Author Topic: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols  (Read 16283 times)

Offline mbriggs

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Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« on: May 04, 2012, 12:33:27 AM »
Over the years I have purchased a number of Jamestown Rifles that featured Masonic Symbols for inlays.  I believe that the makers catered to that trade.

Here is a wonderful J.M. Wood Longrifle with a Masonic G on one side.





This same rifle has a Masonic Star on the cheek rest side.




Here is a Jamestown Rifle by Anderson Lamb with Masonic Symbol and Star











Here is a Jamestown Rifle by Judd Franklin Ledbetter with a Masonic Symbol





Each of these Longrifles has one or two Masonic Symbols.  In 2010, my friend Kenneth Orr found a great Jamestown rifle
by Thomas Fletcher Merritt that is featured in Bill Ivey's book as rifle #81. The rifle was covered in Masonic Symbol Inlays.
I had never seen anything like it before.

In February I was doing some searching on google and found this Longrifle by William Lamb & Son.  I was interested because this
is a rare signature.  William Lamb had two sons, Henry Clarkson Lamb was born in 1829 and Jesse G. Lamb was born in 1831.
William Lamb made Henry a full partner in his business in 1855. Their barrel stamp was changed to W. Lamb & Son.
In 1857, Jesse was made a partner and the barrel stamp was changed to W. Lamb & Sons.  The & Sons signature is commonly found.
This is only the second & Son signature that I have seen.  

I found out this rifle was for sale in Kentucky.  I requested photos and after receiving them purchased the rifle.  It is very similiar to the
rifle that Kenneth Orr found.

I have been told that every inlay on this rifle is a Masonic Symbol.

























I only study North Carolina Longrifles and have not seen symbols like these on Longrifles from other
Schools in this state.

Please tell me what you think of these and if you find Longrifles from other states with these symbols?

Thanks,

Michael
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 12:41:33 AM by mbriggs »
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Offline Loudy

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2012, 01:07:21 AM »
Michael,

Thank you for sharing these great photos.  Very interesting topic.  Below is a newspaper story regarding a masonic emblem decorated longrifle made by gunsmith John Dreisbach in Union / Snyder County, PA.  I hope you find it as interesting as I did when I first came across it.

Mark Loudenslager

Story originally published in the “Mifflinburg Telegraph” newspaper, Mifflinburg, PA on Thursday November 5, 1953

Mifflinburg’s Gunsmith Shop by Dr. Charles M. Steese

One of the better known of the early Pennsylvania industries was the rifle shop or gunsmith shop.  Here the famous Pennsylvania Rifles, sometimes erroneously called “Kentucky Rifles” were made.  In the early days, one ordered a rifle much the same as today we order a suit of clothes.  The gunsmith had in his shop all types of designs with which the stock of the rifle could be ornamented.  One of these could be selected, or as often was the case the customer had individual ideas about the ornamentation.  Often a religious symbol, an astronomical shape or fraternal emblem was used for the brass, or mother-of-pearl ornament on the stock.  While many of the early gunsmiths had shops in which both the gun barrels were bored and the rifle made up, there were some who only did the boring. 

The famous Dreisbach Gunshop in Buffalo Valley was established in the village of Mifflinburg in 1793 by John Dreisbach, a son-in-law of Elias Youngman the founder of the town, and a son of Martin Dreisbach for whom the well known Buffalo Valley Church was named.  Prior to 1793 John Dreisbach had conducted a small shop on his father’s farm in Buffalo Township. 

The shop in Mifflinburg was located on what is now South Fifth Street, first across the alley from the old Elias Church which was built some years later.  This shop boasted of a gun boring department, a cabinet shop where stocks were made and a blacksmith shop.  Long after the gunsmith shop disappeared a part of the old building remained and was used as a blacksmith shop, and in times within the memory of many as a paint shop. 

Dreisbach was assisted in the gun making by not only his two sons, but by a number of other workmen.  During the peak of his industry he is said to have had a payroll of seven.  When he died, one of his sons conducted the shop for a time on a somewhat smaller scale, and finally mover the establishment to another location.  In the original Dreisbach shop many of the rifles used by the local militia companies who took part in the War of 1812 were made, as were many others used for hunting.  These rifles can still be found in many Central Pennsylvania homes where they are cherished as prized heirlooms.

