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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Communist Capitalists

Dome and Gold Filial atop old Colt Factory in Hartford, Conneticut
Caught sight of this unusual ornament in the opening to a Colt promotional video, and I had to find out more. Luke Spencer has a story on Atlas Oscura about how Sam built a workers utopia in Connecticut back in the 19th Century. To afford this kind of extravagance, those guns must have been selling for a pretty penny. Sure, they were only a couple of bucks back then, but I think that probably translates into a $100,000 of today's Monopoly money.

Old Colt Factory in Hartford Connecticut
The factory was a big place and by all accounts a model of efficient production. The place is a National Park now.

Colt employees on the shop floor, circa 1900, courtesy of the Connecticut State Library. 
Of course, it was a 19th Century, steam powered sweatshop, but a really nice sweatshop, surrounded by gardens.

Factory engraved SAA by Cuno Helfricht, shipped 1893 to E.J.Post & Co. Albuquerque NM
Making a gun (now) is easy. We have plans and machine tools and precision measuring devices. All you need to do is follow the directions and cut, drill and mill until you have all the required pieces. Engraving, now that's a bit different. It requires patience, skill, good eyesight and a bit of artistic talent. And time. And time, as our modern capitalist system relentlessly hammers into our heads, is money.  These days a fancy engraving job can easily be more than the price of the gun, which kind of makes me think that a century ago, guns were much more expensive, which would have made the engraving not such an extravagance. I suspect that most people would consider spending a thousand dollars to engrave a thousand dollar gun an extravagance. If the gun cost ten times that much, then the thousand dollars for engraving would not be so far out of line.

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