shooting contests throughout the 1880’s and big game hunters in Africa used his guns and advertised the results (including Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh-American and perhaps the most famous of all African explorers, Dr. David Livingston, and noted Victorian era African hunter and author Frederick Selous).

In July 1885 rue Scribe was closed. The reasons for this are not known - hand made guns were being sold at a very high rate; it may have had to do with the departure of a long-time partner (possibly a M. Poirat?). The last extant SN’d gun with rue Scribe on the rib is 27340, a 12 bore SxS top-lever, hammer-gun, shotgun. (There are three guns with later serial numbers which have only "Paris" on their barrels all SxS built on the Scott "triplex" system; However, these may have been ready-made prior to 1885 and only numbered when sold off the rack).

Note: In the early 1880's Reilly apparently opened a small satellite branch of 2 rue Scribe, Paris at 29 rue du Faubourg, St. Honore, Paris for a short time. A couple of gun case labels show the store would have been in existence after the November 1881 change in Oxford Street addresses but before the July 1885 closure of 2 rue Scribe. An advertisement/paid-for article with this address appeared in Jan 1886 London press touting a win by an Italian (a well known marksman) at the Monte Carlo pigeon shoot (an important event); whether the address was on the rib of his gun or on the trade/case label is unknown. No newspaper ads for this branch exist (and it was a prestigious location - Coco Chanel's apartments were above it in another century - which should have been publicized). No extant guns have thus far been found with this address. Perhaps this store was occupied while the Grand Hotel was undergoing renovation?

Reilly exhibited at the 1889 Paris World's Fair, the “Tour Eiffel" Exposition Universalle, and may have won a silver medal. However, by this time advertisements for Reilly guns had significantly declined and he did not publicize the medals if he won them.

A nasty law-suit on easement limitations to the Salavation Army Hall behind his establishment at 277 Oxford Street was litigated.

The fact is, something changed with the firm after 1886; Reilly's guns regularly won competitions and were donated to be given as prizes at high-end shooting competitions; but the company just gradually disappeared from mass-media print.

In July 1890 EM Reilly contracted broncho-pneumonia and passed away. Reilly's sons Herbert H. and Charles A. were teen-agers. His wife Mary was in her 40's. Business was still lively. Who ran the company during these years is not known though widows did successfully manage companies in England at the time after the deaths of their husbands.

By 1894 Reilly guns were no longer being mentioned as winners in pigeon shoots; Reilly victories and promotional donations of guns as prizes had been a prominent feature in London papers for 25 years. His 28 year old eldest son (possibly born-out-of-wedlock but acknowledged) Edward Montague Reilly, "gun maker," who was involved with the company in some way, died in 1895.

In 1898 the company closed 16 New Oxford Street where it had been located for 50 years; 277 Oxford Street remained open. Bespoke guns continued to be sold in the early 1890’s at a goodly clip but as the decade advanced, and factory mass produced guns with steel barrels began to compete with Damascus, the demand for these hand-made and measured guns in a middling cost category seemed to decline. (Many London gun-makers began to have problems in this time period).

Reilly advertisements in mass media, an almost daily occurrence in the London press since 1833, declined markedly as the 90's progressed. In response, with sales diminishing, closing the finishing facilities at 16 New Oxford street while retaining the shooting gallery and smaller sales and manufacturing spaces at 277 Oxford Street would seem to have been logical. The last extant SN’d gun from 16 New Oxford Street is 34723, a 12 bore SxS, top-lever, hammer-gun, shotgun.

After 1898 the trade/case labels changed to reflect the marketing of magazine guns and advertised the medals won in 1876 (Philadelphia), 1878 (Paris), and 1885 (London) and 1873 (Vienna) (although there is no evidence that Reilly actually exhibited in Vienna). On his presentation cases, the company description changed back to "gun and rifle makers" although the company was still "Gun and Rifle Manufacturers" in phone and business directories.

In 1903 the Company vacated 277 Oxford Street where they had been quartered for 44 years while the building was being renovated and moved 300 yards down the street to 295 Oxford Street. The company apparently was run by Herbert H. (Bert) Reilly and Charles A. Reilly, EM Reilly’s sons. The first extant gun with 295 Oxford Street on the rib is 35423, a 12 ga. SxS BLE shotgun.

The company remained at 295 until bankruptcy was declared on 06 June 1912 (publicized on 08 June 1912 in the London Monday morning papers). The last extant gun with 295 on the rib is 35678, a 12 bore SxS BLE shotgun. Reportedly during this period at least one gun was built with "J.C. Reilly" and the old "Holborn Bars" address on the rib.

