Author Topic: "Ketland & Co." lock date?  (Read 19671 times)

Offline WElliott

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"Ketland & Co." lock date?
« on: August 06, 2010, 05:58:52 AM »
Does anyone have a good reference showing the date range within which locks marked "Ketland & Co." were produced?
I know the Ketlands went through several iterations of the name and I am under the impression that "Ketland & Co." was the earliest.
I have an English pistol with a "Ketland & Co." lock which is hallmarked 1791.  Any earlier ones out there?
Thanks,
Wayne
Wayne Elliott

Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2010, 06:43:22 AM »
You say its hallmarked for 1791. I take it this is a silver mounted pistol? That would pretty much nail down the date. The earliest silver mounted and dateable pistol I know of is 1778 but that is the first year of the B'ham Assay Office. There are no earlier B'ham marks.

If I am confusing two different guns, what does it have for proof marks? The proof marks are probably more important for dating than the lock markings - or at least the combination of markings are. However, Ketland trade products hardly changed for a long period of time and it is often a fool's errand to try to date export quality guns and locks too precisely.

As to the name on the lock... in 1791 there was only one Ketland firm, that of Thomas Ketland with his partners and sons. (The story that Thomas's father was a gunmaker appears to be pure fantasy.) They probably used the name "Ketland & Co." from at least 1778 until they went bankrupt in 1821 but there isn't a shread of evidence they exported anything to America until at least 1789-1790. This was a lock marking...It is usually engraved on the better quality guns and is stamped on cheap export guns and on export locks. I suspect it was always engraved on guns made for the British domestic market. The firm was also known as Ketland & Walker and, later, Ketland, Walker & Adams. I'm not certain what the reasons were for using different versions of the name because they often used more than one version simultaneously and the same people were involved in the business almost from the beginning. For instance, you might see a "Ketland & Walker" invoice for "Ketland & Co." or T. Ketland & Co." marked locks. At this point, I strongly suspect that the exact wording has little significance aside from identifying which Ketland company we are talking about.

The second Ketland firm - "W. Ketland" and "W. Ketland & Co." functioned from about 1802 to 1831 although William Ketland died in 1804 and no one named Ketland, except his widow, participated in the company.

This is a very brief overview. I have written a long article on the Ketlands for Man at Arms that will come out when its turn comes around but even that barely scratches the surface. I am also working on a monograph on the subject with my friend DeWitt Bailey. Without giving too much away, we already have a huge amount of new information and are finding more almost daily.

Also, if your pistol - or any other Ketland gun is not a reconversion (conversions are fine) I'd love to get pictures of it for the book. For anyone located in New England - or who is willing to ship a gun to our office - we will be glad to take professional quality photographs in our photo studio.

Joe Puleo
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Man at Arms for the Gun Collector / Mowbray Publishing
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« Last Edit: August 06, 2010, 08:12:12 AM by JV Puleo »

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2010, 03:01:29 PM »
Quote
Joe Puleo
Technical Editor
Man at Arms for the Gun Collector / Mowbray Publishing
54 East School Street
Woonsocket, RI  02895
jvp4570@cox.net
Ah, so that's why you know so much about old guns! I always wondered who you were. ;D
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Offline WElliott

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2010, 04:35:27 PM »
Joe,

Thank you for your response and for the information.  Yes, I should have been more clear.  My English pistol is silver mounted.  The top of the barrel is marked "London", and the lock is a handsome "Ketland & Co." lock with a sliding safety.
There are silver hallmarks on the guard and on the buttcap, which, from my research 15 years ago, are the hallmarks for Birmingham silversmith Charles Freeth, and have an "S" date, which I understand to be 1790.  Several years ago, when I
wrote an article for The Gun Report on the Jos. Bogle rifle, I used that pistol to assure me that my dating of the Bogle rifle was correct since it has a similar "Ketland & Co." lock (without the safety, of course).  Some had assumed that Bogle made
that rifle when he was still in Virginia, but since records show he was in Tennessee by at least 1782, I concluded that the markings on the lock gave evidence that it was made in the decade following Bogle's removal to Tennessee sometime in
the 1780s. 

