Disposable Camera Tour
In Search of Paul Jones Pistol
Boston, MA, December 2000
According to the most famous biography of John Paul Jones, one of his pistols - used in the battle of the Serapis -- is here in Boston, MA. Records show that Jones joined the Masons in Scotland under the name John Paul on November 27, 1770. A small group of Jones fans from New Hampshire made this recent pilgrimage to the Central Lodge of Massachusetts. Our resource was almost 50 years old. Would the gun still be there?
Members of the Ranger Foundation, dedicated to rebuilding Jones' famous frigate, and trustees of the JPJ House Museum were cordially welcomed. Our goal was to view and photograph the pistol in hopes of studying and possibly reproducing it for future displays in Portsmouth.
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. Here we are in the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, named for the collector. The pistol is not on public display.
Would we like to see some Jones' documents while waiting for the pistol? -- the librarian asks. Wow, would we! For the next half hour we pour through letters to and from Jones and some fascinating historic documents and photos. We're like kids in a candy shop.
Bob Hassold of the Ranger Foundation holds Paul Jones letter book in which he recorded his personal correspondences. Items are written in English, French and a secret code Jones used to encrypt his records.
Librarian Cynthia Alcorn presents 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 SeacoastNH.com editor holds 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?
Following a detailed photo session by Ralph Morang of the John Paul Jones House Museum, the pistol poses for a glamour shot with Jones letter book. There's much research to be done. Portsmouth museum volunteers plan to raise funds to restore Jones' rented room there to the way it may have looked in 1781. Every bit of information helps. That's what makes these little trips so exciting. (Photo by Ralph Morang.)
Copyright © 2000 SeacoastNH.com
First six images and text by J. Dennis Robinson
To visit the Massachusetts Masons
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