Colt Thompson No. 201
By Brian L. Gustafson

Colt Thompson No. 201 is a 1921A that represents the “private sector” category of Thompsons; those Thompsons not associated with law enforcement or criminal activity.

Thompson No. 201 remains in good condition and retains all of its original finish in about 90% condition. 201 has all the correct early markings; the “AUT-ORD-CO” in the bullet logo, “AUTOMATIC - SEMI AUTOMATIC” selector markings and single lines for “SAFE and FIRE”. The 21A barrel is the early thin finned version and the actuator slot is the early square type.

Founded in 1835 by Matthias Baldwin, Number 201 was purchased by The Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA on April 28, 1921. (The original purchase records from Auto Ordnance was provided by Tracie Hill.) The Baldwin Locomotive Works occupied twelve city blocks on Broad Street in Philadelphia. Baldwin’s day shift consisted of over ten thousand men and the night shift stood at over six thousand. The workers, ranging from the foundry to the erecting shop, worked on any of the approximately 450 new locomotives that were in varying stages of completion. Baldwin built locomotives ranging from the small 0-4-0, 4 ton electric, to massive 150 ton steamers. It was a Baldwin 4-4-0, owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which carried Abraham Lincoln’s body westward for burial in Illinois. Thousands of people came to see the train as it slowly passed, with the engine and cars draped in mourning.

By the early 1900s, Baldwin’s work force reached over 18,500 employees. In the mid 1920s, the relationship between management and the workforce was changing. The company’s owners were making millions while the workers were barely surviving. Workers in many manufacturing and mining operations were rebelling against management. Strikes, walkouts, and general unrest was becoming the norm. Another factor to be considered by these large companies was payroll protection. Almost every major corporation including Ford (Thompson numbers 4005 and7253), GE, Baldwin (numbers 201 and 2076), Carnegie Steel (number 187), and Standard Oil paid its workers in cash. These companies wanted to arm themselves for protection, and did so efficiently with the Thompson. The mere presence of a Thompson probably did more towards maintaining order than the Pinkertons that held them. Thompsons were purchased by these manufacturing and mining giants as an insurance policy; something that you hope you’ll never use, but have just in case, and everyone knows you have it. This is one of the reasons why these Thompsons are usually found in such good condition. They spent most of their time just sitting in the office closet or safe.

Colt Thompsons that were sold to mining companies did, however, see some use at the hands of strikebreakers. Coal mines in the South in particular were scenes of some very violent clashes between workers and strikebreakers using Thompsons.

This group of Thompsons are separate from the Thompsons that were used/owned by law enforcement agencies and Thompsons used by the criminal element. They represent a class of Colt Thompsons that truly are in a class all their own.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N10 (July 2005)
and was posted online on May 10, 2013


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