Dueling Pistols: Joseph Brant's Flintlock Pistols

The two pistols are provided with grips that terminate in classic examples of the so-called ram’s-horn or scroll butt. This type of design was prevalent in the Scottish Highlands in the second half of the 18th century. The signature refers to Thomas Murdoch, born in Doune, Scotland, and baptized there in 1735. The Murdochs were a family of gunsmiths. According to the ROM’s accession files, these pistols were made for the Duke of Northumberland. According to tradition, the Duke presented the pistols to Joseph Brant of the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) in 1791. The engraved, inlaid silver decoration includes details of a ducal crest with the letter “N” and the curious inscription “GUINEAS”. Steel-hilted belt pistols, like these two by Thomas Murdoch, formed a unique facet of Scottish gunsmithing. Scottish steel-hilted pistols, which featured engraved inlay in silver, were unique, and during the 18th century were without parallel elsewhere in Britain or in Continental Europe. The two pistols were purchased for the ROM in 1924 from Miss W. M. Cartwright. According to the ROM’s records, the items bought from Miss Cartwright formed part of the Joseph Brant Collection. As a gift from the Duke of Northumberland to Joseph Brant, the two pistols fall into the realm of presentation pieces associated with high levels of international diplomacy. Gifts of engraved firearms were sometimes exchanged among foreign rulers as marks of respect or to commemorate treaties and alliances. _____________________________________________________________ Historical Advisor: Keith Jameison, Woodlands Cultural Centre

Maker: signed “T. MURDOCH”. The signature refers to Thomas Murdoch, born in Doune, Scotland.

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