SHORTLY AFTER THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR, James Stembridge left his East Coast home and went to Los Angeles to seek his fortune. Somewhere around 1913 he met up with Cecil B. DeMille and landed a job helping him make a war movie. Mr. DeMille wanted James to coach the actors on how to act like soldiers and emulate their habits. This led to some steady work and sometime between 1916 and 1920 they recognized the need to accumulate a stock of firearms that could be used as movie props. Thus was the beginning of the Stembridge gun arsenal.
Over the years, James continued looking for and purchasing guns of all make and style and he became the leading armorer for the movie industry. Even though they rented firearms to all the studios, Stembridge Gun Rental was housed in a secure warehouse on the Paramount lot until 1979. The backbone of the business was its manager Fritz Dickie, who reigned from 1927 until 1974.
On Dec. 7, 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor underway, there was an immediate shoring up of the coastal defenses. On that same day the commander of Ft. MacArthur in Los Angeles called Stembridge and told him that he didnt think there were enough firearms at the fort. Stembridge immediately sent over several hundred rifles and more than 50 Thompson sub-machine guns.
Amazingly, when the war was over, all of the weapons were returned. Can you imagine a government agency being that reliable today? Stembridges contacts with the War Dept. paid off because with demobilization came the disposal of thousands of military firearms and Stembridge acquired enough to stock a movie army at scrap-metal prices.
By the 1980s, Stembridge had more than 10,000 guns in their armory. Unfortunately, the settlement of a family estate forced the sale of 400 of their historic guns, those used by legendary actors. Publishing magnate Robert Petersen bought them for his personal collection. Now his estate is auctioning them as noted in the article preceding this one.
The Stembridge Gun Rental is still in business and is operated by Syd Stembridge, grand-nephew of the founder. But times have changed. Many studios are using model guns now that can fire blanks designed to give a cinematic flash. Providing customized blank cartridges has long been a big facet of Stembridges business.
Most of this information was provided to Firegeezer in a personal interview with Syd Stembridge.
(article from Bill Schumm’s website: http://firegeezer.com/2007/06/04/stembridge-gun-rental/#more-274/)
* Received some new items from CorlettÂ Zamora this evening, who is looking for information on her Father, Manuel Zamora. Here’s a card that had her fathers name mentioned. If you have any information about Manuel Zamora, please leave a comment below so we can be in touch! Thanks!!!
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I wonder if I am a distant reletive, my father was Otis Jefferson Stembridge my grandfather was charles N. stembridge He was born somewhere around collage station Texas Oct .12th 1875 His parants were both decesed when he was 12 yrs old and he went to live with his uncle and later ran away from them So that is all I know about him he lived 86 years He had 4 son’s and a daughter with his first wife , she died sometime later, time unknown.He remaried to my grandmother About 1915 and had three sons Otis, Robert and charles all born in Dallas Texas James [Jim} Stembridge 98 Echo Ln. Pagosa springs CO.1- 970-731 6739
Syd has always been a great resource for film/tv weapons history! Always a pleasure!
I was cleaning out a home today and found a box of letters and photos dated in the 1940’s. They were letters to a Frederick T. Dickie at Stembridge gun rentals at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. The photos were of lots of neat guns and of some people whom I asume are related to the gun shop. I guess I’m wondering if anyone is inteerested in seeing this stuff.
Hello, my name is Mauricio Jara, I live in MÃ©xico City, and need talk with Mr. Sid Stembridge, because I have the same activity in MÃ©xico, my ofice is in Estudios Churubusco Azteca in MÃ©xico City, but also need somebody speak in spanish to have a conversation with mr Stembridge.
Please look here or contact info for Syd, we have nothing to do with his business in CA! Thanks!
Is Syn Stembridge related to my great aunt Bertie Stembridge, the Ordinary in Milledgeville for several decades?
my father was a gun smith for the studios. i found a card of frederick t dickie .he is introducing my father, manuel zamora, to someone as the head of howard hughes expermintal armanment division…any info from here is welcome.my father invented the flexable amo belt for a browning.
Any chance you could scan that card and email it to me? Would love to post it here!
Thank you very much! David Stembridge
i just scanned and sent to you via e mail to address you posted. thank you . i am on a quest to find out about my dad..he made guns for movie stars.and worked for hughes…”wings” and “hells angles”. he was in his 50s when i was born.
I will do a little more digging…. It was a small business, so there’s bound to be a little more. Is your Dad still living? Thanks again!
no, he was born in 1895..came here and went to work for hughes.he always spoke of your family , he worked at paramount….he made parts for antique guns
he passed away in 1972 at 75..he had made movie for hughes where they had tested A bombs
thank you so much for the add..BUT i am female..cory is short for Corlett…with out avitars, i guess the spelling would throw one off….thank you again, and so glad i found you !
Haha! That is funny, sorry about that Corlett, I made an assumption based on your last name…. 🙂
My late father in law left me a first generation SAA colt 45 revolver that was re barreled and had a new cylinder added by your firm some time ago. As the Colt record for this gun was lost in one of the fires I was wondering if there is any way to find out if you have any history on this firearm? It would make an interesting historical story when I pas this on to my grandson. My phone number is 530-356-0896.
Thank you in anticipation of your response
Hi, I recently acquired a .45 caliber Colt Bisley. It’s well worn and the hammer has been broken and welded. The serial number on the frame is 274356 or possibly 274358. Above that is stamped the Stembridge “S”. Trigger guard is numbered 256828 and is also on the butt of the handle. Would you have any information about this pistol or tell me where I might be able to obtain it.
You need to try contacting Stembridge Gun Rentals directly. This is just a collection of information. I live in Georgia.
My name is Ray Pilon. I own a beautiful Colt .38/40 single action , renickled, 4inch barrel pistol made in 1902 and having very old horn grips, perfectly fitted and with I deeply carved initials “JS”. Wonder if this is one of the old Stembridge single actions. I live in north Texas.
I had an uncle James stembridge a grandfather Jack stembridge in the Redlands area just wondered if any relation thanks Cynthia stembridge california