Somehow I am under the impression that Ketland locks have been marked "Ketland", "Ketland & Co.", "T. Ketland", and perhaps another, and I was hoping that someone would have evidence that each of these markings represent a different time
period in the firm's history which could help date a particular lock and, hence, give some evidence to support the earliest date of the gun on which it was originally installed.

Wayne
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Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2010, 05:52:17 PM »
Wayne,

I think that you drew the right conclusion but possibly for the wrong reason. So far all evidence suggests that the Ketland export business in guns and gun parts did not start until 1794. I have found only two references to Ketland guns in America prior to that, both dating to around the time Thomas Jr. settled in Philadelphia but neither of them are from Philadelphia suggesting that there was some exporting of high quality arms going on after Thomas Sr. opened his London location in 1785.

Some dating information can be drawn from lock markings. Thomas Ketland opened his London "wholesale warehouse" (the exact words they used) in 1785. Prior to that everything suggests he was a very good, financially successful Birmingham gunmaker dealing with the "carriage trade." This is something I am working on and hesitate to say more until I feel I've a bit more solid ground under me. For the moment, I think it is fair to say that there were no Ketland export quality guns or gun locks in America before 1794 and that these are most easily recognized because the name is always stamped on them. Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress so its quite possible that by this time next year I'll have modified this position. We're still collecting lots of information and have several sources to look at that are very promising but haven't yet been touched.

Mike...
I'm just another guy who has been playing old guns since he was 10.  
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 02:23:23 AM by JV Puleo »

Offline WElliott

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 08:12:12 PM »
Joe,
We all benefit from your research.  Thank you. Here are some photos of the silver-mounted English pistol I referred to.
The silvermaker (or silvercaster)'s hallmarks are on the butt and are shown in the best detail I can do with my limited lighting setup.



Wayne Elliott

Offline Feltwad

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2010, 08:30:37 PM »
Records show that the Birmingham firm of William Ketland began business in 1750.There was also listed a Thomas Ketland in 1766 a gun lock maker of Litchfield St Birmingham, in 1780 he moved to Catherine St and then to Weamans Row  1781-89.At this time it was also listed that William and his brother John emigrated to America and settled in Philadelpha.
A Thomas Ketland was listed at 2 Weamans Row 1804-16 who died November 1816  which may have been the same Thomas.
 Another record show s a William Ketland 1802-07 which later became William Ketland & Co 1808-31. There was also Ketland & Walker, and Ketland Walker & Adams. There was Ketland & Adams  gun and pistol makers 1820-22 of Whittall St Birmingham.
The firm of Ketland did own their own private proof house  their proof mark was the crossed sceptres under a crown this proof mark was later adapted by the Birmingham Proof House which opened in 1813

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Offline Feltwad

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2010, 09:04:35 PM »
Those silver hallmarks are for Birmingham 1813.
Feltwad

Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2010, 09:27:27 PM »
Feltwad...

I'm afraid that much - even most, of what has been published about the Ketlands is either wrong or badly misleading. Their "proof mark" is a case in point. The story dates back to the first edition of HBC Pollard's "History of Firearms" and I strongly suspect that it is based on a misreading of JD Goodman's article on the gun trade in Timmin's "History of the Birmingham Hardware District"... Pollard's story was picked up by Harris in the "History of the Birmingham Proof House" and has been repeated endlessly ever since.

There is an excellent article on the proof mark question by Brian Godwin and John Evans coming out in a future edition of Classic Arms.

Offline WElliott

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2010, 09:43:11 PM »
Feltwad and JV,

My understanding is that Birmingham silver hallmarks were alphabetical marks which changed every year (apparently in May).  From my resources, on Birmingham made silver, the capital S in a shield shaped like the one on the pistol pictured above, designates 1790.  
The s was repeated as a mark for other years but always in a different shape cartouche and with a different type size and stylized s.  I am assuming that since the proof marks on this pistol were on silver made by a Birmingham silversmith, they would be his proof marks and
not those of the gunsmith or lockmaker.

