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Big-Bang Cannon

The Big-Bang Cannon is a unique 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. In 1912, aware of the value of this invention as a safe alternative to consumer fireworks on the Fourth of July and at special events, the business of manufacturing Big-Bang Cannons started.
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.


How it works

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.


  • "Gas Gun".......patent no. 874,952...patented December 31, 1907
  • "Gas Cannon"...patent no. 1,352,715...patented September 14, 1920
  • "Toy Firearm"....patent no. 1,624,086...patented April 12, 1927
  • "Gas Gun".......patent no. 2,754,607...patented July 17, 1956


  • "BIG-BANG"...registered July 31, 1917...reg. no. 117,799
  • "BANGSITE"...registered June 10, 1952...reg. no. 559,919
  • "CONESTOGA COLLECTORS' SERIES"...registered November 26, 2002...reg. no. 2,653,490

Non-Cannon Models

A bombing plane, tank, boat and pistol were manufactured during the 1920's (they all fired on the same principle as the cannons.) The 1930's 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.

See also


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

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Big-Bang_Cannon". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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