Arming the Commonwealth

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People have relied on weapons to advance both their best and worst impulses—to put food on the table, to protect themselves, to enforce or defy the law, to defend or conquer territory and treasure, or to liberate some while enslaving others. This exhibition features weapons and accoutrements from the Virginia Historical Society’s collection crafted in Virginia or used by its people to achieve those goals.

Although these weapons may seem primitive to us today, all of them reflect the best technology available at the time. Many are products of Virginia’s desire to modernize and industrialize in the century after the American Revolution. Most of these weapons demonstrate skilled craftsmanship in shaping brass, iron, steel, and wood. Some are works of art, while others are remarkable because of the inventiveness applied in pursuit of deadly designs.

This exhibition and gallery are both made possible by the Cecil R. and Edna S. Hopkins Family Foundation.