Author Topic: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?  (Read 3020 times)

Offline Smokey Plainsman

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Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« on: December 12, 2018, 05:50:42 PM »
Guys, now I’ve been doing some reading on what some call poor boys, others call southern mountains, some barn guns, and there’s plenty of other names, too. But by these words I mean plain, simple, and unadorned flintlock rifles.

Now some are saying that they were the most common types around in “them days”, as it were. The beautiful decorated guns that survive today were well taken care of they say, and the humble barn guns, well they were done “used up” and as many don’t survive today. But others, well they say they were NOT common, not at all, and most every rifle back then made were in fact not plain, and it would’ve been a very rare sight to see one without a complex patchbox, nose cap, side plate, etc.

So what’s the truth? What’s the story?  :o

-Smokey

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2018, 06:55:32 PM »
All depends on where and when.
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Offline oldtravler61

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2018, 07:56:27 PM »
  My confused opion is that none of us were alive back then. So we can only base our knowledge on the remaining examples that exist today. Theirs books but the more you read as you have learned. The more different opions you will see.
  Some builders of long ago we have but one or two examples of what they did. Other's we have several. We can only go by what evidence we have available to form our opinions. Good bad or otherwise.   Let the games begin.
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Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2018, 09:12:41 PM »
I look at it like this, in 1963 Chevrolet built the Corvette, and Ford made the Falcon. Which one cost more? Which one was made for working people? Many more Falcons were made. Of the two  what are there more of around today?
I would suggest that the buyers of both cars worked.
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Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Online WadePatton

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2018, 10:22:49 PM »
We also scavenged this country for metals during WW1 (maybe 2, I forget (oh yeah steel pennies). I used to have a copy of a letter sent out by the gov't begging for metal to help the war effort. I found it in an abandoned building.

And I'd say that such situations may have consumed some of the "marginal" arms of the long distant past.  Say the guy has a couple of breechloaders and some old ratty barn gun and wants to do his patriotic duty by offering scrap for the war...

Plain Jane simply don't get as many dances as Pretty Polly.

Where "dances" equates pictures and prose and protected status.

 :P
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2018, 12:13:38 AM »
I have seen some very finely made, famous maker relic guns from the golden age that until restored, would seem ready for the scrap heap to the average Joe. I think the premise that fancy guns survived depends entirely on the idea that they are found looking like they stepped out of Kindig’s book.
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Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2018, 01:14:58 AM »
I seem to see a lot of "barn guns" or "poor boys". I believe there's a lot of them still around but the guys that own them just don't show them around because they aren't much to look at and they figure nobody wants to see them. Take a look at Bill Ivey's book on NC rifles, lots of plain janes there.
But as Wade pointed out , the scrap drives of WWI & WWII gobbled up a lot of old muzzleloaders, both fancy and plain. Ever notice all the old buttstocks of the early fancy guns survived but without barrels or most of their mounts? Scrap drives.....You'll notice many of them are broke through right at the breach....grab the muzzle of the gun and give it the ol' ax swing and whack! out comes the barrel for the scap drive. The buttstock was so nice in many cases it was laid on a shelf somewhere for decades until "we" discovered it.
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Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Offline BOB HILL

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2018, 03:29:17 AM »
I had a friend bring a very nice buttstock of a S.C. rifle to show me. I’m sure it was built by Reid. He only had the buttstock and it was broken just as Mike has just described. When he was in college he found it sticking out of a trash can on the street. He said he searched for the rest, but it was nowhere to be found. It had a beautifully made and engraved patchbox.
 Bob
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Offline Marcruger

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2018, 05:17:28 AM »
Jim Webb has studied longrifles, especially Appalachian ones, for a long time.  He shared with me that he's seen records of large shipments of "common man" rifles to the mountains.  These batches were from both Salem, NC and Jamestown, NC.   While both areas made some fine bespoke highly decorated guns, they apparently also shipped many unmarked plain rifles to the areas with less affluence in the day.  That shook my mental picture of all mountain rifles being made by individual smiths in small shops back in mountain coves.  It also reminds me that original sources are superior to modern "interpretations" and guesses. God Bless,   Marc

Offline David R.

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2018, 03:33:30 PM »
Meshach Browning in his autobiography, (born in last quarter of 18th century and made his living in the Maryland / Virginia wilderness as a market hunter) talks about trading his plain gun for a fancy one and being disapointed in the performance of the new rifle. He also talked about borrowing his son's caplock when his flint rifle was out of order and loosing the caps in the snow during an encounter with a wildcat (if I remembercorrectly).
About time to read it again, one of my favorites.
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Offline smart dog

