Mountain Man rifles

Discussion in 'Rocky Mountain Fur Trade' started by crockett, Sep 21, 2018.

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  1. Nov 18, 2019 #181

    plmeek

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    I not sure about the idea of a "snug fitting stick" but do recall the reference of mountain men carrying a stick in the bore of their guns as a spare--and there is good reason for it. Hard wood suitable for making ramrods did not grow in the Rocky Mountains. Below is an image from Wikipedia showing the natural range (in green) of the hickory tree. It only reached the extreme eastern portion of today's Kansas and Nebraska.

    [​IMG]

    In 1841, Rufus B. Sage, who hired on with Lancaster Lupton, the owner of Fort Lupton on the South Platte River, wanted to go West and write a book about his experiences. While traveling with Lupton, Sage kept a journal of the trip West. Eleven days out of the Independence/Westport area, they came to the Big Vermilion, a tributary to the Kansas River.

    At a "dollar apiece" one can see how valuable an extra ramrod or wiping stick was to a trapper.

    Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail was another place that travelers stopped to collect hard wood as it was the last place on the Santa Fe Trail that trees such as oak and hickory grew. Santa Fe caravans would cut logs suitable to repair broken wagon axles and other wagon parts and strap them under their wagons. Hickory would have been gathered for hatchet and axe haft repairs as well as replacement ramrods.

    While looking for first hand accounts of use of trade rifles and trade guns, I came across this sketch that Karl Bodmer made in 1833 of an Assiniboin Indian in the vicinity of Fort Union. Note the Indian is clearly carrying a Northwest trade gun that has a ramrod in its thimbles. He is also holding an extra wiping stick that appears to have some material or tow wrapped around what is likely a tow worm.

    [​IMG]

    Trade guns and rifles were often ordered by the fur companies with wool covers, bullet molds, and wipers or wiping sticks.

    Carrying the wiping stick or extra ramrod in the bore of the rifle or trade gun would have been a handy and practical place to carry it. I doubt that they provided a snug fit, but their mass and weight would help to keep a ball on the powder. If they were marked near the muzzle, a person could tell at a glance if the ball had moved off the powder.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
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  2. Nov 18, 2019 #182

    Rudyard

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    That makes historically proven sense . A refreshing change from the dogmatic BS some FMEs cling too . Rudyard
     
  3. Nov 19, 2019 #183

    plmeek

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    For the others here, Rich and I share an interest in Henry Deringer rifles. The image above is of a cheekpiece inlay for a Deringer rifle he is building. These have not been available commercially.

    Henry Deringer rifles are probably the most overlooked fur trade rifles. Most of what has been written on Deringer has focused on his diminutive pocket pistol. But he didn't start making these until the California gold rush started and long after the days of the mountain rendezvous. Before this, he made over 10,000 rifles and over 1,400 Northwest trade guns for the OIT and BIA and an untold number for the civilian market from 1809 to 1844.

    Much more has been written about John Joseph Henry and his son, James Henry, and their trade rifles. This is because of the extensive amount of preserved records for both the Henry operations and the American Fur Company documents. It's simply easier to find what is readily available. But J. Joseph Henry didn't get his first order for Lancaster pattern trade rifles from the AFC for $9.50 each until January 1826 and only 40 of these were 32 balls-to-the-pound and suitable for the Rocky Mountain trade. The other 100 were 40 balls-to-the-pound and likely meant for the Great Lakes Indian trade. The next AFC order for JJ Henry rifles was placed in December of 1826 for 120 English pattern rifles of 32 balls-to-the-pound at $10.12½ each. Prior to this, AFC had been importing English made rifles, primarily for the Great Lakes market. How many of this first order for JJ Henry made English pattern rifles went to the Rocky Mountains is not known.

    The dates mentioned in the paragraph above are when orders were placed. JJ Henry was to deliver the finished rifles to New York where they would be sorted and shipped to the various AFC trading centers, including St. Louis. Once rifles arrived in St. Louis, they could be sold locally to the various firms that were outfitting from there including Ashley for the firm of Smith, Jackson & Sublette. These rifles would then have to be packed from St. Louis to the rendezvous in the mountains. The supply chain from the time the order was placed, the rifles built, delivered to New York, transshipped to St. Louis, then packed to the mountains would have taken more than a year.

