J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fort Ti Receives Gift of Weapons Collection

Fort Ticonderoga has announced that it has received the donation of a substantial collection of historical weapons. Grafton H. “Grif” Cook and Barbara W. Cook of Niles, Michigan, built this collection over many decades, starting when Grif received an 1866 French bayonet for Christmas at the age of six. (Which I imagine might have led to the giver receiving some words from Grif’s parents, even in 1936.)

Fort Ti writes that the collection contains 132 weapons from the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries. More than half are swords, of many designs. A quarter are British military pistols, including “the all-metal pistols carried by officers in Scottish regiments including the famed 42nd Royal Highland Regiment or ‘Black Watch’ during the 18th century.” The rest are muskets, hunting guns, blunderbusses, and a Ferguson breech-loading rifle (another example shown above, courtesy of the Hampshire Museum). Fort Ti explains its significance:

In 1776 Captain Patrick Ferguson of the 70th Regiment of Foot perfected and patented the breech loading mechanism of this rifle and developed the gun for service in the British army. A limited quantity of these rifles was produced for military service and small number was produced for private use. The Ferguson rifle in this collection was produced for private use.

The loading mechanism is unique in that the user pivots the trigger guard which unscrews a threaded breech screw, allowing the user to load the gun quickly without having to use a ramrod to push the ball down the barrel. A trained user of the Ferguson rifle was able to fire up to five shots per minute versus three shots per minute with a typical musket.
The Cooks’ gift also includes an extensive library of printed material about the weapons. In the coming months Fort Ticonderoga’s curators will be cataloguing the collection and figuring out how to make it available to researchers and the public.


pilgrimchick said...

That is quite a gift--any organization without mission conflicts would be happy to have it. I hope an exhibit or online catalogue will result.

Robert S. Paul said...

Funny, I was just looking at a website that sells replica Fergusons (and other period firearms). http://www.therifleshoppe.com/complete_parts_sets.htm

Buffy's Blog said...

Yeah, it is a heck of a gift! I'd like to go see it when it is available to the public. Wasn't it a blunderbuss that Ethan Allen gave to Benedict Arnold?

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, Fort Ticonderoga displays a blunderbuss said to have been loaned to Benedict Arnold by Ethan Allen. This traveling family posted a photo of it (about halfway down that page). I don’t know the evidence behind the story of that gun linking Allen and Arnold. Allen didn’t write anything about it in his Captivity narrative of 1779.

Katherine Phillips said...

Grif Cook is my dad. To get this collection to Fort Ti was a dream come true for him. I am so proud; when I think of the look on his face while speaking of his collection, my heart is happy he finished it before he passed away.

I cannot wait for the exhibit to open.