Two years ago I was notified of a very interesting Thompson existence. There was word that a Model of 1919 was going to be coming on the market. As many of you know I collect the rare and strange Thompsons and memorabilia, so I was very interested. It was very funny that several people were calling me for information and value on this firearm, but I could not find out exactly who owned the piece. Finally, I was introduced to the current owner. Brig. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, III USAF (Ret.).
During this two year odyssey I had only seen Xeroxed copies of photos that had been faxed to me and only had very vague descriptions of the gun. Needless to say I was looking forward to at least seeing a new Thompson. Finally, the day came!
I met with General Richardson and immediately fell in love with the firearm. The Thompson is a Model of 1919, factory serial number 17. This was a Thompson that had never been recognized or seen in public since the day it left the factory. Like the gun, the story of its travels would also be one of a kind.
The Model of 1919 series of Thompsons was a collection of about forty guns which were the prototype series used by the engineers, Theodore Eickhoff and Oscar Payne, to work out the final design for the production of Model of 1921A. To date we know of eleven Model of 1919s still in existence. Only five are now known to be in private hands, including s/n 17. All of the others are in West Point Military Museum and Rock Island Museum. Probably, a few are in the hands of the IRA. Here with serial number 17 was a new Thompson, never seen in books or other references, and a chance to fit one more piece of information into the puzzle of the design.
According to Gen. Richardson's family records the story begins with an Auto-Ordnance salesman in Poland. The salesman arrived from New York with a complete salesman's kit for the Thompson. Including one serial number 17 Model of 1919, one Type "C", one Type "L", four Type "XX" box magazines, one canvas gun carrying case (ref American Legend page 348), one canvas four cell twenty round box magazine pouch (ref American Legend page 352 fig 406 far left), one Type "C" drum pouch (ref American Legend page 351 fig 404) and Type "L" drum pouch.
Gen. Richardson explains: The salesman, whose name is not known, had come to Poland, in 1920, to sell the Thompson to the Polish Army. The Poles, lead by Pilsuzki, and the Ukrainians under Petsula, were fighting the Bolsheviks directed by Lenin and Trotsky. When in August of that year, the Bolshevik forces threatened to overrun Warsaw, coming within 50 Km of capturing it. The salesman panicked, giving his samples set to my Uncle Lt. Col. Elbert E. Farman Jr, US Army, who was US Military Attache at the Warsaw embassy.