Tinder-pistol combined with alarm clock, Austria

Bryant and May collection of fire-making appliances.
1701-1799 in Vienna and Austria
Tinder-pistol combined with elaborate clock-movement; the whole

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Tinder-pistol combined with elaborate clock-movement; the whole
Science Museum Group

Tinder pistol combined with an elaborate clock-movement that repeats the quarter-hours, contained in a bronze gilt case, standing on four curved legs, the surface the of box closely covered with military trophies and other chase work, accompanied by a wooden travelling case lined with velvet and covered in leather, inscribed with ‘Joseph Tich, Wienn’, Austria, 1701-1799

Humans have throughout history used different techniques and tools to create life-sustaining fires. Tinder pistols are a more expensive version of one of the oldest and most widespread methods using tinder, flint, and steel. Traditionally, sharp-edged flints are struck against a fire striker, which causes hot, oxidising metal particles to split off and ignite tinder. Tinder is a fine material with the ability to combust quickly and often consists of amadou made from fungus, plant fibres, or artificial materials like paper strips and petroleum.

Tinder pistols, which were mostly found in European upper- and middle-class homes, have flintlock mechanisms. These mechanisms, also commonly used in rifles and pistols, work by pulling a trigger that strikes a steel frizzen, which subsequently creates a spark to ignite tinder. This model conveniently combines a fire-making tool with an alarm clock. When the alarm goes off, the trigger is released, and a candle is lit!

This object is part of the Bryant and May fire-making collection, which used to be displayed in a private museum within the Bryant and May match-making factory’s offices. The collection comprises around 1200 objects, dating from the Stone Age to the early 20th century that illustrate the variety of tools and techniques humans across the world have used to create fires.

The collection was mostly acquired by the ornithologist and fire-making enthusiast Edward Bidwell and cared for by the collector Miller Christy. Bidwell collected between the late 19th and early 20th century – when Britain's colonial power was at its peak. Tracing the objects’ provenance is therefore difficult and part of the long and problematic history of colonial exploitation.


Object Number:
brass (copper, zinc alloy), leather, wood (unidentified) and velvet
overall: 190.5 mm
tinder pistol
Wilkinson Sword Ltd.