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Richard J. Gatling

Signed Card

A beautiful signature in lavender fountain pen ink, "Yours truly, R. J. Gatling" with flourish, on stiff ivory card. Slight smudge on the "a", otherwise fine.

Richard Jordan Gatling (1818-1903) was an American inventor best known for his invention of the Gatling gun, the first successful machine gun. A naturally talented inventor since he was 21, Gatling invented the Gatling gun after he noticed early in the American Civil War that a majority of the dead were lost to disease rather than gunshots. In 1857, he wrote: "It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine—a gun—which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished."

 Gatling Gun

After developing and demonstrating a working prototype, in 1862 he founded the Gatling Gun Company in Indianapolis, Indiana to market the gun. The first 6 production guns were destroyed during a fire in December 1862 at the factory where they had been manufactured at Gatling's expense. Undaunted, Gatling arranged for another 13 to be manufactured at the Cincinnati Type Factory. While General Benjamin F. Butler bought 12 and Admiral David Dixon Porter bought one, it wasn‘t until 1866 that the US Government officially purchased Gatling guns. In 1870 he sold his patents for the Gatling gun to Colt. Gatling remained president of the Gatling Gun Company until it was fully absorbed by Colt in 1897. The hand-cranked Gatling gun was declared obsolete by the United States Army in 1911.

In his later years, Gatling patented inventions to improve toilets, bicycles, steam-cleaning of raw wool, pneumatic power, and many other fields. World-famous, he was elected as the first president of the American Association of Inventors and Manufacturers in 1891, serving for six years. Although still quite wealthy at the time of his death, he had made and lost several fortunes in bad investments.