Machines Of Yesteryear: Civil War Cannon Lathes


Ok, so there isn’t much call for cannons these days, but when Jabberwoki over at the Garage Gazette shared one of these pics a few days back, I couldn’t stop looking at them.  As a tool junkie, these massive lathes are more interesting than the cannons they made.

This lathe resides at The Old Depot Museum in Selma, AL and was used by the Confederates at the nearby Selma Arsenal.

Cannon lathe 1 (Selma)


This lathe, while also manufactured in Selma, currently resides at Auburn University.

According to it’s story on “During the war an attempt was made to move it to Columbus, Georgia, to prevent its being seized by Federal troops. En route, it was buried for a time near Irondale, Alabama. When the danger of capture had passed, it was dug up and moved to Columbus, where it was used for boring cannon until the end of the war. After the war, the lathe was used by the Birmingham Rolling Mills, which later became part of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. In 1936 that company presented this historic lathe to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute.”

Cannon lather 3 (Auburn 1) Cannon lathe 4 (Auburn 2)


Yet another Civil War era cannon lathe resides in Rome, GA. This lathe, made by well known makers Gage, Warner & Whitney, is believed to have been produced in the 1850’s. While it is in unrestored condition, it appears to be in remarkable shape for it’s age.




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  1. This reminds me of my trip to Pittsburgh last May. On the Riverwalk they have all these cool steel mill machines that were awesome to see. This is American ingenuity at its best. It would be cool to look at these relics in their times. Thanks for sharing. Laters Travis & TIA


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