Note: Per advertisements in September 1911 the company announced it was for sale or in need of new partners with cash. Its stock of guns was advertised at reduced prices. In December 1911 the company was changed to a limited liability company with "CW Roberts" (probably G. Watkinson Roberts - liquidator specialist) as one of the directors. Roberts was a bankruptcy lawyer. Reilly's continued advertising 295 for sale in Spring 1912 per newspaper advertisements. It appears Bert Reilly knew bankruptcy was coming and changed the company to protect his personal assets. He retained his separate homes after bankruptcy.

Bert Reilly opened a small gun shop, E.M Reilly & Co., at 13 High Street, Marylebone in 1912 after the bankruptcy. No advertisements can be found for the shop though per London postal address, telephone and business directories they identified themselves as "gunmakers." No guns with this address on the rib have been found. The date of its closure is not noted although it is listed in the London telephone directory in 1918 (but not in 1919).

In August 1922 The Reilly name was bought by a sporting goods dealer named Charles Riggs (most Reilly history summaries put the date of purchase as 1917; this is belied by the dates of newspaper advertising). Riggs apparently decided he could use the name to promote his premium line of guns (possibly built by Osborne/Midland). Whether a Reilly had any say in the design of these Riggs-Reilly guns is unknown. Riggs remained in business until 1966. His “Reilly named” guns have six-digit serial numbers and appear to begin at around 130000. A Riggs "Reilly" with a serial number in the 150000’s is known to exist.

The Reilly's sold all types of guns in various qualities using all types of actions. Reilly serial numbered about 33,000 guns from circa 1825 to 1912, all built by them. The guns that they made had an artistic elegance and balance, which is unmistakable. Reilly was one of the first to use highly figured French walnut for their stocks and their engraving, for the most part floral scroll work, was consistently classy. Reilly's best guns were as good as those produced anywhere in England at the time.

Gene Williams, September 05, 2018; last updated 18 May 2020

=================================== SN Date Chart ===========================================

Year. . . . . . . . . . . .Serial Numbers. . . . . . . # of SN’d guns made in 1 year
. . . Black-Main Chronology; Blue: JC “7000” series. . . . . . .*Marker footnotes. **Sanity checks

1825: . . . 01 - . . 20. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20. .*1
1826: . . . 21 - . . 50. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
1827: . . . 51 - . .110 - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
1828: . . 111 - . .200 - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
1829: . . 201 - . .300. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100
1830: . . 301 - . .400. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100
1831: . . 401 - . .510. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .110
1832: . . 511 - . .640. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130
1833: . . 641 - . .870. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130
1834: . . 871 - .1000. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
1835: ..1001 - .1130. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130. .*2
1836: ..1131 - .1280. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
1837: ..1281 - .1430. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
1838: ..1431 - .1600. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
1839: ..1601 - .1810. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210
1840: ..1811 - .2040. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
1841: ..2041 - .2270. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
1842: ..2271 - .2500. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
1843: ..2501 - .2730. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
1844: ..2731 - .2960. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
1845: ..2961 - .3180. + 7000 - 7020 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .240
1846: ..3181 - .3330. + 7021 - 7130 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .260. .*3,*4
1847: ..3331 - .3350. + 7131 - 7230. + 8350 - 8480 - . . . . .250. .*5,*6. .**1. 7201
1848: ..8481 - .8640. + 7231 - 7330. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 270
1849: ..8641 - .8800. + 7331 - 7440. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280
1850: ..8801 - .8960. + 7441 - 7540. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
1851: ..8961 - .9130. + 7541 - 7640. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
1852: ..9131 - .9300. + 7641 - 7740. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
1853: ..9301 - .9490. + 7741 - 7830. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
1854: ..9491 - .9680. + 7831 - 7930. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
1855: ..9681 - .9870. + 7931 - 8030. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
1856: ..9871- 10170. + 8031 - 8130. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400. . . . .**2. many orders after Paris
1857: 10171 - 10510. + 8131 - 8200. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410. .*7
1858: 10511 - 10930. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 420. . . . .**3. 10655. .**4. 10782. .**5. 10811
1859: 10931 - 11340. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430. .*8.*9. .**6. 11227
1860: 11341 - 11770. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
1861: 11771 - 12210. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430. . . . .**7. 11716
1862: 12211 - 12740. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430. . . . .**8. 12532
1863: 12741 - 13170. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
1864: 13171 - 13600. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430. . . . .**9. 13333
1865: 13601 - 14030. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
1866: 14031 - 14460. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
1867: 14461 - 14910. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 450
1868: 14911 - 15510. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600. .*10
1869: 15511 - 16110. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600
1870: 16111 - 16710. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600
1871: 16711 - 17310. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600
1872: 17311 - 17910. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600. . . . .**10. 17314
1873: 17911 - 18510. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600
1874: 18511 - 19140. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 630
1875: 19141 - 19780. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 640. . . . .**11. 19286
1876: 19781 - 20430. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
1877: 20431 - 21080. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
1878: 21081 - 21730. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
1879: 21731 - 22380. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
1880: 22381 - 22930. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
1881: 22931 - 23630. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 800. .*11. **11. 23536. .**13. 23574
1882: 23631 - 24680. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1050. . . . .**14. 24534
1883: 24681 - 25730. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1050
1884: 25731 - 26780. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1050
1885: 26781 - 27820. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1040. .*12
1886: 27821 - 28720. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 900
1887: 28721 - 29520. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 800
1888: 29521 - 30300. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 780
1889: 30301 - 31000. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 700. . . . .**15. 30768
1890: 31001 - 31650. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
1891: 31651 - 32100. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 550
1892: 32101 - 32600. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500
1893: 32601 - 33000. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400
1894: 33001 - 33400. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400
1895: 33401 - 33800. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400
1896: 33801 - 34200. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400
1897: 34201 - 34550. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350
1898: 34551 - 34820. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 270. .*13
1899: 34821 - 34960. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
1900: 34961 - 35090. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
1901: 35091 - 35210. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120. . . . .**16. 35186
1902: 35211 - 35320. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
1903: 35321 - 35420. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100. .*14
1904: 35421 - 35460. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
1905: 35461 - 35500. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
1906: 35401 - 35535. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
1907: 35536 - 35565. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30. . . . .**17. 35554
1908: 35566 - 35595. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
1909: 35596 - 35625. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
1910: 35626 - 35655. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
1911: 35656 - 35685. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
1912: 35686 - 35700. - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15. .*15

