ALAMO PERIOD PUBLIC PROPERTY MARKED POWDER FLASK

$450.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 490-1832

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This is a scarce example of the first U.S. government contract for a metal rifleman’s flask, awarded to James Baker of Philadelphia in March 1825. The flasks are about 8 inches tall, from tip of the spout to base of the body, about 4 inches across at the widest point, and are embossed with a raised, horizontal, rifleman’s trumpet on either side, and the words “Public / Property” on one side, just under the trumpet.

Baker’s contract called for 2,000 flasks, but their production (calling for thin, hollow shells with raised embossing and joined on the inside) was beyond the abilities of most American manufacturers at the time. Baker thus subcontracted the work to a European maker, certainly British, who had the technical know-how. Delivery of Baker’s flasks was acknowledged in March 1827, and they were satisfactory enough that he received another contract, for 3,000 that November (Riling.)

This was a large number of flasks compared to the small number of riflemen in U.S. service, but in the late 1820s the government for the first time began supplying states with rifles, and their accouterments, under the Militia Act of 1808 (Moller.) The “Public Property” marking was thus essential not just as a U.S. ownership mark, but to distinguish these flasks from the vast amount of privately owned gear in the hands of the militia (and riflemen in particular.) This prominent stamping was a problem, of course, when an item was sold out of public stores. We are aware of another example where, for instance, an owner tapped out or rubbed down the word “Public” from the copper, leaving the bugle and the word “Property.” In this case the owner partially flattened letters at the ends of “PUBLIC” and “PROPERTY,” leaving the “PUB” and “PROP” under the intact rifleman’s trumpet.

These flasks were used with the 1817 “Common Rifle,” the 1814 Rifle, the Hall rifle (which also had a patent flask,) and any of the older patterns or privately owned weapons in use. They date to an important period of U.S. expansion into the west and southwest, to the period of the Texas revolution and the Alamo, when more than one volunteer company was formed. This one shows a very nice, untouched, deep patina to the copper body, even on the highpoints, and to the brass collar and spout. There are a couple of very small handling dings, to be expected on thin copper, but no significant dents and not only are all four sling brackets in place, but so are the small split-rings in each of them. The thumbpiece is in place and functional. The only fault to be found is corrosion to the flat, horizontal coiled spring, but it is still flexible. A collector put a modern rawhide thong through the rings to display. We have left in in place, but it can easily be taken off.  [SR]

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