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The Wild Wild West

Posted on September 2, 2013

Embossed Leather Gunpowder Flask, circa 1865

We present to you this stunning authentic antique leather gunpowder flask from the American Civil War era, circa 1865. The leather body of this piece is embossed with a truly beautiful hunting scene depicting a gentleman wearing a top hat, carrying a gun with his hunting dog by his side in the woods.

This mid 19th Century flattened pear shaped design is referred to as the ‘powder pear’ or, ‘poire-poudre’. It has a quick loading gunpowder measuring and dispensing mechanism in excellent working order, and the spout is made of brass. At the bottom of the pear shaped flask is a small ring which was once used to thread with cord and sling around the neck for quick access. Gunpowder flasks with these rings were eventually phased out after the 19th Century when Europeans incorporated large pockets into the design of hunting clothes.
(See history below for further information).

A powder flask is a small container for gunpowder, which was an essential part of shooting equipment with muzzle-loading guns before pre-made bullets or cartridges became standard in the late 19th Century. The styles and designs for gunpowder flasks differed greatly with the very elaborately decorated works of art generally used for sport-shooting and hunting.

Although rare, forms of pre-packed cartridges do in fact date back to the Middle Ages, many forms of early firearms did not use these cartridges as gun owners preference was to load each charge before firing.

An important safety concern arose when reloading a muzzle-loading gun. Small pieces of wadding burning in the muzzle would cause the new load of gunpowder to ignite as a flash. If no part of the loader faced the end of the barrel this was not likely to lead to serious injury. If a spark reached the main supply in the powder flask a dangerous, even fatal explosion was likely. Various precautions were taken in the design and use of powder flasks to avoid this happening. Expensive examples from as early as the 16th century generally included spring mechanisms to automatically close the dispensing spout.

The powder flask was eventually rendered obsolete by the spread of breech-loading guns and then the later development of self-contained cartridges. After this time manufactured cartridges or bullets became standard.

 

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