Mr. Carl A. Christiansen was born in Christiana, Norway in 1856, attended a local technical academy, and then came to the United States in 1880. For several years, he was employed by several manufacturing firms in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.
In 1885, he joined the Federal Service as a Machinist at Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts. Two years later, he was named head foreman of the Seacoast Cannon Shop at Watervliet Arsenal near Albany, New York. During the next four years, he supervised construction of the north wing of the historic Big Gun Shop, and in January 1891, he was named Master Gunmaker at Watervliet.
For the final eleven years of his life, from 1891 until 1902, Mr. Christiansen directed the manufacturing of this country's first 16-inch cannon. He designed lathes, cranes, shrink pits, and a new shrinkage furnace, using the oil and high pressure steam principle.
When he died midway through his 47th year, a local obituary notice stated that "To the task of planning and constructing the 16-inch gun, and the accompanying worry and care, it is said, is directly attributable to the great mechanic's death." When completed, the 16-inch gun weighed 385,400 pounds, was 49-feet long, and fired a 2,370 pound projectile of a distance of 21 miles. Its first successful firing ironically occurred the day after Mr. Christiansen's death.
In 1984, the Cannon Shop at Watervliet was dedicated to his memory and is now a National Historic Landmark.