This pistol may very well be the earliest post-Revolutionary War U.S. contract pistol and as such is an incredibly important piece for collectors of U.S. martial pistols. Robert M. Reilly wrote, "The historic significance of this pistol cannot be overstated. It may be the sole survivor of yet uncovered contracts issued by Pennsylvania for pistols, and the use of the Liberty Cap proofmark dates the arm from 1799 at the latest. . ." All early American pistols are rare and valuable (as Flayderman values the pistol at $45,000 in 2007); but this pistol is also one of only two pistols known with the Pennsylvania proofmark from prior to 1800! It is discussed in detail and illustrated in four books: pages 207 and 208 of "United States Martial Flintlocks" by Reilly, page 347 of "Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values" by Norm Flayderman, pages 102 and 103 of "Historic Pistols: The American Martial Flintlock, 1760-1845" by Smith and Bitter, and pages 64-66 of "U.S. Martial Single Shot Pistols" by Hartzler and Whisker. It was proofed for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after the American Revolution c. 1785-1799, and therefore was almost certainly manufactured before the first U.S. contract pistols by North & Cheney pistols were even made. It may be related to the pistols listed in Pennsylvania government depots in Philadelphia as early as 1781 and 1793. Reilly reported it as manufactured by Abraham Schweitzer (1769-1831) of Lancaster and later Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Abraham Schweitzer also manufactured rifles under contract with the government and was a talented rifle builder, and a pistol signed "AS" that is attributed to him is also known. Therefore, this is certainly a logical conclusion. Smith and Bitter list it as manufactured by an unknown gunmaker named Wise, and suggest the lock was manufactured by Daniel Schweitzer who is known to have manufactured locks used on other Pennsylvania contract arms. Daniel Schweitzer was listed as a blacksmith in 1797 in Lancaster and by 1808 specialized specifically as a locksmith, and "Schweitzer" markings on the inside of locks have been noted on contract arms completed by other Pennsylvania gunsmiths in the 1790s (see "Pennsylvania 1798 Contract Muskets" by Thomas E. Holt for examples). It is possible Wise manufactured the barrel and one of the Schweitzers manufactured the lock given American gunmakers, especially those in Pennsylvania, are known to have built arms using parts obtained from various sources. Regardless of the who manufactured what individual parts and who actually completed the final product, this is a historically significant pistol. The barrel is particularly unusual and rare for an American made pistol given it is brass and has a complex cannon shaped profile. This style was popular in the 18th century, and important Revolutionary War officers and Founding Fathers are known to have owned brass barrel pistols, including the likes of General George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Smith and Bitter indicate brass cannon barrels were particularly popular in and around Philadelphia which was an important cultural and political center in the colonial era, American Revolution and early republic and was the home of the First and Second Continental Congresses, signing place of the Declaration of Independence, location of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, and first U.S. capital while Washington, D.C. was under construction. The pommel cap is similar to those used on some French holster pistols from around the American Revolution and those seen on many private American pistols from the early republic. Many early American firearms were heavily influenced by arms from France in particular. For example, the North & Cheney Model 1799 is essentially an American version of the French Model 1777, and the American Model 1795 muskets and following models are essentially copies of French "Charleville" muskets, but this pistol is more in line with the fancier pistols privately purchased and used by officers. The barrel is signed "Wise" on top and has the noted "liberty cap/P" cartouche and a small "PG" inspection mark on the upper left flat at the breech. The latter has been previously identified as that of Peter Getz of Lancaster who inspected both U.S. government and Pennsylvania contract arms. The lock has a small "Schweitzer" marking at center and light floral engraving accents. The furniture is all brass, and the trigger guard has an acorn finial. The American black walnut stock has a single barrel key, nicely shaped forearm tip, bird's head shaped grip popular on early American pistols, and simple flats. Provenance: Norm Flayderman Collection and Joseph Murphy Collection.
Fine overall. The brass barrel and furniture exhibit attractive aged patinas, and the lock and small iron components display dark brown patina and some minor oxidation/pitting. The stock has a few minor cracks including at the tail of the lock and rear lock screw, a sliver absent above the wedge on the left side of the forend, minor scratches and dings, and slight chipping at the toe. It is mechanically excellent. This is an incredibly rare opportunity to get your hands on a very early and possibly unique Commonwealth of Pennsylvania militia pistol.
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