Morphy’s May 18 Early Arms & Militaria Auction features early American flintlock rifles and pistols, Revolutionary War sabers, French and Indian War powder horns

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Top highlight: Inscribed Kentucky long rifle presented by Marquis de Lafayette to Tuscarora Iroquois Indian guide Chief Tunis, estimated at $200K-$500K

Important and historical Kentucky long rifle presented by Marquis de Lafayette to Tuscarora Iroquois Indian guide and friend Chief Tunis, who traveled with him during the American Revolution and led him on expeditions through 24 of the United States. Profusely engraved and decorated, inscribed ‘Presented to Chief Tunis by Lafayette at Kingston NY 1824.’ Unbroken chain of provenance traces ownership back to Chief Tunis and common-law wife Ruth Yaple. Estimate $200,000-$500,000
Important and historical Kentucky long rifle presented by Marquis de Lafayette to Tuscarora Iroquois Indian guide and friend Chief Tunis, who traveled with him during the American Revolution and led him on expeditions through 24 of the United States. Profusely engraved and decorated, inscribed ‘Presented to Chief Tunis by Lafayette at Kingston NY 1824.’ Unbroken chain of provenance traces ownership back to Chief Tunis and common-law wife Ruth Yaple. Estimate $200,000-$500,000

DENVER, Pa. – On May 18, Morphy Auctions will present a 161-lot selection of highly important and historical arms and militaria. Specialty categories include early flintlock muskets, rifles and pistols; antique handguns, powder horns, sabers, medals, maps, portraits of distinguished military figures, and more. All forms of bidding will be available, including live online through Morphy Live.

The premier lot of the sale is a Kentucky long rifle presented by the Marquis de Lafayette to his trusted Tuscarora Iroquois Indian guide and friend Chief Tunis, who traveled with him during the American Revolution and led him on expeditions across 24 of the United States. 

Of the Europeans who held sympathetic views toward the breakaway colonists during the American Revolution, none was held in higher regard or proactively assisted their cause with greater fervor than Lafayette. “He defiantly ignored the wishes of his family, who disowned him, and of King Louis the Sixteenth, and purchased a ship to travel to America. His military rank of major general was recognized by the Continental Army, and he immediately began an illustrious career in the colonies with the oversight of his closest friend, George Washington,” said Dan Morphy, founder and president of Morphy Auctions.

The wealthy marquis became known not only for his many acts of valor but also for his monetary contributions to the American cause at its darkest hour. In fact, it was due to Lafayette’s lobbying efforts that France sent both economic aid and troops during the war. 

Lafayette saw more of the United States than probably most Americans –then or now. Right alongside him during his many expeditions was his faithful guide Chief Tunis. As an expression of gratitude, Lafayette gifted Chief Tunis with the Kentucky rifle to be auctioned by Morphy’s on May 18th. It is profusely engraved, decorated and inscribed: Presented to Chief Tunis by Lafayette at Kingston NY 1824. Its unbroken chain of provenance traces the rifle’s ownership back to Chief Tunis and his common-law wife Ruth Yaple. Former owners also include direct descendants of Chief Tunis, renowned antique arms dealer/collector Glode Requa (1918-2011), and Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon (see complete provenance and extensive additional information in Morphy’s catalog). Estimate: $200,000-$500,000

A pre-Revolutionary War flintlock Kentucky rifle is attributed to Bucks County, Pa., during the region’s formative years of gunsmithing. It has beautiful, relatively high-relief carving as opposed to the later incised carving usually found with this school of rifles. “Its silhouette shows characteristics of what would eventually become known as the Bucks County School profile,” Morphy explained. “The fleur-de-lis designs on either side of the wrist at the rear of the lock and sideplate moldings are evidence that this rifle was made in upper Bucks County. Also, the carving behind the barrel tang is seen on rifles made by John Shuler, Andrew Verner, and Herman Rupp, among others from the area.” Estimate $50,000-$150,000

Another of the sale’s highlights, a well-known and well-documented Revolutionary War flintlock Kentucky rifle is depicted in Joe Kindig Jr’s Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age, George Shumway’s Rifles of Colonial America, and Wood and Whisker’s Gunsmiths of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Relief-carved, this iconic rifle of early Lancaster form is signed John Newcomer (d. 1782). Newcomer was listed as a gunsmith in Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, in 1771, 1772, 1779 and 1780. Estimate: $50,000-$100,000

Several significant cavalry swords will be auctioned, including a rare 42-inch American Loyalist cavalry saber made by James Potter in New York City during the period of 1779-1781. Following the Battle of Long Island and other skirmishes, New York was under British control. At that time Potter produced his swords at Maiden Lane, Manhattan, for the British Inspector General of Provincial Forces. They were subsequently distributed to various Loyalist Dragoon troops. The Potter saber is expected to make $15,000-$30,000. A notable English-made sword, the only known complete survivor of the 280 originally sent to Sir William Pepperell’s regiment in 1754, is marked Sr. W.P. No. 2 below an impressed Hanoverian horse. Estimate: $10,000-$20,000.

Twelve powder horns will be presented, including a group of four cased, engraved French and Indian War map powder horns, three belonging to Lt. Col. Archibald Montgomerie (1726-1796) and acquired at the 1925 auction held at Eglinton Castle, Scotland. Two of the horns bear the Royal Arms, and one bears the Arms of the Earls of Eglinton. From 1757 to 1763, at the advent of the French & Indian War, Montgomerie commanded the 77th Regiment of Scottish troops. They fought with George Washington and Henry Bouquet in the Fort Duquesne Expedition before joining General Amherst’s troops in 1759 to lay siege to Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Subsequently, they fought the Cherokee Indians at the Battle of Etchocy, with mixed results. After marching to the coast, Montgomerie returned to New York. It is at that time that he probably commissioned the powder horns as a souvenir of his adventures in America. The lot is estimated at $100,000-$300,000.

The engraved horn of Captain Abraham Foot is dated 1762 and is a book example seen in American Engraved Powder Horns: The Golden Age 1755/1783 by John S. du Mont. Engravings include a heart with the high-relief phrase: Cap’t Abraham Foot’s Horn Crown Point oct’r 5th – a reference to the officer’s extensive French and Indian War service. It is offered with copies of pages from the du Mont book plus a copy of its catalog description from Bourgeault’s 2006 auction of the William Guthman Americana collection. Estimate: $12,000-$25,000.

The engraved Philadelphia map powder horn of John Purviance is attributed to The Pointed Tree Carver. In addition to the date 1768, it is inscribed with Latin phrases and images of 18th-century life in Philadelphia, with a view of the city and its harbor, including Windmill Island. Other images depictions of an artillery fort with British flag, a man in a horse-drawn carriage with his dog, and a hunter and hound. The auction estimate is $10,000-$15,000.

The historical gold-seal fob of Lawrence Washington (1775-1824), nephew of George Washington, dates to circa 1791-1795. The fourth son of Washington’s younger brother Samuel, Lawrence lost his father at age seven. His uncle, George, covered the cost of his education and further provided for Lawrence in his will, leaving him a portion of the Mount Vernon estate, and personal objects. The Lawrence Washington seal is a fine artifact from the family of George Washington, being the personal seal of a nephew for whom Washington had great affection. George Washington is known to have purchased seals for his nephews from the Philadelphia jeweler Joseph Cooke, who undertook commissions from the Washington family with some regularity. The seal fob offered by Morphy’s is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.

Morphy’s May 18, 2021 Early Arms & Militaria Auction will be held at the company’s Denver, Pennsylvania gallery, starting each day at 10 a.m. EDT. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email [email protected]. Online: www.morphyauctions.com.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
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James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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