    Hanson in The Hawken Rifle: Its Place In History, page 12 stated that in the fall of 1827, James Bruffee packed AFC supplies to meet the Smith, Jackson & Sublette caravan at Lexington, MO. The supplies included 4 fusils at $4.00 each and 14 rifles at $10.00 each. These supplies apparently did not reach the mountains until the spring of 1828 and distributed at the summer rendezvous. Accordingly, there was no spring caravan to the mountains in 1828.

    These 14 rifles could have been a portion of the 40 rifles from the January 1826 order to JJ Henry as the price is close to the $9.50 per rifle that the AFC paid Henry. If so, then these 14 rifles would have been the first JJ Henry rifles to make it into the hands of a mountain man and didn't get there until spring/summer of 1828! Ironically, about the same time the first Hawken rifle is documented to be carried by a mountain man.

    Conversely, Henry Deringer started making rifles for the Office of Indian Trade in 1809. The OIT orders averaged better than 100 rifles per year for the next decade. These rifles were sent to the US Factories or trading posts. The factories were intended to trade only with Indians, but whites often traded at them, too. The US Factories were set up in the South, the Mid-West, and the Mississippi region, with the western most Factory at Fort Osage--about 120 miles west of St. Louis. Deringer trade rifles were sent to Prairie Du Chien, Council Bluffs, Fort Osage, and St. Louis as early as 1815. The US Factory System was dissolved in 1822 with some of the goods from factories upstream on the Mississippi and Ohio River tributaries brought to St. Louis to be auctioned off.

    Many of the government factories were located in areas that had once been frontier regions where many mountain men had been born and brought up before venturing west to St. Louis. They could have easily been familiar with Deringer rifles.

    Even though documents are scarce, Deringer likely sold rifles to wholesale merchants that found their way to frontier regions including St. Louis. In addition, Iroquois, Delaware, and Shawnee Indians who often were part of the Rocky Mountain trapping brigades likely brought Deringer rifles with them.

    Deringer rifles could have easily been in the mix with Lancaster made rifles that accompanied the Astorians to the mouth of the Columbia River and back, been carried by some of the Missouri Fur Company men up the Missouri in the early 1820s, and outfitted some of Henry-Ashley's men in 1822 and subsequent years.

    In all likelihood, a Deringer rifle beat a JJ Henry rifle to the Rocky Mountains by as much as a decade and been more numerous in the mountains than Henry rifle well into the 1830s!
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2019
  4. Nov 19, 2019 #184

    Einsiedler

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    Phil,

    There was a Deringer rifle that I believe belonged to Robert Justice Kleberg (elder) that was used at San Jacinto. You may be familiar with this rifle. If I remember it was found in a barn down on the famous King ranch in south Texas as Kleberg’s son (also Robert Justic) married one of the King daughters.
    Best I remember is was own by the old collector Victor Frederich (sic) of Austin Tx. I knew the fellow who did the restoration on the rifle as it was literally eaten up by termites and pretty much all that remained was a varnished shell.
    The rifle was pictured in a book by Mr. Randal Gilbert of Tyler Texas on the arming of the Republic of Texas that was printed sometime around 1970-ish. I cannot seem to locate a photo of the rifle and I do not know the present whereabouts of it either. Mr. Frederichs has been dead approx. 40 years now.
    The best I remember is it was a typical Deringer style trade rifle.
    The old gentleman had many awesome firearms. Like a Republic of Texas marked Model 1816 musket that was found in a wall during restoration of the carriage house at the Gov. Pease mansion in Austin ( it was a percussion conversion that to my understanding he had someone "reconvert" to flint). And another was a Colt "Fluck" dragoon that came from over on the east side of Austin where it was being used as a dootstop.
     
  5. Nov 19, 2019 #185

    rich pierce

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    788CB344-1875-487B-8797-EF0A86B65A0E.jpeg I am not sure I shared these pictures of an above average grade Deringer flint rifle. The lock is an original lock but not original to the rifle. This one was at auction recently and went higher than I was willing to go.
     

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  6. Nov 19, 2019 #186

    rich pierce

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    More. I’m definitely going to make a close copy of this one in 2020.
     

