Morphy’s May 27-29 auction presents unrivaled selection of Founders & Patriots Militaria
DENVER, PA.- May is a month in which America honors its military, both on Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. Morphy’s will answer the call for recognition of those who’ve served our country with an exceptional three-day auction traversing the 18th century through modern era. Day 1, on May 27, is titled “Founders & Patriots Arms, Militaria, Documents, Artwork & Rare Imprints from the Era of the American Revolution & the War of 1812.” Days 2 and 3, May 28 and 29, are reserved for a collector favorite: Morphy’s top-notch “Extraordinary, Sporting & Collector Firearms” sale.
Lavishly illustrated, expertly detailed catalogs for all three sessions may be viewed on Morphy’s website, and all forms of remote bidding are available, including absentee, phone, and live online through Morphy Live. Private gallery previews are available by appointment only.
One of the most historically important American treasures ever to be offered by Morphy Auctions is the headliner of Day 1’s lineup. It is an extremely fine silver-mounted and inlaid presentation pipe tomahawk made by Richard Butler, who was a respected armorer at Fort Pitt (Pa.) from 1765-1770. Later commissioned a captain in the Pennsylvania Militia, he was a trusted confidante of the Shawnee and Delaware Indians. The tomahawk is signed ‘R. Butler’ and inscribed to Lt John McClellan, who served with the Pennsylvania Riflemen and carried the weapon with him during the Revolutionary War. The tomahawk’s extensive line of provenance includes The Tower of London, The Earl of Warwick’s (Warwick Castle) collection, and other distinguished private collections in the US and UK. It has been extensively exhibited, including at the Smithsonian, and is depicted on the cover of Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes and within several other respected reference books. It is offered with a voluminous archive of supportive documentation and carries a $300,000-$500,000 estimate.
As early firearms go, very few can rival a circa-1760 .65-caliber Moravian flintlock rifle attributed to Andreas Albrecht (German/Pa., 1718-1802) for historical value and rarity. It is, in fact, the counterpart to another celebrated Albrecht production, the “Lion and Lamb” rifle. Both guns were found at the same place in Britain. “The rifle in our sale was almost certainly taken home by a British troop as a war souvenir or battle trophy,” said Morphy Auctions founder Dan Morphy. Estimate: $125,000-$175,000
One of only three known Fort Pitt horns by the noted artist known as the “Pointed Tree Carver” dates to the 1760s and is rich with imagery of its time. There are carvings of the Allegheny and Monongahela River confluence, a hunter and hounds in pursuit of a deer and hare, a banner labeled “PITSBOURG,” and the British Great Seal. A book example, it is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.
A circa-1773 land document bears the signature of legendary breechloading rifle designer and British Army major Patrick Ferguson (1744-1780), who was killed by patriots at the Battle of Kings Mountain (Carolinas). Considered the rarest signature of any Revolutionary War officer, British or American, its estimate is $20,000-$40,000.
Last year, Morphy Auctions’ team of firearms experts started laying the groundwork for the company’s semiannual Extraordinary, Sporting & Collector Firearms Auction. The results of their efforts span several categories, including antique and modern handguns, shotguns and rifles; accessories, ammunition cannons, ephemera and advertising.
One of the top prizes secured for the 710-lot sale is Annie Oakley’s “Little Miss Sure Shot” rifle. The custom-made Stevens Model 44 .24-20 single-shot production is a testament to the American shooting prodigy whose prowess was noticed at an early age and eventually led to worldwide fame as a star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The rifle is engraved in high relief, with “ANNIE OAKLEY” on one side of the frame and “NUTLEY N.J.” (location of Oakley and husband Frank Butler’s first home) on the other. It is pictured on three pages of R.I. Wilson’s book about Buffalo Bill. Estimate: $200,000-$400,000
Recently discovered in Colorado and absolutely fresh to the market, an H. Fox FE grade 20-bore shotgun with case is sure to create a stir when it makes its public debut on auction day. In near-mint condition and one of only six of its type made, the gun is engraved “CHROMOX FLUID STEEL / SAVAGE ARMS CORP., UTICA, N.Y. U.S.A.” and is signed in two places by engraver W.H. Gough. Described by Dan Morphy as “possibly the most exciting discovery in American sporting shotgun collecting in the past twenty years,” the Fox firearm has a $125,000-$200,000 estimate.
Also in the top tier of the May 29 session is an extremely rare and desirable Singer M1911-A1 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol. It is one of only 500 made during World War II, mostly for the US Army Air Corps. An outstanding all-original example, it could fire up a winning bid of $125,000-$175,000.
The prestigious gunmaker E.J. Churchill has been producing fine handmade English shotguns since 1891. Their traditional craftsmanship and uncompromising attention to detail are on full display in an exquisite cased pair of 16-bore over/under shotguns with barrels and locks superbly adorned by Churchill master engraver Peter Cusack. The guns are marked “E.J CHURCHILL, LONDON, ENGLAND” and will be offered with a $70,000-$90,000 estimate.
Connoisseurs of Western paintings are expected to jump at the chance to own an original oil-on-canvas work by frontier artist Astley D.M. Cooper (American, 1856-1924). The 65- by 82-inch trompe l’oeil painting depicts Native Americans, including Sioux Chief Red Cloud and Princess Prairie Flower; and several Indian relics around the image of a buffalo. The pre-sale estimate is $75,000-$150,000.