Brown Bess?

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by Canfield, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. Canfield

    Canfield New Member

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    Hello - this is my first time on the site. This flintlock has been in a friend's family since the mid-1800's (I'm in Ontario, Canada). It appears to be a Brown Bess but is strangely lacking in markings. Total length is 57 inches, with a 42 inch barrel. No words (tower, etc) anywhere on the lock. On top of the barrel, at the rear, is stamped something that resembles a flower, and below that a clover (maybe) with two crossed swords or something beneath. No other identifying marks. There is no brass plate on the left side where the screws hold the lock in place. .75 caliber, I believe.
    Any help in identifying this gun would be appreciated. Here are some photos -

    http://s1077.photobucket.com/albums/w471/Canfield3/
  2. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    A very warm welcome to the forum, Canfield. You have certainly come to the right place. Perhaps one of the mods will move this to the Ask The Experts and What It's Worth section, but I'm sure someone will be able to help you.

    Your flintlock looks like a fine piece.

    Enjoy the forums. You will fine we are an international group and there is a wide range of interesting topics of discussion.
  3. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Well, it is not a Brown Bess. There is no sideplate and the trigger guard is wrong, plus there is no crown or maker's name on the lockplate.

    I may be wrong, but I think from the markings that it is a type not uncommon to Canada and the northeastern part of what is now the United States, an English trade musket. These were made in England specifically to trade to the natives, formerly known as Indians, in return for furs and other goods and for support against the French. They were always fairly serviceable, though inferior to the standard British army issue Brown Bess. Some were deliberately made with soft parts so they would wear out and the Indians (oops, native whatevers) would have to keep coming back with more trade goods to swap for new muskets.

    Jim
  4. Canfield

    Canfield New Member

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    Thanks for your reply, Jim. I had my suspicions. The lock does not fit very nicely into the stock, for one thing. However, it looks just like a Brown Bess lock. Was there a generic type that resembled that of a BB?
  5. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    agree with jim this looks to be a Stanfield not a Tower or Grice , the lockplates of the majority of bess's .. and Stanfield would be one of the most common trade guns , the engraving though.. i dunno if that'd be a indian lock i'd say a settlers gun or so..

    take a look and compare

    [​IMG]
  6. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Member

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    A differing opinion from the loyal opposition. I make it to be an English contract Sea Service ca. 1800 musket that has had lock markings removed/changed, has had its foreend wood removed (sporterized, if you will). Sea Service arms are similar to the standard arms but made cheaper by omitting such frills as brass side plate, with screw heads directly on the wood. Marks on the barrel look like Birmingham. Brass butt cap and triggerguard are typical English military. As plausible scenario might be that it became surplus and was sold as a trader to the redskins in Canada. Nice that it seems to remain in original flint.
  7. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Jack, I never saw a Bess without a sideplate and with that shape trigger guard. It could be a militia musket, but I hold out for a trade gun. Those trade muskets were made to look like the regulation musket ("See, Chief Running Bear, we are giving you the same guns as our redcoats carry...") but were less well made and less costly.

    A neat gun, and it likely has a real history if we only knew it, but it's not a Brown Bess.

    Jim
  8. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Member

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    Jim K - You are right, not a Brown Bess, maybe not even an English military. It looks like a contract Sea Service musket. Sea Service pistols and muskets as well as other English military ( navy, sea service) items were a significant part of English armament from about mid 1700 to mid 1800s. Like the Brown Bess series some maybe most were contract made for the Gov't. Many were made for private sale to expeditions, etc and did not necessarily conform to exact gov't specs. The trigger guard is a quasi-copy of the standard Brown Bess but seems to lack robust detail (may be the photo). Lack of a frizzen link (from pan to frizzen acrew)is a typical simplification typical of Sea Service and contract pieces. Barrel length of 42" is standard for the 2nd and 3rd Model Brown Bess and may be one of them, either legit or a gov't reject. Google has a mess of stuff about Sea Service muskets and pistols.
  9. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    lots of military look alikes in them days , as jim stated and other reasons , many rich people converted bess's into fowlers , such where the reputations of arms and arms makers back then

    however the US gun makers started to out do in practicality and weight, the formidable euro guns ( french and english mainly ) and make their own name , but not be so stuck up about it ;)

    my vote is generic english or scot's ( the scots had a big influence in canada and north US in the settlement days ) trade gun , indian or settler i cant say, the scroll work leads me to think settler or such , but not a bess and i doubt military
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2012
  10. Canfield

    Canfield New Member

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    Thanks for all your help, guys. I've passed the info on to the family, much appreciated. They also have what sounds to me like a Navy Colt, which I haven't seen yet. I might have some queries on it too. Cheers,

    B -
  11. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Please a couple of comments/questions. Wouldn't a sea service musket have the crown on the lockplate or was the Royal Navy not considered part of HM armed forces? ;)

    I am not sure of the role of a militia in Canada, but I would think an individual would have a fowling piece or a rifle, and IMHO, that is a military style musket, not a hunting gun.