Wayne
« Last Edit: August 06, 2010, 09:46:35 PM by WElliott »
Wayne Elliott

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2010, 10:32:19 PM »
Well, I know nothing of Hallmarks or the minutia of the Ketland family, but that is more a 1790 gun than it is an 1813 gun just judging from style alone. I'd go as possibly early as 1785.
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Offline Feltwad

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2010, 10:33:59 PM »
My mistake on the silver hall marks should have been 1816  not forgetting that William Ketland &Co 1808-31 .Yes 1790 also has  the date letter S.
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Offline mr. no gold

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2010, 10:51:22 PM »
Perhaps this experience will fit in here somewhere. In 1953 (I was 15 years old and nuts over Kentucky Rifles), we chanced to stop at an antique gun store near Dayton, OH. There were some relatively plain rifles with what seemed to be high prices, ($35 for a So. Mountain rifle; can anyone out there lend me a time machine?).
Just off the show room, a door led to the shop owners living quarters; looking in I saw a wonderful rifle hanging over a fireplace. Although it was rude to do so, I went in and looked at it. The owner immediately said that it was not for sale and that my wanderings should be confined to the gun room, not in his living space. It was time to get out, but it was a slow process. Shoes of lead?
Okay, to get to the point here: the rifle was a minty looking piece, kind of sturdy, with a carved wood patchbox lid; the rest of the stock was equally, boldly, relief carved. What a wonderful gun and it still sticks in my mind.
Today, I am guessing that it may have been a somewhat early Beck, in all probability, though it did have a roman nose stock. Memory tells me that it had a half round long barrel.
The lock was most interesting. It was flintlock, signed Ketland in cursive; a big lock with a  roller frizzen. Since all of the roller guns I had seen up to then were late rifles it was easy to conlude that what was before me was a newly made rifle, even at a time when R. Southgate was just about the only maker around.
So the question? Was the gun ligit, or not? Did Ketland make early locks with a roller frizzen? This is the only instance where I have ever seen one.
Sure would like to know where that rifle is today!
Best-Dick     

Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2010, 11:01:37 PM »
Short answer, Yes they did.
I own the MS wholesale price list of the W. Ketland Company given to Henry Upson of Richards Upson of New York in the summer of 1812.
Locks were priced by the dozen... the lowest quality went for 18 or 20 Shillings per dozen...The highest quality were 145 Shillings per dozen. On the same price List the cheapest fowler cost 17S.

But... by 1785 the Ketlands had transformed themselves into Merchant gunmakers - meaning that no one named Ketland made anything they sold. They were masters of using the Birmingham gun trade. Everything was made by outworkers. I very much doubt that anything was even assembled in their locations... No physical details or refinements in the work can be associated with them personally because everything was made in the trade.

Mike... much of the "trade" stuff, even the high quality material, was very conservative in its appearance. Its the major reason that dating by appearance or mechanical features is almost worthelss - their new stuff was frequently "old fashioned" when it was new.

Joe P
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 01:54:53 AM by JV Puleo »

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2010, 03:20:22 PM »
I would think that carving around the tang would have been incredibly out of fashion after 1790 or so.
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Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2010, 07:16:10 PM »
It certainly would have been. I looked at the silver marks. They can either be 1790 or 1816, that much is clear. The shape of the shield the capital letter S is on is the deciding factor. 1790 has square corners at the top, 1816 has clipped corners at the top. The corners certainly looked clipped to me but I'm no expert on silver marks. Usually the differences in date letters are more easily distinguished... I certainly agree that that pistol was not just "old fashioned" in 1816 - it was hopelessly out of date. As conservative as the B'ham trade was, it wasn't that out of touch with fashion. There may also be some other explanation. Was the butt cap replaced in 1816 to match an older one? If so, it would have to have been marked with the current year - this was a matter of law. This is one of the rare occasions where the document (the marks) is telling such a different story than the artifact that something must be amiss.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 07:44:26 PM by JV Puleo »

