Rare Morgan James pistol to sell at Hesse’s

OTEGO, N.Y. — A scarce – and perhaps unique – 19th century percussion target pistol made by Morgan James, New York State gunsmith, will be sold at auction on Saturday, Sept. 20 at Hesse Galleries.

James was born in 1815. He began making firearms in 1830 when he was only fifteen. He worked mostly in Utica, N.Y.,  except for a few years in the latter 1830s when he lived for four years in Litchfield, Ct. From 1851-1855 James partnered with George Ferriss, another Utica, N.Y.,  gunsmith. After 1855 Ferriss worked independently, producing fine quality longarms.

Morgan James was looked after by George Ferriss during his  latter years, until he died in 1878. This target pistol is an heirloom from the George Ferriss family. It is signed “M JAMES” on the underside of the barrel, and may be the only one like it made by James (perhaps as a gift to Ferriss). Accompanying the pistol is an original box containing several loading tools, bullets, and some patches – all to be sold with the pistol as one lot. Both Morgan James and George Ferriss are considered among the best of the New York gunsmiths. More information may be found on pages 856-890 in the book, The New York State Firearms Trade by H.J. Swinney, compiled and published by Tom Rowe.

A small but select group of other firearms will also be offered in the Sept. 20 auction. One is a Colt 1850 patent five shot revolver inscribed “God save the Union” and “H.D. Eaton, Hartford, Conn.” It is an heirloom from the family of Horatio D. Eaton who carried it in the Civil War where he was killed in action in May of 1864. There is also a nice Spencer carbine with a 20-inch barrel dated 1865 in the auction. Another Civil War piece is an important document pertaining to “Howell’s Battery M, 3rd New York Light Artillery, Organized at Albany, NY, Jan. 1862” printed and published by J.C. Fuller & Co., Baltimore, Md., in 1864.

Some other items featured in the same auction include a selection of lovely Staffordshire figurines, a collection of early pressed steel trucks, cars, and other toys, a number of Maxfield Parrish prints, early barber bowls and shaving mugs, an assortment of quilts and coverlets, plus country furniture and quality accessories. Photos of all of the items mentioned – plus more – may be viewed at www.hessegalleries.com.