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Wilkinson Powder Measures

     This was a very early Powder Measure Patent. I'm sure the Ammunition Factories and Arsenals had some sort of bench mounted measure, but this was something New!


This may have been the first Bench Mounted Powder and Shot Measure Commercially Available to the Public!


    Before this measure was introduced, you had to use a Powder Flask or a Powder dipper. There were Powder Flasks marked with Grain Measurements. They seem hard to find, but they were out there. Your other choice was some sort of Dipper, either adjustable or not. Scoop and pour, maybe with a small funnel. 

    You could clamp this Adjustable Measure it to a board on the back of a wagon. You could Clamp it to a shooting bench at the Range and load one Cartridge at a time. You could clamp it to a table at home and load up some cartridges! Try one out. You can adjust the measure up and down to fine tune your load! They are Accurate! 

    When Wilkinson Patented this Powder and Shot Measure in mid 1877, the West was still Wild. Custer met his fate a year before. There were Angry Indians running free across the West. The Kansas Buffalo herd was gone, but the Texas Hunt was in full swing. Buffalo still roamed Montana. Very Dignified and Formal Long Range, Mid Range and Short Range Target shooting was in fashion back East.

     Reloading Accuracy was important to everyone, East or West. This was a great idea!

     Check out "Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era", Vol. 2, page 225 and 226. They mention, on page 226, that there are only TWO variations of this measure. That is WAY off!

    I can think of six right now. There may be a dozen, or more, variations.


It may be far more difficult to find two of these measures that are alike, than two that are the same!


    There may also be many variations of the funnels. We just don't have many examples to look at. 

    If any of you collectors have any new pictures and information to add to this page, please send them along. Do you have a Measure that looks like the Patent Drawing? I would love to see it!

Wilkinson ad (2).JPG

    Above you see a section from the 1888 Marlin Catalog. Ten years after the Measure was introduced, it was still a seller. The 1888 catalog listed lever action and Ballard Single Shot Rifles. An accurate powder measure was needed for all.

    Ideal did not bring out their "Universal Powder Measure" until later. Their patent of 1892 was a big competitor. The Wilkinson Measure faded and Ideal took over.

    Michael Petrov had a Wilkinson Measure that dropped two charges. It is illustrated on page 109 of "Reloading Tools, Sights and Telescopes" by Gerald O. Kelver. This is the only Duplex Measure I have seen marked Wilkinson. It would be interesting to see others.

    I never came across a Wilkinson Measure with the original funnel. I guess it was too tempting to use the funnel for other things. One funnel that seems original came up on E-bay. I forgot to bid.  

A "Pre- Patent" Wilkinson Powder Measure

     Being an "Old Time, Pre-Computer Machinist" gives me a different view of these Patent Drawings. I look at them carefully and know how to make the parts. When I wander around a Gun Show I am looking for anything like these drawings. On one adventure to Tulsa, an "Eastern" dealer had this measure. It was accompanied by a reproduction funnel. It was expensive and everyone else had passed it by. Just another old Wilkinson Measure.

It did not look like a regular old Wilkinson to me!

     I can't seem to find a copy of the patent description, though I have seen it somewhwere. If I remember correctly, Wilkinson applied for this patent just two weeks before he recieved it. I doubt this is the first Measure he made. It would be logical to assume that this measure was made sometime after he applied for the patent, but before he got the patent papers in the mail. Within a short period of time in July 1877.

     Wilkinson was a Gunsmith, so he would have stamps with his Name and Town. Since the patent had not been issued, he hand engraved, "Pat, App,ld, For" He certainly used some small brass castings for this measure, but they are different from the production measures.

Wilkinson Powder Measure

    This is a very attractive little powder measure. There are four small brass castings. The rest of the parts are made of sheet metal. All parts are brass, nickel plated. The parts look similar to the later production models, but they are smaller.