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2010, 08:01:44 PM »
Quote
There may also be some other explanation. Was the butt cap replaced in 1816 to match an older one? If so, it would have to have been marked with the current year - this was a matter of law. This is one of the rare occasions where the document (the marks) is telling such a different story than the artifact that something must be amiss.
I agree, there is something very screwy here. ;)
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Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2010, 08:43:38 PM »
I've been trying to run down some dates. It is very likely the silver was made by Charles Freeth. He specialized in pistol hardware and something like 80% of English pistols in the last quarter of the 18th century used his silver work. But... he was already in business, and well established enough, to have made the silver on a 1773 marked pistol that Christies sold a few years ago. That's a minimum of 43 years working and we don't know when he started. It looks as if he was born around 1734 and married around 1759 so it is very unlikely he was working in 1816. I'll keep looking. I know I have some silver books in the office and I think there was an article about him in one of the British publications a few years ago.

Thomas Ketland Sr. was born in 1737 and died in 1816. He was easily the oldest member of his family and outlived several of his children but his handwriting was very shaky in 1812. Not many folks aged well in the 18th century.


Mike,
I think I've recently seen pictures of a pair of pistols - identical in all respects except that the date letters are years apart - one set being reasonable for the gun and the too late. The general consensus was that one of them was repaired.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2010, 12:52:52 AM by JV Puleo »

Offline WElliott

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2010, 09:16:58 PM »
When I saw the above comments about the top of the shield on the S being clipped, I looked at my pistol again under a good light and magnifying glass. Doing so, I realized that the silver trigger guard also has
hallmarks on it.  On the guard, the date shield is a T with a shield that certainly seems to have a straight top.  I think that would be the date for 1791.  I probably knew that years ago when I first dated the pistol,
and that is why when I first posted, I said the mark was for 1791. Then when I photographed marks the other day, I did those on the buttcap and did not think to compare those on the guard.
 If marks changed in May, maybe the pistol was made in May 1791 or shortly thereafter, with a buttcap which had been in stock a few months and a newly made guard.   :)  

« Last Edit: August 08, 2010, 05:09:53 AM by WElliott »
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Offline JV Puleo

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2010, 10:26:16 PM »
That makes lot of sense. Pistol mounts, especially Freeth's, weren't "custom made" for a particular gun - they were stock items. We just presume that they tell us when the gun was made but thats because they were expensive and neither the silversmith or the gunmaker had any interest in keeping them around gathering dust. A few months, or even a year or two are well within reason. There is a case where three matching sets of really fabulous mounts for dueling pistols were made around 1790 and we know (from the serial number) that one of the sets wasn't used until something like 1815. (I'm guessing the exact dates here. My memory isn't perfect.)

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2010, 10:34:56 PM »
So the butt piece may have been made in 1816 and the triggerguard in 1791... and when did they get married??

Any marks on the inside of the lock or botto flats of the barrel??
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 10:35:55 PM by DrTimBoone »
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Offline WElliott

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2010, 10:44:21 PM »
No, Tim, that is not my belief.  I think the buttcap was made in 1790 and the trigger guard in 1791.  See above.
Wayne Elliott

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2010, 11:01:04 PM »
My confusion is re the S with the shield having rounded (clipped) corners at the top vs sharp corners like the three on the bottom.......  Does anyone have pictures of the 1790 and 1816 marks side by side that we can compare with those on the pistol...  The zoomed in view of your photobucket pictures has a pretty clear shot of the butt markings.    It is strange to me cause It looks much more like a 1780s gun I have been looking at than it does like an 1816 or after gun???  I appreciate this thread. I know nothing about dating thse old beauties so I am learning a lot.  Thanks guys
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Offline Feltwad

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2010, 11:21:34 PM »
I still believe we cannot age a gun by its silver hall marks  a gun maker could buy in several  butt plates and trigger guards at the same time , these would already have been hall marked and some may have lain  in a parts box for a number of years before they were used ,also it was not uncommon for pistols and guns to be built with parts from other guns.The name Freeth  silver smith has been mentioned but if the butt cap was a one off then I would have said that Freeth would have stamped his mark.
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Offline WElliott

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Re: "Ketland & Co." lock date?
« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2010, 11:28:29 PM »
Here is the link to an on-line resource for hallmarks of Birmingham silver.
http://www.925-1000.com/dlc_birmingham.html
Wayne Elliott