Random Artifact from the Collection – An 18th Century Buttplate Tang from Saginaw

The archaeology collections curated at the Castle Museum contain relatively few artifacts from the 17th and 18th centuries. A gunflint or two, the odd glass bead, and, perhaps, an iron pot hook and two axes described by Spencer (2006) make up the bulk of the pre-19th century Historic period material at the museum. This buttplate tang, which is missing the finial, can be added to the list. Donated to the Historical Society of Saginaw County (HSSC) in 2006, this artifact was found on the surface near the confluence of the Shiawassee and Tittabawassee rivers in Saginaw County.

Buttplate Tang from 20SA600.

Buttplate Tang from 20SA600.

So, what exactly is a buttplate? It is a gun part, brass in this case, that covers the (butt) end of the wooden stock. The tang is the portion of the buttplate that bends over the top of the stock, adding a decorative element, as well as helping to secure the buttplate to the stock. The finial, which is broken off on this specimen, is the end of the tang (the top end in the photograph). The design elements on this buttplate tang from Saginaw include a shell motif and a crossed bow, arrow, and, perhaps, a quiver. A similarly decorated buttplate was excavated in 1975 at Fort Michilimackinac from the bottom of a latrine used by the British ca. 1775-1781 (Hamilton 1976). Other similar examples have been found in a 1730-1775 context at the Little Osage Site (23SA3) in Missouri and in a 1763-1783 context at Spaulding’s Lower Store (Pu23) in Florida (Hamilton 1980, 1982). Hamilton (1980:77) suggests that these buttplates are derived from late 18th century English guns that were imitating the French Type D Trade Gun pattern.

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