CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md. — A hunting rifle believed to have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte when he ruled as emperor of France led the line at Alexander Historical Auctions’ Winter Autographs & Militaria Auction. On the second day of the January 18-19 sale, it hammered for $120,000 ($156,000 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $100,000-$150,000.
The deluxe firearm, with its richly chiseled silver fittings and walnut stock carved with a boar’s head, was made in Austria by the Viennese master gunsmith by Andreas Heueck in 1809 but received various modifications by Parisian gunsmiths. Early in its existence, circa 1814, it was converted to a carbine and engraved with the imperial emblem by Jean-Louis Deboubert, an apprentice under Napoleon’s gunsmith Nicolas-Noel Boutet. It was probably kept in the Schonbrunn Palace, where the emperor loved to hunt.
Later, around 1842, it was converted to a percussion mechanism by the Parisian armorer Bourdon, when it was engraved and inlaid in gold with the inscription Hujeck in Wien 1809, Carbine de Napoleon. Mise A Piston by Bourdon Rue Du Rolle 19 A Paris.
A less well-known public figure from the early 19th century is Richard Potter (1783-1835). He is considered the first successful African American stage magician and celebrity born in the United States.
Church records from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, list his father as George Simpson and his mother as Dinah, who was a slave on the Frankland estate. Potter went to England to learn his act around 1798 and returned to tour the East Coast of the United States around 1801.
The first day of the Chesapeake City sale included an undated 8 by 13in broadside advertising a Potter show. His act included 100 Curious But Mysterious Experiments with Eggs, Money, Fruit, Boxes etc. including The Enchanted Egg ‘that dances a hornpipe with all the appearance of life.’ Potter ended his show with a ventriloquist act, which has ‘…never failed of exciting the surprise of the learned and well informed.’ Estimated at $140-$200, the well-preserved broadside hammered for $4,500 ($5,850 with buyer’s premium).