Edward Maynard bigraphy, stories - Inventors

Edward Maynard : biography

April 26, 1813 - 1891
Edward Maynard


Edward Maynard was born in Madison, New York, on April 26, 1813. In 1831 he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point but resigned after only a semester due to ill health and became a dentist in 1835.

Maynard continued to practice dentistry for the rest of his life, becoming one of the most prominent dentists in the United States. Practicing in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. his clientele included the country's political elite, including Congressmen and Presidents, and it is reported that he was offered but declined the position of Imperial Dentist to Tsar Nicholas I. In 1857 he became professor of theory and practice in Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

Maynard had two wives; his first was Ellen (b. 1826, and to which all of his known children were born) and Nellie (b. 1845). Maynard's son, George Willoughby Maynard, was born in Washington, D. C. on March 5, 1843 and became a successful artist. His other children included John (b. 1855), Ellen (b. 1858), Josephine (b. 1860), Marie (b. 1852), Virginia (b. 1854), and Edna (b. 1870).1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 US Federal Census

In 1845 Maynard patented the first of 23 firearms-related patents he was awarded during his life.

In 1888 he held the chair of Dental Theory and Practice at the National university in Washington. He died on May 4, 1891 and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC.

Maynard's Firearms Inventions

Maynard invented many dental methods and instruments, but is most famous for his firearms inventions. He achieved lucrative fame for his first patent, an 1845 priming system which cycled a small mercury fulminate charge to the nipple of a percussion cap firearm.

Maynard's system used a magazine from which a paper roll, not unlike modern cap guns, advanced a charge over the nipple as the gun was cocked. Theoretically this accelerated a gun's rate of fire as the shooter could concentrate on loading and firing the gun. The system was quickly adopted by several commercial gun makers, and the United States government decided to test it.

In 1845 the Maynard system was installed on 300 converted percussion muskets and trials were considered successful. Maynard turned over the patent rights to his priming system to the United States Federal Government in exchange for a royalty of $1.00 per weapon: a substantial sum at the time (the cost of making an entire 1861 Springfield was $18.00.) In 1855 the Maynard Tape Primer System was installed on all 1855 model .58 caliber military rifles and carbines made at Federal arsenals.

The base of an unfired Maynard 52 caliber cartridge showing the hole in the middle of the base.However the system was complicated and often malfunctioned in wartime conditions. During the Crimean War British cavalrymen had been equipped with 2,000 Greene carbines, a Maynard system firearm, and the system was found to be unreliable in the field. In 1860 U.S. ordnance officers recommended dropping the Maynard Tape Primer System, and the famous 1861 Springfield rifled muskets did not use it.

In 1851, however, Maynard had patented a more successful idea: a simple lever-operated breechloading rifle, which used a metallic cartridge his own invention.

When the gun's lever was depressed the barrel rose, opening the breech for loading. Afterwards the lever was raised to close the gun's breech. Once cocked the loaded weapon could be primed by either placing a percussion cap directly on its nipple or by using Maynard's priming system to advance a primer to the nipple. The brass Maynard cartridge did not have an integral percussion cap; a small hole in the middle of its base fired it when the external cap was detonated. The cartridge, which had a wide rim permitting swift extraction, was reloadable up to 100 times. This proved to be a significant feature for the Confederate troops equipped with it. Another significant feature was that the use of a metallic cartridge prevented gas escape at the breech, a serious concern for early externally-primed breechloaders.

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