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Bannerman family papers

Creation: 1857-1974
Accession: 2210


Francis Bannerman Son was a major purveyor of military goods to sportsmen and collectors in New York City over three generations. The collection consists of Bannerman family's personal papers, correspondence, travel diaries, and financial documents concerning Bannerman Island.


  • Creation: 1857-1974



1.8 Linear Feet

Historical Note

Francis Bannerman Son was a major purveyor of military goods to sportsmen and collectors in New York City over three generations.

The firm was founded in 1865 by Francis Bannerman VI (1851-1918) and his wife Helen "Nellie" Boyce Bannerman (1852-1931) as an offshoot of his family's ship chandlery and military salvage business located near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His father, Francis Bannerman V (circa 1820-1872), had first purchased military goods at scrap prices in the demobilization at the end of the Civil War. Francis VI began by selling potatoes and apples in season, along with hardware purchased at government auctions. By 1880, he was selling mostly government surplus arms and military supplies. Around 1890, Bannerman acquired the Spencer Arms Company, manufacturers of repeating shotguns. He moved his store to Manhattan in 1897, where it soon became noteworthy as a museum of modern and antique weaponry and military memorabilia. To store his vast quantities of arms and ammunition, Bannerman bought Pollepel Island in the Hudson River Highlands in 1900 and erected Bannerman's Island Arsenal and a summer residence, patterned after the castles of the family's native Scotland.

On January 1, 1917, Bannerman turned the business over to his sons Francis VII (1873-1946) and David (1875-1957) as the partnership of Francis Bannerman Sons. In 1958, David's son Charles S. Bannerman (1905-1976) incorporated the business and became president, but he was a relatively passive representative of the family interest, the day-to-day affairs being in the hands of career employees. The business was downsized and moved to Long Island the following year. Pollepel Island was sold to the state in 1967, and the buildings were gutted by fire in 1969.


Arranged alphabetically by subject and genre.

Scope and Content

The collection includes the incoming personal correspondence from the last year of Francis Bannerman's life and a series of diaries covering his trip to Ireland for his marriage and some of his annual voyages to Europe and Asia, which doubled as vacations and buying trips. The diaries are reasonably full accounts of accommodations, sites visited, and other observations.

Another important section of the collection deals with Bannerman's Island, including mortgages, taxes, and papers covering the sale of the Island to the state in 1967 and the subsequent fire. There are also notes for Charles Bannerman's history of the Island and a large group of news clippings. Most of these deal with the Island, the fire or the Bannerman firm. A few pieces were apparently collected by Francis Bannerman on topics he found interesting, including the 1903 assassination of King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia.

One of the most interesting pieces in the collection is an agreement of 1915 confirming an 1872 prenuptual agreement between Francis and Nelly Boyce Bannerman, in which Bannerman acknowledges his wife's right to half his assets as the equal partner in all his labors. It describes the circumstances of their marriage, his refusal of a dowry, their early hardships, and the many tasks performed by himself and his wife when starting in business.

Among the miscellaneous pieces are Bannerman's certificate of membership in the Free and Accepted Masons, his New Testament and dictionary, a booklet of rules for the Brooklyn Latin School which Bannerman's sons attended, and an 1857 deed of assignment of William Talbscott & Co. of Liverpool.

Related Material

Francis Bannerman Son records (Accession 2185), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Francis Bannerman Son photographs (Accession 1998.284), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Bannerman family papers
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA