Engraved Sharps Pistol Rifle with Mormon History
Appraised Value: $30,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:07)
Arms & Militaria
Bonhams & Butterfields, SF
GUEST: My husband just received it from his mother, who had inherited it from her great-grandfather that was married to the niece of the gentleman
that the gun was given to, who was Thomas Kane.
APPRAISER: It's a Sharp's pistol rifle, as it's called. It was made in the mid-1850s, and they're pretty scarce. And there's a couple of interesting features
about this gun. The first thing that struck me before anything else was the fact that it was engraved. It's very high-quality engraving, and it's conceivable
that it was engraved by one of the most famous engravers of his day, which was Gustav Young, who also did a lot of fancy engraving for Samuel Colt. But even more intriguing, after a little bit more inspection, was the engravings on the patch box here. What can you tell me about those?
GUEST: As far as I know, Cummings is the gentleman's name that, during the brink of the war between the Mormon church, that he was the person that was put in charge at that time.
APPRAISER: It says "A. Cummings."
APPRAISER: And there's actually a little seal of the Utah territory, and with the date 1850 in Roman numerals from the creation of the territory. And there's also the initials "TLK." Which is Thomas Leaper Kane. Okay, and also "ADC," which is Alfred Cummings. As you may already know, Thomas Kane was quite famous in Mormon history. He was a big friend of the Mormons, and responsible for moving them on sort of their westward trek from Illinois. And Kane was a lawyer, but he was also an abolitionist.
APPRAISER: And the Mormons were also strong abolitionists, so they had mutual interests. And Kane was actually one of the primary people responsible in having Brigham Young nominated to be the first governor of the territory of Utah. The gun was made in the mid-1850s, and all of these things come into play. The Mormon War started in May of 1857. And President James Buchanan, at the time, was worried that the Mormons were going to essentially rebel from federal authority. So one of his first acts was to turn the territory over to Mr. Cummings and replace Brigham Young.
APPRAISER: And Mr. Kane was one of those people instrumental in making sure there was a smooth transition. And the war finally ended in 1858. But what's even more intriguing about the gun is over here there's a plaque engraved with Robert Kane giving it to his brother Thomas Kane, and then one month later, Thomas giving it back to his brother, or so it appears. But it's around a very elaborately engraved seal of the territory of Utah. At auction, I think that just a Sharps pistol rifle would fetch around $10,000.
GUEST: Wow. (laughing)
APPRAISER: Well, even better, with the Mormon associations,
APPRAISER: I think at auction the gun would fetch around $30,000.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh, that's amazing.
APPRAISER: It really is a rare treat.
GUEST: Wow, thank you so much, that's amazing.
APPRAISER: You're welcome. That really is.
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