By Kristin Bien (firstname.lastname@example.org)
12:30 PM EST, March 5, 2012
Believe it or not, LaPorte is home to one of the world’s largest, privately owned, antique gun collections in the world. Many of the guns are hundreds of years old, some date back to at least the 1500s.
It is what you are going to say over and over:
"Look at this one," and "wow."
At least that is what I said on my tour of the W.A. Jones Antique Gun Collection at the LaPorte County Historical Society. And there is good reason. You can find things you won't see in many other places.
Museum Curator Susie Richter gave us a tour.
"This is called a matchlock pistol," says Richter as she holds a gun the size of a lipstick, "and it is either Japanese or Chinese. He obtained this in Waterloo, Indiana in 1915. You can see how tiny it is."
There are about 1,000 guns in the collection. It was started at the turn of the century by William A. Jones, a wealthy Chicago foundry owner. He was a world traveler and as he bounced around the globe he purchased and traded for the guns which at the time were very old. When Jones passed away in 1921 he left his collection of guns to the City of LaPorte – where he had his retirement home. Many of the guns are so rare not much is known about them. Luckily, for many he kept a catalogue briefly explaining what kind of gun it was or where he got it from – and sometimes how old he believed the gun to be.
One of the guns in the collection looks like a battle axe but is also a gun. This particular gun, Jones wrote, was "very old and rare." According to an internet search, it may date back to the 1500's.
"This is a very peculiar combination of a gun and a war axe," says Richter, "it is a matchlock gun. The label says it is from the Imperial Museum of Japan and I am kind of like, what are we doing with it? How did we get it? But that is what it says."
And if you think that is strange, check another Jones gun has a tag that reads: "Double barrel, side-by-side rifle. .38 caliber. Said to have belonged to Captain Jack, the Modoc Chief and buried with him. Dug up by one of Buffalo Bill's men and brought to Chicago."
How and where he got many of the guns will remain a mystery. Luckily they are now on display for everyone to enjoy.
There is no estimate on how much the gun collection is worth. Jones wrote in code how much he paid for each gun and that code can't be broken.
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