Durs Egg, a gun maker originally from Switzerland, spent some of his apprenticeship years in Paris, but came over to England in the early 1770s. He set up his own shop in Princes Street in 1778. In 1786 he moved to Coventry Street, then to 132 Strand and then to 1 Pall Mall (you can read why he left the Strand here). After his death in 1831, the business was continued under his sons.(1) Another member of the Egg family, Joseph (baptised as Jean Joseph), the son of Durs’ brother Johann Jacob from the Alsace region, also came over to England, probably in 1790. He most likely started working for his uncle, but in 1800 he set himself up independently in Great Windmill Street. In 1801 he entered a partnership with one Walker at 59 Frith Street as “Gunmakers and Patent Spring Truss Makers”, but that same year he was also recorded as having being in partnership with Henry Tatham as Tatham & Egg at 37 Charing Cross. That partnership was dissolved on the 8th of September, 1814.(2)
In 1800, Joseph, took out a patent for a “method of bending steel without the assistance of heat, which may me applied to the manufacturing of surgical instruments”.(3) In 1814, Joseph advertised a self-resisting and adjusting truss, invented by him and protected by a German patent, used in many hospitals, and made at his shop on the corner of Piccadilly, at the top of the Haymarket. Two years later, he still advertises them “with the high sanction and patronage” of even more hospitals. This time, he lists his address as No. 1 Piccadilly, near the Haymarket.(4) These trusses must have been a lucrative sideline, as Joseph’s main claim to fame comes from his guns. Several gun labels are still extant.
In 1813, then working at Charing Cross, Joseph took out a patent for “applying and improving locks”.(5) That was not the only improvement he made or patent he took out: he devised a waterproof gun lock (referred to in the labels), a self-primer, a percussion priming magazine and he patented a pellet lock (patented in France). He also claimed to have invented the copper percussion cap, but that invention was claimed by more gunsmiths. In 1827, Christie’s held a sale of fire-arms and other weapons belonging to the late Duke of York and one of the items was “a beautiful pair of double-barrelled pocket pistols, by Joseph Egg, silver mounted, with coronet engraved on gold behind the locks, and the Royal Arms in gold upon the buts, with case and apparatus”.(6)
Joseph married Ann Stephens in 1805 and they had four sons, Henry, Charles, George and Augustus.(7) I do not know what happened to George, but Augustus became an artist, and Henry and Charles followed their father’s footsteps in the gun-making business. Somewhere around 1835, Joseph changed the name of the firm to Joseph Egg & Sons. Henry and Charles continued the business from 1 Piccadilly after their father’s death(8), at some point changing the name to Charles & Henry Egg.
Charles died in 1867, Henry in 1869 and the business was then continued by Henry’s son Henry William.(9). According to the census records, both Henry and Henry William continued to live at 1 Piccadilly.
(1) Not in 1822 as I first thought. He was blinded in 1822, but died in 1831. Thanks to Seth Isaacson for pointing this out to me.
(2) The London Gazette, 10 September 1814. Information on the Egg family and the details about guns from a forum on doublegunshop.com.
(3) The Annual Register, or A View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1800 (1801), p. 338 “useful projects”.
(4) The Times, 14 October 1814, 5 July 1816 and 18 November 1817.
(5) Repertory of Patent Inventions and other Discoveries and Improvements in Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture, volume 5 (1828), p. 319 “notice of expired patents”.
(6) The Times, 24 March 1827.
(7) Charles 8 Oct 1809 (bapt. 8 Nov. 1809 St. Martin in the Fields), Henry 10 Nov 1810 (bapt. 1 May 1812 St. Martin’s), George Hine 3 Nov. 1814 (bapt. 2 Dec. 1814 Piccadilly St. James), Augustus Leopold born on 2 May 1816 (bapt. 29 May 1816 St. James’s).
(8) His will is dated 11 May 1837. PROB/1878/58.
(9) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1867, p. 46-47. Probate granted to Sarah, his widow; effects valued as under £12,000. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1869, p. 49. Probate granted to son Henry William; effects valued as under £7,000.
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