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In Search of Paul Jones Pistol

JPJ in false British legend shooting crew member


Less than a dozen items belonging to John Paul Jones are known to exist today. Among them, very likely, is a pistol used in battle. One day a group of Jones fans from Portsmouth wen to check out the story. Here are the photos.




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According to a footnote in Elliot Morison’s famous biography of John Paul Jones, one of his pistols – one he reportedly used in the battle with the Serapis – resides in nearby Boston, MA. The Masonic lodge there owns it. Records show that Jones joined the Masons in Scotland under the name John Paul on November 27, 1770.

Masonic library in Boston, MAA small group of Jones fans from New Hampshire made a pilgrimage to the Central Lodge of Massachusetts. Our goal was to view and photograph the pistol in hopes of studying and possibly reproducing it for future display at the John Paul Jones House in Portsmouth, NH. But our resource was already 50 years old. Would the gun still be there?

The pistol, we were told, was donated to the Masonic Lodge around the time Jones' body was discovered in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The donor also created this amazing library with its glass floors and metal shelving. Our group entered the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, named for the collector. The pistol was not on public display.

Would we like to see some Jones' documents while waiting for the pistol? --- the librarian asked. You bet! For the next half hour we poured through letters to and from Jones and some fascinating historic documents and photos. We were like kids in a candy shop.

Librarian Cynthia Alcorn presented us with the historic weapon. Jones reportedly carried as many as six pistols, including those presented to him while in France. Details are sketchy. More research is needed, but here it is. In the dimly lit halls of the Masonic Temple, your editor held the artifact in the window overlooking Tremont Street for added light. When Jones visited Portsmouth, NH he reportedly visited with members of the St. John's Lodge there. Did he bring this very pistol to Portsmouth?

British legends painted Jones as a pirate and accused him of shooting his own crew members when they did not obey. Jones did threaten members of the crew who considered mutiny. And during his youth, he killed a crew member with a sword when he was attacked. These stories have been combined into the pistol legend, that is not true. -- JDR

Copyright © 2005 Text and first six images and text by J. Dennis Robinson. Final photo by Ralph Morang. Our thanks to the Massachusetts Masons for their kind cooperation.

Grand Lodge of Massachusetts floor design

Mason's Grand Lodge entrance

Letters to and from John Paul Jones

Bob Hassold of Portsmouth reviews JPJ's letter book

Holding Paul Jones pistol in Boston (c)

John Paul Jones pistol and letterbook (c) Ralph Morang III /

(c) 2000 J. Dennis Robinson & Ralph Morang III

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