A deep green colored bronze cannon sits on a wooden carriage with two small wooden wheels
Bronze cannon (possibly Dutch) with later wooden carriage, c. 1700-1800

Cannon

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Art

Originally designed for hoisting the barrels onto their carriages, the handles on the top of the tube became a location for decoration. Shaped like fishes or other animals, these handles became known as “dolphins.” Like other decorative arts in the 18th century, rich baroque designs were replaced by the streamlined lines of neoclassical styles. The simpler dolphins of a 1790s French cannon in the fort’s collection.

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Originally designed for hoisting the barrels onto their carriages, the handles on the top of the tube became a location for decoration. Shaped like fishes or other animals, these handles became known as “dolphins.” Like other decorative arts in the 18th century, rich baroque designs were replaced by the streamlined lines of neoclassical styles. The simpler dolphins of a 1790s French cannon in the fort’s collection.

Manufacture

Cannons required immense skill to produce. They were cast in one piece from molten metal, bronze or iron. A full sized model was made and a mold built around it. Separate molds were added on for decorative elements like the dolphins or the cascabel, the projection at the rear. One major innovation made during the course of the 18th century was to drill out the bore after casting. This yielded a truer bore than attempting to cast one using a core set inside the mold, although it involved more costly machinery.

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Cannons required immense skill to produce. They were cast in one piece from molten metal, bronze or iron. A full sized model was made and a mold built around it. Separate molds were added on for decorative elements like the dolphins or the cascabel, the projection at the rear. One major innovation made during the course of the 18th century was to drill out the bore after casting. This yielded a truer bore than attempting to cast one using a core set inside the mold, although it involved more costly machinery.

Function

Cannons were designed to at a low trajectory while mortars and howitzers lobbed shells in high arcs. Cannons could also be loaded with a variety of projectiles including solid iron shot or bar shot consisting of two half spheres connected by an iron rod, to tear apart the rigging on ships. Grapeshot, consisting of smaller iron balls, or canister, a tin can filled with lead musket balls, acted like giant shotgun cartridges spraying projectiles towards enemy personnel.

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Cannons were designed to at a low trajectory while mortars and howitzers lobbed shells in high arcs. Cannons could also be loaded with a variety of projectiles including solid iron shot or bar shot consisting of two half spheres connected by an iron rod, to tear apart the rigging on ships. Grapeshot, consisting of smaller iron balls, or canister, a tin can filled with lead musket balls, acted like giant shotgun cartridges spraying projectiles towards enemy personnel.

Culture

This cannon was in active use until the 1990s. It was used by the staff, along with mortars firing balls made of plaster of Paris, at an iron target below the fort. Using original weapons for demonstrations was commonplace in the middle of the 20th century. Today we believe that preservation means not exposing artifacts to potential damage, therefore for firing demonstrations at the museum we use reproduction weapons.

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This cannon was in active use until the 1990s. It was used by the staff, along with mortars firing balls made of plaster of Paris, at an iron target below the fort. Using original weapons for demonstrations was commonplace in the middle of the 20th century. Today we believe that preservation means not exposing artifacts to potential damage, therefore for firing demonstrations at the museum we use reproduction weapons.

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