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Is the Recently-Discovered Beckwourth Rifle the One Jim Is Holding in His Portrait?

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Is the recently-discovered "Beckwourth rifle" the one Jim is holding in his portrait?

  • Definitely the same rifle.

    Votes: 3 5.1%
  • Probably the same rifle.

    Votes: 4 6.8%
  • Possibly the same rifle, but I can't be sure.

    Votes: 7 11.9%
  • Probably not the same rifle.

    Votes: 25 42.4%
  • Definitely not the same rifle.

    Votes: 24 40.7%

  • Total voters
    59
Note that the rear sight in the color photo seems to be straight with no lean forward or backward. In the B&W it seems to be tilted forward toward the end of the barrel. Of course it could have been changed at any time.
 
NOTCHY....NO BODYS MENTIONED THAT THE UNDER SIDE OF THE BARREL IS SIGNED WITH HIS NAME...like his signature....its either an elaborate fake want to be or what...??? ive known jeff for 40 odd years and he has come up with some cool stuff...for his sake i hope its real...maybe i should take my hawken apart and look on the bottom of the barrel...might say jim bridger...love your posts....fred fellows
 
I'm new to the forum. But not new to muzzle loading. I've been shooting muzzle loaders since 1974. I grew up in Colorado. The Colorado State historical Meuseum in Denver has a rifle that is supposed to be Jim's rifle. I went and saw it in the later 70's. I wasn't allowed to touch it or photograph it. But I could look at it all I wanted.
So breif me where did the in discussion come from?
Thanks, John
 
I'm new to the forum. But not new to muzzle loading. I've been shooting muzzle loaders since 1974. I grew up in Colorado. The Colorado State historical Meuseum in Denver has a rifle that is supposed to be Jim's rifle. I went and saw it in the later 70's. I wasn't allowed to touch it or photograph it. But I could look at it all I wanted.
 
Looking at pictures of him, I believe the photo is reversed. Not that that changes any observations others have made except that it would be a right handed lock.

What makes me think it's not the same rifle is that the stock on the one he's holding appears to slim down further forward than in the colour photo.
 
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1. I agree that the grain doesn't match from one rifle to the other.
2. Beckwourth looks to be holding the rifle at the point where the stock narrows for the ramrod inlet, so that the full-size stock runs longer than in the color photo.
3. The trigger guard profile on the Beckwourth photo looks bulbous, while the color photo looks to be less round, or a bit less tall. In other words, the Beckwourth photo would be easier for shooting while wearing thick gloves.

I think they are 2 different rifles.
YMMV.
 
1. I agree that the grain doesn't match from one rifle to the other.
2. Beckwourth looks to be holding the rifle at the point where the stock narrows for the ramrod inlet, so that the full-size stock runs longer than in the color photo.
3. The trigger guard profile on the Beckwourth photo looks bulbous, while the color photo looks to be less round, or a bit less tall. In other words, the Beckwourth photo would be easier for shooting while wearing thick gloves.

I think they are 2 different rifles.
YMMV.
Good call.

Looks like the belly terminates an inch below his hand.

You can almost make out what looks like an entry pipe.

Odd rifle with a two foot long belly and one foot of exposed ramrod.

Kind of goes back to what Loyalist Dave was saying about prop guns. This rifle would have given the subject a place to put his hand for a consistent pose.
 
Thanks to all who have contributed, especially @SDSmlf , who provided the enlarged photograph. I wish there were a way to enhance it, to clear up some of the grainy texture of the image!

Lots of interesting points have been made. Regarding the curl in the grain, it was not uncommon for maple stocks to be artificially striped, and the coloration may fade over time. As for the trigger guard, I'm actually seeing more similarities than differences, but again, the portrait photo is not very clear.

However...

This occurred to me last night. We know from measurements provided on the Muzzleloader page that the barrel on the presumed Beckwourth rifle is 40-5/8" long (40.625"). The portrait photo gives us a good look at Mr. Beckwourth's hand, grasping the barrel. How wide is your hand at the knuckles?

