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Two Midwestern Civil War Shows Celebrate History, Not Division

By: Peter Suciu

Given today’s highly charged political climate and the fact that the two sides of the political aisle can rarely find common ground, it might seem odd that there is one place where those with opposing views can put differences aside and share something in common!

Actually, it isn’t just one place, but rather in the hobby of antique arms and military collectibles that blue collar union members share stories and make deals with white collar professionals.

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Now here is one of those items where you just wish it could tell its story!

Collecting vintage small arms is where individuals don’t see blue or red, but instead come together for what the green paper can buy. In fact, one of the areas where this is most notable is with a past division – namely blue vs. gray, with the American Civil War!

Each spring is when the collectors come out for not one, but two events in the nation’s heartland. At the Chicago Civil War Show and the Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show there is always overlap with dealers, attendees, and the public – but each show has something special to offer.

The former is held outside of the Windy City, and given that it has merged with the Collector Arms Dealers Association Show, it has become a must-attend show for the discerning collector of antique small arms. This is all the more ironic given the anti-firearms stance of Chicago itself. With more than 250 tables, the Chicago Civil War Show has become among the most notable shows for vintage small arms in the region.

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Whether it was fast on the draw or ready to draw blood, there were some nice small arms at the Chicago Civil War Show.

The Ohio Civil War Show, which has been going steady for 42 years, has grown to become a “Comic Con for history,” with dealers set up in multiple buildings. There are more than 750 tables and literally items not even seen in museums. Unlike at a museum, if you have the cash, you can bring almost any of the items home.

The Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show is also an event where attendees can see cannons fire, hear the Gettysburg Address from an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, and see dozens of reenactors. While the bulk of those individuals typically wear Civil War uniforms, this show gets a solid mix of World War II reenactors with a mix of individuals who come out dressed like past heroes (or villains, depending on the point of view). There were no capes, nor do they have super powers, but these are the real heroes from history.

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With small arms such as the Smith & Wesson Number 2 Old Model Army and Allen & Wheelock .44 Caliber Army Revolver, the Chicago Civil War Show is one with some rather rare and unique firearms offered for sale.

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Many modern films don't get the deal as right as these World War II reenactor at the 42nd Annual Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show. More than 100 reenactors dealt with gray skies and rain this year, but it would take much worse to keep them away.

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A Spanish-American era 42mm Hotchkiss light mountain gun. While not for sale, it was one of many cannons on display at the Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show this year.

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Contact him at petersuciu@gmail.com.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.