This is a rare and original U.S. Model 1816 Flintlock Pistol manufactured by Simeon North of Middletown, Connecticut between 1818 and 1819. This particular pistol is historically significant because it was donated by North’s great-grandson Ralph H. North to The Franklin Institute and subsequently exhibited as part of “The Simeon North Collection of Guns,” at The Franklin Institute. This pistol, and its extra lock, are also published in the 1944 article, “The Origin of Interchangeable Parts” by Thomas Coulson, who was then the Director of Museum Research at the Franklin Institute.
Also known as the U.S. Flintlock Army Pistol, Model of 1816, this pistol is .54 caliber, with a length of 15 ¼” and weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces.
Simeon North supplied pistols to the United States government and to state militias for thirty years from 1799 to 1829. North is known as the “first official pistol maker” of the United States because of his designs that moved away from French and English pistol designs. North was born at Berlin, Connecticut on July 13, 1765. North’s first factory was located in Berlin, Connecticut, but moved to Middletown, Connecticut in 1813 when contracts for his pistols increased.
One of the things that differentiated North’s pistol from earlier designs was the two-ring barrel band that was retained by a spring as opposed to cross-stock pins. Many credit Marine T. Wickham of the Ordnance Department with proposing this change to North and that type of band is now referred to as the “Wickham Improvement.”
North’s initial design was a .69 caliber pistol. These pistols, although well made, fired a one-ounce lead ball and had excessive recoil. This led North to reduce the caliber from .69 to .54 caliber and, as a result, North received a revised contract on January 8, 1816, for production of 20,000 pistols in .54 caliber with nine-inch barrels, all iron mountings (to be browned) and interchangeable parts. The contract price was $8.00 per pistol, sold in pairs at $16.00 per pair.
Although designated the Model of 1816, manufacturing of the new pistol did not begin until 1817. The earliest Model of 1816 pistols manufactured by North had a lock marking of “S. NORTH,” in a downward curve over a spread eagle separating the letters “U” and “S” over “MIDLn CON.” in an upward curve. Sometime during production, the stamping dies were changed slightly with a different style spread eagle and an additional “N” for “CONN.” and an additional subscript “T” for Middletown.
This pistol sits in its original black walnut stock that is 13 inches long and that extends approximately ½” forward of the end of the barrel band. The left side of the stock flat has the oval cartouche, but it is too faint to read the script letters. It is probably a cartouche with “LS,” which are the initials of inspector of Luther Sage. Sage was one of four Ordnance Inspectors known to inspect and approve Model 1816 Pistols. Sage was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1778 and was a civilian employee at Springfield Armory. From 1815 to 1823, Sage served as an assistant armorer at Springfield and an inspector of contract arms beginning in March 1816. The Model 1816 Pistol was manufactured by North from 1817 to 1820, but the date of this pistol can be narrowed to either 1818 or 1819 because Luther Sage only inspected 4,500 pistols manufactured by North in 1818 and 6,500 pistols in 1819. The stock has numerous dings and scratches and one crack noted at the upper, left, rear of the barrel that extends to the side plate recess. The stock is still very tight. The stock appears to have an added finish to protect it, which was probably done when it was at the Franklin Institute. The original modified-“S” side plate is present and retains its later added brown lacquer finish.
The original barrel, which is 9 1/16” long, remains in its unmodified, original flintlock configuration. The barrel plug remains firmly attached to the barrel. The top, left side of the barrel has the serif “US” and serif “P” proof stamp. The top, right side of the barrel has the serif “RJ” stamp of famous gunmaker Robert Johnson, who proved contractor barrels for North during this period along with Luther Sage. The barrel is attached, via the breech plug, to a long, integral back strap. The rearmost portion of the back strap, where it joins the butt cap, has a serif “W” inspection stamp. The barrel retains the vast majority of its later brown lacquer finish. The original Tang Screw is present and it retains considerable original oil quenched finish.
The double strapped barrel band is present, and it retains the majority of its brown lacquer finish. The front band still retains its original brass blade front sight, which remains tightly brazed to the band. The band still secures tightly to the barrel and stock with the band spring that is attached to the stock. The rounded butt cap retains the majority of its brown lacquer finish with a few small scratches noted. The cap extends up and adjoins with the back strap where it has a serif “K” stamp on both pieces adjacent to one another. The strap screw remains in the white and has an unmarred slot and a serif “K” stamp. The bottom of the butt cap is secured to the stock by its original convex head, single slot screw that retains its unmarred slot and has a serif “K” stamp.
