Jas. Bown & Son – Pittsburgh

Provenance: Ex: Ralph Finch Collection, American Glass Gallery

James Bown was a designer and manufacturer of firearms. He developed a long rifle which was very popular during the Civil War. His guns and related material are very collectible today.  

The James Bown & Son advertising target ball is exceptionally rare and desirable to collectors. In dark amber glass, this 3-piece mold, 2-5/8″ diameter ball has a rough sheared mouth. It is embossed in four lines on the front side ‘BO’T OF.’ (1st line arched down), ‘JAS. BOWN & SON’, (2nd line arched down), ‘136 WOOD ST.’ (3rd straight line), and ‘PITTS’G . PA.’ (4th straight line). The reverse side is also embossed in four lines, ‘MANUFACTURERS’ (1st line arched down) ‘AND’ (2nd straight line), ‘DEALERS IN’ (3rd straight line) ‘FIRE ARMS’ (4th straight line).

James Bown was born in England on September 27, 1823 and came to America with his parents when he was eight years old. He first lived in Canada, and later in the state of New York. At the age of 21, he came to Pittsburgh and learned the cutlery trade.

Bown was married in Pittsburgh in the mid-1840s to Maria Bailey. They had at least six children, three sons, and three daughters. The sons were William H., James W., and Edwin S. Bown.

In 1848, James Bown established the firm of Bown & Tetley on Wood Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, dealing in hardware and firearms. Later he established the Enterprise Gun Works and made himself famous throughout the south and west by the large bore rifle produced by his firm. He retired, but came out of retirement to partner with his son, William, as Bown & Son which was founded in 1883 on the Lewis Block.

John Bown and Son offered some of the finest firearms and sporting goods available. His Enterprise Gun Works manufactured all types of shotguns and rifles as well as revolvers and pistols and all of the parts to replace and operate. They also offered a complete line of Billies, Sling Shots, Fencing Gear, Bullet Pouches, Dog Collars, Shackles and Handcuffs, Powder Flasks, Shot Belts, Whips, Calls, Boxing Gloves, Whistles, Tools, Money Belts, Game Bags, Ammunition, Air Rifles and more.

Brand name products noted from an 1876 catalog include products by Enterprise, Parker, Remington, Phoenix, Steven’s, Eley Brothers, Union Metallic, Orange Sporting Powder, Winchester, Colt, Williams, Knuckler, Favorite, Forehand and Wadsworth, XX Standard, Smith & Wesson, Eclipse, Star, Eureka among others.

A great fire would just about destroy Bown & Son in late November 1880 which may have led to their demise as the company changed hands in 1884 when Samuel S. Brown and August Hirth (Brown & Hirth) purchased the company and renamed it Enterprise Gun and Machine Works. James Bown would remain in the gun business with less of an effort until 1898 when he retired. He died on January 29, 1901.

Primary Image: James Bown & Son target ball imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Primary Image: Auction Lot 797: “BO’T. OF / JAS. BOWN & SON, / 136 WOOD ST. / PITTS’G. PA. – MANUFACTURERS / AND /DEALERS IN / FIRE ARMS”, Target Ball, Pittsburgh, 1880 – 1900. Very deep amber, 3-piece mold, rough sheared mouth, dia. 2 5/8”; (a dug ball with some scattered light exterior wear, minor haze or dullness, and some flakes and a chip from the lip that likely occurred in making, but no other form of damage). An extremely rare and desirable target ball. – The Ralph Finch Collection of Target Balls, Traps and Shooting Ephemera, An Absentee Auction in Six Parts – 2017-2019, John Pastor and American Glass Gallery

Support: Reference to the American Glass Gallery, The Ralph Finch Collection of Target Balls, Traps and Shooting Ephemera, An Absentee Auction in Six Parts – 2017-2019

Secondary Image: Golden amber ball from Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions.

Gun Image: James Bown & Sons, Pittsburg Marked Percussion Rifle. This small bore rifle is marked “JAMES BOWN & SONS/PITTSBURG PA” on the upper left barrel flat and “JAMES BOWN” on the upper flat at the breech. – Rock Island Auction Company

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