Five Vintage Firearms Added to Society’s Collections
With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 on the horizon, the Ohio Historical Society has acquired five American, military-grade muskets made in 1812 or earlier. Purchased at public auction, the antique firearms will become part of the society’s permanent collections.
Key War of 1812 Battles Happened Here Ohio was an important battle ground during the War of 1812. Two strategically important battles happened here. Both were American victories. At Fort Meigs, southwest of Toledo, Americans under the command of William Henry Harrison successfully defended the fort against two British sieges in 1813. Later that year on Lake Erie, near Put-in-Bay, an American squadron under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry overwhelmed and captured a British squadron. These victories secured Ohio and the northwest territories for the United States. They inspired American patriotism and nationalism. Harrison and Perry became national heroes. History Curator Cliff Eckle says, “In all the wars of American history, Ohio’s territory was a key focus point during the War of 1812 in a way that has not been matched before or since.” The firearms added to the society’s collections include two 1797 Pennsylvania Contract Muskets, a U.S. Model 1798 Contract Musket, a Model 1808 Contract Musket and a Model 1812 Contract Musket. Contract muskets were ordered both by states and the federal government. Tens of thousands of them were produced. The contracts were made with private manufacturers. Their work augmented the production of federal arsenals like those in Springfield, Mass., and Harpers Ferry, Va. (now West Virginia).
Early Americans Modeled Firearms on French Designs The United States modeled its military firearms after French designs. Beginning in the American Revolution, France had furnished its American allies with guns and supplies. When the United States made its own weapons, it used the French Model 1763 Charleville pattern as a guide. Charleville was France’s main military arsenal in the 1700s. “With the upcoming bicentennial of the War of 1812 and our review of existing collections, we thought this provided an excellent opportunity to expand the collection where we expected greater need for our own exhibits and outgoing loans,” says Eckle. “Virtually every War-of-1812-era rifle was already on display at the society’s sites around the state. This purchase will allow us to plan new exhibits and displays without removing objects from existing exhibits.”