I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself and my concept for this column. My name is Gary Cunningham and I have been collecting US Military "things" since I was about 12 years old when I bought an Austrian musket from another boy who had found it in the town dump. My scoutmaster was a collector of Harpers Ferry arms, and he and his brother told me what I had, and helped me "restore" it to a displayable condition. I continued to collect Civil War items, and by the time I was in High School the local newspaper had written up my collection.
While in college I worked part time in a gun-shop that specialized in antique firearms. Needless to say none of my pay ever found its way into my pocket. I began to branch out into other US military guns and could tell some real stories about "the one that got away" during this time which was the real Golden Age of availability.
I have always picked up some of the accessories that went with the guns, including of course the bayonets. Several years ago I found that the guns that I didn't have were going to be too expensive to ever expect to get, so I began concentrating more on the bayonets and other accessories. A few years later, family health problems required that I sell most of the firearms and some of the bayonets, but I continued to maintain my interest.
Although there were some books on bayonets in print, I found that I needed to keep a lot of the information that I was finding in a notebook. After some years, I was encouraged to put the notebook in some kind of order and publish it, which I did as American Bayonets of the 20th Century. It has been generally well received, and many collectors were kind enough to add to my information since the book was printed. From the beginning, I recognized that the book was far from complete, and this additional information has been received with gratitude.
When Frank asked if I might be interested in adding a small bayonet column to his excellent website, I realized that this would be a way to share the information that is still coming my way, as well as pose some questions that I hope someone will be able to help answer. Each month I hope to add a little to the body of knowledge that is in my book, ask some questions and maybe suggest some answers, and make some personal comments on the hobby in general. Let me repeat that I don't know it all - or probably even a fair portion of it. Also I basically know little to nothing about most non-American issue bayonets so will not be able to answer questions about them.
One of the things that has gotten me into trouble as an "expert" has been the questions about "what is it worth?" so I am going to have to say that I won't try to place a value on what you have. I might comment that something is common or rare, but please don't ask for a dollar value. Also I am not a dealer so I don't have bayonets for sale. My budget barely allows me to add the occasional specimen to my reference collection, and I just don't have the capital to invest in bayonets that I don't need.
If you have questions, answers or comments please email me directly. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible, but my job and other obligations don't always allow me enough time to spend on my hobby as I would like. Also I may have to do some research so I will get back to you, but it may take a little time. If I am unable to answer your question, or if you supply some new information, I will incorporate it into this column.
One of the things I would like to do whenever possible is to pass on information that was not in my book for those who would like to add or correct what is in the book. When I wrote the book I did not know where Wilde Drop Forge and Tool Co was located. Since then, various sources have been located to show that the company was located in Kansas City, Missouri. The name is pronounced Wild-ee.
The company was started in circa 1927 by Otto P. Froeschl and Paul Froeschl (brothers) at 27th and Fairmont in Kansas City Missouri. One source states it was named for Henry Wilde who provided the startup financing. Paul's sons Paul Jr. and Phil took over the company in the 1950s. Floods in 1953 and 1954 damaged the plant, and it has since moved to Hiawatha, Kansas and is still in business today.
Purchase order #870 was issued for 60,000 M1905 bayonets to Wilde Drop Forge and Tool Company on September 27, 1941 at a price of about $3.34 per bayonet. This is based on the $200,000 contract amount as shown in the Alphabetical Listing of Major War Supply Contracts and confirmed by the Register of Prices Paid for Small Arms Items dated August 20, 1942. This was a considerably lower price than was paid to the other contractors, most of who received about $4.00 per bayonet.
As with all the makers, Wilde had great problems in starting production, both in obtaining the proper steel and in heat treatment. Although it was planned for deliveries to begin in late 1941 or early 1942 and to be completed by June 1942, first deliveries were not made until the late summer of 1942. The Register of Prices Paid mentioned above show no deliveries as of August 20, 1942. The order for 60,000 was completed around March or April of 1943, but because of the difficulties involved, they and the Ordnance Department agreed not to extend the contract. Wilde was producing other hand tools which were needed in industry, and the bayonet contract seriously interfered with their ability to make their regular product line. They also had a later contract with the Navy for hand pliers
The bayonets appear roughly made, as Wilde's machinery was not set up for this type production and finishing, but they were serviceable. The low contract price probably also meant that Wilde could not spend much time on final finishing. The marking used in 1942 is crude in appearance and used the older style Ordnance Shell and Flame with the flames separated at the top. The 1943 mark is neater in appearance and uses the shell with the flames coming to a point that is common for World War Two. These marks are shown in the photo.
Photo 1: Click on the thumbnail for the full size photo
Red grips with a black center panel are most commonly associated with Wilde production. These grips are unmarked on the inside. In the photo, note the crack across the grip on the right - I have found this on most of the grips, and believe it is a stress crack due to shrinkage of the plastic around the washer.
Photo 2: Click on the thumbnail for the full size photo
The guard is marked WT on the blade side. Early production has the bayonet catch marked WT, but later production apparently used UC catches, as did most of the other makers
The following was found on the Company Web Site History:
Some 75 years ago in Kansas City, Missouri two brothers, Paul and Otto Froeschl, thought of a new idea for the ordinary straight nose plier--angle the nose 32 degrees to create the greater leverage and gripping power that a straight nose plier is unable to give. Thus was born the original WILDE WRENCH, the first angle nose plier, granted U.S. Patent No. 1,800,447, and the beginning for the two brothers of over forty years experience in the designing and manufacturing of pliers and other quality hand tools. During this time, the name WILDE has become synonymous with fine quality tools and for many years our trademark was "THE PLIERSMITHS™". The original WILDE WRENCH is as practical and useful today as it was over fifty years ago, a testimony to the soundness of the idea and the design which produced the first angle nose plier. Today, the third and fourth generation offspring of the founders are still in the business of producing quality pliers and other hand tools. The original WILDE WRENCH is still available, together now with a wide variety of other pliers and hand tools.
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