Massive Wheellock Hand Mortars at James D Julia

These wheellock hand mortars, or katzenkopf, are an example of a weapon made and used for everything from front line military application to civilian parades to simple decoration. The pair we are looking at today are of the middle sort – they are signaling arms or firework launchers in the German or Dutch style from the early 1600s.

Martial grenade throwing mortars like this from the 17th century were typically built with more capacity for controlling recoil and aiming, but they were legitimate weapons made and used in battle. However more were made for throwing signal firecrackers and fireworks exhibitions – fireworks were a popular novelty among the royalty and aristocracy of the period. With a two-inch bore, you could launch quite the explosive from one of these!

13 Comments

  1. Um, actually, colored smoke signals and fireworks were used going back to the very beginning of the “black powder era”.

    Artificers in first China (11th Century AD) and then Europe (14th Century AD) learned to add other materials to black powder to create colored flashes and smoke.

    Adding indigo produced blue-green flashes. Red lead tetroxide generated bright red-orange flashes and smoke. Cinnabar yielded purple, dark black smoke could be created by adding lignite and dried, ground soap beans, arsenical disulfides generated yellow smoke, and violet was created by adding cotton fibers (no, really).

    Chinese fireworks makers were using these methods as early as the mid-11th Century (before the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066), and the techniques were known to European fireworks makers by the mid-1400s.

    See;

    Temple, Robert. The Genius of China; 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention. New York; Simon and Schuster, 1986.

    Von Braun, Wernher, with Frederick I. Ordway III. The Rocket’s Red Glare. Garden City, NY; Anchor Press, 1976.

    cheers

    eon

    • “Red lead tetroxide generated bright red-orange flashes and smoke. Cinnabar yielded purple, dark black smoke could be created by adding lignite and dried, ground soap beans, arsenical disulfides generated yellow smoke, and violet was created by adding cotton fibers (no, really).”
      Could they make smoke white?

      • Left unadulterated, black powder (potassium nitrate + charcoal + sulfur) generates whitish-gray smoke. So, no special “ingredients” needed for that.

        ­čśë

        cheers

        eon

      • H2O ((and yea I know notation changed)). A bit of water vives you white. And it,s tricky –with fireweapons–. I,ve seen only once here –and it,s not on the film–. It happened on the last gun shot ((about 4 pe)) and gived a nice white halo. Our senior gunner J.Valera sr told me it happened after having refreshed that gun for the final cannonade ! https://youtu.be/sxNAi09ji8Q

  2. They remind me of cut down m-79 grenade launchers used by a SOG guys in Laos, and later supposedly by DEVGRU or Unit guys kicking doors in AFG or Iraq (and who knows where else).

    • I was thinking more like a japanese “knee” mortar. put thet buttplate on the ground and use some “kentucky windage” to throw a bomb over a wall.

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