Author Topic: John Mason Fowler  (Read 18396 times)

elee

  • Guest
John Mason Fowler
« on: November 06, 2012, 03:10:30 AM »
Hello; I have just acquired a percussion John Mason fowler. 20 Ga., 45" barrel, back action percussion lock, iron under-rib, cherry half-stock, horn forend tip, brass guard and butt plate, signed on the barrel "J. Mason". In trying to research this fowler, I note that John Mason worked from 1797 to 1843, starting in Sherborn, MA., ending in Shrewsbury, MA. This is a family gun, passed down to me from the ancestral Flagg family farm in Worcester, MA. It is in remarkable condition, maintaining original stock finish, aged but not corroded barrel and lock finish. The nipple is free, bore is fine. While I do not intend to shoot it, I believe it is in shootable condition. The provenance of the gun is such that I do not doubt in any way that this a completely original late John Mason fowler in amazing condition. It hung over my Grandfather's fireplace since about 1947. Prior to that it was in my Great-Grandfather's collection, having been passed to him by the original Flagg family owner, I believe my great great grandfather. I can research the family connection further if need be. My question is this: this is a percussion gun with a back action lock. If J. Mason died in 1843, this must be a very late gun. Do any other site members know of any J. Mason fowlers in percussion? Would anyone be interested in photos if I take the time to take them? Can anyone further my research of this gun? The architecture of the gun is superb. If there is any interest in J. Mason fowlers among group members, I will be happy to post photos, measurements, whatever. I have no interest in selling...I am posting purely because I think this a unique gun that may further limited knowledge of J. Mason guns, and would love to learn more about it through the knowledge of this group. Thank you for your interest!
    Elee

Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2012, 03:34:08 AM »
Yes by all means post your pictures.We want to see it. Also click the link below & search this site for more info on John Mason
http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/index.php?topic=17090.0

Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2012, 03:55:01 AM »
elee, Another thing, if you do not have a copy of Flintlock Fowlers By Tom Grinslade, you might want to pick up a copy. I think he has some info on Mason and pictures of a fowler or two that John Mason made.....
« Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 04:29:37 AM by Avlrc »

Offline JV Puleo

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 630
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2012, 04:00:57 PM »
I've had 3 or 4 Mason guns, including a fabulous fowler and a buck & ball gun. I think I still have a half stock rifle... all were flintlocks (2 were converted) and fairly conventional ones, although very well made. Is it possible you have a slightly later gun that re-used a Mason marked barrel? Mine all appeared to be marked with the same "J. Mason" stamp on the top of the barrel. I don't think that 1843 is out of the question for a back-action lock percussion fowler but he must have been pretty old by then so I wonder if he was still in business...

Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

  • Library_mod
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2079
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2012, 05:55:11 PM »
Here is a link to several New England guns in the Museum that might be helpful to you , as well.

http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/index.php?board=348.0

Hurricane

elee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2012, 01:29:23 AM »
Thanks for the responses. I am trying to upload pics..hope it works! I am unsure if this could be a later gun using an older Mason barrel..but I doubt it. Everything looks too "right" with the gun. I had difficulty photographing the signature close up, I will try and do it in the future. What do you all think?







Offline Bob Roller

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5664
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2012, 01:33:12 AM »
Regardless of maker,it is a fine looking gun and one to be proud of.

Bob Roller

Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2012, 02:46:17 AM »
Thanks for sharing. Awesome cond. This might be one of the last guns made by Mason, could even be the last. I have a late gun or two and always wonder if  they were the last gun to be built by that maker.

