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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Ok, just a little back story first. Back in 1976 or 77, I got two fancy brochures in the mail a few months apart--both advertising limited runs of two historical reproduction pistols from an organization called the US Historical Society. One was to be a high quality cased set of flintlocks replicating a silver mounted pair presented to George Washington--now in the possession of the Smithsonian. The other was a set of flintlock dueling pistols copied from the original set that was used in the famous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The Washington set was a whopping $3000 and the Hamilton--Burr set priced at $2950. Oh great--$50 off, sign me up--not! At the time, I was barely making $10k gross a year and Uncle Sam was getting at least 30% of that. To put this in perspective, $3000 from 1976 is $13,300 in today's dollars. Of course these were way out of my league.

However, I kept those full color brochures for quite a few years, and would take them out every once in a while to dream and drool over. Of the two offers, the dueling set was on a bucket list I had already made--even back then. The Society never sent me any more brochures, probably figuring I was too low on the economic food chain, so I lost track of the company.

In my research over the last week, I have discovered that the the firearms part of the organization was sold in 1994 to America Remembers, which is still in business. However, the current company does not make authentically produced historical recreations, but merely sells tasteless pimped up "Franklin Mint" style plated Uberti's and modern Henry's commemorating such things as Merle Haggard's first prostate exam. You know like most of the gaudy crap that Winchester and even Colt have produced to excess and sold to the unsuspecting public since the 1960's.

Fast forward to the present. In the last few years, I have seen these sets along with later releases from the same group start to pop up in live auctions and at on-line sites such as Gunbroker--usually priced around the original issue cost--sometimes higher or sometimes lower based on condition or greed/ignorance of the seller. Obviously, like most commemoratives, they were horrible investments and certainly not worth the original premiums.

Just recently, a slew of the Hamilton-Burr sets have hit the market and at much lower prices. A set in the Rock Island auction just sold for $1560 including premium. The pistols in these sets are easily equal to the quality of the current Pedersoli LePage duelers on the market and they run $1100 per pistol.

It also stands to reason that the demographic of individuals who could afford to spend $3k in 1976/78 on an item that was simply going in a curio cabinet or on a book shelf had to be a high income professional like a lawyer, doctor, or maybe business owner and probably at least 40 years old or older. Likewise, since it's now about 40 years later, more and more of these people are in the process of starting their impending long dirt nap. We all do. Just remember, none of us are going to get out of this alive.

Anyhow, I did a little searching and found a set at a shop in Texas at a price I was happy with (unfortunately before I saw the Rock Island set) but still not much more. They arrived yesterday and boy, I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park. The set did not come with any implements originally, so I stuck a couple of percussion accessories in the middle compartment so it wouldn't look bare while I search for more authentic items. The pistols are in immaculate condition and to be around 40 years old, the case is not too shabby either



Here are the pistols out of the case. They are .54 cal smooth bores. The originals that these were copied from are owned by the J.P. Morgan Chase financial company and are on display at their HQ in New York. The company was formerly the Chase Manhattan bank, and way before that it was the Manhattan bank which was founded by Aaron Burr himself. The originals were owned by John Church--a former Englishman who was Hamilton's brother in law.


John Church commissioned the set to be made in England by Robert Wogden who would have produced them with all wooden stocks--having the balance point just forward of the trigger guard. The bronze fore stocks you see were added at a later date as the theory developed that it was better to have front heavy duelers so as to hold on target better. IMHO this actually adds to the attractiveness of the pieces.

The pistols were used in at least 3 duels prior to the last one that ended Hamilton's life. The first in England with Church and another Englishman. The next in the US between Church and Aaron Burr himself some 4 years before the Hamilton Burr duel. Nobody was hit in the Church-Burr affair although in at least two accounts I read, a button was shot off of Burr's coat. Burr and Church agreed that honor had been served and parted amicably. The next time they were used was by Hamilton's 19 year old son who was killed in his duel two years before Hamilton met the same fate with the same set of pistols. The pistols remained in the Church family into the 20th century when they were eventually sold to the bank. One pistol was converted to percussion by a Church descendant who fought for the Union during the ACW.

When the remaining flintlock version of the pair was loaned to the US Historical Society to be copied, it was taken to Tourin, Italy for a top gunsmith to disassemble and take measurements for manufacturing specs. This data was to be turned over to the Uberti firm in Bresca for production. This is when they discovered something that was thought to have been lost to history. The pistols had single set triggers! The trigger pull was normally a quite heavy 8 to 9 lbs. After being cocked, all one had to do was to push the trigger forward until it clicked, and it was converted to a hair trigger with a very light pull of only 8 ounces.

