November 17, 2020 Early Arms & Militaria: Age of Exploration, Empire & Revolution
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 11/17/2020
The pistol's round, tapered and swamped brass barrel is 7 3/8 inches long and is of 20 bore (or 0.61 caliber) with “RAPA. FORGE” engraved on the upper flat within a scroll or banner terminating in floral motifs at each end, with similar floral, shell and squiggle-edge engraving on its steel tang. Its flat, beveled lock has fluting across its elongated, pointed tail and measures 7/8 of an inch wide by 4 ½ inches in length and remains in its original flintlock configuration; there is floral edge engraving on the lock and its gooseneck cock and is signed “J. HUNTER” before the cock and under the bridled, round pan, while the inside of the lock bears the “FK” touchmark of rifle-maker John Frederick Klette (1756-1810), foreman and master armorer at James Hunter’s famous Rappahannock Forge during the Revolutionary War period. It should be noted that the engraving work noted above is similar to that found on the known rifle of Klette’s make [Shumway, "Rifles of Colonial America." v. 2. (1980), pp. 534-539]. The pistol is silver mounted, including two ramrod pipes, butt cap, sideplate and triggerguard, all without hallmarks. The triggerguard terminates in front with an acorn finial, while a flower is engraved upon its bow. The butt cap is in the form of a grotesque mask cast and chased in high relief, while the flat sideplate is engraved with various floral and scroll motifs. The full length stock is of American black walnut and features a “bird-head” shaped butt, with a delicately and intricately pierced thumbpiece inset on its top, bearing an intertwined “CS” cipher or monogram; in lieu of an apron, the tang is bordered on each side silver wire inlay scrolling that joins behind, forming a shell, with additional scrolled wirework along the flats of the butt. This is one of two known, private-purchase, officer’s pistols of similar form fabricated at Rappahannock Forge, probably in the early days of the Revolutionary War. The other example, carried in the Revolutionary War by Colonel Moses Rawlings of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, is now in the collections of the Maryland Historical Society and was comparatively studied and photographed with the pistol offered here through the courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society. Although the Rawlings pistol has an early 19th century replacement lock, the original stock inletting suggests that the original lock matched the shape and size of that found on this pistol, the overall form is near-identical and the silver mountings on both pistols originated from the same mold [see Nathan Swayze, "The Rappahannock Forge" (ASAC: 1976), pp. 20-23]. Both of these pistols were clearly private-purchase arms and that presented herein, although sharing many of the same features and mounts with the Rawlings pistol at the Maryland Historical Society, is superior in terms of finishing details, including decorative engraving work and especially the elaborate silver wire-work around tang and the pierced “CS” ciphered thumbpiece. Although speculation at this point, a very likely candidate for original ownership of the pistol is Brigadier General Charles Scott (1739-1813) of the Virginia Line, later governor of Kentucky. Scott had served as an officer in the Virginia Regiment under George Washington in the French & Indian War and played a critical role in the defeat of the British at the 1775 battle of Great Bridge. Promoted to colonel of the 5th Virginia Regiment in 1776, he signalized himself in various battle and skirmishes at the head of Continental rifle and light infantry troops throughout 1776-1777 and was promoted to brigadier general in 1777. One of Scott’s key subordinates in many of these actions, perhaps not coincidentally, was Lieutenant Colonel Moses Rawlings, the original owner of the other officer's pistol. This highly important Revolutionary War pistol is accompanied with extensive documentation, including scientific and forensic reports on the metal components by Scientific Analysis of Fine Art LLC, which found that the presence of tin, arsenic and lead in the brass alloy of the barrel is characteristic of the impure copper resources available" and that the "silver mounts, which have traces of lead and gold, are found in the pre-electrolytically refined silver that was available in the Revolutionary War period"; while wood analysis, by Alden Identification Services, confirmed that the stock was made of American Black Walnut. We acknowledge our sincere appreciation to the Maryland Historical Society and its staff, notably Director Mark Lender, Director of Collections Allison Tolman, and Staff Photographer Leslie Eames, for their generosity and collegial cooperation in the comparative study and photography of the two Rappahannock Forge pistols on two, separate occasions. CONDITION: a few light dings and scratches on the barrel and mounts of the pistol, commensurate with age and period use; the lock components are gunmetal grey in tone, with small, scattered patches of light pitting or freckling, the lock in original flint and in good working order; when acquired by the consignor in 2017, there was a large splinter of wood missing in the forestock, which was expertly replaced by noted contemporary Kentucky rifle-maker and restorer, Brian LaMaster, fully documented with before- and after- photographs. JLK
Barrel Length
7 - 1/2"
.60 Smoothbore
FFL Status
James Hunter
Serial Number
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $130,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium:
Estimate: $250,000 - $500,000
Number Bids: 2
Auction closed on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.
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