The Hanquets – Gun Dynasty of Liège

The Hanquet Family Story: For centuries the Liege area in Belgium was a center of gun making and international gun trading. Many of the smaller manufacturers were absorbed or simply disappeared. Others like FN are now members of multinational conglomerates specialized in weaponry for police or military. Well-known companies like Francotte found their market niche and supply the high-end customers with luxurious rifles. Famous Grimaud switched from manufacturing to import and wholesale.

Let’s go back in Time to the 18th Century to the roots of the gun maker dynasty Hanquet. The blacksmith Martin Hanquet (1738-1810) served local farmers in a Liege suburb. He added ironmongery to his shop which son Martin (1764-1837) diversified into making nails for the booming shipbuilding industry. Thanks to his entrepreneurial attitude he smelled the down spiraling of the latter and branched out to selling guns as early as 1796! But he started another nails, copper, edged weapons and firearms business in 1809. Martin retired at 62 and passed his enterprise to his children Jean Nicholas, Jean Baptiste (1800-1877) and Jeanne Francoise. The firm was renamed Martin Hanquet and Cie. When the company was liquidated 1829 Martin took over the nail business again, Jean Baptiste the warehouse and Jean Nicolas the guns.

Cased set of pistols made by Jean Baptiste Hanquet 1850

 

Ferdinand Hanquet 1865

 

The Ferdinand Hanquet’s Vision: 1836 Jean Nicolas entered into a venture with Ancion et Fils to become market leader for military guns. Their new company named FABRIQUES D’ARMES DE LIÈGE (FAL) was registered as Ancion, Hanquet et Cie. They were the most important gun makers of the time. Between 1849 and 1859 they made around 60,000 to 70,000 guns per year with a record high of 91,164 in 1850. That equals more than 20 % of the total gun production of all Liege gun makers combined. When Jean Nicholas opened a branch office in Rio de Janeiro 1840 to conquer the South American market for the family business brother Jean Baptiste merged warehouse and gun business in a new gun manufacturing company. While his production output was lower than FAL in 1849 he was already number 4 in Liège, after FAL, the Renkin brothers and the Pirlot brothers. His son Ferdinand (1812-1909) grew the business further but first relocated the company within Liege to Rue du Laven. Of Ferdinand’s 6 sons Paul (1889-1938), Emmanuel (1881-1944) and Emiel (1888-1918) worked their way up in the family company now registered as Fand Hanquet. Ferdinand Hanquet made his business visions come true and finally merged with FABRIQUES D’ARMES RÉUNIES and FABRIQUE D’ARMES UNIES DE LIÈGE. The name of the new company was FABRIQUES D’ARMES UNIES DE LIÈGE (FAUL). After his death Paul took helm, assisted by brother Emmanuel. Paul was to be President and Emmanuel Chief Executive.

Paul was succeeded in 1938 by another brother, Joseph. Paul Hanquet Jr (1907- 1986), Paul’s son and cousin Albert (1915-2003), Emmanuel’s son were the successors.

 

 

The corporate sign at Rue Trappé Nr. 22 read

FABRIQUES D’ARMES UNIES DE LIÈGE

SOCIÉTE ANONYME

ANCIENNES FIRMES

FABRIQUES D’ARMES RÉUNIES

FABRIQUE D’ARMES DE LIÈGE

FAND HANQUET

Albert’s daughter Nadine Hanquet, born in 1947, was in charge from 1974 after Paul (1969/70) and her dad stepped down. The gun production at FAUL's was discontinued in 1976. When the Hanquet gun business was sold in June 1992 the gun import and wholesale business were the core activities during the later years.

Hanquet Guns in Historical Perspective: Few gun manufacturers can live on the civilian market from hunters and sport shooters alone. However, to survive a profitable government business is mandatory. That is a gun business fact today and was yesteryear. Many Liege gun makers made and still make great efforts to sell their weaponry to the Americas. Military muzzle loading rifles were an important financial backbone of Hanquet’s gun business during the 19th and the 20th century.

The Consortium of the 7 Liege Gun Makers in the 1850s: The first Belgian Colts were made during the early 1850s, licensed Colt Navy M 1851s marked COLT BREVETE. Through his then-representative Colt had licensed a number of Liege gun makers to manufacture his percussion revolvers when his London factory could not turn out enough pistols to meet the market demand. But that is only half of the story. To protect his Belgian patent from August 21, 1849 there was this provision in the patent laws whereby the article patented must be produced in that country within two years from the date of the patent, or the patent would become void. Therefore, his British patent Counsel, Mr. W. E. Newton, of 66 Chancery Lane, London, went to Liege, Belgium and employed a local gun maker to make several revolvers of Colt’s design. While that move saved the patent Newton also discovered that several gun makers were infringing on Colt’s patent rights. Many such guns had passed through the Liege proof house, many for export into other countries.

To combat this problem Colt appointed a Belgian sales agent and lawyer by the name Davos-Sera to look after his interest. Davos-Sera licensed other Belgian gun makers to produce guns under Colt’s license AND to collect a license fee on all such guns produced. But Davos-Sera’s way of doing business did not exactly please the Colonel…and for reasons not known today the cooperation with Davos-Sera was terminated. He was replaced by J. Sainthill, patent attorney of Brussels.

The Missing Link: The story goes that during one of his regular trips to Europe Sam Colt came to Liege in April 1953 to straighten things out, to negotiate a new agreement with another group of Belgian gun makers. He stayed there at hotel “Belle Vue” for the negotiations took several days. J. Sainthill was able to arrange the meeting with the gun makers Ancion & Co., Collette, Darrdoy, Drissur & Co., Hanquet, Petry, Brothers Pirlot. As documented an agreement was reached and signed at the end of April 1853.

And most of these gun makers or their succeeding companies rather found their way into the Hanquet's family business Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège! There you have it the missing link.

 

Back