The Trigger Plate is curved, and it retains its added brown lacquer finish. The Trigger Guard Bow is permanently riveted to the plate and it also retains its brown lacquer finish. The original Trigger is present and is still secured by the original trigger pin. The Trigger exhibits a plum and pewter patina and has a serif “W” stamp on the face.
Both lock plates are the later style that are marked “S. NORTH” in a curve over a spread eagle with large shield separating serif “U” and “S” stamps over “MIDLtn CONN.” The Lock Plate installed on the pistol, and the one displayed as installed in the 1944 article, retains crisp markings on the face of the plate with the balance exhibiting a pewter patina. The original Frizzen Spring is present and is still remains strong and is secured by the original, flat-faced frizzen spring screw. The Frizzen is original and exhibits a pewter patina and it is still tightly secured to the pan with the flat-faced Frizzen Screw. The brass pan is still tightly secured to the plate.
The original flintlock Cock is present, and it exhibits a bright pewter patina. The original slightly dome-head, single slot screw is present. The Upper Jaw has the correct serrations on the bottom edge to secure the flint and it is secured by its original jaw screw that has a single slot on top and a hole for tightening through the top head. The cock secures an original pistol flint secured by a piece of old leather. The original Lock Plate Screws are present, and both remain in the white. Both have serif letter inspection stamps on the face.
The interior portion of the installed lock mechanism is in very good condition. The pan is secured from the inside by a flat head, single-slot screw. The Main Spring is secured by its original screw and the spring remains strong. The original three-position Sear is present and works perfectly at half- and full-cock. The Tumbler is present and is secured tightly with its flat-head, single-slot screw that is unmarred. The Sear works perfectly, and the Sear Spring is still strong. The lock works perfectly.
The Second Lock, which is the one displayed by itself in the 1944 article, has a more worn stamping on the face of the plate. The balance of the front of the plate exhibits a mixed pewter and plum patina. The original Cock, Upper Jaw and Jaw Screw, Brass Pan, Frizzen, Frizzen Screw, Frizzen Spring and Frizzen Spring Screw are all present and all function correctly. The bottom of the pan has a serif “R” inspection stamp.
The interior portion of the second lock is better than the one that is installed, probably because it was preserved for displaying the internal components. All of the internal screws, the main spring, sear, tumbler, bridle and sear spring are in fine condition. This second lock also functions perfectly.
Secured in the ramrod channel of the stock is the original hickory tapered ramrod that is in fine condition with no cracks noted.
This is a beautiful pistol that was used during the Black Hawk War (in which Abraham Lincoln served), the Seminole War and the Mexican War. Famed scout Kit Carson carried a Model 1816 Flintlock Pistol. Between February 26, 1817 and January 26, 1820, Simeon North delivered 19,374 Model 1816 Flintlock Pistols at a cost of $16.00 per pair to the United States Government. The majority of these pistols were altered later to percussion and examples remaining in their original flintlock configuration like this pistol are extraordinarily rare.
As noted previously, this particular pistol was donated by Simeon North’s great-grandson Ralph H. North to The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and was on display as part of the Institute’s “Simeon North Collection of Guns.” In November 1944, this pistol was also published in an article by Thomas Coulson in the Journal of the Franklin Institute titled, “The Origin of Interchangeable Parts.”
Coulson notes that this pistol and other pistols and rifles manufactured by Simeon North were donated by Ralph North and served as an example of the first use of interchangeable parts in the world, known as the “American System.” Coulson also addresses similar interchangeable parts manufacture by another, contemporary engineer of the time, Eli Whitney. This particular pistol is shown in the photograph in Coulson’s 1944 article, and is the third pistol from the top. The extra lock is shown on the bottom right of the same photograph. The extra lock is shown exhibiting the internal lock components, which were designed by North to be interchangeable. This interchangeability was a huge step forward in precision manufacturing generally and firearms manufacturing specifically.
On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating founded The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. Within three years of its founding, that promotion took place through public lectures, a high school, a library, public exhibitions, and a research journal, and many of these endeavors remain core activities to this day. Since then, The Franklin Institute has played a central, yet constantly evolving, role in meeting the educational needs of America in the fields of science and technology. For the organization's first century, the Institute offered classes in mechanics, drafting, and engineering, and promoted science and invention.
This is an historic pistol manufactured by one of the first manufacturers to develop and use exchangeable parts, that remained in the North family until it was donated by his great grandson to The Franklin Institute. This pistol, and the accompanying, extra lock, were also featured in an article in November 1944, published by The Franklin Institute, discussing the development of interchangeable parts in the firearms industry in the United States in the early 1800s.
This 200-year old pistol still functions perfectly. This pistol will also come with a copy of the original 1944 article, with accompanying photograph of the pistol and the extra lock.