Proudly Presented by the NRA

The Honored Marque
L.C. Smith

Presented by
Tod Dawson

The Gold Medal Concours is proud to feature an Illinois gun collector and an American gunmaker for its first appearance in the Midwest, at The National Side By Side Festival.


The L.C. Smith shotgun, the “Elsie,” is one of America’s Famous Five (with Fox, Ithaca, Lefever and Parker). Although in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries hundreds of gunmakers supplied the American market, these five dominated the scene with a wide variety of models, gauges and grades. The quest to collect them becomes a journey; add the provenance that accompanies many of these guns, and the journey becomes a passion.

Unlike European gunmakers, who typically apprenticed in the trade, American gunmakers often were entrepreneurs in other fields who came later to manufacturing firearms. Lyman Cornelius Smith was a livestock owner and a sawmill operator before going into the gun trade with his brother Leroy and William Baker, a gun designer. They formed W.H. Baker and Co. in 1877 and made drillings, three-barrel guns. In late 1879 or early 1880, Leroy Smith and Baker left the company. In 1884 a side-by-side shotgun designed by Alexander T. Brown, a company machinist, was introduced as the L.C. Smith hammer gun, which would remain in production until 1932. Brown also designed a hammerless sidelock gun that appeared in 1886.

Grades were first designated by letters, with AA the highest grade and F the lowest. With the hammerless gun came names that corresponded to letter grades. For example, prior to 1913: Field (OO), Ideal (0), Olympic (1), Trap (2), Skeet Special (3), Pigeon (Premier Skeet), Whippet (4), Gladiator (A1), Eagle (5), Crown (A2) and Monogram (A3). After 1913, three grades of A3 became available: Monogram, Premier and Deluxe. Confusing? Yes! The company was sold numerous times, and new owners revamped the model lines.

As Elsies were gaining popularity with the American shooter, L.C. found another invention that intrigued him-the typewriter. Turning to Brown again to improve its design, he introduced the Smith typewriter in 1886, and four years later sold the gun company to Hunter Arms. Brown went on to create the Dunlop tire; Smith sold the typewriter company in 1903 and diversified into shipping, ship-building, railroads, steel and banking. He died in 1910.

L.C. Smith guns made by Hunter Arms are so marked. In 1920 ownership of Hunter Arms passed to Simonds Saw and Steel; in 1941 Simonds sold the gun company to Marlin, where production continued until 1949. In 1967 Marlin reintroduced the Smith name, but after just 2,539 guns, production ceased again, in 1972. Because of these changes in ownership, serial numbers (like model names) do not follow a logical order and production numbers are difficult to pin down.

Today the Smith name again appears on a shotgun, introduced by Marlin and made in Europe. Consider it a tribute to the longevity of the L.C. Smith name and the esteem in which it is held by American gunners.

The definitive reference book is L.C. Smith Shotguns, by Lt. Col. William S. Brophy; The Gun Room Press, Highland Park, NJ, 1991. An excellent overview of the L.C. Smith appears in Michael McIntosh’s Best Guns, from Countrysport Press, Rockport, ME.

The L.C. Smith Collectors Association can be reached in care of Len Applegate, 6709 Windwood Dr., Cincinnnati, Ohio, 45241; 513-777-1946.

Tod Dawson

A lifelong resident of Champaign, Illinois, Tod Dawson graduated from DePauw University in Indiana. He worked for a short time with AT&T, then joined his father’s small insurance agency. When Tod took over, he began to merge with other firms in the Champaign-Urbana area, eventually forming a company called Insurance Risk Managers, one of the largest agencies in downstate Illinois. He sold his share in 1999 and retired to enjoy his family, his many civic activities, and his passion for fine guns.
Tod, a former Eagle Scout who received the Silver Beaver award, has been very active in the Boy Scouts of America, the First Baptist Church in Champaign and in Rotary International (he is currently the assistant district governor). He serves on the Salvation Army’s regional board and has held leadership positions with the United Way in Champaign-Urbana. Tod and his wife Bonnie have two daughters and a son.
Tod collects sporting antiques, especially Illinois River decoys, Parker, L.C. Smith and Ansley Fox shotguns and English shotguns. The sporting-gun community is deeply indebted to him for sharing the best of his ‘Elsies’ with us at the 9th Gold Medal Concours, held at the National Side by Side Festival on May 14, 2005, at Illinois’s Northbrook Sports Club:

20-Gauge Deluxe No. 203009 (believed to be the gun on page 86 & 87 of L.C. Smith Shotguns)

12-Gauge A3 No. 204029 (one of 17 known A3 guns)

12-Gauge A2 No. 1799 (one of 200)

20-Gauge Monogram No. 7919E

20-Gauge Crown No. 7324E

12-Gauge 5E No. 201126

12-Gauge Specialty No. 219673 (thought to be John Olin’s-see Shooting Sportsman, March/April 2003)

16-Gauge Ideal Grade No. 526538

12-Gauge Ideal Grade Long Range No. RE92346

8-Gauge, Grade 2 No. 42022

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