     This measure has markings for Powder and Shot only. The Powder markings go up to 110 grains. The Shot is marked up to 1 1/2 Oz. Later measures also had markings in Drams. All the markings are hand engraved, unlike the later measures which were probably roll stamped.

     This is the sort of product you might see from a small Gunmaker in New York. It is light duty and would not stand up to much punishment. Everything on the later Measures was heavier and more durable.

     Using simple castings and sheet metal was an easy way to test an idea. Simple brass castings are easy to make for even a small gun shop.

     The reproduction Funnel that came with it did not even fit. It just rattled around in the top opening. Finding an original replacement would be about impossible unless one happens to be sitting in an old box of reloading tools somewhere. 

     This is why I look at the old Patent Drawings. I would never have recognized this as an early version of this tool. I would have passed it by like everyone else. If you have more information, or a measure mint in box, please send pictures

Wilkinson Powder Measure
Wilkinson Powder Measure

     The image above right gives you a clear look at the Pat, App,ld, For.  Wilkinson had another single line stamping die made for the patent date once the patent was granted. This was probably not the first measure he made. There may have been several made to perfect the design and this is definitely NOT like the patent drawing. He was still experimenting when this powder measure was made.

Wilkinson Powder Measure
Wilkinson Powder Measure

    The Hand Engraved markings you see above are important. In Pre-Production models, it is not practical to make stamping dies. Wilkinson may have engraved the powder charges and shot charges himself or he may have had an apprentice do it. The apprentice/ trainee/ employee, was common in 1877.

     Each engraver has his own "Style" whether he is good or not so good. An individuals work is often recognizable. Take a good look at the engraved word "Shot". It shows up again later.

Wilkinson Powder Measure
Wilkinson Powder Measure

    I added a couple bottom views here. If you have a Wilkinson Measure in your collection, dig it out and compare it to these detailed images above. If you have a later model of this measure, you will understand why I latched on to this one. It is quite different from the later measures.

    This little Wilkinson Powder Measure is a very attractive Reloading Tool. I really like the fine original condition. More important, it is the first, or one of the first bench mounted powder measures ever made and sold to the public. There may have been a few in Armories, but Wilkinson came up with a Reloading tool for the Rifleman to use at home or out on the Range. (Target or Buffalo range.) This is exactly the type of  Historic Item I hope to preserve and record here.

An Early Wilkinson Powder Measure Ad

    Recently, I found another early variation of the Wilkinson Powder Measure. It had a Reproduction Funnel of the type you will see later on this web page. The funnel was obviously one of the reproductions, with the paper label removed. A piece of junk the seller identified as original. Not so!

    I saw many unusual features on this measure I had not seen before. So, I bought the measure, then sent pictures to a friend.


    "Have you seen one of these ?" (I will not name him here).

    He said; "Oh Yea, that is a regular old Wilkinson. Someone painted it Gold, They are all black!" ( You young Dumbass!)

    I said; "No!, It is not!, Get your sorry butt out of your easy chair and pull out all of your Wilkinson Measures! Do you have one like this? It is different! Bet you do not have one like This!" 

    He should have bet me. He did have one, but only ONE out of many. I must admit, his was painted black, not gold. He was right about that!

    We got a little excited, realizing we had two neat, early, Wilkinson Powder measures that were different from the later ones. A Collectors Dream!


    This story is great, but in the conversation, I told him I really wish there were some catalog images of these measures. 

    He said; " Oh, there is a picture of the Wilkinson Measures in the Marlin Catalogs. No big deal!"

    I said; " I have Marlin Catalogs, There are no pictures of Wilkinson Measures in my catalogs!" 

    This sorry, no good, old fart was sitting on a never published four page advertising flyer or catalog from April 1, 1879.  So, now we have an engraving of a Wilkinson Powder Measure From a Factory Catalog! 

    With his permission, I reproduce it here. 

    Please, If you have these rare items hidden away, let us see them, BEFORE YOUR CHILDREN THROW THEM AWAY!  