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  7. Nov 19, 2019 #187

    plmeek

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    Bob (Einsiedler),

    If you ever find a photo of Kleberg's rifle, it would be great to see it.

    Deringer rifles almost assuredly found their way into Texas. Below is a map showing locations of government factories or trading posts. Deringer rifles did not go to all of them, but most of the ones that operated between 1810 and 1822 received some.

    Note the factories at Sulfur Fork and Natchitoches in Arkansas and Louisiana, respectively. These posts traded with Indians and whites from East Texas.

    [​IMG]

    After the US Factory System was ended in 1822, the Office of Indian Trade was dissolved and the Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed. In the late 1820s, the US started the process of Indian Removal of Southern Indians (the Five Civilized Tribes) to Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). I mentioned that the OIT bought on average 100 rifles per year from Deringer. The BIA purchased 550 from him in 1826, then from 1828 through 1833 about 1,000 rifles per year, primarily as part of the Removals, were ordered. That's over 5,600 Deringer rifles that ended up right next to Texas (some of the Indians actually relocated themselves into East Texas).

    Of course, Sam Houston spent several years with the Cherokee in Indian Territory after leaving Tennessee in 1829 and before settling in Texas in 1832. He would have seen a lot of Deringer rifles in this period.

    In 1829, the BIA ordered 500 percussion rifles from Deringer for the emigrating Cherokee. Over 200 Deringer percussion rifles were also delivered to the Choctaws. The Indians were dissatisfied with the percussion rifles and turned them in for replacement when they reached Ft. Smith, Arkansas in 1831. I haven't read anything about what the government did with these rifles, but they likely sold them. Whether they were auctioned at Ft. Smith, which wasn't the best place to sell that many rifles at once because of the sparse population, or took them to some place like St. Louis or New Orleans to be sold, I don't know. In any event, these rifles could have ended up scattered North, South, and West. Some probably ended up in Texas. The Museum of the Fur Trade has one of these percussion rifles in its collection.

    As an after thought and more related to my previous post than the present post, below is an example of notice of auction of Indian goods from government factories (trading posts) in Green Bay and Chicago when they were closed in 1822. The goods were brought to Detroit to be auctioned. Note there were 19 rifles and 21 fusees (Northwest trade guns) in the auction.
    [​IMG]

    One more connection to Indian Territory and Texas, in the mid- to late-1840s, indigenous traders from Indian Territory acted as middlemen between whites in Missouri and Arkansas and Comanches and Kiowas in Texas. The Comanches and Kiowas were encouraged to raid Texas for horses and cattle and trade them for goods and arms.
     
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  8. Nov 19, 2019 #188

    plmeek

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    Rich, thanks for sharing those pictures. Too bad you didn't get that rifle.

    The OIT and BIA ordered rifles of different grades from Deringer. From the data in Moller's book, I counted that he made 9,684 "common" or "plain" rifles that were brass mounted often with double-bridled locks "and with stars or eagles on the breech [cheekpiece]" for around $12.50 apiece and included "mold, charger, and wiper". Other grades were ordered with descriptions such as "with extra work and finish", "well finished rifles", highly finished with silver bead [front sight] "and with stars or eagles on the breech [cheekpiece]", "best quality" rifle, "best rifles", "fine rifles", "extra fine rifles", "with double trigger", and "highly finished". Prices for these higher grade rifles varied from $22.50 and $35, with one as high as $50. I counted 280 of these higher grade guns made. The rifle you pictured could represent one of these higher grades.

    I showed the pictures you sent me of the rifle to Bob Lienemann and Jack Brooks. Bob was very impressed with the lock and thought it looked very close to the ones J Henry often used on his trade rifles (see below). He especially like the really robust cock with the thick lower jaw. Jack thought the lock could have been original to the rifle because the gap between the lock and mortise was pretty uniform. Of course, he only had the benefit of the picture while you got to inspect it in person.
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Nov 19, 2019 #189

    Einsiedler

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    Thanks Phil!

    Yes the Comanches at the turn of the 18/19 century were the #1 source for wild horses and mules. They raised and bred most of their livestock strictly for the American trade. Natchitoches, being at a crossroads, was the location many filibuster horse traders like Anthony Glass and Philip Nolan started out from. Nolan had strong ties to our infamous General James Wilkinson.

