All posts for the month January, 2015

Lansing Toy Gun Company continued

 Hoop Gun

The Daisy Hoop Gun

The second toy gun was actually a toy; it was the Daisy Hoop Gun designed my Henry G. Lewis and Charles C. Curtis. The Daisy Hoop Gun was intended as a toy for children. The idea was simple, the hoop is placed in the recess and drawn back until it engages, then the gun was shot, the idea being that the hoop could be aimed at an object with the idea being the hoop landed over the object. Much like that carnival game the ring toss. Considering everything this could have been a fun toy. Think about it. Lots of children at a party shooting color coated rings at an object to get prizes.

Hoop Gun Trigger

The trigger on the Daisy Hoop Gun

The story of  is a bizarre tale. Charles was born in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1827. At the age of eleven Charles’ family left New York and settled in the south. When the war with Mexico broke out he enlisted in the United States Army, after his discharge he took part in William Walker’ expedition and conquest of Nicaragua in 1855. Returning to the United States, Charles settled in Florida and became a slaveholder. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Charles enlisted in a Southern Regiment and served until captured by Federal forces in 1864. He was confined to Fort Delaware Prison where he escaped and made his way to Canada where he stayed until the war concluded. Financial ruined Charles settled in Albion, Michigan. At some point he married Mrs. Ellen F. Thompson; the couple had two sons, Harry D. and Jennings Demorest Curtis. Charles moved to Lansing in 1880 and opened a tin shop on Franklin Street [Grand River] with Paul Dunham. Later Charles worked by himself or with a variety of partners.

On June 4, 1897 Ellen passed away at the couple’s home in Lansing. Ellen F. Green was born in Otsego County, New York in 1837, her family came to Michigan and settled in Oakland County in 1850. On July 4, 1854 Ellen married Jeremiah Thompson, the couple had three children, Nehemiah, Marshall and Edwin. Between 1870 and 1880 Jeremiah and Ellen divorced, Jeremiah passed away October 11, 1892 and is buried at Mount Vernon Cemetery, Macomb County, Michigan. At some point between 1870 and 1880 Charles and Ellen married, in the 1880 Census they are married with a two-month-old son, Henry D. Curtis. (LJ 6/5/1897) Once Ellen died Charles life spiraled out of control, he returned to his work as a tinner, but he was constantly move in and out of hotels. In fact after 1904 Charles disappeared completely from the printed record and only his obituary is available to fill in the missing pieces.

The Lansing Journal stated that Charles had a room above Ernest Kowalk Saloon located at 1233 Turner for the last year of his life. The State Republican related the Charles was found in an excited state in a dirty little room above a store on Turner Street by a Lansing Policeman, he had not eaten in days and was without any money. Chief Behrendt questioned Charles who told the tale of giving all his money to his children who then proceeded to ignore him, Behrendt intended to send Charles to the Poor Farm, to which Charles replied that he would commit suicide rather then be imprisoned at the Poor Farm. Friends of Charles rallied to his side and obtained a room at the Digby Hotel for him. On September 16th he was removed from his room at the Digby Hotel and sent to the City Hospital. Early on the morning of September 20, 1907 one of the truly worldly characters in Lansing passed away. His body was removed to Mount Vernon Cemetery, Macomb County, Michigan to be buried next to his wife Ellen. SR 9/20/1907 and LJ 9/21/1907

So what happened to the Lasing Toy Gun Company? On Tuesday September 9, 1884 a fire was discovered at 6:30 pm at the Lansing Toy Gun Factory on Franklin Avenue [Grand River]. The building was filled with wood shavings, lumber and wood stains all combustible materials which resulted in the fire spreading quickly through the building. The North Lansing Fire Department responded rapidly but the fire was too advanced to extinguish swiftly, the factory was completely destroyed. Lansing Toy Gun Company lost all of its inventory and machinery valued at $5000, since the company only carried $2000 in insurance it was a devastating loss, from which the company never recovered. (LRW 9/11/1884) In February of 1885 the Lansing Toy Gun Company was reformed at the Michigan Novelty Manufacturing Company with many of the same people involved in the company. The plant was rebuilt on the site of the destroyed Lansing Toy Gun factory, the main building was a brick veneered structure 32 by 79 feet and all new machinery was purchased. It is difficult in determining if the Michigan Novelty Manufacturing Company ever produced anything it only appeared in the 1887 City Directory then it was gone. By 1892 the site of the plant was occupied by the Lansing Spoke Company with Jacob F. Schultz as president. Jacob was also president of the Lansing Toy Gun Company and the Michigan Novelty Manufacturing Company. The same equipment used to produced the toy guns could also be retooled to make spokes. It is possible that Michigan Novelty Manufacturing Company failed and was reorganized as the Lansing Spoke Company. No records have been discovered for the Michigan Novelty Manufacturing Company. LRW 2/11/1885


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