Marlin 1879 catalog / flyer

    This is a nice scan of this flyer. It is folded to make 4 pages. Since I never saw this before, I am adding close up images. 

    If you have one of these, please do not hide them! Information is scarce on these early tools. 

    As far as I know, This is the only known April 1st, 1879 Ballard advertising of the Wilkinson, That Exists in the World! But, I would like to be proved wrong.

    Notice the 38-50 Everlasting cartridge below right. This has to be an error by someone. The 38-50 Everlasting was a thick case intended for bullets that fit inside the case mouth. This image shows an outside lubricated heel bullet. The cartridge looks much more like a 38 extra long. Maybe they gave the people who made the flyer the wrong cartridge as an example.

Marlin 1879 catalog / Flyer
Marlin 1879 Catalog / Flyer

    These reloading instructions are interesting. "For Extreme Long Range Accuracy, Push Paper Patch Bullet into Rifling With Wooden Plug. ( Stick) and Follow With the Shell.

    Here we have mention of Breech Seating a bullet, out in the Rifling, in 1879. Breech seating a bullet in front of the cartridge case, in the rifling, was popular for accuracy ten years later and all through to the end of the Schuetzen Era. Apparently, Some American Riflemen were doing this with their Ballard Target Rifles much earlier.

    There are some neat listings of cartridges and bullets here too. If you like Ballard Rifles, Check it out!

Wilkinson Powder Measure
Wilkinson Powder Measure

    A Wilkinson Powder Measure, in an April 1, 1879 Catalog or Flyer. Then a closeup of the same image. They are using the measure to load a small bottleneck Cartridge. Maybe a Sharps or Remington 40-50 Bottleneck Cartridge Case.

    I don't know about you, but I have never seen this before!

    In "Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era", Vol. 2, page 225 and 226 shows a slightly different ad, probably from one of the hunting magazines. They do not say where it is from, but it is slightly different from the ad above.

     I know this is speculation, but we did discuss the possibility that a funnel was not necessary. It may be possible to screw the lid off a gun powder can and place it on the top of the Wilkinson measure. The powder would flow down and fill the cartridge cases. This is speculation. I do not have early powder tins to try. However, this would account for the almost total absence of funnels on these measures.

Wilkinson Powder Measure, Second Type?

    Like many others, J.D. Wilkinson was a Small Town Gunsmith, with few resources. He got a really early patent for a Great and Accurate Powder Measure, for the New Center Fire Cartridges. 

    Only Marlin really embraced his idea. They marketed his measure in their catalogs for years. No one else seems to have offered them for sale except possibly Wilkinson himself. There is no indication that Marlin bought the patent. They seem to have bought them from Wilkinson, then resold them.

    Mr. Wilkinson was stuck with making short production runs that he could afford. I have no idea how many he would make at a time. The product was successful, but not in a big way.

    The result was a Powder Measure with many variations. Different castings, different sizes of measures, different markings. We can only hope he has some profit in the end.

    I am making an "Educated Guess" that this is the first production model of this Powder Measure. I only know of Two. One painted Gold, another painted Black.

    (1) My main reason is that my Gold Painted measure illustrated here has assembly number 000 on all the major parts. Assembly numbers are not necessary unless you are making several measures at once.

    (2) The patterns for casting the bottom plate and C-clamp are difficult to make, and the complex iron casting was not something a small town gunsmith was able to do. 

    (3) The stamped Grain measurement numbers are crudely stamped and some markings are engraved in the same way as the earlier Pre-Patent model.

    The only measure we know of which is like this one, but painted Black, has small differences. It is a solid casting on the bottom, like you see here. The top plate is just a bit thicker and is knurled on the edge like later measures. The Makers Markings are the same as this measure. The stamping on the barrel that moves up and down is for Powder Only, from 60 to 110 grains. There are No Shot or Dram markings. It is a measure intended for Rifles Only, and was probably intended for use with a Ballard Target rifle. The owner reports wear on the tapered bottom spout that measures approximately .448, which would be a caliber for the Long Range Ballard Rifle. 