    I seem to also remember a Comanche delegation visiting Natchitoches sometime in the 1770’s and later (1780’s) the Spanish Indian official, Anthanase Demiezieres (sic) forming a punitive expedition against the same Indians, that left Natchitoches for the crosstimbers of north Texas.

    Anthony Glass is remembered for acquiring the "Texas Iron". An extrememly large meteorite they Indians were worshipping as a magical icon. Seems he worked a deal with a tribe that didn’t really "own" the stone. Guns and other plunder were involved in the trade. Meteorite was largest found until like 1912. Still at the Peabody museum at Harvard. But I digress.

    I need to get with an acquaintance and see what he has discovered concerning the firearms coming into Austin’s colony to one of the several mercantile outlets in the 1820-30 timeperiod. He has researched many inventories. See if he has some names.
     
  10. Nov 19, 2019 #190

    Einsiedler

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    Awesome rifle Mr. Pierce! Thanks for sharing!!!!
     
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  11. Nov 20, 2019 #191

    Rudyard

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    The first two locks I bought where old stock he had turned up from a London seller costing 6 pounds each one stamped London the other Warrented both like the one illustrated both Pigeon breasted and such locks are found on New England Militia guns . No doubt any market .My one had no external bridle but was well made the engraving much as the one you illustrate . No doubt if ordered the makers would put whatever name was ordered same as cutlery , tools , and guns, its called' factoring' .There are lots of knives & blades in the US with my name on them but I made only a few knifes & one sword but factored many Bowies & Dirk blades riflemens ect all Sheffield items .If the guns where mostly a Birmingham product. The' Warrented' lock went to the US the 'London' is on a Jager rifle in Queensland some where If this last is recognized let me know . Rudyard
     
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  12. Dec 1, 2019 at 1:22 PM #192

    Einsiedler

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    What do we know about the Astorian’s rifles ???

    I know there’s a little quib in C P Russell’s book. But it’s a bit dated and the info is rather speculative. Curious?
     
  13. Dec 2, 2019 at 6:58 AM #193

    plmeek

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    I don't think there has been any new primary material come to light since C P Russell's book. There has been a better understanding of the type of rifles used in the fur trade and some circumstantial or tangential evidence that's new.

    For example, I don't think Russell, or very many other people, knew about the English made Kentucky trade rifles and their role in the fur trade at the time he was researching and writing his book in the 1960s. George Shumway first published his study of these rifles in a series of articles in The Buckskin Report in 1982. Shumway identified four English made and two American made rifles that he called English Pattern Trade Rifles and classified them as Types A, B, C, D, E, and F. It's very likely that Type D English Pattern Trade Rifles were carried by some of the Astorians.

    [​IMG]

    John Jacob Astor had primarily been a fur merchant prior to the Louisiana Purchase. After Lewis and Clark returned from their expedition, Astor began dreaming of creating a fur trading empire from the mouth of the Columbia River across the Rockies to St. Louis and up the Mississippi and Ohio to the Great Lakes. He began making plans for the Astorian expedition and formed the American Fur Company in 1809 and the Pacific Fur Company in 1810. He knew he needed English trade goods and loaded all he could procure on the Tonquin for the long trip around South America to the Columbia. Astor sent W.P. Hunt, the leader of the overland expedition, to Montreal for more trade goods and men to take them to St. Louis by way of the Great Lakes (Mackinaw) and upper Mississippi River. Included in the trade goods undoubtedly would have been English made NW trade guns and very likely some English Pattern Type D's. The North West Company and the English government had long ago introduced the Types A, B, and C English Pattern Trade Rifles to the Indians in the Old Northwest and the Type D was the latest model to be popular with the Indians. Astor would order Type D's directly from England after the War of 1812.

    Hunt hired more men in St. Louis and picked up a few more up the Missouri River. The men he hired in Montreal and Mackinaw would have mostly been voyageurs and engagés to man the canoes and provide camp labor. In addition to the keel boatmen, Hunt would have hired hunters, trappers, and guides in St. Louis. These men probably provided their own arms. And their rifles would have mostly been Kentucky rifles of the late Lancaster school.