elee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2012, 03:18:21 AM »
Bear with me..this might be a long post. I was interested by JV Puleo's post about the possibility of the Mason being a a later gun built around an earlier barrel. So, I took a closer look at the gun with "fresh eyes". I note the following: The barrel ahead of the breech plug shows noticeable pitting from age. The adjoining breech plug shows far less. There is an engraved pattern on the barrel on either side of the signature. On close examination, it appears that this engraving is cut off slightly where the barrel joins the breech plug, indicating that the breech was shortened slightly to accommodate a new plug. Those facts lead me to believe that JV Puleo is correct in his assumption that this is a gun made by a different maker, utilizing an older J. Mason barrel. Now for the interesting part. I have another gun..a 17 ga. SxS percussion shotgun by Luke Wheelock of Worcester Mass. This is an incredible piece. In perfect condition, it has browned damascus barrels by Leopold of Paris, dated 1846. The stock is intensely figured walnut, the butt plate, trigger guard, lock plates, and ramrod pipe are all of coin silver. The pins on the lock are bushed to allow use of steel pins in the softer silver plates. I inherited the Wheelock gun about five years ago, the Mason just three days ago, both from the same family provenance, original owner George Flagg of Worcester Mass, ca. 1850. I have never seen the two guns side by side until, due to JV Puleos post, a bell went off when I was examining the Mason. I went to the safe and got the Wheelock..and was stunned. The hammers are virtually identical. The stock architecture is identical. The finials on the tang and trigger guard are identical. The fences on the breech plugs are incredibly alike. I feel it virtually certain that both those guns were in fact made by Luke Wheelock in Worcester, Mass, about 1850. There is a good probability that My Great great grandfather George Flagg was a friend, associate, or benefactor of Luke Wheelock's, and purchased both guns from him. While it is disappointing that the Mason is not a Mason, I am thrilled to recognize the connection between these two guns, which have been separated for over 60 years. By chance, they were both passed on to me from different members of the same family, and it never occur to me that they could be by the same maker. While I cannot prove this, if you saw the two together you would agree. Thanks to JV Puleo for planting the seed ended with this discovery. Now I need to further my research into Luke Wheelock. I do know that he later became involved in the the design and manufacture of the Spencer repeating rifle. Thanks to all for your posts and your interest!
     Elee

Offline snyder

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 857
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2012, 10:15:36 PM »
By the 1850s a lot of mounts, etc. were commercially available and different makers in the same general area might have purchased them from the same source.  Just a point to remember.  Identical stock architecture is, however, another matter an probably a better indication of being made by the same hand than the mounts.

Tom

EFLee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2012, 05:40:50 PM »
Interesting theory and you are probably correct, however there is at least one alternative explanation.  Luke Wheelock was born in Sutton, MA (a couple of towns south of Worcester) in 1828. The 1850 Worcester Directory lists him as a gunsmith with a place of business at Ware's. Orlando and Joseph Sanger Ware were gunsmiths working in Worcester - Washburn's Industrial Worcester states that they were in business as early as 1825 and that in 1833 Joseph S. Ware was in partnership with John Morse, Jr. on Main Street "where guns, rifles, fowling-pieces, and muskets were made to order." The 1845 Directory places the Wares at 145 Main Street. It is likely that Wheelock learned his trade there. Orlando Ware died of consumption in 1851 and Joseph in 1869. The 1860 Directory lists Luke Wheelock as a gunsmith on Front Street. He would have been 23 at the time of Orlando Ware's death and that may have been the point at which he went into business for himself. His name appears in the June 1863 draft registration records for Worcester, however the 1865 New Haven Directory places him at 36 Dixwell Avenue in that city. This suggests that he moved to New Haven between 1863 and 1865 which is consistent with his purported employment by Christopher Spencer to oversee production of Spencer repeating rifles.

Orlando and Joseph Sanger Ware were brothers, born in Sherborn MA to Alpheus and Polly Ware in 1800 and 1807 respectively. Alpheus Ware's sister Betsey was married to gunsmith John Mason, Junior who was born across the river in Medfield in 1775. Mason died in Shrewsbury (immediately east of Worcester) in 1843 but given the familial, professional, and geographic proximity between all of these people it is likely that there was a high degree of interaction between them.

In summary, the connections between your two guns and their maker or makers run a good deal deeper than you might think.  Are there stylistic similarities between guns made by the Wares and those made by Wheelock or Mason's later work?  It would certainly be interesting to find one or two for comparative study.



« Last Edit: November 08, 2012, 06:00:23 PM by EFLee »

EFLee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2012, 06:27:47 PM »
A couple of afterthoughts...

