Gary Cunningham's

Bayonet Point's

April 2003

Scabbards by the Millions - Part Two

Post World War Two Activities of the Beckwith Manufacturing Company

Unfortunately I have far less information on the activities of Beckwith Manufacturing Company and the Victory Plastics division following the end of World War 2 than I have found for their World War Two production. Much of what is presented below is based on very limited fact and a lot of speculation. I would certainly welcome any bits of information, no matter how small, that might shed some light on scabbard production from the early 1950s until the late 1960s, especially where it concerns any of the Beckwith divisions.

A short history of Victory Plastics appears in the Hudson (Mass) Bicentennial Scrapbook, which states "Following the war, lines and processes were converted to custom molding and electronically sealed plastic products for private industry and consumer trades. Extensive research facilities were also available to other industries."

Circa 1953, Victory Plastics produced M3, M7, and M8A1 scabbards, differing only slightly in paint color from the World War 2 production specimens. The paint is very slightly lighter in color, has a slightly more yellow tone and the surface shine of the finish is a little flatter. However, if the scabbard has been wiped with an oily cloth, the difference almost disappears.

 

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M3, M7 and M8A1 scabbards of the 1953 production period.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

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Package label of the 1953 production M7 scabbard.
(Photo credit - the Greg Robinson collection)
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

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Internal packaging of the M3 scabbard, two to an unmarked sleeve.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

The only way to be certain that an M3 or M7 scabbard is of this production period is that the markings on the underside of the throat plate now display the Victory Plastics logo and a number instead of the earlier B */* N configuration. The face of the throat still is marked the same as the World War Two produced scabbards.

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Typical throat markings on the 1953 Victory Plastics M3 and M7 scabbards.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

The M8A1 scabbards differ from World War 2 production both in the marking on the face of the throat and the mark under the throat top plate.

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Throat and top plate markings on 1953 and later M8A1 scabbards by Victory Plastics.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

In 1954, their 50th Anniversary year, Beckwith stated in a Anniversary Brochure that their box toe line included over 70 types and weights in thermoplastic, pyroxylin, flannel, rubber filled felt, and steel. They also operated the following subsidiary plants manufacturing box toes:

Beckwith Manufacturing Company of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
Beckwith Box Toe Limited, Sherbrooke, Province of Quebec, Canada;
Arden-Rayshine Company, 10 Calvin Road, Watertown, Massachusetts;
Safety Box Toe Company, Boston, Massachusetts.

Other subsidiaries and their product lines included:

Felt Process Company, Roxbury and Cambridge, Massachusetts; (Manufacturing and processing of felts, rubber dispersions, and Chemical Research)

Castex Laboratories, Inc.; (location not noted) (Rigid bandage for fracture surgery)

Victory Plastics Company, Hudson, Massachusetts;
(Military scabbards, custom molding, electronically sealed plastic
products for private industry and the consumer trade. Extensive research facilities available to other industries)

Agents were established worldwide, including:

Wright-Guhman Company, St. Louis, Missouri;
Dellinger Sales Company, Reading, Pennsylvania;
The George A. Springmeier Company, Cincinnati, Ohio;
Factory Supplies, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
Ralph S. Wilder and Sons Company, Boston, Massachusetts; (export trade)
Colin Bailey, Port Elizabeth, South Africa;
Lennart Ljungqvist, Stockholm, Sweden.

Victory Plastics again produced M8A1 scabbards in 1961. These are different from the 1953 run in that they have the metal tip protector used after 1955 The Parkerizing on this run is lighter gray and more granular than the 1953 run, and the webbing is a darker green with a lighter thread used in the sewing. The label on the clear plastic packing for this scabbard does not include a US contract number. . One collector stated to me some time ago that he thought these were US contract but meant for Military Aid programs to other countries.

 

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Upper - label from the clear plastic wrap on M8A1 scabbards.
Center - One of the scabbards as it is packed.
Below - One of the scabbards unfolded.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

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Markings on the throat and top plate of the 1961 production M8A1 scabbard.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

Besides the V.P. CO. marked version, there is another version that is somewhat of a mystery to me. The underside of the throat has the VP/9 mark as shown earlier with the 1961 production M8A1, the body has the VP logo, but the throat is marked U.S.M8A1 / WD. So far I have found no record of what the WD might stand for. To complicate matters even slightly more, there are WD marked specimens that do not have either of the VP marks, and a VIZ version that is marked VIZ/WD, also with no VP marks.