I measured the width of Beckwourth's hand and the length of the rifle barrel in the portrait photo on my computer screen, and calculated the barrel length is 9.67 times the width of Beckwourth's hand, at the knuckles. If the rifle he is holding has a 40.625" barrel, that would mean his hand would be 4.2" wide. I think that's a pretty big hand. Possible maybe, but a big hand. If his hand were slightly smaller, say an even four inches wide, the barrel length would be 38.68" long, or about two inches too short to be the rifle in the color picture (note that a "hand" for a horseman, as a unit of measure, is equal to four inches. As an example, a sixteen-hand horse would be 64" tall at the withers). I am physically small by today's standards, and my hands measure slightly less than four inches. If Beckwourth's hand was as small as mine, the barrel of the rifle he is holding would be even shorter. I've seen old rifles on which the barrel had been shortened, but I've never known one to grow...

Maybe Jim had big hands?

I did some more measurements and calculations comparing the distance from the rear sight to the drum on the rifles in both photos. I thought I could get pretty accurate comparisons this way. By calulation, the rear sight on the rifle in the color picture appears relatively closer to the breech. I can show the numbers if anyone is interested, but these are objective measures and not subjective judgements. I don't know, but it's starting to not look so good for these being the same rifle.

However, I think @Loyalist Dave may have been on to something with his suggestion that these might have been a different rifles by the same maker. I see a lot of similarities between the rifle in Beckwourth's portrait picture and the presumed Beckwourth rifle in the color picture. I see similarities where others have pointed out differences. It's just that some of the comparative measurements don't quite add up. There was a post on the ALR forum, which I found last night but can't seem to locate today*, submitted by a collector who owned the virtual twin of the presumed Beckwourth rifle... Same buttplate, triggerguard, and overall lines and architecture. He said his rifle was believed to have been made by a gunsmith in Boonville, Missouri. Beckwourth could have certainly been a customer of the same builder, and he could have bought a similar rifle, or two.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob

*ADDENDUM: I found it. Forum rules here prohibit linking directly to another forum, so I won't put in a link. However, if you go to the American Longrifles (ALR) Forum, then to the "Antique Gun Collecting" subforum, look for an older (2020) thread entitled "Thoughts on this iron mounted rifle." Reply #5 shows photos of a rifle very similar to the presumed Beckwourth rifle and the rifle Jim is holding in his portrait. The owner of that rifle indicated it was likely made in Boonville, Missouri by a gunsmith named John Wilson.
 
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Thanks to all who have contributed, especially @SDSmlf , who provided the enlarged photograph. I wish there were a way to enhance it, to clear up some of the grainy texture of the image!

Lots of interesting points have been made. Regarding the curl in the grain, it was not uncommon for maple stocks to be artificially striped, and the coloration may fade over time. As for the trigger guard, I'm actually seeing more similarities than differences, but again, the portrait photo is not very clear.

However...

This occurred to me last night. We know from measurements provided on the Muzzleloader page that the barrel on the presumed Beckwourth rifle is 40-5/8" long (40.625"). The portrait photo gives us a good look at Mr. Beckwourth's hand, grasping the barrel. How wide is your hand at the knuckles?

I measured the width of Beckwourth's hand and the length of the rifle barrel in the portrait photo on my computer screen, and calculated the barrel length is 9.67 times the width of Beckwourth's hand, at the knuckles. If the rifle he is holding has a 40.625" barrel, that would mean his hand would be 4.2" wide. I think that's a pretty big hand. Possible maybe, but a big hand. If his hand were slightly smaller, say an even four inches wide, the barrel length would be 38.68" long, or about two inches too short to be the rifle in the color picture (note that a "hand" for a horseman, as a unit of measure, is equal to four inches. As an example, a sixteen-hand horse would be 64" tall at the withers). I am physically small by today's standards, and my hands measure slightly less than four inches. If Beckwourth's hand was as small as mine, the barrel of the rifle he is holding would be even shorter. I've seen old rifles on which the barrel had been shortened, but I've never known one to grow...

Maybe Jim had big hands?

I did some more measurements and calculations comparing the distance from the rear sight to the drum on the rifles in both photos. I thought I could get pretty accurate comparisons this way. By calulation, the rear sight on the rifle in the color picture appears relatively closer to the breech. I can show the numbers if anyone is interested, but these are objective measures and not subjective judgements. I don't know, but it's starting to not look so good for these being the same rifle.

