Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1104: North & Cheney Model 1799 Flintlock Pistol

Auction Date: September 9, 2017

Extremely Rare and Historic U.S. Second Contract North & Cheney Model 1799 Flintlock Pistol with Wertenberger Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $55,000 - $85,000

Extremely Rare and Historic U.S. Second Contract North & Cheney Model 1799 Flintlock Pistol with Wertenberger Letter

Manufacturer: North & Cheney
Model: 1799
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 69
Barrel: 8 inch round
Finish: bright
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 4882
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 78
Class: Antique

Original Model 1799 flintlock pistols are among the scarcest and most highly prized American firearms and certainly the most desirable of all U.S. martial flintlock pistols. The Model 1799 pistol was the first official pistol adopted by the United States and were replaced with the more conventional Model 1805 pistols after less than a decade. Only 2,000 were manufactured by Simeon North and his brother-in-law Elisha Cheney, a clock maker, in Berlin, Connecticut, in 1799-1801. North also manufactured many of the later pattern U.S. martial weapons over slightly more than half a century of arms making. He was the primary private gunmaker to manufacture flintlock pistols for the U.S. government throughout the early 19th century. Some consider him the first and only official private pistol maker of the period given the few other makers who produced pistols on contract with the federal government did not do so in significant quantities nor based on the recognized "official" patterns. Like many of the early U.S. martial weapons, the Model 1799 was heavily based on a French design: the Model 1777 pistol. The primary differences between the two aside from the markings are the shorter barrel length, rounder breech, and additional barrel screw on the bottom of the frame at the front. The Model 1799s were manufactured in two contracts. "NORTH & CHENEY BERLIN" is stamped in an arch on the bottom of the frame. The first initials of the maker's were dropped after the completion of the 500 pistols on the first contract. The second contract, dated February 6, 1800, was completed and delivered by the middle of 1801. Barrel length variations are documented among the few surviving examples, and this example has a shorter barrel than many. The top of the barrel is stamped "V/US" ahead of the tang, and the underside has a deep "B" hallmark and "1" perpendicular to "65." The same numbers are also on left side of the breech plug and inside of the frame in the same fashion. An "M" is marked on the underside of the pommel cap. A letter from noteworthy collector and author James M. Wertenberger discussing his research on the pistol and his acquisition of the pistol is included. He notes that this is the only known Model 1799 with the "B" on the bottom of the barrel at the breech and also indicates all the parts and markings are correct and original aside from the exceptions noted below.

Rating Definition:

Fine, well above average for what few examples that are known. The iron components have deep brown patina, some mild oxidation and pitting (heaviest at the vent and lighter elsewhere), and a few marks and scratches. The has a mellow golden rod toned aged patina, some darker areas, and various marks and scratches. There are some areas of red residue on both the iron and brass. The upper jaw, upper jaw screw, cock screw, frizzen spring, and ramrod are replacements, and the pommel cap has a small strip adhered to buffer the fit. The markings are generally crisp and legible. The stock is very good with some chipping and cracking at the pommel, gaps at the upper tang, and a hairline crack and some chips on the left near the breech. Mechanically excellent. This is among the finest North & Cheney Model 1799s we've seen, and they do not come available at all with any regularity. This pistol is a must have for serious antique American and U.S. martial arms collectors and is sure to be a centerpiece of any collection.

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