The First Cartridge; A History of Jean Samuel Pauly and His Inventions

Posted on November 23rd, 2018

Pauly Cartridge

As a pinfire (gun, cartridge, document, etc) collector I have always had an interest in telling the origin story of its invention. I recently had a post that showed some of the earliest pinfire guns and cartridges. But the story of Casimir Lefaucheux (the inventor of the pinfire system) starts a little earlier than that.

In 1766, Samuel Johannes Pauli was born in Bern, Switzerland, to Johann Pauli and Veronika Christine. His father was a carriage builder and Samuel started his career in this industry, selling his luxury carriages to wealthy clients as early as 1796.

In March of 1798, Pauly was an artillery sergeant in the Swiss army where he was inspired by the mobility of the French artillery that he designed a new type of artillery and carriage for the Swiss military which only needed a single horse and a couple men rather than the previous ones when needed a team of oxen to move.

But there was not a huge demand for his carriages so he pivoted to designing the first human-powered aircraft. It was a dolphin-shaped dirigible that many people were excited about. However, he did not get the funding needed so he decided to move to Paris in 1802. At some point around this time he also became known as Jean Samuel Pauly. While in Paris he had a balloon maker build his design and had a successful maiden voyage on 22 August 1804.

Pauly's Dophin-shaped Dirigible

Then in 1808 Pauly partnered with François Prélat to open a firearms workshop. On September 29, 1812, Jean Samuel Pauly took out a French patent for a new gun design that allowed cartridges to be loaded at back of the barrel rather than shoved in from the front. This was the very beginning of breechloading weapons and cartridges as we know them.

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

The shotgun example shows a hinged design that opened upward to load the cartridge. He also showed a pistol design that had the whole barrel hinge downward to load. This design would be further developed and eventually turn into a design that’s still used to this day on shotguns.

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

His cartridge that worked with these designs was rather revolutionary as well. It consisted of a small metal base that was sized to where it would perfectly fit in the opening of the breech on these new guns. A paper cased cartridge would then be fitted to the front of the metal piece and tightly tied to the metal base. He also mentioned that many other case materials could be used, including metal, which is shown on my example.

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

Cartridges that contained the projectile and powder all in one piece had been around for awhile. Pauly took this idea and made it even better. Rather than having to have a separate ignition source such as a percussion cap that a hammer hit or a flint that struck metal like the other guns of the day had, Pauly designed this cartridge to have a slot on the base to put a priming compound that would be hit by a small needle. His design mentioned that the compound could be held in place by pasting a small paper over it or a bit of wax.

The priming compound was a mixture of coal, sulfur and superoxygenated muriate of potash (potassium chlorate.) This was a delicate mixture that was hard to acquire outside of major cities.

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

Pauly mentioned that this design eliminates the issues that weather can cause since there is no flint or cap to get wet. It also eliminates the issues of cavalry losing what was loaded out of the barrel if the horse jerked the rider. He mentioned that this was a common thing that happened during this time. It was also much safer as there was no worry of loading too much powered in the barrel. And this allowed the shooter to have multiple cartridges all ready to go. Initial tests showed that a well-trained shooter could fire 12 shots per minute which was significantly quicker than any muzzle-loading weapon of the day. He mentions that this is 10 times faster than the ordinary guns of the day.

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French PatentJean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French PatentJean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French PatentJean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French PatentJean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French PatentJean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

Jean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French PatentJean Samuel Pauly's September 29, 1812 French Patent

A contemporary review of Pauly’s gun, published 12 January 1815, in the Journal de Lyon, ou Bulletin Administratif et Politique du Département du Rhône states that the guns are much easier to use, almost never misfire, can be used in the rain by hunters and can even be safely used by children. It states they are easier to clean since the barrel is open at both ends and there is less smoke so you can actually see the animal fall after shooting it.

