May 23, 2003
Flintlock Pistols on Display at the Wallace Museum
A pair of circa 1815 flintlock pistols, considered to be among the finest pistols made in America during the period and probably a product of Simon Lauck’s (1762-1815)workshop in Winchester, Va., now are on loan to Colonial Williamsburg and are on display in the Masterworks Gallery of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
The pistols are believed to have been a gift from William Henry Harrison, who later became president of the United States, to his close friend General Duncan McArthur (1772-1839). McArthur served as governor of Ohio from 1830 to 1832. He passed the pistols on to his son James McDonald McArthur, who in turn divided them between his sons Smith McArthur and William H.H. McArthur Sr.
Each pistol was passed down through several generations and branches of the family and only recently were reunited – for the first time in 150 years – when present owners Captain John R. Brandson, USN Ret., and Larry Francis McArthur agreed to lend the pieces to Colonial Williamsburg for display.
“These pistols were really remarkable creations due to their unique innovations that include double barrels accessed by a disguised, rolling mechanism in the pan,” said Erik Goldstein, curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “This particular feature allows priming powder to reach both touchholes. In addition, the engraved silver mounts surrounding the barrel tangs and tail pipes are suggestive of relief carving or wire inlay. These are beautiful examples of Lauck’s work.”
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s award winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, supported by the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Colonial Williamsburg, displays the foundation's exceptional collection of English and American decorative arts. Entered through the reconstructed Public Hospital of 1773, the museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is included in any Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or by separate one-day or annual museums ticket. For program information call (757) 220-7724.