Post Aug 1922 - ? 130000 - 150000. - . . . . . . . . . . . .20,000?. . *16

==================== Footnotes ====================

Methodology
-- Reilly serial numbered some 33,000 guns from c1825-1912. The chart is based on an analysis of over 380 surviving Reilly serial numbered guns and thousands of articles about and advertisements for Reilly in 19th century print media. However, the chart may have to be modified at some point as additional guns come to light.
-- The chart is designed to allow a Reilly owner to date his gun within a few months of its being serial numbered. The chart is more accurate from 1855 to 1905 due to the number of surviving guns.

Caveats:
-- Reilly did not serial number guns he did not make.
-- When 001 was numbered or if there were a 001 is unknown; 1825 was chosen as a start date because he may have joined the London Proof House at that time (not confirmed). In addition Reilly is NOT on a list of London gunmakers published in 1825. The earliest Reilly advertisements for guns alone so far found began in the London papers in 1827. The first existing gun is SN 162.
-- Reilly originally serial numbered pistols; that ended circa 1837.
-- The number of guns numbered per year are estimates based on date markers - the addresses on the ribs/barrels based on specific events such as moves to new addresses or change in address numbers which are historically proven. Obviously numbers actually made each year varied. The curve has been smoothed as much as possible to eliminate wild swings and verified by sanity checks."
-- There is a huge uptick in numbers in 1881-82. Reilly apparently made the business decision to stock guns and sell ready-made/off-the-rack. If so he may have numbered them when sold, accounting for some discrepancies. His bespoke guns were probably numbered when ordered per general London practice
-- Patent numbers or patent use numbers on guns can help date a gun;
. . . . . . . - but many guns were modified/up-graded; one Reilly (SN 10354) built in 1857 was originally a muzzle loader turned into a breech loader in 1895.
. . . . . . . - And patent use numbers were rarely chronological. Manufacturers bought blocs of numbers in some cases.
. . . . . . . - Almost all pin-fires, the dominant SxS from the 1850's to about 1872 were modified to center fire. Ditto for non-rebounding hammers - changed to rebounding hammers.
. . . . . . . - In addition the relationship of patent use numbers to gun Serial Number cannot be ascertained so easily. For instance Henry patent rifling would be stamped on tubes - but when these were selected in relationship to when the serial number for the gun was entered on the books is not clear.
. . . . . . . - So patent numbers and patent use numbers can be sanity checks but no proof of date of manufacture. (As an example, see SN 30768. A&D Boxlock patent number 8245. The SN dates the gun to late summer 1889. The A&D patent expired in September 1889. No A&D use number should be on a gun after that date.)
-- Reilly prided himself on delivering bespoke guns in 3-6 months vice the 2-3 years of other makers. The guns would have been serial-numbered upon order. However, the SN chronology is dated based on rib/barrel-addresses from 15 or so key date-marker guns. These addresses would have been engraved and the ribs/barrels blacked/browned shortly before delivery. Thus serial numbers may precede the rib-addresses by several months.

