One of the Best Old World Gunsmiths, You’ve Never Heard Of

By Philip Smith – President National African American Gun Association.

African-American Gunsmith James Monroe “Gunsmith” Jones
African-American Gunsmith James Monroe “Gunsmith” Jones

USA – -( James Monroe Jones was one of the very few African-American gunsmiths working in 19th Century America.

Born as a slave in North Carolina, Jones' father eventually purchased freedom for himself and his family and moved them to the free state of Ohio. Jones eventually graduated from Oberlin University in Ohio, and worked as a gunmaker in London, OH and later in Chatham, Ontario (Canada). He was renowned as the only African-American gunmaker in Canada during the period and even produced a pair of extraordinary gilt derringer pistols for the Prince of Wales (later King Edward the VII).

The Real Story…

During the visit by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII the prince had been persuaded to divert his first extensive official Canadian tour to Chatham, Ontario. To accept the finely crafted pair of derringer pistols made by a famous local and highly respected gunsmith. When waiting to congratulate and meet J.M. Jones the Prince was informed, much too late, that the blacksmith was in fact a black man named James Monroe “Gunsmith” Jones who had made the gift of derringer pistols.

The locals, confronted with this dilemma, had little time to smooth it over and duly informed an impatient prince that there had been a change in plans; that the derringers had been made by contaminated hands and as such could not be presented to a member of the Royal Family. He left immediately and never met J.M. Jones.

“Gunsmith,” left and eventually entered Canada West, where he married Emily Francis of Howard Township. In 1852, they settled in Chatham, with its burgeoning black population. By 1860, as a significant Underground Railroad terminal, the region’s black population approached 33 percent.

In his final years, he moved to his son’s home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he died in 1906 at the age of eighty-five. Jones’s weapons and awards may be viewed at Windsor, Chatham, and U.S. museums

The Canada Directory for 1857–58 lists J.M. Jones as a “manufacturer of rifles, guns, and pistols.” James Gooding, publisher of The Canadian Journal of Arms Collecting, names Jones as “one of six Canadian gunsmiths who had the skill … to be compared with the best in the world.”

Engraved Percussion Derringer By African-American Gunsmith J.M.Jones
Engraved Percussion Derringer By African-American Gunsmith J.M.Jones

National African American Gun AssociationAbout National African American Gun Association (NAAGA):

The goal of the National African American Gun Association is to have every African American introduced to firearm use for home protection, competitive shooting, and outdoor recreational activities. We are a civil rights organization focused on self-preservation of our community through armed protection and community building. The National African American Gun Association provides a network for all African American firearm owners, gun clubs and outdoor enthusiasts. We welcome people of all religious, social, and racial perspectives. We especially welcome African American members of law enforcement and active/retired military.

For more information, visit:


  • 11 thoughts on “One of the Best Old World Gunsmiths, You’ve Never Heard Of

    1. JMJ was not only a world class gunsmith, (winning first prize at both major USA & Canadian competitions), but also a master engraver. He won first prize for his three “Newfoundland Dog” engraved derringers at the 1860 Montreal Expo, opened by the Prince of Wales. Weeks later the POW a avid gun collector made a unscheduled train stop in Chatham Ontario, specifically to receive a pair of the JMJ winning derringers. Unfortunately the Mayor of Chatham, created a incident, reported in the local papers.
      Both the JMJ derringers, and a hand engraved JMJ silver platter that was subsequently presented to the POW’s mother Queen Victoria, can be found in Windsor Castle.

      His derringers are extreme rare, and proudly collected by avid private gun collectors. Although several of his accuracy renowned gun barrels can be found on rifles made by other less gifted gunsmiths, there remain only a very few complete (denoted by both his attentive quality style, and JMJ engraved lock) JMJ rifles in existence.

    2. Although I am not at all sure how it could be accomplished, I would want every black person in the United States to see this message and join this group in order to support the use and ownership of firearms in that community, There is also a black gun owners group that should also be a part of the discussion, and they are also worth looking at as well. It is way beyond the time that the minority communities, black, hispanic, or whatever else get information and begin to exercise the rights that all of America has, and that is the right to bear arms in defense of self and community. The first firearms laws that were passed in this country were specifically aimed at the “emancipated” slave population in order to prevent them access to firearms and allow the continued harassment and brutalization of that community. It continues today, but in a little different form than it took then. Spread the word and get the community aware and armed!

    3. Would this man be so honored if he gave his talents to the South?
      In Feb of 2000 Lt.Col. Edward Kennedy (no relation to Chappaquiddick Ted) was asked by the Army to put up a museum display pertaining to the civil war. It being ‘black history month’ he decided to honor all those black veterans who fought for the South. One day later a black officer (capt) complained. It was removed.
      Are some blacks more deserving than others? Those that fought for the North are honored. Fighting for the South must make them worse?

    4. I wonder if he gave his talents to the Confederate cause if he would be so honored?
      A Lt. Col. Edward Kennedy (no relation to the Mary Joe drowner) was asked to make a museum display for the Army.
      (War of Northern Aggression,Civil War) So for ‘Black History Month’ he created a display honoring all the black veterans who fought for the South. One day after it displayed a ‘black’ officer (Capt) complained. The display was removed.
      Some blacks are better,or worse than others? Or who they fought for? Hypocrisy.

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