The Art of the English Trade Gun in North America
Nathan E. Bender
Symbolic ornamentation inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art is a long-standing Western tradition. The author explores the designs of 18th century English gunsmiths who engraved classical ornamental patterns on firearms gifted or traded to American Indians. A system of allegory is found that symbolized the Americas of the New World in general, and that enshrined the American Indian peoples as “noble savages.”
The same allegorical context was drawn upon for symbols of national liberty in the early American republic. Inadvertently, many of the symbolic designs used on the trade guns strongly resonated with several Native American spiritual traditions.