Journal de Lyon, ou Bulletin Administratif et Politique du Département du Rhône

Another contemporary review was written even closer to the date of invention. It was reviewed by Baron Delessert, in September of 1812, in the Bulletin de la Société D’encouragement pour L’industrie Nationale, who had reviewed Prélat’s new rifle a couple years prior. He mentioned that Pauly was working with Prélat to manufacturer these guns. The article first goes into Pauly’s details of the gun on how it is faster, safer, better and all of the marketing talking points. He then goes into his personal review of the gun. Delessert shot 300 rounds through the gun and indicated that not a single shot misfired. He mentioned how this gun would be especially beneficial to cavalry since there is no worry about the charge being dislodged from the horse jerking. He also mentioned how advantageous it was that there was no smoke or bright flash from the primer ignition which allowed more accuracy on multiple shots. And just like Pauly’s claims, Delessert’s review indicated that using this gun was much faster and easier than anything that existed on the market. He also mentioned that it would likely be less expensive than other guns of the day once it was made at scale, especially since it used half the amount of powder.

Bulletin de la Société D'encouragement pour L'industrie NationaleBulletin de la Société D'encouragement pour L'industrie NationaleBulletin de la Société D'encouragement pour L'industrie Nationale

Bulletin de la Société D'encouragement pour L'industrie NationaleBulletin de la Société D'encouragement pour L'industrie Nationale

Pauly tried to sell this gun to Napoleon’s army and even though it was an amazing design for the time it was still turned down due to the need for two types of powder, its cost, its complexity and the unknown of how safe it would be.

At Pauly’s Parisian factory he employed a couple men who have been mentioned before in this blog. Both Casimir Lefaucheux and Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse would get their start working for Pauly and go on to patent their own designs and become far more famous and wealthy than Pauly ever was. Then in 1814 Pauly moved to England. He sold his factory and patents to Henri Roux who continued to manufacturer an improve these guns in France.

When in England, Pauly would become known as Samuel John Pauly. He established himself on Charlotte Street and partnered with a well-known businessman, Durs Egg, to continue working on his flying machine. On 25 April 1815, the king granted a license to build a passenger air machine which would be able to transport 15-20 people back and forth to Paris each day. On 16 August 1816, the London Observer reported that the ship was almost ready to fly but the maiden voyage never happened and the exact reasons are unknown.

During this time of working with Egg, Pauly had not forgot about his revolutionary firearm design. While in England, Pauly took out two more patents for modifications to his gun. I recently acquired a copy of both of these British printed patents. The drawings are printed on a linen paper that folds out to be about 4 feet wide. I am not sure I have seen them published anywhere so I scanned them and will provide them here!

The first patent was granted on 04 August 1814 and covered a new design of using compressed air to move a needle into the priming compound really quickly. The heat from this would then ignite the priming compound or powder. It also covered a cannon that used a similar ignition design.

Samuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's August 04, 1814 British Patent

The second patent was granted on 14 May 1816 and improved on the first. It covered the pistol and more variations of the gun. It also went into much more detail on the cannon. I do not know if this was the design he had made for the Swiss army, but improving artillery was clearly something that was still on his mind.

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British PatentSamuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816British Patent

Samuel John Pauly's May 14, 1816 British Patent

Henri Roux would bring these modification back to France in additions to the French patent. He would also patent a flintlock variation of the gun. In 1823 he would file a new patent to allow the Pauly design to use the more common mercury fulminate priming compounds.

In November of 1823 Henri Roux would then sell the company and patents to Eugene Pichereau who would further improve the design of the gun and especially the cartridge. His modifications to the cartridge added a nipple which allowed the priming to use a normal percussion cap so it was easier for people to use and find.

Eugene Pichereau update to Pauly Cartridge

In July of 1827, Pichereau sold the patents and company to Casimir Lefaucheux who patented one final addition to the Pauly design and unsuccessfully tries one last time to sell it to the military. He then stops working on the Pauly system and begins working on his pinfire system and improved breech-loading design.

In June of 1836, Lefaucheux sells the Roux patents and his own patents to Jubé who will manufacturer Lefaucheux-style weapons for the next decade until Casimir Lefaucheux ends up buying them back after taking a long sabbatical from gun making. By this time the advantages of the pinfire cartridge, such as being more gas-tight, safer and less expensive to manufacturer set it up to become the first cartridge weapon adopted by a military in France. His legacy would continue with his son, Eugene Lefaucheux, whose pinfire weapons would be adopted in some form by nearly every military in the world and become the most popular thing in Europe for half a century.

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