Winchester Cannon History:
The Winchester Years (1901-1958)
The 10 gauge breech-loading Winchester Cannon, designed by Charles H. Griffith for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven, Connecticut was granted patent 681,021 on August 20, 1901. The unique feature of the Winchester Cannon is its breech-loading system which makes the cannon very simple and safe to operate when compared to traditional muzzle-loading black powder cannons.
In November 1902, Charles H. Griffith received a patent for another signal cannon barrel. This cannon featured a break-action breech-loading design much like a shotgun. This second Griffith designed cannon was never produced by Winchester.
The Winchester cannon debuted for sale in Winchester catalog number 70 issued March 1903. The catalog described the cannon as: "a low-priced breech-loading cannon possessing safety, simplicity of construction, and ease of manipulation... satisfactory for the Fourth of July and other celebrations, and for saluting." The Model 98 cannon was listed as part number G9801S and cost $7.00.
Original Winchester Cannons had blued steel barrels and cast iron undercarriages & wheels finished with Japan enamel. All Winchester cannons had the following text roll marked or stamped onto the barrel: "Manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. New Haven, Conn. USA Patented August 20, 1901 10 GA". Prominently displayed on the top of the barrel was important safety message: "Not For Ball".
1908: Barrel Dimensions Changed
Winchester changed the barrel design of the cannon by increasing the outside diameter of the muzzle from 1 inch to 1-1/4 inches. Cannons to this day are built to this 1908 specification.
1930: Chrome Plating
Shortly after chromium plating first became commercially viable and also influenced by art deco designs of the period, Winchester introduced its signal cannon with chrome plating. The chrome plated Winchester Cannon, part number G9802S, also featured rubber tired wheels and debuted for $35.00 (at this time the standard model cost $18.00).
1955: Serial Numbers
Winchester revised the barrel rollmarking blueprints and lettering specifications to include a six digit serial number. We are unsure if any Winchester produced cannons actually received these serial numbers prior to the end of production in 1958.
1955: Rubber Tires Changed
1955 - The rubber tires on the chrome cannon were changed from a balloon style (see photo in the 1930 entry above) to treaded Firestore branded lawnmower type tires.
1958: Production Ended
Both the black and chrome cannons were discontinued by Winchester in 1958. In total, approximately 18,400 cannons were manufactured in a production run lasting 55 years (minus any stoppage during World War II). Parts and repair services were available several years after production ceased. In a parts catalog dated June 1, 1960 black parts were still available along with a refinishing service for the black cannon - which cost $25.40.