Just before the death of the elder Dreisbach gunsmith in 1823, a customer from Milton had left an order for a rifle, the stock to be decorated with a Masonic emblem.  The barrel for this gun was bored before John Dreisbach died, but the work of assembling it had not been completed.  After several fruitless trips the customer was at last told when he might finally be able to get his rifle.  But before that time arrived he died and no one came to claim this specially decorated gun.  It hung on the wall in the Dreisbach shop unsold, for many years.  Finally on day in 1834 a customer purchased it.  The ornamentation on the stock did not exactly suit him, but the barrel was a fine one and the sights were perfect.

It will be remembered that this was one of the years of the famous Anti-Masonic political battles.  The issue of secret organizations had been made a state-wide political issue.  The feelings were high on both sides.  At that time there were no Masonic Lodges in the valley.  When the new owner of the rifle stopped at one of the town’s taverns for refreshment following his purchase, and his gun ornament was noticed, he was greeted with silence from the men gathered in the tavern.  Next door was a store at which he also had an errand.  After his return to the tavern he retrieved his rifle and journeyed home.  You can imagine his surprise when he displayed the rifle to his family, to find the fraternal emblem missing.  He had no idea what might have happened to it.  As he reasoned, the inlayed emblem might have dropped out anywhere along his way from the gunshop via the tavern, to his home.

Several weeks later on another trip to Mifflinburg he made inquiry at both Dreisbach’s and at the tavern, but did not find the missing emblems.  This story was told to the writer in his boyhood days by “Popsie” Dreisbach, a grandson of old John, who asserted that one of the ardent Anti-Masons who happened to be in the tavern that day back in 1834, had pried the emblem loose from the gun stock and pocketed it. 

“Popsie” proudly exhibited the missing ornament which he kept on a shelf in his kitchen.  He then lived in a small, one roomed house at the edge of the cemetery in Mifflinburg, not far from his grandfather’s original shop.  The boys were wont to stop at his place on their way to and from school to hear stories and to see his relics.  When he died the writer went to the public sale of his few effects, but the emblem above referred to was not among the articles sold.  Evidently before his death, someone had persuaded him to part with the relic.   


Offline Ken G

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2012, 03:15:17 AM »
Micheal,
Thanks for posting the pics.  The Lamb and Son is exceptional! 
I have seen a few rifles with Masonic symbols.  They were from various parts of the country.  There's one in the Library from Iowa.  http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/index.php?topic=2708.0  None are as beautiful and elaberate as this one. 
Around 1827 there was a big anti-masonic movement in the New York area that spread across the country.  You don't see as many late rifles with Masonic symbols that would be noticeable to a non-Mason.  The symbols are of a more obscure nature. 
When do you think this gun was made?
Cheers,
Ken
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Offline Ken G

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2012, 03:24:23 AM »
Seems strange to me the symbols are screwed on rather than nailed like normal inlays.  They are inlays......not surface mounted?  Are screwed inlays normal for rifles from this area?
Thanks,
Ken
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 04:01:47 AM by Ken G »
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Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2012, 03:47:44 AM »
Recently Mike Simens had a non-NC rifle for sale with a Masonic Symbol inlay. I am unable to locate the one I remember on his website.
Hurricane

Offline Shreckmeister

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2012, 04:27:42 AM »
I have the patch box from a peter white rifle that has a masonic compass on it.   I previously posted photos on this forum
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Offline Ken G

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2012, 04:30:23 AM »
Michael,
Here's a rifle you may find interesting and it's as decorated as yours.  Just scroll down a bit there are 6 pictures down the page
Ken

http://www.grandlodgeoftexas.org/node/1060
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 04:31:39 AM by Ken G »
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Offline Buck

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2012, 04:39:02 AM »
MBriggs,
Great rifles, the symbolism on the last rifle is as good as it gets. Just a tidbit, Masonry is not a trade. I have a friend that has a rifle from the same school and it is also adorned with Masonic Symbolism much like the first 2 rifles. Thank you for posting them.