However, I think @Loyalist Dave may have been on to something with his suggestion that these might have been a different rifles by the same maker. I see a lot of similarities between the rifle in Beckwourth's portrait picture and the presumed Beckwourth rifle in the color picture. I see similarities where others have pointed out differences. It's just that some of the comparative measurements don't quite add up. There was a post on the ALR forum, which I found last night but can't seem to locate today, submitted by a collector who owned the virtual twin of the presumed Beckwourth rifle... Same buttplate, triggerguard, and overall lines and architecture. He said his rifle was believed to have been made by a gunsmith in Boonville, Missouri. Beckwourth could have certainly been a customer of the same builder, and he could have bought a similar rifle, or two.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
I did some looking around and found a copy of the photograph that wasn’t taken from a printed book or document (if you zoom in on the photo you posted you can see what look like printer lines running across it), unfortunately, the bottom of the photograph has been cropped and doesn’t show much of the gun. There is a better image of that photograph out there, one that isn’t cropped just has to be found, and it should tell more of the story.
1694460845099.jpeg
 
And it looks like the ramrod is in its channel.

The device/rod he's holding looks like it has a crossmember thing attached just above his hand.

Another item to help position the subject?
 
Nice work, Notchy Bob. Here are measurements I made of the Beckwourth rifle at Hengesbaugh's place: overall length 57 3/8"; Barrel Length 40 5/8"; Length of Pull 14"; Lock Plate 5.2"; Rear Sight to front of Powder drum 10 1/8". Jeff asked me to make a copy of this rifle in its original flint. I am down to shaping the buttstock and making that trigger guard. The barrel is 1.25 at breech to 1.125 at muzzle, 40 5/8" long, .56 caliber. I'll post pictures when done.
 
Just can not find enough similarities to convince me it is the same rifle. Played with the exposure a little, but nothing pulled out sufficient detail, at least for me. Maybe there is a better copy of the photograph that could help, could not clean this one up much.
View attachment 252110
I think I see a reflection of the maker's mark on the shiny part of Beckwolurth's boot. Nah... just my old eyes. It would be interesting to see a state of the art examination's result. I bet an analysis would definitively show us one way or the other. Interesting subject, though.
 
Nice work, Notchy Bob. Here are measurements I made of the Beckwourth rifle at Hengesbaugh's place: overall length 57 3/8"; Barrel Length 40 5/8"; Length of Pull 14"; Lock Plate 5.2"; Rear Sight to front of Powder drum 10 1/8". Jeff asked me to make a copy of this rifle in its original flint. I am down to shaping the buttstock and making that trigger guard. The barrel is 1.25 at breech to 1.125 at muzzle, 40 5/8" long, .56 caliber. I'll post pictures when done.
Thanks for that, @Herb !

Based on the known barrel length of 40-5/8", I calculated an overall length of 57.77", which was gratifyingly close to the OAL you provided. I was a bit off in my calculation of the length of pull, though. Thanks for providing the correct dimensions. I am really looking forward to seeing your bench copy of the original when it is finished. I understand the barrel of the original is massive, but the overall architecture is such that the rifle shows very pleasing lines.

Notchy Bob
 
It is my understanding that the images were reversed in these early photographs, and that is obvious when there are belt buckles with "US" on them, or Winchester repeating rifles with the loading gate visible, but I don't see any clues like that in this photo.
Actually, there is ANOTHER clue we can make use of — the side that Beckwourth's vest is buttoned on!

In men's clothing, shirts, coats, suit jackets, all button FROM the LEFT to the RIGHT. In other words, the buttons are sewed on the right side, and the left side has the button holes. Guys, check the shirts in your closet.

When you button the shirt, or in this case the vest, you pull the left side over the right and poke the buttons through the holes. Most of us are right handed, and haven't we all seen old photos of 19th Century men posing with their right hand pushed into their coat past the buttons? According to one explanation I have heard, it all began back in the Middle Ages when men carried daggers conveniently tucked inside their Doublet (jacket) and the only way to do that is to have it button or fasten from the left in some way. Women's clothing is the opposite, buttons on the left side, button holes on the right.

SO, in applying that rule to the photo, there is no doubt the image is reversed or "flopped" as we used to say in the printing trade. Very easy to have that happen, by the way, but always a mistake when it its done. I worked a lot with photographic images back when I was in the trade, and this rule of thumb helped me many times when there were no other clues to see in the photo.

Still need convincing? Look at the Beckwourth photo again and see if he could slip his right hand into his vest from that side — he can't do it.
 
Both photos show a rifle with the hammer down. The one Jim is holding has a distance from sight to muzzle that is about 1.9 times the distance from the hammer spur to the sight. On the tacked rifle, the sight-to-muzzle distance is about 2.4 times the spur-to-sight distance.
The "rifle photo" just looks like a longer rifle.
 
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