[color:#FF0000]*Marker Footnotes
*1 - 1825 Reilly allegedly joined the London Proof House; This date is chosen as the start date for Reilly making guns though it could well have been a couple of years later. Reilly was NOT mentioned in an 1825 list of London gun-makers and first ad in the London newspapers for Reilly guns so far found is in 1827. Likewise, 001 is chosen as the number of the first gun though it could have been "100." 1st extant SN'd gun is 162. Address was 12 Middle Row; Address on ribs is "Holborn Bars."
*2 - Late Aug 1835 Reilly moved to 315 High Holborn; 1st SN'd gun with High Holborn is 1024
*3 - JC Reilly appears to have split his main-line serial numbers with a series he kept for himself in late 1845-early 1846 begining around 7000. SN 7023 is the first of these with JC Reilly on the rib but still with the High Holborn address.
*4 - Last main-line SN with High Holborn on the rib is 3329.
*5 - Late March 1847 Reilly moved to 502 New Oxford Street. The main line SN series was bumped up 5000 numbers; 1st SN'd gun with 502 along with "removed from Holborn" is 8378. (Note: This is a hypothesis since this gun was advertised as "8578," a number which another gun already carries. This gun is a J.C. Reilly SxS gun with the New Oxford St. address and "Removed from Holborn" on the label. (Reilly used the phrase “removed from Holborn” in his advertisements from early April 1847 to late November 1847; by December 1847 it had vanished).
*6 - First JC Reilly 7000 series with 502 Oxford is 7201 which also has "removed from Holborn" on the label.
*7 - 1857, September: JC retired; the last extant SN in the JC Reilly "7000" series (with "Veni, Vidi, Vici" on the rib) is 8186.
*8 - 315 Oxford Street opened mid-January 1859. The company used the name "Reilly & Co., for a short while in early 1859. The first gun with "Oxford St." and "Reilly & Co." is 10811, ordered late 1858 and probably engraved and delivered in February-March 1859.
*9 - The company name changed definitively to E.M. Reilly & Co. in October 1859; The 1st extant SN'd gun with EM Reilly on the rib is 11227.
*10 - mid Feb 1868 Reilly opened 2 rue Scribe Paris; 1st extant SN'd gun with rue Scribe on the rib is 14983.
*11 - Nov 1881 Oxford Street was renumbered; 1st extant Reilly with 277 Oxford street (or 16 New Oxford St.) on the rib is 23536.
*12 - July 1885 Reilly closed rue Scribe; last extant Reilly with "rue Scribe" on the rib is 27340. *(Note: There are 3 later guns SN 27533, 27570 and 27854 with "Paris" on their barrels. All three have Whitworth steel barrels and are built on Scott Climax triplex actions. I've chosen not to use these as the end marker for rue Scribe, at least not yet; Reilly at this time was selling both off-the-rack/ready-made guns and bespoke guns made-to-order and I believe these may have been already engraved and sitting in the shop, but not numbered until sold. This is a subjective judgement of course. Additional serial numbers may change this.)
*13 - 1898 Reilly closed 16 (502) New Oxford Street. Last extant SN'd gun with 16 New Oxford Street on the rib is 34723
*14 - 1903 Reilly moved from 277 Oxford St. to 295 Oxford st. First extant gun with 295 on the rib is 35422
*15 - June 8, 1912 Reilly declared bankruptcy. Last extant SN'd gun is 35678. Bert Reilly subsequently opened a small gun shop at 13 High Street, Marylebone as "E.M Reilly & Co.", which lasted to about 1918-early 1919; no guns with this address on ribs have been found, no advertisements for it exist.
*16 - in August 1922 (date confirmed-per newspaper advertisements) the Reilly name was bought by Charles Riggs. The name/address on the ribs was "EM Reilly & Co., London." Riggs' had historical connections to BSA - however, some believe his guns were built by Osborn/Midland. The serial numbers became 6 digits apparently beginning around 130000 - The first extant Riggs-Reilly so far found is 133805; the last is 150570. How many of these "Reilly" Riggs guns were produced or how Riggs' numbering system actually worked is not clear

