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Presidential humidor?

Presidential humidor?

Quasi reality shows such as Pawn Stars have placed pawn shops in the spotlight. It has given credibility to age old myths and given some people the idea that pawn shops are a repository of valuable antiques and historic treasures. 

But on occasion truth is stranger than fiction. As an example, at a pawn shop in Irving, Texas a woman came into the store and sold a few small items. And then she drove across the parking lot and pushed an ancient gravestone from her car into the grass. 

The owner of a pawn shop in Idaho purchased some interesting mineral specimens from a customer. He had no idea what they were, but the price paid was such that he knew he could sell the ornate stones as paper weights and turn a profit. 

A paleontologist that came to the store in search of some camping items and tools noticed the specimens. With the owner’s permission he cleaned the stones and revealed that they were a Hadrosaur egg, a small dinosaur footprint, and a Lepidotus fish fossil. 

A persistent story told by pawn shop owners throughout the world is about people trying to sell a glass eye. An interesting aspect of this story or urban legend is that almost all owners that claim to have experienced this say that the customer waits until they are at the pawn shop counter to remove them. 

Some of the most interesting stories from pawn shops, as shown on the Pawn Stars program, are about the rare, unusual, and historic items that people pawn or sell. As an example, many pawn shops will lend against automobiles. But at a pawn shop in England a customer tried to sell a helicopter!  

At a pawn shop in New York, a customer pawned an ornate cigar box. He claimed to have found it, complete with cigars, at a yard sale years before. I can only imagine the store owners surprise to learn that the humidor had been a gift to President John F Kennedy. 

And then there are the things that turn up at pawn shops which raise an array of questions. A few years ago, a pawn shop owner in South Dakota purchased a rare and nearly pristine German gas mask from WWI. 

A museum employee in Cheyenne, Wyoming saw the gas mask listed on eBay by the pawn shop and was intrigued by the label that said the gas mask had purportedly been found in the Belleau Wood, site of a major battle in France.

After the pawn shop owner was contacted by the Wyoming State Museum, he removed the listing. As it turned out, the gas mask was part of a collection of WWI items that were stolen from a display in the state capital almost one hundred years ago. 

Chances are that you won’t find a WWI gas mask or presidential humidor at either Pawn World store in Kingman, Arizona. However, you will find one of the largest firearm stores in northwest Arizona, and bargains on tools and electronics. 

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America.

Fox Gun Company

Fox Gun Company

Ansley Herman Fox. When it comes to pioneering automobile manufacturers the Fox name is not as well-known as that of David Buick, Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, or Louis Chevrolet. Still, even though his automotive company was short lived, Fox was a pioneer in the American automobile industry none the less. 

The Fox Motor Company was organized to sell a technologically advanced air-cooled automobile engine designed by Fox. Then on November 21, 1919, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania he organized the Fox Motor Car Company, and used that business to absorb the engine manufacturing enterprise. 

The post WWI recession and materials shortages kept Fox from launching production as scheduled. So, he used the time to develop marketing campaigns, to improve the engine design, and to build a management and engineering team. Finally, in March 1921, Fox announced that production was commencing and that the company expected to produce 2,000 cars within the first twelve months. 

By all accounts the car was well engineered, it was durable, it was fast, and it was stylish. But production never reached projected levels and the company soon foundered. In 1924 the Fox Motor Car Company went into receivership after producing a mere 3,000 cars. Fox had launched his brief foray in automobile manufacturing with the fortunes that he had amassed with the design and manufacture of shotguns.  

At an early age Fox displayed a fascination with shotguns. While still in his teens he became a champion trap shooter and in 1894 he received his first patent for a double-barrel gun. He was just 24-years old. 

 Two years later, with investment from friends and family, he established the National Arms Company of Baltimore, Maryland. However, before any guns were manufactured, he acquired additional investors and reorganized as the Fox Gun Company. Today the first generation of Fox shotguns are highly prized by collectors. 

In 1900, through a complicated series of stock sales and trades the Fox Gun Company was sold to the Baltimore Gun Company. As per the agreement, Ansley Fox remained on the board of directors and worked to improve the guns produced by the company. 

