Album: A.J. Aubrey & Meriden Fire Arms Co. "Millionaire's Gun for the Common People"
Albert James Aubrey was born in Meriden, Conn. in 1863 and in the 1880 census was working in a Meriden gun factory, likely Parker Bros. He was plant superintendent for the Wilkes-Barre Gun Co. in New York from 1890 until the company went into receivership in 1895, then a principle with Elmira Arms Co., and became the sole proprietor of Elmira Arms in Dec., 1895. In 1900 he was living in Norwich, Conn. and working for Colt. +++++ The Andrew Fyrberg & Sons plant in Worcester had contracted in 1899 to sell it's entire gun production to Sears, and shortly thereafter Richard Sears purchased an interest in the firm. Fryberg made guns marked "Chicago Arms Co." sold by Sears and also Fred Biffar Hardware Co. of Chicago. The 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog lists the $15.75 Chicago Long Range WONDER hammerless double and the single barrel Long Range WINNER "BUILT IN OUR OWN FACTORY under the direct supervision of one of the most skilled gun makers in America and his two sons, expert gun machinists, gun and tool makers in Worcester, Mass." There were also several guns with different American Gun Co. names (made by Crescent in Norwich and owned by H&D Folsom) including the Bar Lock All American and New American. Other Folsom made WONDER guns were the White Powder Wonder, Gold Medal Wonder, and the American Bar Lock Wonder. That same year, Fyrberg moved production to an old shoe factory in Hopkinton, Mass. +++++ In 1904, Richard Sears bought Fyrberg's interest, named Aubrey as General Manager, and in January of 1905 moved the machinists and machinery to the vacant Malleable Iron Co. building on North Colony St. in Meriden. Aubrey became Vice President and General Manager for the Sears, Roebuck & Company's firearms operation in Meriden and 8 patents were eventually assigned to him. Fred Biffar, Chicago, was President. Aubrey's brother Alfred was hired to run the pistol manufacturing division. In 1905, the Meriden Fire Arms Co. started manufacturing hammerless and hammer double barrel shotguns marked The A.J. Aubrey, single barrel shotguns, revolvers (some under Howard Arms Co.), and rifles. Sears TRADE NAMES included The New England, Utica Special, NY Utica Special, Warner Arms Corp Brooklyn, Gibraltar, Challenge, Gladiator, and Berkshire. +++++ A.J. was made President and General Manager in 1907, but in a corporate reorganization in 1910 was replaced by James K. Williams. The Aubrey tradename continued to appear in Sears catalogs along side the Meriden name for several years after Aubrey's departure, including the "New Aubrey" hammer gun. In 1920, A.J. is in Santa Clara, CA employed in Sporting Goods and in the 1930 census was listed as a "gun maker." He died in San Mateo Feb. 3, 1947. +++++ Automatic ejectors were first offered about 1912 and by 1914 the most expensive production gun listed was $50. The 1914 catalog listed the following firearms: Meriden Double Hammerless No.30, No.50, No.60 & No.80, Meriden Double Hammer Gun No.170, No.180 & No.190, Meriden Repeating Hammerless Shotgun No.280, Meriden Hammerless Repeating Rifle Model 15 No.215, Meriden Model 10 Rifle Take-down No.210, Meriden Model 6 Rifle Take-down No.206, Meriden 10 Ga. Single Hammer Shotgun No.230, Meriden Single Hammer Shotgun Automatic Ejector No.240 & No 250, Meriden Single Barrel Hammerless Automatic Ejector No.260 & Meriden Revolvers automatic ejector and hammerless. +++++ Another line of much higher grade guns were manufactured called "THE MERIDEN GUN." The 1910 Meriden Firearms Co. catalog shows the following grades - A with Whitworth, Krupp, or 6-blade damascus for $250 with AE, B with Krupp or 6-blade for $185 with AE, C with Krupp or 4-blade for $110 with AE, D "Trap Gun" with Krupp or 3-blade for $90 with AE, E "Quail Gun" with Krupp and ONLY 16G for $60 (no AE offered), F with Krupp or 3-blade for $60 with AE, G with Krupp for $40. Production of these guns was apparently quite limited as very few are found today. It is not known if the intended market for these more expensive models may have been Fred Biffar's company or other national dealers. +++++ In 1916 the manufacturing facility was sold to New England Westinghouse, possibly because Westinghouse had just received a contract to produce Mosen Nagant rifles and bayonets for Russia. Some guns were produced in another facility on Center Street in Meriden until 1918 when Sears announced that the Meriden Fire Arms Company would discontinue the manufacture of sporting guns, after an estimated total of 80,000 side-by-side shotguns had been produced.
