The Smithsonian Institution’s National Firearms Collection Journeys West in May to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center

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In 1876, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History established the National Firearms Collection in honor of the American Centennial. Since then, it has grown to nearly 7,000 artifacts--dozens of which will soon be on display at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.

Cody Firearms Museum Gatling gun

Richard Gatling's miniature wooden prototype (ca. 1860) submitted to the U.S. Patent Offfice

numerous patent models documenting innovations in the field, international imagination, and historic distinction.

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is proud to announce the journey westward of 64 unique firearms from the National Museum of American History's National Firearms Collection—including four national treasures. Among these artifacts are numerous patent models documenting innovations in the field, international imagination, and historic distinction. The Historical Center was entrusted with the conservation of these firearms and is honored to display them at the Cody Firearms Museum.

Included in this exhibition is a seven-foot-long gold Miquelet lock musket that was given to President Thomas Jefferson in 1805 by the Bey of Tunisia after the Tripolitan Wars. This extravagant firearm is often considered a national treasure. Another firearm so selected is a beautifully embellished Jaeger rifle that belonged to Catherine the Great of Russia (1729 – 1796). A velvet cheek piece added to this firearm ensured her imperial face would not touch the stock.

In the category of patent innovation is a western cinematic favorite, the Gatling gun. Before inventor Richard Gatling could make his invention a reality, he first created a miniature wooden prototype to submit to the U.S. Patent Office—on display with this collection. This patent was approved in 1862, allowing for the production of the full scale Gatling guns, examples of which can be seen throughout the Cody Firearms Museum.

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center and the Smithsonian Institution invite visitors to explore these firearms that have helped shape our nation and beyond. Both institutions hope that individuals will allow this exhibition to mold their own experiences and conceptions of firearms from invention to production, and then to their roles in the development of our nation. This exhibition goes on view in the Cody Firearms Museum’s lower gallery on May 4, 2013, and will be on display through fall 2015.

For more information, contact Cody Firearms Museum Curator Warren Newman at 307.578.4092.
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Committed to connecting people with the Spirit of the American West, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, weaves the varied threads of the western experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms, and the nature and science of Yellowstone—into the rich panorama that is the American West. The Center, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is now operating its spring schedule: open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For general information, visit the Center's Web site, or call 307.587.4771.

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Marguerite House

Warren Newman
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