    The pre-patent, nickel plated measure has some wear through the nickel hiding on the back of the spout. You might be able to see it in some of the pictures. I measured the point on the taper where the wear stopped. At that point on the taper, the wear line measured .410. Apparently, this measure was used with a 40 caliber cartridge case. They slid the case up on the tapered spout, and it scratched the nickel plating some, but only up to the point a 40 would go.


    I really like the Wilkinson Measures, so I look them all over carefully. The funnel this was advertised with did not even fit the opening at the top. It is sitting in my junk box now. The pictures I first saw were not totally clear, but the gold paint looked pretty good. A close inspection after I got it showed not a single trace of black paint. Not even after partial disassembly. I think the gold paint is original.

    The most interesting feature is the thick heavy base which comprises the clamp, vertical stem and bottom of the barrel where a nickel plated plate is usually seen. I had not seen all this before, so I bought the measure so I could get a closer look.

Wilkinson Powder Measure

    The top of these first two measures show striking differences. The measure above left, is of much heavier construction. The Wilkinson and Plattsburg stamps are the same as the earlier measure. On this one, you can see the new patent date stamped on top.

     Notice that the two rings which hold the funnel are different sizes. ( .630 hole on right, .562 on the left, a 1/16th inch difference.) In order to work correctly, the funnels would have to have different bottom spouts. 

Wilkinson Powder Measure

    These bottom views show more interesting differences. The "Patent Applied For" measure on the right, has a nickel plated piece of sheet metal screwed to the C-clamp. This assembly method was used in later production Wilkinson measures. However, the top of the C-clamp on the later measures had three cast fingers extending out across the bottom to reinforce and make the sheet metal more rigid.

    The Gold painted measure is cast all in one piece on the bottom. The drop tube is a rolled tube of brass and was soldered on. It is possible that the first few production runs of the Wilkinson Measure had this heavy, cast iron, one piece bottom assembly. This may have been more expensive to produce, so he returned to an assembly with the bottom plate screwed on.


    Wilkinson marked his measures well. Mostly. There are a few that have no markings at all. Note that the patent date stamp is slightly smaller. These early stamping tools were hand cut and much more attractive than the machine cut stamps we have now. 

    There are many, many variations of these Wilkinson Measures. Stay tuned and I will add more as pictures become available.

Wilkinson Funnels?

    I don't actually know what a Wilkinson funnel might look like. It is possible, that the funnel for the early powder measure described above, looked a lot like the funnel on the patent drawing. It might have been nickel plated. I do know the modern reproductions are probably based on a later version of the original funnels. Maybe. Below are some images of a funnel that showed up on Ebay a few years ago. You can probably still find these in E-Bay archives though I do not remember the title.

    This is a pretty convincing example. Note the rolled top edge and wear on the label. It looks old and used. If this is truly an original, it would be for the production model of this Wilkinson Measure, at some point in time. These measures were made for a long time, so there might be variations in the funnels. This could also be an early reproduction. That sort of thing happened more than you might think.

Wilkinson Funnel 002.JPG
Wilkinson Funnel 003.JPG
Wilkinson Funnel 001.JPG
Wilkinson Funnel 004.JPG

    The images below, show the type of funnel I got, with my early Pre-Patent Wilkinson measure. The metal is shiny. The top edge is crudely folded. The label is bright and freshly printed. I have no idea who made these, but they had an example of the older type funnel above, for a pattern. I have some rough looking examples of these later measures. This reproduction funnel below does not fit well. It is such a loose fit it flops around on top of many of these measures.

    The Measure pictured below is a later production model. Everything is heavier and thicker than my early measure above. The funnel is one of the recent reproductions. The image on the lower left states clearly that this as a reproduction funnel. The fellow who made these was honest and produced a marked reproduction funnel that allowed us to use the measures. 

Wilkinson Funnel 7.JPG
Wilkinson Funnel 6.JPG
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