First, Luke Wheelock seems to have had a secondary business as a pump maker. The record of his marriage to Jane Shackley on December 10, 1851 lists his occupation as such, and he is listed as such in the 1854 Worcester Directory. Christopher Spencer's corporate assets were ultimately acquired by Oliver Winchester for whom Wheelock was working in 1870. The 1876 Winchester rifle is based upon a patent granted to Wheelock in 1871 and assigned to Winchester.

Luke Wheelock died on January 13, 1907 at the Worcester Insane Hospital in Worcester, MA. His death record lists his occupation as gunsmith and the cause of death as arterial sclerosis with organic dementia of more than four years duration. He was buried in Millbury, MA on January 17, 1907.

Finally, with respect to the provenance of your two guns, George Flagg's father Elisha Flagg (1780-1853) was a baker and prominent businessman in Worcester. The 1848 Worcester Tax Record indicates that he was living at 126 Main Street and had a taxable estate of $15,000 which was quite large for the time. The Wares, you will recall, were in business at 145 Main Street. Were they friends?  We may never know, but Elisha was certainly a contemporary of Mason and George a contemporary of Luke Wheelock. Whoever rebuilt the Mason did not sign their work.  Did Elisha have the Wares or Wheelock refit an older Mason fowler?  Perhaps, although that seems a frugal gesture given his apparent means.  If guns could only talk...
« Last Edit: November 08, 2012, 08:41:11 PM by EFLee »

elee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2012, 12:04:07 AM »
OK..I am more than a little impressed with your knowledge and research! Both guns are being taken tomorrow to a noted expert in antique firearms. I will be interested in hearing his opinion as to the similarities in the two guns. Thanks for the incredibly informative post!
        Elee

EFLee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2012, 04:42:53 PM »
Thanks!  The gentleman to whom you are showing it will probably have a few additional insights. If you dismantle it keep an eye out for attributable markings on the interior, and why not post your photos along with those of your Wheelock double in the library here so that others can benefit from our research? There have to be more Luke Wheelock guns out there somewhere...

Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2012, 05:59:16 PM »
« Last Edit: November 16, 2012, 10:55:06 PM by Avlrc »

EFLee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2012, 05:21:16 PM »
Please post some photographs of your Luke Wheelock double in the New England section of the Library on this site - if you are correct in your attribution (and I suspect that you are) then it would be helpful to have comparative information for future study.  This is certainly an interesting gun...the person who rebuilt it did not sign his work, which leads me to speculate that it was done while he was an apprentice.  If it was, in fact, Wheelock then it was probably rebuilt prior to 1850 - at which point the rebuilt product was already techologically obsolete by virtue of its barrel length.  Whether the customer was Elisha Flagg or his son George, they thought enough of the original gun to effectively have a new one built around the barrel.  Curious.

diesel112

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2014, 09:50:24 PM »
ELEE if you are still on please contact me. I have questions about the Wheelock gun. He was a relative of mine

Dan

Offline JTR

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3230
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2014, 10:18:57 PM »
ELEE if you are still on please contact me. I have questions about the Wheelock gun. He was a relative of mine

Dan

He was last here on March 8, 2014, so maybe he'll be back and see your comment. Or,
click on his name in the post above yours, and that'll take you to a page that has his email address.
John
« Last Edit: October 14, 2015, 05:32:22 PM by JTR »
John Robbins

EFLee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2015, 05:27:53 AM »
Sorry...haven't checked this in a long time, but I can answer questions about the fowler if you still have them.

The Rambling Historian

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2015, 04:07:03 PM »
Can you share pictures of the two guns together or photos of the second gun so we can compare it to the once you have already shared?

EFLee

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2015, 03:33:44 PM »
I own only the one already shown. If you will send me a PM (eleejr@verizon.net) I will provide you with the email address for the owner of the other shotgun (a family member and the person who initiated this discussion). 

The Rambling Historian

  • Guest
Re: John Mason Fowler
« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2015, 04:05:36 PM »
Thats alright. I just thought it might be interesting for us all to see the two side by side if you had pictures available. It is a fine looking piece for sure. Your photography is very good as well and really shows off the gun. I particularly like the second photo.