Buck

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2012, 04:42:34 AM »
Rob,
I remeber the patchbox you posted, I recall it only had the compass, but had a finial in the shape of a tongue of fire. Also symbolic.
Buck

Offline smokinbuck

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2012, 05:15:24 AM »
P.A. Reinhart of Loudonville, Ohio often used masonic symbols on his rifles. I had one that had masonic symbols on either end of his name, on the barrel.
Mark
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Offline mbriggs

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2012, 09:41:35 PM »
Loudy,
Thanks for sharing the original document.  I have been lucky enough to find a number of original Jamestown School Documents.  William Lamb had a cousin who was a gunsmith in this School named Jehu C. Lamb.  Most of his neighbors called him "Jay".  (I own the only signed longrifle by him that I have seen to date but I expect more are out there.)

Jay Lamb not only made rifles but traveled the South in 1859 - 1861 in a wagon taking orders for Jamestown Rifles.  When he got an order he would write William Lamb and tell him what he had sold and where to ship the rifles.  I met Jay Lamb's grandaughter in the 90's.  She had a box filled with letters  written from Jay Lamb to William Lamb and a couple from William Lamb back to Jay Lamb.  The letters were written in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.  I was able to gain a lot of helpful information from them.

Ken,
You asked several questions.  The rifle would have been made between 1855 and 1857 to have that name stamped on it.  Jamestown inlays are usually put on with large silver headed tacks or inlaid with screws like you see on the rifles posted above so either is correct.

I was very impressed with the Longrifle at the Grand Masonic Lodge in Texas.  I would enjoy seeing it in person.

That leaves me with this question, would the William Lamb & Son rifle I provided photos of above have been made for a 32 degree Mason or could it have been made as a presentation piece for a Masonic Lodge?  What do you think?

Michael  
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 09:43:55 PM by mbriggs »
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Offline Sequatchie Rifle

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2012, 11:02:37 PM »
Michael,
I'm going to chime in on this one, if you don't mind.  I doubt it would have been presented to a lodge though, as it would just sit in a show case or on a wall and a lot of the earlier lodges shared a building with other organizations.  I'd bet it was made for well-respected Worshipful Master as a gift to commemorate his committment to the craft.
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Offline louieparker

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2012, 11:58:05 PM »
 I have a silver mounted rifle by an Ohio maker, R Patton ..I bought this rifle in Steelville Missouri, (in about 74)    from a great great grand daughter of JJ Upchurch. Upchurch was the founder of the Ancient Order of United workmen. This was a fraternal organization founded in 1868  that had 320,000 members from coast to coast..This rifle was presented to him by one of the lodges. She thought by the Steelville lodge but no proof of where , But it was presented to the lodge founder and is decorated with symbols of the lodge ..One is the trowel and one the square and compass,,I know very little about Masonic symbols but am told these are not the same as the masonic symbols..The difference I can see the square has one long leg.. So some of these rifles with symbols were presented to lodge official.. No record can be found where Upcurch was ever a mason....    Louie

Offline Ken G

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2012, 01:17:32 AM »
That leaves me with this question, would the William Lamb & Son rifle I provided photos of above have been made for a 32 degree Mason or could it have been made as a presentation piece for a Masonic Lodge?  What do you think?
Michael  

I'm rather sure it would not have been presented to a lodge.  If so, it would still be in the Lodge. There's no reason for it to ever leave the Lodge and would have become a prized possesion.    
It most likely was a presentation piece from lodge members to a leader of the lodge or someone who had been active in the lodge for many years as Bill suggested.
Ken

P.S.  Great rifle.  Thanks again for posting the pics
« Last Edit: May 05, 2012, 01:18:47 AM by Ken G »
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Offline Buck

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2012, 03:04:25 AM »
MBriggs,
In regards to your question concerning the rifle possibly that of a 32nd degree (Scottish Rite); No, there aren't any symbols on the rifle symbolising the 32nd degree, but that does not mean the owner was not in the Scottish Rite. Is there any engraving on the lid of the patch box ?

Brother Sequatchie Rifle & Ken G
Agreed, it would have been a dedicated Brother or possibly a Past Master, although the working tools and especially the tools around the patch box do not signify a Past Master. Then again the symbols have been changed over the years. I would agree, if it was dedicated to a Lodge it would remain as permanent furniture of the Lodge.