Aubrey shotguns in the 1906 Sears catalog started at $13.85 and went up to $69.00 depending on grade and engraving. The cheapest had Twist or "Armory steel" barrels and the most expensive had 6 blade Damascus. They were advertised as having "all the improvements found on other guns as well as some that are not found on other makes" and were the pride of the Sears line with a 60 day free trial and a 20 year guarantee. All were 12g sidelock double guns with either 30" or 32" barrels and POW stocks. Model 18 AS- line engraving Laminated- 13.85 20 AT- line engraving Armory Steel- 14.85 22 AD- line engraving 2-blade Damascus- 17.35 30 ALE- leaf engraving Laminated- 16.35 34 ADE- leaf engraving 2-blade- 18.85 50 ASE- fine line scroll and game scene Laminated- 19.35 52 DSE- fine line scroll and game scene 2-blade- 22.35 56 engraved 3-blade- 29.75 58 engraved 4-blade- 39.75 60 made to order 5-blade- 49.75 62 made to order 6-blade- 69.00 +++++ In 1908 the fluid steel barrel Meriden hammer gun (marketed as the AJ Aubrey at that time) sold for $12.59, $1.00 more for twist barrels. A hammerless LC Smith with fluid steel barrels, sold by Sears that same year was priced at $25.00 compared to the $13.85 for hammerless Meriden made gun. +++++ 1909 Catalog #118: Aubrey Engraved Hammerless "12-gauge double barrel, full engraved, hammerless, quadruple lock action, (extractor), breech loading shotgun made by the Meriden Fire Arms Company of Meriden, Connecticut, a factory owned, controlled and operated by us, designed, modeled by and built under the direct personal supervision of Mr. A.J. Aubrey, vice-president and general manager of the Meriden Fire Arms Company, and maker of the highest grade double barrel breech loading shotguns made in America." Model 30 ALE- Laminated- $16.35 34 ADE- 2 blade Damascus- $18.85 50 ASE- Elaborately engraved Laminated- $19.95 52 DSE- Elaborately engraved 2 blade- $22.35 56 Very elaborately engraved very fine 4 blade- $29.75 58 Very finest 4 blade- $39.75 60 Special 4 blade- $49.75 62 Made to order finest hand engraved 4 blade- $69.00 (L.C. Smith Grade 2 Damascus - $56.00) RECEIVERS were marked S-Steel barrels, T-Twist, K-Krupp, D-Damascus, and C-Chain Damascus. +++++ FROM THE 1902 CATALOG: "The barrels are taper choke bored, by the celebrated Taper system, to insure the strongest long range shooting qualities, the best possible target, the highest possible penetration, and being made in the proper proportion of heft at the butt, the minimum of recoil is obtained." +++++ FROM THE 1908 CATALOG: "Shooting qualities- As before explained, the shooting qualities of these guns are unequaled for long distance killing, long range shooting, for penetration, pattern or target. Both barrels are full choke bore, so firmly constructed that unlike other guns, there is no recoil or kicking. That which in other guns goes into recoil in the A J Aubrey gun goes to give greater force to the shot." +++++ FROM THE 1916 CATALOG, offering the Meriden Tournament Grade for $26.45 and the Diamond Grade at $38.50: "Two Meriden Hammerless Guns in which an especially high degree of perfection in all details of strength, balance and beauty of design has been attained, guns which can be classed among the finest product of world renowned American skill in gun manufacture." +++++ RESOURCES: +++ Meriden Fire Arms Company website http://www.meridenfirearms.com/index.html +++ "The Double Gun Journal" Vol. 1, Issue 4, 1990 by Charles Carder; Vol. 6, Issue 3, 1995; Vol. 16, Issue 2, 2005 by James Tyson; Vol. 21, Issue 1, 2010. +++ Pete Mikalajunas maintains a listing of serial numbers in an attempt to identify dates of manufacture http://damascus-barrels.com/Aubrey.html +++++ SPECIAL THANKS to Daryl Hallquist and to Doug Craig for the 1908 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Fall Catalog.