This incredibly rare pair of American flintlock "Kentucky pistols" were manufactured c. 1810-1820 by Peter Kunz (1790-1862) who was trained in Allentown and worked in nearby Whitehall Township in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. His brother Jacob (1780-1876) was also a talented gunmaker and later moved to Philadelphia. The Kunz brothers are widely regarded as among the finest American gun makers of the "Golden Age" in the early national period, and these pistols are an excellent demonstration of why. The smoothbore barrels are equipped with dovetailed brass blade front and notch rear sights, inlaid with decorative silver and brass panels around the rear sight, lightly engraved, signed "P. KUNZ" in brass panels just ahead of the rear sights, and have engraved tangs. The "W./ALLPORT" marked locks from Birmingham lock maker William Allport suggest they were manufactured c. 1807-1823 and feature frizzen spring rollers and simple border and floral engraving. The furniture and accents are silver and feature attractive floral and scroll engraving. The curly maple birds-head grip stocks have checkered wrists, three cross shaped inlays to the sides of the barrel tangs, and a dark red "violin varnish" finish. They come in a later wood case modified to fit the pistols and decorated with painted floral patterns. The case also contains a powder measure, ball mold, worm, and an "M17" marked inventory tag. A similar pistol by Peter Kunz is pictured in "Kentucky Rifles & Pistols 1750-1850" by James Johnson on pg. 240 and is also pictured in the article "Evolution of the Pennsylvania Rifle" by Crosby Milliman within the American Society of Arms Collectors' "Long Arms in America Volume 1" and identified as manufactured in North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, c. 1810. The mate to the latter pistol was sold in May 2021 by Rock Island Auction Company. This pair was featured in the article "Guardians of the Liberty Bell?" by Charles D. Cook in "Antiques" from February 1930 which states that these pistols were once owned by John Jacob Mickley who guarded the Liberty Bell on its journey in 1777 and theorizes these may have been his sidearms at the time. He indicates they remained in the Mickley family until they were sold to John Huston of Philadelphia who then sold them to Cook. A Sept. 24, 1961, newspaper clipping from "The Morning Call" of Allentown stated "LIBERTY BELL PISTOLS - These valuable matched pistols, once owned by John Jacob Mickley who helped bring the Liberty Bell to Allentown in 1777, are expected to be displayed at the dedication of the Liberty Bell Shrine in Zion church." The article later noted, "The two pistols are considered by experts the finest pair of American flintlock pistols known" and discusses them being put on display at the Liberty Bell Shrine. In April 1962, they were featured in "Guns" in the article "Big Moments in Collecting" by James E. Serven where they are captioned as "Beautifully-made American flintlock pistols were owned by Jacob Mickley, revolutionary war patriot who moved Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to Allentown. Guns became known thereafter as Liberty Bell Pistol.'" They were also featured on the cover of "The Gun Report" from September 1971 and inside in the article "Adventure in Gun Collecting" by James E. Serven as "The famous 'Liberty Bell' pistols made by P. Kunz of Philadelphia for Revolutionary War patriot John Jacob Mickley, who carried them when he helped to hide the Liberty Bell from the British. They were in the great Charles Cook collection purchased by the author." They are also featured in "Firearms and Accessories The Serven Gunroom" where this story is again relayed. An included framed picture of the pistols with an affidavit is included. It states the pistols belonged to John Jacob Mickley and discusses his historic role transporting the Liberty Bell and states, "These Pistols were in all probability carried by him on that hazardous trip, have always been in the possession of his descendants, and came into my keeping through Abraham B. Mickley" and then lists the pistols as having descended from John Jacob Mickley to Christian Mickley (1770-1817), to Peter B. Mickley (1797-1877), to Abraham Mickley (1826-1896), and then to Joseph Benjamin Mickley (1860-1948). A painting apparently showing Mickely transporting the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia in 1777 is included.
Fine. The barrel and lock display light gray patina and some minor pitting. The brass and silver barrel inlays have attractive aged patina, and the signature remains distinct. The engraving on the tang is worn. The silver mounts also have attractive aged patina and mostly crisp engraving. The stock is also fine and has distinct checkering, nearly all of the dark red varnish, a minor repaired chip at the barrel tang, some attractive flame figure, and some minor dings and scratches. Mechanically excellent. The later wooden custom fitted and Pennsylvania folk art style painted case and accessories are very good with moderate age and storage related wear. The framed picture of the pistols is very fine and has minor storage wear. The painting is very good with a distinct scene, some staining on the matting, and mild age and storage related wear overall.
See "A." Provenance: The Mickley Family Collection; The John Huston Collection, The Charles D. Cook Collection, The James E. Serven Collection; Property of a Gentlemen
Fine. The barrel and lock have mostly gray patina, some darker brown patina in the recessed areas of the lock, and light pitting. The silver and brass inlays have attractive aged patina, and the signature is crisp. The tang engraving is worn. The silver furniture also has attractive aged patina and mostly crisp engraving. The inlay on the wrist is likely a replacement as it is not engraved unlike the inlay on "A." The stock is also fine and has distinct checkering, some attractive flame figure, minor dings and scratches, a small repaired chip at the barrel tang, most of the varnish, and some edge wear. Mechanically excellent. This is a stunning pair of American "Kentucky pistols" by one of the most renowned makers of the "Golden Age" and connected to a historic colonial era family that escorted the famous Liberty Bell on its journey from Philadelphia to Allentown.