We couldn’t find Uncle John’s old Fart Bazooka, but we managed to find some other famous weapons.
John Wilkes Booth’s Gun
The gun that Booth used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln now resides in the basement museum of Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C. The gun is a single-shot flintlock, made by Philadelphia gunsmith Henry Derringer. It’s tiny—just six inches total in length with a 2-1/2″ barrel—but it’s powerful, firing a .44- caliber bullet. The gun was found on the floor of the theater box where Lincoln sat. Also in the museum is the knife with which Booth stabbed one of Lincoln’s companions, Major Henry Rathbone, in the arm before Booth jumped from the box to escape. What about the bullet that killed one of the most revered figures in American history? You can see that, too. It was removed during a post-mortem autopsy and was kept by the U.S. War Department until 1940, when it went to the Department of the Interior. It can be viewed today at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
The Sarajevo Pistol
On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot and killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The assassinations caused a chain reaction of events, which, within less than five weeks, led to the start of World War I. The gun was a Browning semiautomatic pistol, model M1910, serial #19074. Princip, just 19, was a member of the Serbian nationalist group called the Black Hand. He fired seven shots into the royal couple’s car from five feet away, then attempted to shoot himself, but was stopped by passersby and quickly arrested. Princip died in prison of tuberculosis in 1918 (the disease was one reason he took the mission).
After his trial, the pistol was presented to Father Anton Puntigam, the Jesuit priest who had given the archduke and duchess their last rites. He hoped to place it in a museum, but when he died in 1926 the gun was lost…for almost 80 years.
In 2004 a Jesuit community house in Austria made a startling announcement: they had found the gun (verified by its serial number). They donated it to the Vienna Museum of Military History in time for the 90th anniversary of the assassination that started a war that would eventually kill 8.5 million people. Also in the museum are the car in which the couple were riding, the bloodied pillow cover on which the archduke rested his head while dying, and petals from a rose that was attached to Sophie’s belt.
The Mussolini Machine Gun
On April 28, 1945, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were captured while trying to flee into Switzerland. They were executed by an Italian communist named Valter Audisio, who shot the pair with a French-made MAS (Manufacture d’Armes de St. Etienne) 7.65mm submachine gun.
The gun disappeared until 1973, when Audisio died. He’d kept it in Italy until 1957, when, during a resurgence of Mussolini’s popularity, he secretly gave it to the communist Albanian government for safekeeping. With Audisio’s death, the Albanians proudly displayed the gun “on behalf of the Italian people.” Its home is now Albania’s National Historical Museum. Audisio once wrote that the only reason he used the machine gun was that the two pistols he tried to use had jammed. He also said that he had no orders to shoot Petacci—but she wouldn’t let go of Il Duce.