The Historical Society promotional material made a big deal out of this discovery, claiming that of course Church would have been aware of this feature and therefore also his brother-in-law Hamilton. They proposed the idea that it would have given Hamilton an slight, but unfair, advantage in the duel. If so, it backfired since Hamilton's shot discharged harmlessly in the air way over Burr's head. None of the witnesses at the duel could even agree at to who shot first. However, Hamilton's backers claimed that he had told them before the duel that he intended to aim wide as to not hit Burr.

Most historians now discount the hidden set trigger theory because it turns out that this feature was common during this period of dueling and would have been well known by any who had occasion to be involved with such firearms. Regardless, Burr's shot hit Hamilton in the hip passing through his liver--mortally wounding him. Hamilton died within 30 hours.

Many historians believe that Hamilton's death had a major impact on American History. Here are a few theories gleaned from my reading over the past week.

It's almost a certainty that when Thomas Jefferson left office in 1809--- having picked Madison to run as his successor, Hamilton would surely have run against the lackluster Madison and would have easily won.

Hamilton had been a very competent officer during the revolutionary war and it's thought that he would have managed the war of 1812 much better than the indecisive Madison.

Hamilton had proposed in several speeches that the president should be elected for life with no term limits--basically turning the office into a possible monarchy for the Hamilton family

Hamilton also wanted to get rid of the church and state separation which is one of the cornerstones that our government was founded on.

Lastly, he abhorred slavery and had proposed a 20 or 30 year plan to phase it out thus possibly preventing the ACW

OK, if you haven't become totally bored with my amateur history lesson by now and have read this far, I mentioned that this was the first of my two presents. Well, while doing my searches for the dueling set, I came across another early issue of the US Historical Society. It's a cased set of matched percussion Derringers copied after the one that Booth assassinated Lincoln with. This is called the silver mounted set and comes with accessories in a case made to look like a leather bound book.

The release price on this one was $1900 in 1978. I found a mint condition set listed in the wrong section on Gunbroker for an opening bid of $799 and I was the only bidder. Once again these little pistols are equal or superior to the ones that Petersoli retails at $549 each. I should have them by Thursday, so I post a couple of pictures then. The seller was a pawn shop in CA. If they were willing to take chance on this set selling for only $800, can you imagine the paltry sum that they paid for it? Typically about half is the norm.

Ye Gods, my bucket list from 40 years ago is dwindling. I think now I only need a Daisy Red Rider BB gun and a 105 mm towed Howitzer to finish up, so I can die in peace.

I sincerely apologize for the length of this post. I get started and it just pours out

Cheers

P.S. If anybody here is thinking of challenging me to a duel, remember that as the challenged party, I get to pick the weapon. Since I don't want to dirty up my new pistols, I've decided to emulate what Lincoln proposed in the 1840's when he was challenged to a duel:

Like Lincoln, I've decided that it will be fresh cow pies at 10 paces.


P.S 2 recent edit to correct the name James Church to John Church---full name John Barker Church
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
When is the Merle Haggards prostate pistol going to join the others in it's place of honor?:eek:

All kidding aside, very nice handguns and a fine story.

LOL, unfortunately the Merle Haggard run is sold out. However they have a Conway Twitty gold plated 45 auto that's awful pretty. No, just make that pretty awful instead

Thanks for the kind words.
 
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I seriously appreciate someone interested in early guns, few they be on these more modern forums; likewise someone writing as well as you. I was a collector & in the part-time restoration biz of very early guns from a kid in the 1930s to 2010 when old age took its toll. Some of my work I posted in this forum's 'albums' section. In post-WW2 Europe I collected a few old guns shown here along with my Dad's American oldies --


Early this past decade I began a transition into more modern such as pre-1911 Colts, New Service & S&W TLs ---->
 

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forward-observer,

All I can say is "paitience pays off"; you finally got the pistols you have yearned for the past years. They sure are BEAUTIES! Congratulations of finding them!!!! Oh Yea, I really enjoyed the History lesson too!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
"happier than a tornado in a trailer park." I realize that this is intended to be funny, but it is not.
Sorry if you didn't find this funny. I've used it for years. Growing up in northeast Arkansas and surviving no less than at least 8 major tornado's having two homes we lived in partially demolished plus while we were temporarily living in a trailer park that survived, I think I feel qualified to joke about it.

Cheers
 

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Those are nice pistols-Uberti did a great job on them.I have had a couple sets come through-sold the last one for well over 2k if I recall. You did good,seems to be a few more on the market now.
 
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