Arthur William Savage

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Arthur William Savage
Arther w savage and tire.png
Newspaper photo Arthur Savage and a new steel tire, circa 1911
Born Arthur William Savage
(1857-05-19)May 19, 1857
Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies
Died September 22, 1938(1938-09-22) (aged 81)
San Diego, California, United States
Occupation Inventor, explorer, businessman
Spouse(s) Annie Bryant
Children Arthur John Savage

Arthur William Savage (May 13, 1857 – September 22, 1938), was a businessman, inventor, and explorer. He is most famous for inventing the Savage Model 99 lever-action rifle, which remained in production for over 100 years, and founding Savage Arms. However, his most lasting and valuable inventions may be radial tires,[1] and it has been argued, the modern detachable box magazine used in almost all modern military firearms. He also invented an early torpedo and built and raced cars.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies. His father was Welsh, a special commissioner to the West Indies, charged with setting up an educational system for the slaves emancipated in 1834.[2] .


In the late 1880s he took his family to Australia, homesteading in a covered wagon. He came to own what was then the largest cattle ranch in Australia.[2] Eleven years later he sold it and bought a coffee plantation in Jamaica.[2] In 1892 he moved to Utica, New York, and hired himself to a railroad, the Utica Belt Line Street Railroad (See List of New York railroads). He also got part-time work at a gun factory, the Utica Hammer Magazine Company.[2]

Savage Arms[edit]

Savage and his son Arthur John began designing guns. His first model in 1887 was a lever-action rifle with the magazine in the stock, rather than under the barrel.[3]

Six years later, he patented a lever-action rifle able to shoot then-modern guncotton military center-fire cartridges with .303-caliber spitzer bullets.[4] This "Model 95" was the direct predecessor of the Savage Model 99. Savage invented a novel rotary magazine rifle. A benefit of this magazine was that it had a cartridge counter on the left side of the receiver that enabled the shooter to tell how many cartridges remained in the magazine. Lacking sufficient manufacturing capacity the first 9600 ( plus or minus ) Model 1895 rifles were contracted to be built by Marlin Repeating Arms and are so marked with the JM proof mark.

The Model 1895/99 also used an enclosed striker system, rather than an exposed hammer, and was the first mass-produced enclosed striker type rifle. The striker firing system, as used in the model 95 and 99, is superior to hammer type system because they have less mass, and achieve quicker ignition. The enclosed nature of the striker system prevented dirt and fouling from accumulating in the system. A hammerless rifle was therefore a substantially superior gun. The Model 95/99 also possessed a rotary magazine which allowed the use of pointed or "spitzer" type bullets which was not possible in period tubular magazine rifles.

In 1894, Savage started Savage Arms in rented space on Hubbell street in Utica, New York to produce his new rifle.[2] The Savage Arms factory was later ( 1897 ) moved to Tilden Avenue in Utica New York.

Slightly later, in 1897, he filed for the patent on a nearly identical gun with a removable box magazine. This is substantially the modern Savage Model 99 lever-action rifle.[5] It stayed in production until 1999.[2]

The modern removable box magazine often seen on military rifles was invented in 1908 by Savage, as an improvement to the Model 99.[6] It did not come into wide use until his patent expired in 1942 with the obvious exception of the family of rifles designed by James Paris Lee and adopted by the USN and the British Empire; first as the Lee–Metford and later as the Lee–Enfield rifles. The box magazine has many attractive features that ensured its eventual dominance: shoulders to retain cartridges when it is removed from the rifle, operates reliably with cartridges of different lengths and is insertable and removable at any time with any number of cartridges. This allows the operator to reload the gun infrequently, carry magazines rather than loose cartridges, and to easily change the types of cartridges. It is assembled from inexpensive stamped sheet metal. When empty the follower[7] stops the bolt from engaging the chamber, informing the operator of the gun's emptiness before any attempt to fire.

Savage Arms Company produced firearms for both World War One and World War Two. Savage Arms produced over 70,000 Lewis Machine Guns in caliber 303 British for World War One use by allied forces, and produced over a million Number 4 Mark 1 Short Magazine Lee–Enfield Rifles in caliber .303 British for Britain under the Lend-Lease program in World War Two. Savage Arms also produced other weapons for these conflicts.

Savage collaborated on the invention of the Savage-Halpine torpedo,[8] which was eventually adopted by the Brazilian navy. Although U.S. sea trials were successful, it was not adopted in the U.S., due to political considerations.[2]

There are some claims that Savage invented the recoilless rifle, but searches produce no U.S. patents predating William Kroeger's 1944 patent.

Savage Tire[edit]

In 1901 Savage moved to Duarte, CA, and formed the Savage Tire company, a $5,000,000 San Diego, CA corporation formed to make tires and inner tubes. Here, he invented radial tires[1] as well as new production methods.[2][9]

Savage committed suicide at the age of 81, on September 22, 1938 in San Diego,[10] still director of his successful tire company.[11] He had left a note beside himself claiming to have been suffering from a terminal illness.


  1. ^ a b U.S. Patent 1,203,910, May 21, 1915, Vehicle Tire, Inventor Arthur W. Savage
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Kimmel, Jay, "Savage & Stevens Arms: Collector's History" Cory Stevens Publishing, ISBN 978-0-942893-00-7
  3. ^ U.S. Patent 366,512, July 12, 1887, Lever Action Gun, Single-shot or Magazine, Inventor Arthur W. Savage.
  4. ^ U.S. Patent 502,018, July 26, 1893, Hammerless Rifle, Inventor: Arthur W. Savage; It was called the 'Model 95' because production started in 1895.
  5. ^ U.S. Patent 634,034, Firearm, Filed: Apr 21, 1897, Granted Oct. 3, 1899, Inventor: Arthur W. Savage
  6. ^ U.S. Patent 885,868, April 28, 1908, Improved Magazine, Inventor: Arthur W. Savage
  7. ^ The "follower" is the sheet metal part between the last cartridge and the spring.
  8. ^ U.S. Patent 456,524, September 27, 1891, Torpedo, Inventor Arthur W. Savage
  9. ^ U.S. Patent 1,138,250, March 6, 1914, Inner Tube Manufacture, Inventor Arthur W. Savage
  10. ^ "The Montreal Gazette - Sep 23, 1938". Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  11. ^ Obituary, American Rifleman, November, 1938