Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1103: U.S. 2nd Contract North & Cheney Model 1799 Flintlock Pistol

Auction Date: December 4, 2021

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

Estimated Price: $60,000 - $90,000

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

Manufacturer: North & Cheney
Model: 1799
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 69
Barrel: 8 5/16 inch round
Finish: bright
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 398
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 56
Class: Antique

The Model 1799 flintlock pistols are among the rarest and most highly prized American firearms, and are 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 they 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 in two contracts. In "Historic Pistols: The American Martial Flintlock, 1760-1845" by Smith and Bitter, the authors note that only seven of the First Contract pistols and nineteen of these Second Contract pistols were known to survive. 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. North went on to manufacture many of the U.S. martial flintlock pistols and long guns, including the innovative Hall carbines, over slightly more than half a century of arms making. He is often noted as "the First Official Pistol Maker of the United States" since he was the main government contract or in the early national period and the first to manufacture pistols based on official, recognized patterns for the government. Like the Model 1795 muskets of the era, the Model 1799 was heavily based on a French design, the Model 1777 pistol. The primary differences between the two aside from the markings is that the U.S. Model 1799 pistols have longer barrels with a rounder breech section and an additional barrel screw on the bottom of the frame at the front. This pistol was examined by renowned, late U.S. flintlock pistol expert James M. Wertenberger in 2006 and a copy of his detailed piece by piece evaluation of the pistol is included. He indicates the pistol is in original flintlock configuration and that the markings and components are consistent with the other 1799s he has examined, including the "518" which appears on the left side of the breech plug, under the barrel and inside the brass frame; the "VIII" assembly marks on the back strap, back strap mortise, and barrel, and the "II" assembly marks on the trigger guard bow and the screws. The only replacement components he noted are the lower buttcap screw and small frame screw behind the trigger. The bottom, underside of the frame on the right side of the trigger guard is stamped in an arched curve: "NORTH & CHENEY BER" with the "LIN" portion no longer visible. Wertenberger noted similar light or defaced markings on other original North & Cheney pistols. The top of the barrel is correctly stamped "PV/US" in two lines ahead of the tang. The pommel is not marked with the usual assembly marks, but Wertenberger confirmed it is original to the pistol. Ramrod absent.

Rating Definition:

Very good plus. The iron components have a, untouched brown patina with scattered pitting and surface rust. The "PV/US" markings on the top of the barrel are legible. There is some delamination at the muzzle which Wertenberger noted he had seen on another North & Cheney pistol. The brass displays an untouched dark patina with some verdigris on protected areas surrounding the hammer and frizzen spring and faint fractures in the lower tang. The North & Cheney markings on the bottom of the receiver are light but legible as discussed above. The wood is also very good with scattered, minor handling marks, some loss at the edges, and two inconsequential hairline cracks. The original mainspring is broken. A Model 1799 North & Cheney flintlock pistol in the original flintlock configuration is a key piece in the evolution of U.S. military handguns and one of the most difficult of all U.S. handguns to obtain. This is a solid example of a rare Model 1799 Pistol accompanied by a detailed evaluation by one of the recognized experts in U.S. martial flintlock pistols. This pistol would be a tremendous addition to the most advanced U.S. martial arms collection.

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