John Brown's fearsome pikes still hold fascination

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The spears that John Brown ordered for his abolitionist army were fearsome, primitive things. Nearly seven feet long, the pikes had 10-inch steel blades made for slashing and impaling those who resisted the slave rebellion Brown envisioned.

Instead, after Brown's ill-fated raid on the arsenal on Oct. 16, 1859, many pikes were seized as souvenirs and today command high prices. One bearing the serial number 846 was sold through Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries in 2007 for $13,000.

Institutions with at least one intact pike — two is a lot — include Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va., and the Kansas Museum of History. Brown led armed attacks against pro-slavery groups in Kansas before moving east.

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