Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Northwest Trade Gun

The Northwest trade gun, also called a Fuzee, fusil or fuke, was a smooth bore made from the early 1700's to the late 1800's by a variety of gunsmiths in England, Belgium, Holland and the U.S.  It was a trade staple for transactions with the native peoples in Canada, and in 1784 a four-foot gun could be obtained for the trade of 12 beaver skins.  A distinguishing feature was the emblem of a dragon or scaled serpent on the counter lock plate.  The origins of this emblem are obscure, but it may have come from the Queen Anne Light Musket, which was the standard issue for the British Army before the adoption of the Brown Bess around 1720.  Surplus muskets were traded to the Indians, who came to associate the dragon motif with quality.  All were flintlocks, and many were later converted to cap ignition.  Still, flintlocks had important advantages in the Canadian north:  the owner need not carry or keep dry the caps, without which the gun would not work.  On a flintlock, if the flint was lost, a sharp piece of country stone could always provide a stand-in until a proper flint could be obtained.  In fact, flintlocks were manufactured as late as the 1870's, and stocked by the Hudson Bay Company until 1936.

The quality of the guns was not all that it should or could have been:

For the full story, see The Northwest Trade Gun

The Story of the British People.  A Reader for Pupils in Form III 
of the Public Schools.  Revised Edition.  
Thomas Nelson & Sons. Ltd., Toronto, 1924.

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