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Gustavus Masu

Posted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 10:56 pm
by John Butler 324
Hello Forum. First post here and as a bit of intro am a vintage shooter from Canada. Acquaintance of the pinfire expert Mr. Nash although my interests are more with center fire breech loaders..
My question is "can anyone can expand on the database information on Masu", or have guns by him? I have one lovely gun by Gustavus shown here. Rib address is 10 Wigmore Street. It has non-rebounding hammers and quite a joy to shoot.

Re: Gustavus Masu

Posted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 12:17 pm
by John 39
Hi John,

I replied to this post a couple of days ago but something went wrong and it didn't go up. We had not done a census check on Gustavus so we did one and also found we had a photo of an early case label which is now in the database.

Jean Francois Gustav Masu was born in Belgium (most likely in Liege) in 1824. His parentage is unknown but he had a sister named Louise (b.1830). He emigrated to England arriving at Dover on 8 May 1852.

He was recorded in the 1861 census, but no other census, living at 15 Park Terrace, Regents Park, London with his wife Rosa (b.1822 in Paris, France). In this census he gave his occupation as a jeweller. Part of his business is likely to have been inlaying guns and pistols with gold, platinum and silver, and he appears later to have bought guns from London trade makers and sold them. He may have worked with Hyacinthe Daunou, another immigrant London jeweller who, when Gustavus died, was his executor.

In 1864 he established his own business trading as Gustave Masu at 3a Wigmore Street. In 1865 the firm became known as Masu Brothers, gun and pistol makers, but no brother has been traced. In 1869 the business was re-named Gustavus Masu and moved to 10 Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square although Gustave and Rosa appear to have been living at 97 Maida Vale.

Rosa died in July 1875 and in 1876 Gustave bought a property named Belle Vue House, Canterbury Road, Westbrook, Margate, Kent and became a naturalized British subject. In 1882 the business was re-named Masu Brothers and he bought another property at 4 Queen's Terrace, Margate. In 1886 he became a freemason at Union Lodge, Margate.

Gustave died on 23 January 1892. Probate was granted to Hyacinthe Daunon and his wife Louise, Hyacinthe described himself in the probate document as a jeweller and gun maker and probably took over Gustave's business but ceased to trade in guns shortly thereafter. Gustave's estate was valued at £5917 5s 7d.

Re: Gustavus Masu

Posted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:05 pm
by Stephen Nash 218
Hi John,

I have limited information on the Masu name and gunmaking in the Belgian side of things. Various sources mention simply “Masu” as a gunmaker in Liège, Belgium from 1849 to 1853 (and possibly as early as 1845); “Masu Frères” (Masu brothers), gunmakers, in Liège from 1853 to 1876. The only other information I have from this period is the name of Pierre-Joseph Thonus, gunmaker and foreman at Masu Frères in Liège. Gustave Masu is listed as a gunmaker in Liège from 1876 to 1890, as the successor of Masu Frères. Concurrent with the Liège operations, the Masu brothers (Gustavus and ???) ran a business in London, as per John's information above.

Not surprisingly, the few London Masu guns I’ve seen have a somewhat Continental flavour to them, with fancy damascus barrels proofed in Liège. I don’t know whether entire guns were built in London, or if they sold Liège-built guns to the London market, or if barrelled actions were imported from their Liège business and stocked and finished in London – possibly all three.

I have a Jones-type underlever 12-bore pinfire, no. 2030, dating @1865. It has a non-removable fore-end articulated with the action, and the action table is rounded, not flat (matching the barrels). I have a second Masu pinfire, a 14-bore no. 2309 made @1866 with a Bastin Frères patent underlever action with a forward-pivoted pull-down underlever with hinged catch by Bastin Frères of Hermalle-sous-Argenteau, Liège (the Bastin System sliding-barrel action is the Liège provincial government patent 2149 of 1855 and patent 2395 of 1856). The action serial number, presumably the patent use number allocated by Bastin Frères, is 598. Both the action and barrels have Liège proofs. The Bastin breech-loader did have some popularity in Britain, at least in the London shooting scene. There was a Bastin-action 14-bore by Auguste Francotte of Liège in the 1859 Field trial, the only non-British gun in that year’s competition, indicating that such guns were available at the time. The Bastin sliding breech-loader was very clever in its design, and it was described and illustrated in John Henry Walsh’s 1859 book The Shot-Gun and Sporting Rifle and in William Wellington Greener’s 1871 book Modern Breechloaders: Sporting and Military and his 1881 book The Gun and its Development.

As to Masu guns, there is apparently a range of rib inscriptions, with at the very least:

“Masu Brothers 3a Wigmore Street London & Liège”
"Masu Brothers London"
“G. Masu, 10 Wigmore Street London”
“Masu Frères a Liège & 3a Wigmore Street, London”

Masu Frères guns won a 'honourable mention' at the Great London Exposition of 1862, for the quality of their guns.

I wish I had more information to share.

Re: Gustavus Masu

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 3:55 pm
by John Butler 324
Thank you, John and Steve.
Both posts help me to better put the gun in context. Mine also has the attached fore-end (as does my London-built Daw central fire), concave action "flats", and an unusual checker style. Also the peninsula locks have an atypical shape so the forward joints with the action are not flat but mate into a notch - if I described that properly. Fairly certain the proofs are London but now will have another look to confirm.
Bastin Freres patent underlever would be lovely to see in person, Stephen. Here's one from Holts but is a center fire. ... ua6kdqzotv

Re: Gustavus Masu

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:47 pm
by Stephen Nash 218
John Butler 324 wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 3:55 pm
Bastin Freres patent underlever would be lovely to see in person, Stephen. Here's one from Holts but is a center fire. ... ua6kdqzotv
You'll see it in June, John. The metal work on the Masu is very plain, but it does have a figured maple stock which, judging from the inletting under the locks, is quite difficult to work with.

Re: Gustavus Masu

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:36 am
by John 39
Hi John and Steve, it is a good thing not all of us are named John!

I see that Stockel records a Masu as a gun maker in Liege from 1849 to 1853, no mention of 1845 so knowledge of that is a bonus. Masu Freres is recorded 1853 to 1876 in Liege and in London at 10 Wigmore Street 1864-1865 and 1882-1891. I'm not sure what the German word nachfolger means, possibly brother (of the Masu in Liege 1849-1853). Stockel also lists Gustave as 1876-1890 ... "nachfolder von Masu Freres", "3A Wigmore Street 1866-1881, 10 Wigmore Street".

Clearly Gustave (spellings various in UK records) was a gun maker, so why did he describe himself as a jeweller? One other comment, Liege wages were lower and their guns were a little cheaper so I would imagine all Masu guns were imported from Liege and, contrary to popular opinion, some were very good quality.