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Throat markings of VIZ / WD and WD M8A1 scabbards.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

The last series of bayonet scabbards produced by the Beckwith Manufacturing group is still somewhat of a mystery. They include the M7 scabbard and the M1917 scabbard. I have no hard information on any of these, so will simply make a few observations and hope that someone will be able to shed some light on the manufacture and use of these scabbards.

About 1956, the Arden-Rayshine Division name changed to Beckwith-Arden Inc, and their main office moved to 201 Arlington Street in Watertown, Mass. They still listed the Calvin Road address in Watertown, possibly as the manufacturing location.

The M7 scabbard is marked U. S. M7 over B.A. INC. in the lower half of the front of the throat. There is no Ordnance Shell and Flame mark as on previous M7s. The specimen in my reference collection is marked on the underside of the throat plate with the Victory Plastics mark of VP /9. When it was manufactured is still in question. It is possible that it was made after the Victory Plastics plant in Hudson was closed circa 1964, possibly using machinery transferred from there to the Beckwith-Arden plant in Watertown, which is believed to have closed in the early 1970s. Although I have no facts concerning this scabbard, it may be that it was made for another country on a military aid contract.

The metal parts are finished in a smooth medium gray Parkerizing. The body is painted in a style that also appears on two of the M1917 scabbards - a somewhat lighter green than the earlier models, with a somewhat mottled look of flat and shiny areas, and what appears to be areas of black, which is more noticeable in the photo below of the Victory Plastics M1917 scabbard. The back has a Defense Acceptance Stamp (DAS) with the number 11418 under it with the appearance of having been stamped with a rubber stamp.

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Front, back and top plate markings on the Beckwith-Arden Inc M7 scabbard.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

The Beckwith company made three of the four so-called "Vietnam era" M1917 scabbards under three different company names. So far I have found no information on contract dates or quantities. None have the VP logo on the bodies, or the Ordnance Shell and Flame on the throat. It has always been presumed that these were made at about the same time as the Canada Arsenal and General Cutlery M1917 bayonets in the mid-1960s, but may well have been made over a longer period of time.

What is probably the earliest style is marked U.S. M-1917 over B.M. CO on the lower half of the throat face similar to the M7 already mentioned. The underside of the throat plate is marked with the WW2 style Beckwith mark of B /1 N, and the body is painted in the World War Two color and gloss. The Parkerizing is a smooth medium gray. As the Beckwith plant at Dover closed in 1955, these were either made prior to that date or the mark was used by one of the other Beckwith divisions.

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The throat and top plate markings on the B.M. CO. M1917 scabbard.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

The second version is marked U.S. - M1917 over V.P. CO. in the upper section of the throat face. There are no markings under the throat plate. The Parkerizing is a lighter gray and somewhat more granular than that on the B.M. CO. scabbard already mentioned. The paint is the same lighter and mottled type used on the B.A. INC. M7 described above. This also has an extra rivet hole centered in the lower section of the throat on both sides.

It also has the ink DAS stamp on the back of the body, but facing left, and if there was a number, it failed to stamp. Possibly this scabbard was made at the Hudson plant prior to its closing about 1964.

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Markings on the V.P. CO. M1917 scabbard. Note the black marks in the paint finish.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

The third version is marked U.S. - M1917 over B.A. INC. Other than the change in markings, it is visually identical to the V.P. CO. described above. It has the ink stamped DAS mark on the back, vertically oriented and the number 11418 under it as on the M7. This may have been made using machinery transferred from the Hudson plant, which might date production in the mid-1960s.

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Markings on the B.A. INC. M1917 scabbard.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

Just to complete the list, the fourth version of the M-1917 scabbard is marked U.S. M-1917 over V.Z.M. in the upper half of the throat face. It has the third rivet hole as do the V.P. CO. and the B.A. INC. I do not know the identity of this maker. The Parkerizing is a smooth medium gray, and the scabbard body is painted in a glossy dark olive. The color, finish and appearance is very similar to the B.M. CO. marked specimens. The only outstanding difference is in the shape of the tack welds that hold the throat plate to the throat body, which are a slightly irregular oval in the B.M. CO., V.P. CO. and B.A. INC. specimens and are nearly square in this specimen.