    [​IMG]

    When Lancaster, Pennsylvania was still a frontier town, it established itself as a major trading center for the fur trade. Between the F&I War and AWI, it became the largest rifle producing area in the colonies. After the AWI it still maintained a large rifle and musket producing capacity. Lancaster gunsmiths provided military arms to both the Federal government and the State Militias. They provided most of the 1792/94 Contract Rifles for the US government. They also produced a major portion of the Army's 1807 Contract Rifle. Up to 1806, Lancaster gunsmiths provided 60% of the Indian trade rifles the US government ordered for treaty gifts and annuities and for the government factory system. In between these government contracts, the Lancaster gunsmiths had the capacity and very likely produced trade rifles for merchants and small trading companies.

    Jacob Dickert became a prominent gunsmith during the Revolution and became one of the area's leading gunsmiths after the war. In 1788, a merchant in Lexington, Kentucky advertised "four dickert rifle guns" for sale. This ad is interesting because it shows that the Dickert name was pretty well known as a gun maker on the Kentucky frontier as well as showing that some sort of distribution system had been established by Dickert himself or a wholesale type merchant to get Dickert rifles in quantity to retail merchants along the frontier. Dickert and his Lancaster colleagues, some of the same gunsmiths that worked with him on the government contracts, were undoubtedly providing rifles for Ohio, Kentucky, and possibly, Tennessee frontiersmen.

    Eventually, Lancaster rifles would become so common on the frontier and in the fur trade that the American Fur Company would refer to a particular pattern of rifle in their orders as "American" or "Lancaster" pattern.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 7:03 AM
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  14. Dec 2, 2019 at 1:12 PM #194

    Einsiedler

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    Thanks again Phil. I’ve been re-reading books I read 30-40 years ago! Amazing! Like I never read them!!! Hence new questions and discussions to be thrown about!!!

    As a sidenote. I believe there was a Wheeler trade rifle attributed to Jim Bridger on display at Kit Carson’s house in the 70’s. Type D? I don’t have a clue whats there now. Passed thru Taos again this past summer on way to RMNR. Boy, was that a mistake!!! Tourist central!!!
     
  15. Dec 2, 2019 at 4:14 PM #195

    tenngun

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    Just a thought here, one of the ‘English’ style trade guns pictured by Hanson was built by Henry in Pennsylvania. what made it ‘English’. The stock shape seems generally‘Lancaster style’. The patch box is the same as English military rifles, you can’t see it in the Hanson drawing but I understand it has a oval cheek plate. Are these the features that make it english?
    English fuze was a term for NWTG, some English some from Belgium and some American.
     
  16. Dec 2, 2019 at 4:45 PM #196

    rich pierce

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    The “English pattern” trade rifles made by Henry and others seems to be a convenient designation to distinguish models easily. In this case calling these Pennsylvania-made trade rifles “English pattern” may be based on the patchbox and some similarity to the “Type D” imports from England .
     
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  17. Dec 2, 2019 at 4:47 PM #197

    rich pierce

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    I’ve got a piece of English walnut and have been debating whether to make one of the English trade rifles based on Lancaster rifles of the late 1700s or use it for an English fowling piece. Decisions!
     
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  18. Dec 2, 2019 at 11:57 PM #198

    tenngun

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    Kinda what I was thinking, a cosmetic similarity
     
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  19. Dec 3, 2019 at 2:24 AM #199

    plmeek

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    tenngun, I think you are referring to the Henry "Scroll Guard" trade rifle. It was sometimes referred as the "New English" trade rifle. This is Shumway's Type F. It was a designed and developed by JJ Henry in 1834 and a modification from his "Old English" trade rifle. Henry's "Old English" trade rifle is Shumway's Type E. It is a direct copy of the Type D English Pattern Trade Rifle that was made in England.

