By Townsend Breeden
The L.C. Smith shotgun has been manufactured in many forms since 1884 but over the years no serious consideration was given towards uniting owners in some fashion until the early 2000s.During the intervening years many personal gun collections of one or more accumulated in safes, closets, barns and gun shops. Extending the knowledge of the guns was limited by their isolation which could be overcome only by their owner’s observations and communications, occasional publications and the published works of Lt. Col. Brophy’s, L.C. Smith Shotguns in 1977 and Plans & Specifications of the L.C. Smith Shotgun in 1981. That changed in 2002.
As a few double gun collectors stumbled into each other at gun shows, they found that L.C. Smith shotguns were of common interest. On one such occasion at the March 2002 Maryland Arms Collectors Association show in Baltimore, Len Applegate, Andy Anderson, Bob Trefry and Bill Winter huddled around Rich Beyer’s L.C. Smith display, talked about forming an association and promised to meet again. Over the following months they agreed to support an L.C. Smith display at the New York State Arms Collectors show at Syracuse later that year. At the show in September 2002 the five aforementioned, joined by Frank and Mary Anne Finch, discussed the next few steps in starting a formal association. The seven member group is referred to unofficially-but affectionately-as the Founding Members.
The talks concluded with an agreement that a March 2003 organizational meeting would be advertised in several gun periodicals. The proposed meeting would be open to all comers and was planned to be on the Saturday night of the 2003 Maryland Arms Collectors Association show in Baltimore. No one knew how the invitation would be received.
But optimism was in the air as, mainly through the efforts of Len Applegate, the first newsletter dated January 2003 was published. One of the main features of the four-page newsletter, entitled L.C. Smith Speaks for Itself, was an invitation to the Banquet and Organizational Meeting. Note that the January Newsletter predated the Baltimore March show by three months. Responding to the call and joining the Founding Members for dinner at the Turf Inn, Baltimore Maryland on March 15, 2003 were eight interested persons who, with the foregoing seven, comprise the fifteen Charter Members. The organizational dinner meeting, presided over by Parliamentarian Mary Anne Finch, was successful as the following resolutions were voted on and approved by the fifteen persons present:
- Formation of the L.C. Smith Collectors Association.
- Adoption of the bylaws with provisos attached (The bylaws had been prepared prior to the meeting by Mary Anne Finch and distributed to those present.)
- Signing of the permanent record sheet to be filed with the original papers of the organization (and which signatures constituted agreement to abide by the bylaws and commit to prompt payment of dues. Persons who signed thus became Charter Members and their names were read aloud.)
- Reading of biographies and election of the first Board ofDirectors consisting of Frank Finch, James Stubbendieck, LenApplegate, Tom Archer, Bob Trefry, Andy Anderson and BillWinter.
- Election of the first officers by the Board of Directors as follows:
Executive Director: Bill Winter, Recording Secretary: Len Applegate,
Treasurer: Bob Trefry, Corresponding Secretary: Frank Finch.
Standing Committee chairman assignments were made by Bill Winter as follows:
Newsletter: Len Applegate and Frank Finch
Membership: Len Applegate
Webmaster: James Stubbendieck
Events: Andy Anderson
The fifteen Charter Members, by the name they imprinted and in the order in which they signed, are:
William F. X. Winter III
Mary Anne Finch
Douglas B. Upchurch, Jr.
B. E. Anderson
Townsend D. Breeden
J. D. Shank
Frank J. Finch, Jr.
Charles Wesley Brooks
Robert A. Trefry
Incorporation papers were filed by John Houchins in the State of Texas on May 30, 2003 as “The L.C. Smith Collectors Association, Inc.”
At the end of four months it was reported in the September 2003 Newsletter that membership had increased beyond the original fifteen to fifty-seven, including thirteen life members. At the end of the first year of operation membership had significantly increased along with the size of the newsletter of 12 pages. The December 2003 newsletter covered the L.C. Smith display at the Annual Vintage Cup World Side by Side Championships and Exhibition at Orvis, Sandanona, New York and announced the change in one office position: Frank Finch as the new Executive Director. Growth in the organization was apparent by the expansion of events sanctioned by the Association for 2004 also announced in the December 2003 newsletter:
- Annual Meeting at the Maryland Arms Collectors Association show in Baltimore, followed by the first annual spring shoot,
- Vintage Cup World Championships and Exhibition at Orvis, Sandanona, New York,
- Vintage Festival at Quail Ridge near Cincinnati, Ohio,
- Tulsa Gun Show and
- Vintage Cup at Deep River, North Carolina (now known as the Southern Side by Side)
At the time of this writing in January 2014, eleven years after its founding, the L.C. Smith Collectors Association boasts a membership approaching 700 members; sponsors or sanctions fourteen events around the United States from California to New York; publishes a 28-page color Journal full of history, technical articles, and current and future events; hosts an internet website with a popular information dispensing forum; possesses a copy of the original production records from which more than 1,300 research letters have been produced; takes pride in the publication by its membership of more than 40 articles in prominent journals and books including Rich Beyer’s, The Hunter Arms and L.C. Smith Gun (2005), John Houchins’, L.C. Smith: The Legend Lives (2006) and James Stubbendieck’s L.C. Smith Production Records (2013); all in furtherance of the Association’s original mission statement of, in part, “…to stimulate and educate members and the public in their knowledge of the history and production of the L.C. Smith shotgun….”