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"Ketland & Co." lock date?

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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?

JV Puleo:
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
Technical Editor
Man at Arms for the Gun Collector / Mowbray Publishing
54 East School Street
Woonsocket, RI  02895

Mike Brooks:

--- Quote ---Joe Puleo
Technical Editor
Man at Arms for the Gun Collector / Mowbray Publishing
54 East School Street
Woonsocket, RI  02895

--- End quote ---
Ah, so that's why you know so much about old guns! I always wondered who you were. ;D


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.


JV Puleo:

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.

I'm just another guy who has been playing old guns since he was 10.  


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