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Throat and top plate markings of the VZM. M1917 scabbard.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

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Note the difference in the oval tack welds on the underside of the throat in the Beckwith scabbard above and the square welds on the VZM scabbard below.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

The Beckwith Manufacturing Company plant in Dover may have closed about 1955, as it is listed in the Dover City Directory for 1953, but fails to appear in the 1956 edition. One source suggests that the factory was antiquated and was no longer able to produce their product competitively.

The Victory Plastics plant in Hudson closed about 1964 and was sold to the Industrial Realty Trust in 1965 for approximately $255,000, and was converted to a multi-use facility housing a number of small businesses.

The final Beckwith Patent that I have found was filed July 7, 1964 and issued as Patent No. 3,191,825 on June 29, 1965. The patent was granted to Edwin L Beckwith, who assigned it to Beckwith-Arden Inc of Watertown, Mass. The patent covers primarily a redesign of the method of manufacture of the throat used on the M8A1 scabbard. I have never seen a scabbard that fits the patent specifications. A design patent application was submitted on the same date, and granted as Design Patent 205,769 on September 20, 1966.

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The final Beckwith patent.
Click on thumbnail for full size photo.

 

Circa 1970 Beckwith-Arden, Inc. moved to Audubon Road in Wakefield, Mass. and lists a branch plant in Cambridge, Mass. (possibly the old Felt Process Company facility?) According to an obituary on the web, the plant was in North Cambridge and made shoe last machines. This is the last listing for the company that I have located so far.

There are a number of questions yet to be answered about the later production scabbards made by the Beckwith company and its divisions. I certainly would welcome any information that might help answer the following questions.

  1. Does anyone have the markings that are on the outside box that held the circa 1953 production of the M3 scabbard? Why were M3 scabbards being ordered in 1953? Any ideas will be considered, but at this time I have no firm information. They must have been ordered in some quantity as they are not especially rare today. The two shown above came from a "Master Box" that had the markings on the outer box, but unfortunately I failed to record the markings on the outside box. The inner sleeves are unmarked. Production of M7 and M8A1 scabbards make sense, as it was necessary to replace losses during the Korean Conflict, but why M3s?
  2. Does anyone have the package from the circa 1953 production of the M8A1 scabbard so we can determine contract information and date?
  3. Does anyone have any information, package markings etc. about the WD marked M8A1 scabbards, especially regarding their relationship with Victory Plastics or the VIZ company? I have spoken to some people at VIZ in Philadelphia, and although they were somewhat aware of the fact that the company had produced bayonet scabbards and machete scabbards in the 1966-67 time period, they had no other information whatsoever.
  4. As far as I am concerned, there are a lot of questions about the production of the M1917 scabbard. From the style, and the fact that the Dover plant seems to have closed about 1955, it may be that the first production of the M1917 scabbard was actually in the early 1950s using the B.M. CO. throat and throat plate markings. If the original B */* N marking did indeed indicate Beckwith and New England Pressed Steel as was previously stated, did New England Pressed Steel also supply the metal throats for this contract? Does anyone have any packaging or other information that would help answer some of these questions?
  5. There is so much similarity between the M1917 scabbard marked V.P. CO., the M7 scabbard marked B.A. INC., and the M1917 scabbard marked B.A. INC. that it appears they were all made at about the same time. Would this possibly indicate that production started at the Victory Plastics plant at Hudson and was moved to the Beckwith-Arden facility at Watertown when the Hudson plant was closed about 1964? The similarity in appearance and the DAS over 11418 mark must indicate that they were all produced at about the same time. Possibly the number was an individual inspector's mark? I have seen M8A1 scabbards marked with the DAS ink stamp but no number - does anyone have a M8A1 scabbard with a number under the DAS stamp?
  6. Does anyone have any information, package markings, etc. on the VZM company?

E-mail me at bayonetman@suddenlink.net

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