John Pedersen (arms designer) : biography
John Douglas Pedersen (May 21, 1881 – May 23, 1951) was a prolific arms designer who worked for Remington Arms, and later for the United States Government. Famed gun designer John Moses Browning told Maj. Gen. Julian S. Hatcher of U.S. Army Ordnance that Pedersen "was the greatest gun designer in the world".Julian S. Hatcher, Hatcher's Notebook, Military Service Publishing Co., 1947. on page 383.
Pedersen is best known for the 1918 Pedersen device that converted a standard military Springfield 1903 rifle to a semi-automatic, intermediate-caliber firearm.
He designed several successful sporting guns for Remington, including the novel Model 51 pistol, the Model 10 pump-action shotgun and the Models 12, 14, and 25 pump-action rifles. He collaborated with John Browning to design the Model 17 pump-action shotgun. The Model 17 was a trim, 20-gauge shotgun that was later redesigned and made in three highly successful forms: the Remington Model 31, Browning BPS, and the Ithaca 37.
Pedersen designed the two second best U.S. military firearms of the 20th century. His .45 caliber automatic pistol, based on the same design as the Model 51, was accepted by the Navy Board for production, but the First World War intervened and Remington tooled to produce the M1911 instead. He also designed a competing design to the M1 Garand rifle. His design utilized a toggle-lock and patented waxed cartridges. The Garand was selected instead. His "Pedersen rifle" was also trial tested by the British and Japanese between World War I and World War II, but it was not adopted.
Pedersen was issued 69 patents listing his home as Wyoming, and others listing Colorado and New York State.
World War II
During the early days of America's involvement in World War II, Pedersen formed a company with the Irwin family, who owned successful furniture manufacturing concerns in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Irwin-Pedersen Arms Company in that city was capitalized for $1,000.000.00, by the brothers Robert and Earl Irwin. Primarily through Pedersen's contacts in the Ordnance Department, the Irwin-Pedersen Arms Company received a contract to manufacture over 100,000 M1 Carbines to be produced at the rate of 1,000 per day after the Grand Rapids factory was tooled up and in full production.
Unfortunately, due to faulty management and a host of other difficulties, the company failed to achieve mass production and produced slightly over 3,500 M1 Carbines. None of these carbines met Ordnance Department standards and thus none were accepted for the military. In March 1943, the Ordnance Department cancelled the contract it had with the Irwin-Pedersen Arms Company. The Irwin-Pedersen's production facilities were taken over by another contractor, Saginaw Steering Gear Division of General Motors, on April 1, 1943.Larry Ruth, M1 Carbine: Design, Development & Production, The Gun Room Press, 1979, ISBN 0-88227-020-6, pp. 99-104, 114-116. Carbines made at Irwin-Pedersen facilities under Saginaw control were marked with either name. Today, Irwin-Pedersen M-1 Carbines are among the rarest versions of the M1 Carbine and as such, I-P Carbines usually command premium prices in collector's circles.
Personal life and family
Pedersen was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the third of four children of Danish immigrants John H. and Matilda Christine Pedersen. The Pedersen family were ranchers and lived in several western states; they had a family ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where John Douglas lived after his parents died. Pedersen's education is unknown, according to family records, but it is known he traveled extensively.
On March 28, 1918 (or possibly 1920) Pedersen married Reata Canady in Provo, Utah. Canady was born in Greenville, Texas, and her father, a Scot named Loren Canady, was a railroad engineer sent to China, where he worked building a railroad. Canady accompanied him while her mother remained in the San Francisco Bay area. One day he went "down the line" to deliver a payroll to a railroad crew, and was never heard from again, leaving his now-semi-orphaned daughter to make her way home. She became a violinist protégé of Sir Thomas Lipton, who helped her attend nursing school and becoming an RN at Victoria Hospital, London. According to family legend, Reata was a nurse during World War I, working in a field hospital inside a bombed-out church in Belgium when a German shell hit. She was assisting in a surgery on a wounded soldier, and threw herself over him to keep debris out of his wounds. According to the story, they had to be pulled from the rubble, the soldier survived, and Reata received a decoration from the British government. This event brought her to the attention of an American magazine illustrator, possibly P.G. Morgan, who did 100 oil paintings for the Red Cross of her as a nurse, at night in a field hospital, using a small flashlight to read a patient's thermometer. The painting was supposedly made into the cover illustration of one of the era's magazines. Though there is no documentation known to exist of this tale so far, the actual oil painting does exist, and currently has a place of honor in her granddaughter's home in Waldorf, Maryland. At some point during the war Reata produced short stories and magazine articles under the pen name Reata Van Houten; this much is documented. Her stories include Honor Among Thieves, All-Story Weekly (1917); Fiddler Joe, All-Story Weekly (1919); The Seven Sleeper, All-Story Weekly (1919); and Comrades of the Trail, and Munsey’s (1927). During the 1930s, she wrote articles for Field & Stream and similar magazines on topics like fly fishing. She also became a radio personality, and had her own show on an NBC affiliate, where she was known as "The Hostess of the Air."
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