Secret Weapons

A military museum you never knew was there

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aneuil Hall is the busiest travel destination in New England, yet it hides one of the best secrets we know: There’s a museum in the attic. It’s the military museum of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest chartered military organization in the Western Hemisphere (and third oldest in the world), and it has weaponry from swords to cannon, muskets to machine guns, medals, cannonballs, bullets, and bricks from old forts, prisons, and historic buildings dating back to 1638. Among the weapons on display: a 1917 German Erfurt water-cooled machine gun, a Browning automatic rifle from World War I, and an early experimental Gatlin gun with its revolving barrel. Known for arriving on the battlefield after the fighting is over, the Ancient and Honorable has accumulated a huge collection of mementos: arrowheads and Indian tools, antique saddles, military caps, shells fired in the Spanish-American War, a cannonball from the Battle of Bunker Hill, federal and confederate bullets, a Civil War surgeon’s kit, elegant swords and scabbards worn for show, epaulets, and the hoof of a horse named Charger, apparently a hero of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854.

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The attic of Faneuil Hall is faithful to its original construction in 1742. The company’s “captain’s quarters” sits beneath the cupola that crowns the building, up 13 steps from the main room—one for each of the original states. Thomas Edison installed the lights personally in 1890.

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