However, in less than a year Fox became frustrated with the direction taken by the company, resigned and became a professional shooter in the employ of Winchester. But Fox was a man of ambition and vision, and so in 1905 he found investors for his next endeavor, Philadelphia Gun Company, that was reorganized as the A.H. Fox Company a few years later. 

For more than 25 years Fox, along with Parker, Ithaca, and L.C. Smith, was a respected member of the Classic American Double club. Attesting to the quality and reputation of Fox shotguns, President Theodore Roosevelt carried one on his ten-month African safari in 1909. 

The FE Grade 12 gauge with 30-inch barrels choked full and modified with double triggers was presented to Roosevelt by Ansley Fox as a gift. When Roosevelt died in 1919 the shotgun was left to his son, Kermit, who passed it down to his son, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. It remained in the Roosevelt family until 1974.

When it sold to an undisclosed buyer in October of 2010, a record price of $862,500 was paid. As of that date it was the highest price ever paid at auction for a shotgun. 

Chances are slim that you will find a Fox shotgun at either Pawn World location in Kingman, Arizona. There is an even slimmer chance of finding a Fox built automobile. But you might be surprised. After all, Pawn World is the largest firearm store in northwestern Arizona, and the inventory of other merchandise including tools and electronics is always changing.  

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America

This firearm oddity

This firearm oddity

The Krummlauf (rough English translation, “curved barrel”) was an attachment for the Sturmgewehr 44 rifle developed by the German army in World War II. The curved barrel attachment used a periscope sighting device that, in theory, allowed the rifleman to shoot around corners from a protected position.

The attachment was developed for infantry use as well as for tank crews. But as can be imagined the device was trouble prone. 

First, the bent attachment had a very short lifespan, approximately 300 rounds for the 30° version, and 160 rounds for the 45° variant. Another issue was that the curve of the barrel caused the bullets to shatter. But until the final weeks of the war, engineers and armorers continued working to improve and perfect the military oddity.  

But the Krummlauf is not the strangest firearm ever produced. Not by a long shot. Case in point, the Apache revolver produced in France shortly after 1900. It is best described as a Swiss army knife firearm. 

As it has no barrel, its effective range was minimal. Its parts included a dagger that folded from the trigger guard, and a set of brass knuckles for the butt. 

The duck foot pistol produced in the early 19th century was named after the shape of its barrels, three to six. The fanning of barrels allowed for it to shoot several people coming from different directions. 

In 1835 a man called Giuseppe Marco Fieschi took the concept a step further when he crafted a 25-barrel volley gun for his plan to assassinate King Louis Philippe I in Paris. As you might imagine, the gun proved to be wildly inaccurate. The assassin fired the weapon from a third-floor window at the king and his entourage that were in the street below. The king received a scratch from broken glass, but eighteen bystanders were killed. This firearm oddity is preserved at the Museum of French History. 

One of the strangest chapters in firearm history is a type of weapon dubbed “cemetery guns.” In the late 18th and early 19th century grave robbing became a very lucrative business. Medical studies at major universities were expanding in size and scope but programs were hampered by laws that forbade or restricted the buying of cadavers.

In general, surgeons and their students could only get corpses from executed criminals or by donation from families of the deceased. As a result, grave robbing became a plague in the United States and British Commonwealth countries. 

The cemetery gun was invented specifically for combating grave robbery. The gun was mounted on a ground spike that allowed it to spin freely. It was set at the head or foot of a grave at night. Three tripwires strung in an arc around its position would trigger the weapon and cut short a grave robbers’ endeavors. 

There is one more chapter in the story of attempts to prevent grave robbing, and it is even more disturbing. Cemetery guns were outlawed, largely the result of unintended victims. And so, cemeteries began adapting manufactured or homemade “coffin torpedoes,” a land mine that exploded whenever a would-be thief opened a grave.

Chances are that you won’t find a Krummlauf, a duck footed pistol, or a vintage Austrian air rifle at either Pawn World store in Kingman, Arizona. But you will find the largest selection of firearms for sport, for hunting, or for home defense in northwestern Arizona, and a knowledgeable team of professionals to assist with your purchase.  

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America