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The Big-Bang Cannon is an early 20th century American toy that is still manufactured to this day. Numerous consumer fireworks injuries convinced a physics professor at Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) to patent a "Gas Gun" in 1907. The manufacturing of Big-Bang Cannons started in 1912.
The original name of the company was the Gas Cannon Company. In 1916, the name was changed to the Toy Cannon Works. In 1924, the company changed names again, to its name, The Conestoga Company, Inc.. An assistant professor from the same physics department at Lehigh was the company founder and owner until 1955. The Conestoga Company currently manufactures Big-Bang Cannons (19 models) in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Lehigh County.
Calcium carbide (mixture 160, 16x80) mixes with water in the chamber of the cannon, producing acetylene gas. A few seconds after the gas forms, a spark is ignited which results in a loud "bang" or "boom". A key safety feature is that there is no recoil or kick when the cannon is fired. In fact, "glass" cannons were used as a company demo in order to show the chemical reaction taking place as well as the inherent safe quality of the product. "Bangsite" is the name (see "Trademarks" below) given to the calcium carbide mixture.
A bombing plane, tank, boat and pistol were manufactured during the 1920s (they all fired on the same principle as the cannons.) The 1930s included a Giant Roller Coaster, Ro-To-Top, Spinning Top, Field Glasses and G-Gun. Many of these antique models can be found on auction sites including Ebay.
Big-Bang Cannons: A Unique American Toy by Raymond V. Brandes, Ray-Vin Publishing Co. ISBN 0-9636127-6-X (Hard Cover)
Blast from the Past: Our History: An American Legend
The Bangster...Volume 1, No. 4, June 1929, published by The Conestoga Corporation
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Toy World Magazine February 1929
The Toy Cannon Museum