Always happy to take requests. Former City Council candidate Allan Boynton sent me this press release last night about an effort underway to procure a piece of Guelph history. I'm not a big fan of firearms, but this is one gun I can get behind. Given to Nathaniel Higinbotham - who not only was Mayor of Guelph, and not only once Member of Parliament for Guelph, but he helped to develop the darn place too - the gun is expected to make upwards of $10,000 at auction at the end of the month. Here's how you can help out.
GUELPH — A campaign is underway to bring an antique handgun once presented to a Guelph mayor back to the city.
City councillor Cam Guthrie is leading the charge to raise the money needed to purchase the item at an April 30 auction in Toronto.
“I sent out a mass email, and people are actually calling in,” said Guthrie, who got things rolling with a $500 pledge of his own.
“This is very, very exciting.”
After reading about the sale in the Mercury, he sent an appeal Thursday to constituents and friends. Within hours, local business owner Paul Schmidt gave legs to the campaign by promising to match donations dollar for dollar.
“If we can bring something from Guelph back to Guelph, I think that’s an awesome thing,” the owner of Winmar Restorations and self-described history geek said.
“I came to this city 15 years ago, and it’s been nothing but good to my family and my staff,” Schmidt added. “I just want Ontario to recognize how great our city is.”
So far Guthrie has garnered a total of $2,100 in pledges, including his own donation and the matching funds from Schmidt.
City councillors Gloria Kovach and Todd Dennis each donated $100, and four other residents pledged $50 or $100.
“I think it’s an important piece of history for Guelph,” Guthrie said. “Right away, when I read the article, I thought, oh man, the museum should really buy that.”
While the Guelph Museum has expressed interest in acquiring the piece, it only receives $1,000 a year for acquisitions.
Guthrie said he plans to travel to the auction of militaria by F.J. Corring in Toronto to bid on behalf of donors. The gun has an estimated value of $5,000 to $6,000, but the final price could be much higher or lower, Schmidt said.
“Hopefully, I don’t have to sell my house,” he said.
The vintage Smith and Wesson firearm was presented in 1866 to prominent Guelph developer Nathaniel Higinbotham, who served the city as mayor and as a member of Parliament.
An inscription on the gun’s barrel reads “Presented to Captain Higinbotham, Guelph Volunteer Rifle Company/ By the LADIES OF GUELPH, July 13, 1866.”
The Guelph Museum already owns other items that belonged to Higinbotham. “To have that gun there, that would be a real completion,” Guthrie said.
It would also “tie in nicely” with the opening of the relocated Guelph Civic Museum this year.
The Ontario collector who owns the firearm, Gerald Austin, said he was called about a year ago by both the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and the Guelph Museum, and later paid visits to both institutions.
“We tried to work out a deal, but it just didn’t work out,” he said, adding: “I always thought it should be in the Guelph Museum. I just wasn’t in the position to give it to them.”
He said the gun is the same model as the one used in 1868 to shoot D’Arcy McGee, the only Canadian federal politician to fall victim to assassination.