The arms industry in The Netherlands and Belgium in the 19th century
An introduction to a reconstruction of a piece of industrial heritage
Welcome to the site of Edouard -Eddy- de Beaumont
While "Liège" survived, "Maastricht" fell into oblivion
history of the weapons industry for portable firearms in The Netherlands
is infested with legends and myths. This is particularly true for the
arms industry in Maastricht. Time for a further investigation. This site
focuses on answering the following question: What aspects have
contributed to the rise and fall of the arms industry in Maastricht in
the nineteenth century, and how did these aspects influence each other?
From this several research problems follow. At its core it is simple:
Where did the Dutch army get its rifles and pistols from? How were
these purchase and production processes interrelated and who were
involved? In this we have to remember that The Netherlands included
Belgium up to 1830. Which means LIÈGE, the ancient industrial hart
land of fire arms production. But what after the Belgium secession?
After the Belgian secession, the Liège factories were lost for the Netherlands. The gun factory of DEVILLERS was looted. Other manufacturers like MALHERBE and DE MALHERBE GOFFONTAINE saw their trade lost. The former gun factory at Culemborg no longer existed, and the GUN SHOP at Delft was nothing more than a workshop. The government therefore addressed to the company SPANGENBERG in SUHL Germany. But also Dutch companies were favoured with orders. As relations between Belgium and the Netherlands were somewhat stabilized, the Walloons came back in the race for the orders.
advances and political developments in the international arena forced the
Dutch government in 1840 to choose for the new percussion system, which
replaced the old flintlock. Due to economic reasons they decided to
transform the rifles and pistols already in use. In 1841 the contract was
awarded to the Maastricht great entrepreneur PETRUS REGOUT.
In 1869 the army was busy testing new real breech loaders with a smaller calibre, which had to replace the recently introduced Snider Rifle. The tests well underway a third Maastricht citizen came out of the blue. Finally the weapon presented by him came out on top. When that model was adopted for various army units, EDOUARD DE BEAUMONT, who had no plant of his own, had the rifle manufactured in the Manufacture Impériale d'Armes in St. Etienne France. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 messed up things, so the production was shifted to Suhl and continued by a consortium consisting of Messrs. SIMSON, LUCK, GÖBEL, SCHALLER en BORNMÜLLER.
Edouard de Beaumont was a jack of all trades. But what made him standing out of the crowd, was that he earned international fame. For years he was said to be the inventor of the Beaumont rifle. However on March 24, 2006, during a symposium of "De Vereniging Edouard de Beaumont", Mr W.A. Dreschler showed the world an American patent from 1870: "Be it known that I, John Joseph Cloes, of Liège, in the Kingdom of Belgium, have invented a new improvement in Breech-loading Fire-arms". Cloes did it as the inventor, but also as "assignor to Edward de Beaumont, of same place." This ended all previous speculations regarding the question whether De Beaumont was or was not the inventor. On his term Cloes was inspired by the French gun designer Antoine Chassepot and the Mauser - Norris system.
also the arms factory P. Stevens Maastricht, now continued by his four sons,
experienced a revival when it was favoured with orders for the Beaumont
Rifle. This to great dismay of the De Beaumont. Several court cases
followed. De Beaumont took Stevens to court for violating his patent, and
lost. Chassepot was send back to Paris after loosing against De Beaumont in
a similar case. Eventually all lost. The production of the Beaumont rifle
quickly came to an end. Although Stevens did get some orders for revolvers
for officers, the factory declined rapidly. After Emile Stevens died in
1879, the factory was sold to… Edouard de Beaumont and his partner Leonard
Commotion arouse when in 1888 the government was on the brink of awarding a contract to Francotte of Liège for the third big operation that century: the transformation of the Beaumont rifle into repetition according to the system of the Italian Vitali. Backed-up by the media this contract eventually went to Maastricht. However this could not save the factory. In 1890 Edouard de Beaumont bought his partner out. Not being able to come up with innovative products, activities virtually came to a standstill. An attempt by a third party to establish a new factory in Maastricht, was a shot to nothing. Hence with the demise of Edouard de Beaumont in 1895 a long tradition of gun making in Maastricht dating back to the 17th century came to an end.
The 'Geweerwinkel' in Delft was gradually moved to Hembrug. Hence the government finally got what it always wanted: A arms factory within the fortress Amsterdam. The “Artillerie Inrichtingen”, as it became known, was a modest factory, but the introduction of an assault rifle called the MR10, the predecessor of the famous American M16, could have made something big out of it. But again due to ‘circumstances’ this was not going to be. Finally this gun production facility came to a close in 1963 as the government awarded the order for the new rifles to FN in the Liège area. Full circle!
To the right: Mr Jean Gosuin (1746-1808), one
of the most important arms dealers and manufacturers in Belgium during the
age of Napoleon Bonaparte. (Courtesy of Mr Benoit Gosuin)
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