Medium-sized toy cannon, c.1880

There seems to be a multitude of original toy cannon barrels married to wood replacement bases, as I have encountered numerous examples since I started collecting antiques with inventive repairs. This fine toy was most likely made in America in the last quarter of the 19th century and is made of brass with a replaced wood base, freely carved from a block of what appears to be pine. It measures 7-1/2″ long, stands 2-3/4″ tall and the barrel alone is 3-1/2″ long. The remains of the original barrel are firmly nailed to the replacement base using a leather strap. The original green painted surface reveals much wear from years of imaginative playing. Two sets of nail holes on one side suggest perhaps a length of chain was once attached. I purchased this in the same lot as two other toy cannons, all with the same green painted surface and graduating in size. Please take a look at the smallest one, previously posted, and stay tuned for the largest example, which I will post sometime in the near future.






This toy cannon, also made of brass, is in its original form and shows what mine may have looked like before the barrel was strapped on to its wood replacement base. Though not up to military code, I still prefer mine!


Photo courtesy of Esty

**UPDATE 4/23**

An astute  subscriber and former gun collector has informed me that this cute li’l toy cannon is actually made from the barrel of a REAL GUN! Please read his amusing and telling comments below, which shed some light on this toys former life on the streets, defending helpless women. And this is what the European ladies percussion muff pistol looked like when it was still intact and used as a deadly weapon, c.1840:

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 9.41.57 PM

Photo courtesy of Sailor in Saddle


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5 Responses to “Medium-sized toy cannon, c.1880”

  1. ritchie bruce says:

    Hi , Once more a cute wee item! HOWEVER I was once a keen gun collector & this looks very much to me to have been areal gun! specifically a brass barreled percussion centre hammer box lock pocket pistol, even possibly a ladies muff pistol( they were very small short barreled easily conceled in a hands warmer fur tube) (MUFF) Very useful to discourage un wanted attention ! not a derringer which were larger & big bore. Wee muff pistols were more a deterrent! than majorly fatal, ” GIRL KILLS SUITOR” not quite desired publicity! Could have been just a “cannon barrel boxlock percussion pocket pistol” but the shortness ove the barrel points to the muff classification, racier too! please keep posting I love it!
    ps yeah the construction south of the touch hole is definatly PISTOL

  2. ritchie bruce says:

    Hi again , I am a wordy one! probably earlier than 1880 more like 1820 onward ,still being made 1880 ,but cartridges were more usual then. There should be” PROOF MARKS” stamps towards the back of the barrel under or to the side. commonly Belgium made in Lieuage (@*) have to rip off the leather to check! Dont do IT! she is FAR too cute, give the girl an air of mystery! she has earned it!,…. Dance hall girls garter gun! given to grandson!… Skagway Katies personal protector,… London ladies lover leaver!…..I am boggling…. BOGGLE…. boggle… bog……b…..

  3. Thanks for your fascinating and much appreciated comments. I did see that there was a striking mechanism on top but thought it was to shoot toy caps, and had no idea it was to shoot real bullets!

  4. ritchie bruce says:

    Hi again Andrew! Never pat me on the head ,it provokes my babbling.If you look carefully the “touch hole” is lined with iron was once a cap nipple now filed flat for match or yes a kiddies cap. Also the term “brass barrel” is a bit wrong too , brass is an alloy of ZINC & tin is not very strong so gun barrels were actually GUNMETAL,, “naval bronze” as it is VERY strong (about 30 ton tensile strength alloy of COPPER & tin, same stuff as bell metal ,Different. Proportion is pretty critical … too much tin & the alloy is BRITTLE the bell cracks & the gun barrel O DEAR! Aint life FUN!Regards

  5. ritchie bruce says:

    even more with apple core..p 62. Antique Guns Hank Bowman& Lucian Cary Fawcett Book @1959 gives a clear pic of this wee cutie .48 cal. Liege ( right spelling) proofs Belgium. Says quantities of this pistol made 1830 to 1850 were shipped to USA , she is OLD….. cheers !