    Jim
  12. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Member

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    If it was an actual Sea Service musket for the English navy it would have had the royal cipher (crowned GR). But the same or similar piece of Sea Service desigh might have whatever markings the purchaser wanted. An example is guns very similar to English military with East India Company markings. One might investigate Hudsons Bay Company and learn something about its arms as regards Canada.

    In a "make do" situation a gun is a gun but for sure this piece is not what a hunter would have chosen if he had choice of a civilian type.
  13. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    I have to display my ignorance of early Canada, but I don't think Hudson's Bay Company had anything like the EIC in the way of a private army and that kind of thing. HBc was involved pretty much in trading and while they sold/traded guns, I don't think they got into arming the natives - that was done by the British Army.

    Hudson's Bay Company (HBc or theBay) is still very much in business with a zillion stores across Canada; I have bought stuff from them and they have good quality products. (see www.hbc.com).

    Jim
  14. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Member

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    I have seen guns said to be Canadian trade pieces, maybe HBC, but were quite a bit different from this subject piece. I didn't read all the foregoing carefully and obviously missed reference to 'arming of natiives'. Would be interested in more info about British Army arming the natives.
  15. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    There were several wars in the colonial period that spread over the semi-settled areas of Canada and what would become the US. These were mainly offshoots of European wars involving the British and the French; the mother countries were fighting each other, so obviously their North American armies and citizens became involved. In those wars both sides armed their Indians allies, sometimes trading guns for scalps (hair still on them to prove they were from whites, not Indians, whose scalps were worth less). The French used Indan fighters more than the British did, but both sides had "savage" allies.

    Those wars were brutal and the weapons distributed by both sides were military arms, not hunting guns or fowling pieces. The French and Indian War, the name given to the North American theater of the Seven Years War, lasted from 1754 to 1763. Involved was one George Washington in command of Virginia troops, who was soundly defeated and forced to retreat in two encounters. General Edward Braddock was killed in the latter battle.

    Wikipedia has a very good article under French and Indian War.

    Jim
  16. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Member

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    I guess somehow the wrong button got pushed - if I did it I apologize. Looking back into this thread I don't see how the ID of whether or not a gun being a Bess got into arming natives in the French & Indian War. I was once a somewhat student of the F&I War and agree essentially with your precis. If I get time today I will explore this thread for content and whatever (if any) may be read between the lines. I once assembled soething of a collection of guns of the colonial period, several likely seeing service in the F&IW as well as the American Rev. Most prominent were the different characteristics of my French 1733 pistols -- but that is for another thread. Best, rhmc24
  17. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    The connection is simply that those so-called "trade muskets" were sold/traded to the Indians for use against England's enemies; they were military type arms, to be used for a military purpose. The arms supplied by the crown to militia units (at least in the "American colonies") were the standard issue Brown Bess, though often of older versions, and that was (at least on paper) the standard musket of the fledgling American army. Rifles, in spite of the often fanciful stories about them, played only a very small part in the fighting that determined the outcome of the Revolution.

    Later, the Americans received so many muskets from France, that the French .69 caliber became the American standard, and remained so until 1855.

    Jim
  18. Canfield

    Canfield New Member

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    Hey guys -

    I have another query and can't seem to figure out how to start a new thread. A friend discovered this percussion pistol in her family's belongings. It appears to be .44 caliber. Overall length 7 inches, with a 3 inch barrel. One piece grip, probably walnut. There is a proof mark under the barrel (the pic isn't great, I know) and also someone has etched the Roman Numeral XIII there. Any help in identifying this pistol would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
    [​IMG]
  19. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    To start a new thread, go back to the folder heading "Technical Questions and Information". Scroll down a few lines and you will see a blue oval button on the left that says "New Thread". You will need to give your new thread a title.

    As long as we are here, that gun looks like a common boxlock pistol. They were made by the thousands in England, the U.S., Belgium and France between about 1835 and 1865, and many more thousands of reproductions have been made in recent years in Spain and Italy.

    The picture is so huge it doesn't want to come up for me, perhaps someone else can identify the marking. If the gun is an antique and in good shape, it would probably bring around $250, around $100 for a repro.

    Jim
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
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