This tomahawk is arguably the most important, most historic, most well decorated and best known American tomahawk in existence. Most recently it was on display as part of the "Clash of Empires: The British, French & Indian War, 1754-1763" exhibit of French and Indian War items commemorating the 250th anniversary of the conflict in 2005, where it was shown at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, the Canadian War Museum/Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and the Smithsonian in Washington DC. A copy of the publication on this exhibit by R. S. Stephenson is included. The tomahawk is shown on the front cover in color of "Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes" by Daniel D. Hartzler and James A. Knoles. The tomahawk itself has a plain maple haft of 21 inches in length overall. The haft has a silver end cap on top of the teardrop shaped eye. The cap is inscribed "Lt. Maclellan". There is a silver band about five inches from the top of the haft with a decorative engraved eye probably for a string attached to the bowl so that it would not be lost, as the turned and the threaded silver bowl also has a loop for an attachment. The haft also has a replaced silver mouthpiece. There are two sections of period Shawnee porcupine quill work on the haft. One measuring 6 and 1/2 inches and the other measuring about 3 and 3/4 inches. They are died using red, black and white dyes. The hand forged head measures 5 and 1/2 inches in length excluding the silver bowl, which brings the overall length to 7 and 1/4 inches. The bottom edge of the blade is signed "R. Butler" in script and both sides of the eye have detailed moldings, as well as scalloping on the bottom edge of the blade. The turned silver bowl measures about 1 and 3/4 inches i height and is threaded and removable. The head has a silver diamond on each side around the eye. Both are engraved, The blade has a crescent cutting edge and the right side features and engraved shell design at the top and an engraved sun in splendor with a silver engraved inlay as the center. The other side shows an engraved inlaid half moon with a face surrounded by other engraved designs. The tomahawk was made by Richard Butler who was an armorer at Fort Pitt between 1765 and 1770. Butler was from Carlisle, Pennsylvania and his father was also a gunsmith there. Richard Butler apprenticed under his father and the Butler gun shop still stands near Court Square in Carlisle, PA. Richard Butler's day book gives a record of his time at Fort Pitt and is in the possession of the Carnegie Library. The day book lists many pipe tomahawks as being made by Richard Butler. In 1772 Richard Butler was commissioned a Captain in the Pennsylvania Militia. Richard was highly trusted by Indians in the region and was partnered with his brother to provide gunsmithing services and conduct fur trading. In 1775 he resigned as Captain of the Pennsylvania Militia and became an agent of Indian Affairs for the region. He strengthened relations with the Shawnee and Delaware Indians, signing a Treaty of Neutrality with them. In 1776 he was commissioned as a Major in the Continental Army's 8th Pennsylvania Regiment. He fought with the riflemen at Saratoga and commanded the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment at Stony Point. he then was Colonel of the 5th Pennsylvania regiment at Yorktown. He was killed in 1791 at the Battle on the Miami River in Ohio. Lieutenant John McClellan is also from the outskirts of Carlisle, Pennsylvania and was a rifleman who carried the tomahawk during the Revolutionary War. Lieutenant John McClellan was a First Lieutenant in Company D of Thompson's Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen who were raised in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Riflemen were required to carry tomahawks as secondary weapons as their longrifles were not equipped for bayonets. caption Hendricks assisted by Captain John Chambers kept a journal of the brutal march from Carlisle to the Battle of Quebec. The entries describe long marches, dwindling supplies, bad weather and illness. When the company reached Boston, they were detached and put under the command of Benedict Arnold. Thy marched through the wilderness of Maine, down the the Chaduiere River to the St. Lawrence in Quebec. They left Boston on September 11. The next month Lieutenant McClellan wrote a letter from Maine to Captain James Chambers, left behind in Boston in charge of another battalion of Pennsylvania riflemen. The letter describes the dismal conditions of the march. On October 31, Captain Hendricks reported in his journal that after capsizing his bateau in the river, McClellan was "far spent and unable to march, was left in the care of two in our company; he was greatly loved by the whole detachment." Three weeks later the two men returned to Hendricks to inform him of McClellans death. he was buried with the help of local Indians. Upon his passing the tomahawk was given to his brother Daniel for safe keeping. Daniel continued on the march to Quebec and participated in the battle where we was taken prisoner by the British. A British officer plundered the tomahawk along the rest of the prisoner's valuable possession. The trophy of war was taken back across the Atlantic to England. A catalog printed in 1785 in London "A Catalog of the Rarities to be seen at Don Saltero's Coffee-House in Chelsea" lists number 148 as "Indian tomahawk, taken in the field of battle before Quebec". Object of curiosity from the colonies attracted much attention in England and were often displayed. The tomahawk was purchased by George Greville (1746-1718) who was the Earl of Warwick for his extensive arms collection at Warwick Castle. The tomahawk remained there until it was loaned to the Tower of London to be displayed. In 1997, the Earl of Warwick decided to offer some of its collection at auction and the tomahawk was sold at Sotheby's of New York after it was discovered it was on loan in America. It was purchased there in 1997 by Dave Kleiner. The same year it was sold to Gordon Barlow and then to Kelly Kinzle, who sold it to the present owner.
CONDITION: Excellent. The head retains a light gray patina showing little wear with only a few scattered dark spots. Silver inlays retain a pleasing pewter patina. Original haft is in excellent condition with some minor denting to cap on top. Quill work shows some minor losses to surface and minor fraying in some areas.
PROVENANCE: Lt. John McClellan, Daniel McClellan, Warwick Castle Collection, Tower of London, Sotheby's of New York (1997), Dave Kleiner, Gordon Barlow Collection, Kelly Kinzle. The tomahawk is complete with a massive binder of provenance, letters of authentication, copies of historical documents and military records of the associated parties, professional research and descriptions, photographs, copies of Butler's journal, information on the regiments in which McClellan and Butler served and various letters from important collectors.
LITERATURE: The tomahawk is featured in a two page spread on pages 267-268 (Figure 16) in "Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes" by Hartzler and Knoles. The tomahawk is shown and described on page 89 of "Clash of Empires: The British, French & Indian War, 1754-1763" by R.S. Stephenson. It is also shown on pages 108 and 109 of "American Adversary West and Copley in a Transatlantic World" by the Museum of Fine Arts in Huston. Lastly, it is shown on page 21 of "Masterpieces of American Indian Art from The Eugene And Clare Thaw Collection". A copy of the book for each of these references is included. In conclusion, this sis a rare opportunity to own this masterpiece of American Revolutionary War period art that has an important and well documented provenance.
CORRECTION: George Greville lived from 1746-1816.
Blade Length: 3"
Overall Length: 21"
Minimum Bid: $150,000.00
Current Bid: $170,000.00 (5.8.2020)
Estimate: $300,000.00 - $500,000.00
Absentee Portion Of This Auction Is Open For Bidding
Copy and photos from Morphy Auctions here.