October 30 - November 2, 2018 Firearms, Militaria, & Sporting
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 10/30/2018
This pair of pistols originally belonged to the fourth President of the United States, James Madison. James Madison was in office between March of 1809 and March of 1817. He is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A notarized letter from Routh Smith Crowell accompanies these pistols. Routh is a direct descendant of Francis Madison, brother to President James Madison. She states that the pair of dueling pistols made by A. T. Baxter of Baltimore, Maryland, now in the private collection of William Dykes, was given by President James Madison was given to his favorite nephew, Walton Pembroke Smith. The cased pair of pistols has descended in the Madison-Smith family at Saragossa Plantation near Natchez, Mississippi to the present time. Through the lineage of the pistols, it has been passed on that that they were present (probably as the weapons of the seconds) at the famous Decatur duel. President Madison probably acquired the pistols from Haslett of Baltimore. There are several important pieces of provenance accompanying these pistols, including: A notarized letter on Wm. Dykes Antiques letterhead from Routh Smith Crowell detailing the exact lineage of the pistols and descent through her family; several photographs of Routh and William Dykes with the pistols, taken at the time that she sold the pair to him; A signed description of the pistols and history of them on William Dykes Antiques letterhead; copies of information on maker Arthur T. Baxter and James Madison; photographs of a similar pair by Hazlett of Baltimore; and a large(25" x15") hand inscribed family tree for the Smith family, beginning in 1701 and ending in 1880, showing the lineage of the pistols, probably done around 1880. On the family tree is a written statement regarding the pistols: "President Madison gave to Walton P. Smith a brace of duelling pistols said to have been used in Barron & Decatur duel." These dueling pistols belonged to James Madison and and were said be the ones he strapped on when the British attacked Washington in 1814. Family lore also insists that these pistols were present at the famous duel between Decatur and Barron in 1820. Their stocks, locks, and mountings are nearly identical to a pair made by Haslett of Baltimore in 1805. They are silver mounted with gold inlaid bands at on the hooked patent breeches. They have front and rear sights mounted on top flats. Both have set triggers and were converted from flintlock to percussion sometime after 1830. The inset gold lock escutcheon is marked "A.T. BAXTER, BALT." for Arthur T. Baxter. Baxter was a listed gunsmith in Baltimore, who was known for his high-grade conversions to percussion mechanisms. Many of these conversions were marked by him at the time of conversion, notably a Model 1816 North martial pistol signed with a similar gold escutcheon. He was also a well-known maker of longarms, exclusively, so if he did make these pistols, they would be unique. They were possibly made by Haslett and converted, then marked, by Baxter. President Madison and his wife, Dolly, had no children, but were very close to Madison's brother, Francis, and his family. Francis' daughter, Mary Bell Madison, married William Haslett Smith in 1809 and President Madison gave their son, Walton Pembroke Smith, an appointment to West Point in 1828. It was during this period or shortly before his death in 1836 that Madison presented his dueling pistols Walton. Walton fought in the Mexican War and it is likely that he had these pistols, as they show heavy use. Walton, who died in 1866, passed them down to his son, Austin Williams Smith, who fought in the Civil War. Austin (1843-1911) left the pistols to his son, Davidson Routh Smith (1880-1945) and Davidson passed them on to his daughter, Routh Smith Crowell (1913-2010). Routh gave the pistols to William Dykes, as shown in the photographs and affidavit. The case is constructed of West Indies mahogany with poplar as the secondary wood, as typical for furniture in this region. The silver mounted boar's tusk powder measure was a presentation piece given to Walton from his father-in-law. It is decorated in ink around the opening and inscribed "A. Williams/ To/ W.P. Smith / 1840". It is excellent condition with a pleasing honey patina. CONDITION: The pistols show heavy use, overall. Barrels retain a dark freckled patina, showing edge wear and scattered marks from use. Locks retain a spotted grey patina and have some wear to maker's cartouches, one hammer screw a period replacement. Silver furniture retains a grey patina and shows some wear to engraving. Both triggerguard finials have been replaced, but long ago. One barrel key escutcheon replaced. Highly figured stocks show wear to checkering, some marring, and scattered marks from use. One piece professionally replaced on forend of one pistol. Ramrods have their original steel worms and appear to be original. Case is very good, as re-lined with green wool. Exterior with scattered marks from use and some staining. A very important and well-documented pair of pistols that belonged to a Founding Father!
Case, Tools, Paperwork, Family Tree, Photo
Barrel Length
9 - 1/2"
FFL Status
Dueling Pistols
Serial Number
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $25,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $58,200.00
Estimate: $50,000 - $100,000
Number Bids: 5
Auction closed on Friday, November 2, 2018.
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