Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sam Tobias

            Sam Tobias was a Greene County blacksmith and farmer who became a nationally known gunsmith.  He was an early specialist in the science of ballistics and was often called to be an expert witness in court cases.

            Tobias had legendary skills but was a humble man and did not desire fame or fortune.

            He was born on March 12, 1864 on a Greene County farm on Kemp Road.  His parents were Andrew Jackson and Sarah Harshman Tobias.

            Tobias showed an early interest in guns.  He whittled a wooden gun at the age of four. As an 18 year old he made a muzzle loader.  Tobias was still working at gun making at his death at age 63.  His unfinished project was a special order for Henry Ford. 

            Tobias’ 45 year career of gun making and repairing began in his mother’s kitchen and later moved to a shop on the farm.  This was located one mile north of the village of Zimmerman, half way between Xenia and Dayton. 

            His gun shop was cluttered and appeared disorganized yet Tobias knew where everything was.  He could go to a jumbled stack of guns and pick up the very one that his customer needed.  He charged modest fees.

            People from around the world made the trip to his shop. It is said that Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickock were among his customers.

            Tobias produced a little over 100 guns in his lifetime and marked them S.E. Tobias.  Guns made by him are now considered rare collectables. Some are in the Henry Ford Museum.  Tobias used Model T Ford parts to make some of his gun parts.  He considered it the best metal with which to work. 

            He was consulted by the great gun makers: Remington, Winchester, and Colt and developed guns for them.  According to an article in the book Beavercreek Chronicles published by the Beavercreek Historical Society, When told he should apply for a patent his stock answer was,”H---, I don’t want no d—patent; you take it and patent it yourself.” and when asked if he didn’t want to be rich, Sam would reply, “H---, no. Money is the root of all evil.”

            During WW I Tobias worked at McCook Field, now Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and developed a way to mount a machine gun on a biplane so the bullets would go between the propellers of the airplane rather than hitting the propellers.

            Tobias married Jennie Bell Bates.  They raised six of their children: Tom, Elmer, Blanche, Elsie, Winifred and Edythe.  Two others died at birth.

            Death claimed Tobias on November 11, 1927 after he developed an infection following the removal of some teeth.

            Most of the facts in this column were gathered from articles and books based on information provided by Gail Tobias Dorsey a great-granddaughter of Sam Tobias.  She has written a book titled Sam Tobias the Gunsmith.