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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

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John Taliaferro Thompson invented and developed the Thompson Submachine Gun. He was a Colonel in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War, and then retired during World War I before the US entered the war to work for the Remington Arms Company as Chief Engineer. Here he worked on what would eventually become the Tommy Gun until re-enlisting in the United States Army to fight as the US finally entered the war. He again retired in 1918 and went back to work on the Tommy Gun, patenting it in 1920 and producing it in limited quantities due to lack of interest--World War I was over, after all. Instead the gun found its way into the hands of mobsters and began to be used as a tool of gang wars and alcohol smuggling, a function that Thompson was surprised and saddened to see take form. It wasn't until well into World War II, mostly after Thompson's death in 1940, that the Thompson Submachine Gun began to be used for its creator's original intented purpose: as a highly effective and easily carried weapon in trench warfare.