    Ok, so I see how this can be confusing. The English copied an American long rifle of the Lancaster school probably before the American Revolution, and English fur traders likely from Montreal were trading it to Indians in the Old Northwest Territories--the Great Lakes Region. The British government ordered some during the AWI to give to their Indian allies during the war. There are three versions of this early English trade rifle that have survived. One version made by Wilson with a wooden patch box and one version made Grice (and Wheeler) with a brass patch box with round finial. The third version was made by Ketland and has a daisy brass patch box. Around 1800, the English changed the pattern to look a little more "military" and used a brass patch box similar to the earlier Grice version. This is also the same style of patch box that they used on the Baker flintlock rifle.

    This is from Shumway's 1982 article and shows the four types of English made trade rifles.
    [​IMG]

    After the AFC placed their first order with JJ Henry for 140 Lancaster pattern trade rifles in January 1826, Henry submitted a sample of his copy of the English made trade rifle (Type D) in the fall of 1826. Astor liked it and placed an order with Henry 120 of Henry's copy of the English made trade rifle. This Henry copy of an English trade rifle is Shumway's Type E. This was a very robust trade rifle with a 6-inch lock, thick wrist, and made for hard service. It proved very popular and John Joseph and his son James made these for the AFC and other fur companies from 1827 until the late 1850s.

    In 1834, JJ Henry submitted a sample of a new pattern he developed that had the stock profile and the 5-inch lock of the Lancaster pattern, but also the round finial patch box and the oval cheekpiece of the English pattern they had been making. It had two new features, namely a 6-inch tang with two tang bolts passing through an extended trigger plate like a Hawken and a scroll trigger guard also like a Hawken. The AFC liked it and began ordering it. It became known as the "New English" or the "Scroll Guard" pattern. This is Shumway's Type F English Pattern Trade Rifle. What makes it English? Only the name that the AFC and Henry gave it and that it combined some of the features of the "Old English" pattern and the Lancaster pattern.

    This image, also from Shumway's aritcle, shows the two types made by the Henrys.
    [​IMG]

    These English Pattern Trade Rifles are cool and suggest all kinds of interesting implications. Unfortunately, documentation on them is scarce. De Witt Bailey and other British researchers have found documentation in British government records of orders placed for them during the AWI and the War of 1812. No documents have turned up of British fur companies ordering them, but both Shumway and Bailey think they must have. And the fur companies probably were ordering them before the government did. There are mentions of rifles in trading house inventories in Canada as well as presents to Indians. It is possible that these are American made rifles, but they are most likely English made rifles ordered by Montreal merchants and later the North West Company and the Michilimackinac Company.

    On possible scenario is that trading companies from the American Colonies were trading American made rifles (mostly from Lancaster gunmakers) to Indians in the Ohio frontier. We know from the Moravian records that their gunsmiths were making and repairing rifles for Indians before the F&I War and after. There are scant records that suggest trading companies were probably doing the same thing. As the Lancaster school fully evolved, rifles from there became one of the most common trade items. English traders from Montreal wanted to dominate the trade in the Old Northwest Territories and saw a need to provide rifles with their trade goods to be able to compete. They sent a sample of an American longrifle from the Lancaster school to England to have it copied. The English system of gun making could produce quantities of guns cheaper than the American gunsmiths could.

    It is interesting that the Wilson made trade rifles with wooden patch box (Type A) and the Grice made trade rifles with the round finial brass box (Type C) both have the same error in the carving behind the cheekpiece. The bottom "C" scroll is missing its left side. The right side is carved in relief, but the left side is only hinted at with a scratch of incise carving (see pictures below). The rest of the carving on the two versions are obviously done by different people but they are the same design. These two builders were clearly using the same pattern rifle to copy. Yet, the Wilson rifle has a wood box and the Grice has a brass box. Why?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Wilson Rifle - Type A
    [​IMG]

    Grice Rifle - Type C
    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Dec 3, 2019 at 2:38 AM #200

    plmeek

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    Bob, I believe the rifle you recall was a J Henry "Old English" trade rifle. A friend studied it back in the 70s or 80s and took photos, measurements, and tracings for a set of blue prints. I thought I had some photos of it that he gave me, but I can't find them at present.

    I don't know if it's still there or not. I might have a chance to stop by there in a week or so. If weather permits, some friends and I are going to Santa Fe to see Jim Gordon's museum and the Kit Carson Hawken at the Masonic Lodge. The trip may be my Christmas present to myself this year!
     
    Einsiedler likes this.

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