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NORTHWEST TRADE GUN – PARKER, FIELD & Co. DATED 1862 – HUDSON’S BAY CO. ACCEPTANCE STAMPS  – VERY NICE SPECIMEN:  Probably one of, if not the, most under appreciated firearm of the North American Frontier, the Northwest Trade Gun dates back to the earliest years of western expansion into the interior of the unexplored continent.  Arguably the most established and constant commodity of the fur trade, and traded to Native Americans and European trappers alike, the Northwest Trade Gun was manufactured for over 200 years with only minor changes in the pattern and specifications.   

While firearm technology certainly advanced, and for so many practical reasons the flintlock gave way to the percussion lock, and in turn the metallic cartridge dominated the market in the years following the Civil War, in reality no collection of firearms accumulated with the intent to represent American history can be considered complete without the inclusion of the Northwest Trade Gun.    

Long after Sam Colt and Oliver Winchester had dominated the frontier gun market; and Christian Sharps’ heavy rifles had gone silent when last of the large buffalo herds were gone, these simple muskets with their distinctive serpent side plates, oversized trigger guards, and octagon-to-round banded smooth bore barrels continued to be stocked in the inventory of remote trading posts.  Through the turn of the 20TH Century, they were carried into the mountain ranges, open plains, and vast deserts by the native people who relied on the Northwest Gun’s dependability, simple – and importantly, easily repaired – mechanics, and readily available ammunition.  In short, no other single firearm was carried through as much of American history, from the primeval forests of the east to the shores of the western coast, as were these Northwest Trade Guns.   

This very nice specimen was manufactured by the firm of Parker, Field, & Co. of London in 1862, and is so legibly stamped on the tail of the lock plate.  In front of the hammer, the lock plate bears the famous Hudson’s Bay Company viewer (inspector) stamp, the “Tombstone Fox” seated over the initial’s “EB”.  The initials are believed to be those of Edward Bond, an early viewer employed by the HBC, and whose descendants served the company for many decades after Edward’s death, continuing to use their forbearer’s cartouche.    

A very special feature of this Trade Gun is the relatively rare viewer’s acceptance stamp which was applied once the gun was fully assembled and delivered to the HBC.  This stamp is partially legible on the right side of the butt stock – the outline of the ½” circle that when newly struck and fully legible, encircled a standing fox surrounded by the initials “H. H. B. C.” for the Honorable Hudson’s Bay Company.   These acceptance stamps were characteristically lightly struck, and with any wear or handling, they were soon worn away.  To my knowledge, only two guns exist on which this stamp is fully legible, and it is very rare that even the outline of the stamp survives as is present on this Trade Gun.  The presence of this stamp is certainly an added value.   

Despite obvious evidence of long and regular use on the frontier, this Northwest Trade Gun has survived in very good condition.  The barrel, measuring 30” long, from all appearances retains its full length with no sign of shortening.  The original front sight is intact and the muzzle shows no sign of cutting.  All of the inspector and gauge stamps are present and legible on the left flat of the breech.  The bore diameter is indicated with the stamped “24” indicating the barrel diameter is 24 gauge or approximately .579 caliber.  The muzzle measures approximately .62 which could be the original muzzle diameter, flared a bit to allow for starting the patched ball, or it could be enlarged as the result of use.     

The gun was originally manufactured as a flintlock, and as was the case with so many of these guns, at some point in the period of its use, it was updated to percussion with the addition of a drum and nipple screwed into the side of the barrel, and the flint hammer and frizzen were removed and replaced with a percussion hammer.  The gun saw extensive use after this modification, evidenced by the wear visible on the face of the hammer and the nipple.  As noted above, the maker name, the date, and the Tombstone Fox stamps are all fully legible on the lock plate.  The lock functions properly with a notably strong hammer cock, and a smooth trigger pull.   

The balance of the furniture is all correct for this vintage gun, and all of it is original to the gun and fully intact.  Of special note, the classic serpent side plate which was retained as a feature of these guns throughout their history, is full form and retains very good detail.  The iron trigger guard with the large finger loop, the beaded ramrod pipes, and the brass butt plate are in equally very good condition and firmly attached.    

The stock, retaining a rich aged color, is full form and shows very little wear in view of its age and obvious use.  There is some wear at the muzzle end which is normal on these early guns, but the remainder of the stock retains its original shape and form.  There is a very old repair between the lock plate and the barrel tang where a split was repaired with a small square iron brad - from all appearances done long ago.  There are no other splits or cracks, and the stock is generally smooth with only minor dings from regular use.  The stock has a smooth naturally worn feel to it, with the edges softened through years of handling.  The ramrod is a period replacement, featuring a flared brass upper end and a twisted wire jag on the lower end.  The rod is similar to those carried in muzzle loading shotguns and it was likely salvaged from another gun to fill the need – a common feature on these Trade Guns which rarely retain the original rods.   

This is a very good specimen of a Northwest Trade Gun which was traded from the Hudson’s Bay Company at a time before the Indians had access to the metallic cartridge guns, and certainly present during the active conflicts of the Indian War engagements in the west immediately following the Civil War.    SOLD



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