Burton Drawings at Harpers Ferry: The Emergence of 19th Century Drafting Practice at the U.S. Armories

Burton Drawings at Harpers Ferry: The Emergence of 19th Century Drafting Practice at the U.S. Armories
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James Henry Burtonspent ten eventful years at the Harpers Ferry Armory. During this tenure, he perfected an elongated bullet for the regulation .58-caliber rifle-musket—commonly called the Minié bullet—helped test and perfect new lock mechanisms, barrel rifling, and machinery.


Burton’s drawings range from simple sketches used to flesh out components of operating mechanisms to dimensioned, hand-tinted drawings of firearm components and complex machinery. According to John Symington, Supt. of the Harpers Ferry Armory, Burton’s “management was so satisfactory, and his ingenuity in devising, draughting and perfecting tools and machines so marked, as to cause me at once to select him as a fit person to fill the position of Master Armorer…”


The Burton Drawings at Harpers Ferry focuses on the remarkable achievements of James H. Burton during his 10-year tenure at the Harpers Ferry Armory. Burton’s notes, sketches, and detailed drawings teach us a great deal about the emergence of 19th century drafting practice and the evolution of firearm technology during the decade preceding the civil war.


Author: David T. Gilbert. Publisher: Harpers Ferry Park Association. Paperback, 64 pages. Measures 8.5" x 8.5" x 0.2". Weighs 5.8 oz.

Publication Date: 
2021-03-10