Louie,
The difference in the length of the square would not make a difference. I would opine that the fraternity that you speak of was possibly an appendant body of the Masonic Fraternity. Probably Operative Masons, meaning that you are a tradesman (operative) and a Free Mason (speculative). Be well.

Buck

 

Offline mbriggs

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2012, 07:20:52 PM »
Buck,
The lid on the cap box has no engraving.

Michael
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Offline Ken G

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2012, 06:34:39 PM »

Jay Lamb not only made rifles but traveled the South in 1859 - 1861 in a wagon taking orders for Jamestown Rifles.  When he got an order he would write William Lamb and tell him what he had sold and where to ship the rifles.  I met Jay Lamb's grandaughter in the 90's.  She had a box filled with letters  written from Jay Lamb to William Lamb and a couple from William Lamb back to Jay Lamb.  The letters were written in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.  I was able to gain a lot of helpful information from them.
Michael  
Michael,
That's very interesting that his guns were shipped that far.  My mind went to working.......I can easily picture someone receiving a rifle from W. Lamb in AL, TN or other parts.  Someone else sees it and goes to a local gunsmith for a similar looking gun.  The local gunsmith makes it and likes a few of the traits.  His next rifle incorporates the things he liked.  
 
« Last Edit: May 07, 2012, 06:35:12 PM by Ken G »
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Offline mbriggs

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2012, 10:37:06 PM »
Ken,
I still find it amazing the impact that the Jamestown Longrifle School had on other makers.  They put at least six of the other eight Longrifle Schools in North Carolina out of business.   Between 1810 and 1902, I have documented 88 men working in this School and I am sure that there were many others I have not identified as well as journeymen who worked here for a short time.  My best guess after looking at the Census of Manufacturing records is that they made at least 20,000 rifles. This is not bad for a community that never had more than 500 residents at any one time.  I have owned over 120 Jamestown Rifles over the last 32 years and have seen around 1,000 of them.  I figure that if only 25% survive, there are at least 4,000 of them out there that I have not seen.  This keeps me excited and looking forward to the future.

I have found Jamestown Longrifles all over the United States.  I have purchased them in New England, the Midwest, and Deep South.  There are 3 Jamestown Rifles on display at the J. Davis Gun Museum in Oklahoma and one on display at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Wyoming.  I believe they advertised a lot and did a good mail order business.  

Jay Lamb as I mentioned in the letters sold 100 Longrifles to a man named Hopkins who owned a general store in Marion, Alabama in the Spring of 1861.  Most of those were sold for use in the 20th Alabama Regiment which Hopkins had joined.  Hopkins would be killed at the Battle of Champion Hill during the Vicksburg Campaign.  1/2 of those 100 rifles would be signed W. Lamb & Sons, and 1/2 signed H. Wright according to a letter from William Lamb.  My first question was what type of rifles did Jay Lamb sell them? Were they Longrifles or military style rifles by H.C. Lamb & Co?  Hopkins was kind of enough to answer my question in a second letter.  He said "If with the blessing of God we should return safe from the war, I would like to carry on our business as usual for nearly all the rifles that I have sold are at present in the use of the Confederate service and ruined as for country use.  I have at least a dozen bespoken in this company already".

Jay Lamb also sold a man in Louisiana 20 Jamestown Rifles including one with a barrel 52" long for match shoots.  I would like to find that one. (Smile)    
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 02:18:00 AM by mbriggs »
C. Michael Briggs

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2012, 11:54:20 PM »
Excellent details Michael.  Thanks for providing them.  Especially the specifics on there use in the War, and specifically an Alabama unit.  I live in Huntsville, Alabama and have been told the 20th was headquartered here.
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Offline Ken G

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2012, 01:10:54 AM »
I was riding down the road today thinking about this thread and suddenly it hit as to why, well maybe why, I have seen the double based front sight in TN when it is clearly a Jamestown trait.  
I think it was Jerry Nobles that had a rifle in one of his books with a double based sight made in the Chattanooga area.  