Sanity Checks:
**1. - 7201 would have been serial numbered in late summer-fall 1847. It has the 502 New Oxford St. address (post 23 March 1847) and the label "removed from Holborn" (which existed from April 1847 through November 1847.
**2. - After his triumph at Paris in 1855 - "all guns were sold and many orders booked." The increase in production by 200 guns for 1856 reflects this.
**3. 10655 - Early 1858 Reilly pinfire on the Lefaucheux principle; No one in UK could have made that gun for Reilly other than Lang or possibly Blanche; “The Field” mentioned at this time that Reilly along with Blanche and Lang were “overdone with orders” for breech loaders, likely the reason that in Jan 1859 he opened "the Manufactory" at "Arsenal House," 315 Oxford Street - to satisfy this demand.
**4. 10782 - He began making under license Prince Patent breech loaders soon after the Patent, probably as early as 1857. The gun was serial numbered in early Fall 1858 - 1st Prince Patent gun.
**5. 10811 This Prince patent gun is dated to Autumn 1858. However, it has "Reilly & Co. Oxford Street, London" on the barrel. "Oxford St" would indicate it were made at 315 Oxford St., which did not open until January 1859. "Reilly & Co., apparently was used for a short while from January 1859 to Fall 1859. This would indicate that the gun was ordered in autumn 1858 and serial numbered at that time - but not completed until early 1859. (There are no pictures to confirm the Christies advertisement). 1st extant gun completed at 315 Oxford St.
**6. 11227 - Reilly began using "E.M. Reilly & Co." in Sep-Oct 1859. 11227 is the first extant gun with "E.M. Reilly & Co" on the gun rib and would be dated in Autumn 1859 per the chart.
**7. 11716 - Reilly .577 Enfield given as a prize Christmas 1861 per an inscription on the gun; it was certainly numbered in late November, early December 1861.
**8. 12532 - In 1862 the London Exposition ran from late May to September. His exhibit included a gold washed muzzle-loader shotgun, much commented on at the time, which may still exist. If this is the exposition gun the chart has it being numbered around July 1862 rather than the start of the exposition in May. However, the article describing it was written in September 1862, validating the date chart.
**9. 13333 - Reilly obtain manufacturing rights to the Green Bros Breech loader and per a post on this board began to manufacture them about Apr-May 1864. This gun was number 23...The chart has it being numbered about May 1864.
**10. 17314 - The Martini-Henry was formally adopted (though still being trialed) in summer 1871. The first Reilly advertisement for Martini-Henry's appeared in November 1871. The chart has 17314 being numbered in early Jan 1872.
**11. 19286. The below comment about 19286 was posted on a knowledgeable UK board. The chart has 19286 as being numbered in early 1875 - at the time the UK board was still struggling with the wide-spread disinformation that Reilly had closed rue Scribe in 1872:
. . . . . . ."The action flats have the expected View mark, and they have the H Walker patent mark for his barrel bolting and safety for drop-down actions patent No 455 of 12 February 1872 ( Use No. 1098 ) .
. . . . . . ."Of equal importance to the marks are the ones that don't appear e.g. no NOT FOR BALL or CHOKE mark. The first of these was introduced in 1875, so this and the patent date mean the gun was made definitely not before Feb 72, or after 1875. "It must have been made a couple of years after 1872, say 1874 to early 1875, and we favour the latter because even if the gun was made by a large trade maker, the 1098 use number is quite a large number."
**12. 23536. Oxford Street was renumbered in November 1881. 23536 is the first extant gun with the new numbers on the rib. The chart would place it in mid- November 1881.
**13. 23574. 1882 Hurlingham rules weight limit for pigeon guns was fixed at 8 lbs. This pigeon gun built in late 1881 for the new upcoming season weighs 8 lbs..
**14. 24534. 1883 Hurlingham rules weight limit for pigeon guns was changed to 7 lbs 8 oz. This pigeon gun built in late 1882 for the new rules weighs 7 lbs 8 oz.
**15. 30768. A&D Boxlock patent number 8245. The SN dates the gun to late summer 1889. The A&D patent expired in September 1889
**16. 35186 - Dated on the chart as 1901; it has a post-1898 trade label and London 1896-1904 proof marks
**17. 35554. Reilly double rifle chambered for .500/.465 with 295 Oxford St. address on the barrels. The chart dates it as late 1907. This cartridge was introduced by Holland & Holland in 1907.

John 39
Posts: 268
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: A New History of Reilly of London, Gun Makers and a Serial Number Dating Chart

Post by John 39 » Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:15 pm

Hi Gene,

You've done a lot of work on this and I congratulate you with your analysis of the Reilly serial numbers but to call it a "New History" is a bit of an exaggeration. There is not much difference between your history written last year and ours written in 2002. Some words and phrases in your history are the same as we originally used, and your conclusions from the evidence are the same as ours. We don't want any kind of dispute, and would only point out that all our histories are copyright.

We would be most interested in how you conclude J C had more than 2 children, we've found no evidence of this.

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