One of the exciting things about working with factory records is what you come across. So far my work in the Cody Firearms Records Office has been to organize the Winchester Model 21 records. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was able to find many orders that were sent to Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s interesting to see what stores purchased orders of the Winchester Model 21. This past week, I have stumbled across a couple of names that caught my attention and decided to explore them further. I was really curious about names like Von Lengerke & Antoine and Kerr’s.
Kerr’s and Von Lengerke & Antoine were both very high end sporting goods stores at one time, much like Abercrombie & Fitch. Kerr’s was the west coast line opposite of Abercrombie & Fitch on the east coast, since Abercrombie & Fitch did not open their additional store in San Francisco until 1958. Many of the stars would have frequented both Kerr’s and Abercrombie but it is more likely that celebrities would have gone to Kerr’s since it was in Beverly Hills, California. Not only did they have a wide variety of firearms and tackle but they also were known for their gunsmithing department. In addition to Kerr’s, Von Lengerke & Antoine were very popular in Chicago as Abercrombie & Fitch were gaining reputation in New York. These two popular companies were very much in competition with each other during the 1920s through 1930s. They both sold high end products and fought over sharing their market. In the end, Abercrombie & Fitch won the duel by buying out Von Lengerke & Antoine but it wasn’t all due to lack of finances.
Von Lengerke & Antoine became very famous for their reputation of their customers, those customers being members of the Capone gangs in Chicago. The company seemed to get much attention because the firearms were traced back to them and connected them with Al Capone. The company was known for selling Thompson submachine guns, which were very popular in gangs during that time period in Chicago. One newspaper source from the Daily Illini stated that the “von Lengerke and Antoine company occupied much police attention in 1929”. The guns were traced back to Von Lengerke & Antoine employees and there after ended up in the wrong hands such as ex-convicts.
It is stories like these that make looking at the Model 21 records so interesting. I never knew these companies existed but now I know some of their history.
If you ever need services from the Cody Firearms Records Office go to their website here or give them a call at 307-578-4031.