I see it, I like it, I copy it.  
Ken
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 01:11:20 AM by Ken G »
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Offline mbriggs

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2012, 06:16:54 PM »
Ken,
I have seen double based front sights on several rifles that were not made in North Carolina.  I have also seen rifles from other states with three screw barrel tangs.  Both features I think were copied from the Jamestown School.  I do find Jamestown School Longrifles that do not have either of those features.  Around 70% of all of the Jamestown rifles that I have seen have the double based front sight, 30% a single base.  Around 90% have the three screw barrel tang, 10% only have two screw tangs and all of the early rifles I have seen by Thaddeus Gardner have single screw tangs.   

Michael
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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2012, 07:46:15 PM »
Thaddeus was a rebel!!
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Offline Curt J

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2012, 05:13:01 AM »
Henry P. Brunker, gunmaker at Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois, also used a Masonic compass & square on some of his rifles. He was an excellent workman, who arrived here in 1848 from New York state. I have seen between sixty and seventy of his rifles, and own 22 of them. Only three had the Masonic compass & square in the center of his name stamp.  Brunker was himself a 32nd degree Mason.  I'm inclined to believe that only rifles he made for a brother Mason were marked this way.


Offline mbriggs

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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2012, 05:55:47 PM »
Tim,
I think Thaddeus was just early.  He was born in Guilford County in 1774.  If he became a master gunsmith by age 21 in 1795, that would mean the first 15 years he worked as a gunsmith there was no Jamestown School.  The other local gunsmiths Matthew Osborne, Craft Jackson and David Grose were all still working in the Early Deep River School style.  Thaddeus in my opinion had more influence than any other local gunsmith in creating what became the Jamestown School which started gradually around 1810 and was not fully developed until around 1820.  I own two Thaddeus Gardner signed rifles, one is the earliest I have seen, the other I believe is the best surviving example.  I have only seen a total of five signed rifles by him.  All have single screw barrel tangs.  Thaddeus Gardner had three sons William, Bartlett, and Grafton.  All became gunsmiths and worked for him.  Thaddeus was disowned in 1814 by Deep River Monthly Meeting for repeated profanity and failing to mend his ways after repeated warnings. He had a sister named Mary Lamb (nee Gardner) who was disowned by the same Quaker church in 1805 for marrying out of meeting.  In 1806 she gave birth to a son who she named William.  William Lamb would apprentice under his uncle and partner with him for a year around 1827 and would go on to become the leading gunsmith in the school  

There are a couple of mysteries with Thaddeus Gardner.  I know that he worked full time as a gunsmith for over 50 years.  He died in 1851 and is buried at Deep River Meeting Graveyard. (They must have accepted him back at some point).  He took out an advertisement in a Charlotte Newspaper 1836 saying that he had "Rifle Guns for Sale, 40 to 50 on hand, neatly mounted with brass or silver, which he will sell on accommodating terms."  The 1850 Census of Manufacturing states that his water powered barrel mill was producing 200 rifle barrels per year and his gun shop which was still in operation was selling 100 completed rifles per year and selling the other 100 barrels to other gunsmiths. Mystery #1 is why have only five signed rifles by him surfaced to date?  All five I have seen are full-stock, flintlock rifles, four of them have patchboxes. Mystery #2 is if his shop was still selling 100 completed rifles a year in 1850, why have no signed half-stock, percussion rifles ever surfaced in this area?  I have no answers.    

Curt,
Thank you for posting that photo.  I have not seen a barrel stamped with a Masonic symbol before.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2012, 10:51:06 PM by mbriggs »
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Re: Longrifles with Masonic Symbols
« Reply #24 on: May 10, 2012, 05:57:52 PM »
In considering this topic, I can recall a few rifles that had Masonic elements in their ornamentation. One was a very fine John Derr gun that had a number of symbols, including the conpass motif on the patchbox lid. Another rifle of an unremembered PA school had quite a number of these symbols and it may have started out as flint as it seems that it had been  a cut-back. The only other one was the L. Fondersmith 'Dragon' gun which had raised carving and a number of highly unusual inlays and engraved designs that the owner of that time believed were Masonic. Not being familiar with the Masonic Lodge, I was not in a position to question that finding. This gun is shown in one of Whisker's books, one of his two "Behold..."
volumes, if memory serves. Of these three, the latter would be the earliest, perhaps in the very late 1700s. Where these pieces are today is not known.
Dick