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2018, 04:01:51 PM »
Hi,
This particular discussion occurs a lot and often folks conflate time and place, which is what Rich was referring to.  Simple plain jane mountain rifles are from the 19th century.  Many of the plain long rifles from other regions, like PA are also from the 19th century when the fashion for carved rifles waned replaced by plain guns or those with lots of metal inlays.  There are many carved and decorated colonial, Rev War, and golden age (late 18th and very early 19th centuries) guns that show a lot of use and during those periods some decoration was often applied to even the most humble objects.  Why were so many decorated golden age long rifles converted to percussion if they were not being used? A rifle was a major investment and I believe if the owner could afford some decoration to make it distinctive, he asked the gunsmith to include it.  I suspect that if someone could afford a more decorated rifle he would dump his plain gun in a heart beat. Look at Davy Crockett's alleged "first gun". Even rifles supplied to native Americans often were decorated.  Consider the purported Paxinosa rifle that was discussed in this forum.  It is also important to consider that colonial and Rev War period Americans were in general, more prosperous than their European counterparts. Things changed after the war as a series of bad recessions hit the new US.  The flood to the frontiers in  the 19th century also created a demand for trades allowing gunsmiths both skilled and mediocre to make a living.  I believe it was tradition among the skilled and trained makers to do some decorative work regardless.  However, as time passed those makers still steeped in European traditions of gun making died off leaving less formally trained makers in their wake.  Carving is hard and time consuming, which likely is one reason it mostly disappeared.  Metal inlays are quick and  easy once you get the hang of it.  Engraving is hard but most of the engraving (with some great exceptions) on later long rifles looks very crude and unskilled.  Often the metal inlays were left blank.   So, in my opinion, discussing plain versus decorated long rifles without context of time and place is not a very useful discussion.

dave
« Last Edit: December 13, 2018, 04:13:44 PM by smart dog »
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Offline Smokey Plainsman

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2018, 05:39:39 PM »
Thanks, all.

Having a plain rifle made for me by TVM now. Going to have fancy maple, but is browned iron mounted with no entry thimble, nosecap, no side plate, no patch box (but I did ask them to make a grease hole in the stock) and that’s about all. Lock will be a Chamber’s Late Ketland, so the lock is appropriate for the early 19th century.

My question is, is that a farby setup? In otherwards, could such a gun have existed in the old times?

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2018, 06:12:43 PM »
Thanks, all.

Having a plain rifle made for me by TVM now. Going to have fancy maple, but is browned iron mounted with no entry thimble, nosecap, no side plate, no patch box (but I did ask them to make a grease hole in the stock) and that’s about all. Lock will be a Chamber’s Late Ketland, so the lock is appropriate for the early 19th century.

My question is, is that a farby setup? In otherwards, could such a gun have existed in the old times?
Although the web between the barrel and ram rod groove would have been much thinner than TVM's, it would have existed back in the day if it has Appalachia styling. There weren't many Iron mounted rifles made elsewhere.
NEW WEBSITE! www.mikebrooksflintlocks.com
Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Offline Smokey Plainsman

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2018, 10:27:30 AM »
I see. I am drawn to the plain guns, and was hoping mine would be close to PC.

Offline smart dog

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2018, 03:55:19 PM »
Hi Smokey,
It will be a little chunkier than most originals but should be good to go for a 19th century rifle.  I would not try to claim it represents the kind of rifles carried by the "over mountain boys" at Kings Mountain, however.

dave
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Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2018, 05:09:34 PM »
The production rate of SMR’s is unknown, so there is nothing to compare when trying to calculate survival rate. But the shipping records, and production records of Northwest trade guns are known to some degree, and we know that although many were produced, very few survived. You must remember that the areas where these guns were produced suffered greatly during the Civil War, and after. This in itself could drastically reduce the survival rate of something as important as a firearm.

  Hungry Horse

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2018, 05:12:47 PM »
I see. I am drawn to the plain guns, and was hoping mine would be close to PC.
It will be fine. 99% of folks know nothing of correct architecture, and the thick web and plumpness will go unnoticed by nearly all. Besides, this probably only bothers me and nobody else. You should end up with a fine representation of an Appalachia rifle.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2018, 07:02:49 PM by Mike Brooks »
NEW WEBSITE! www.mikebrooksflintlocks.com
Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2018, 06:33:41 PM »
Agree you’ll be fine. Enjoy your new rifle. If or when you want to dive deeper, check out originals or new school plain, iron mounted rifles and find one that really does it for you. Then make or have that one made. It will cost 1.5-2x more though to have made.
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Offline Smokey Plainsman

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2018, 08:00:37 PM »
Thanks so much, gang! You're helping set my mind at ease. Doesn't have to be perfect, but I wanted something a little nicer and more authentic than say a Traditions or Pedersoli. This is my first custom/semi-custom. Really I am not a reenactor, don't do impressions, but am just a humble shooter and hunter. But, I do want my "kit" to be a close to historically correct for an early 19th century southern woodsman.

Offline oldtravler61

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2018, 01:46:57 AM »
  Smokey if you ever get to one of the smr gun show. Let me know how many you see that are identical. You will see similarities between butt plates and trigger guards. But the stock similarities very. But I'm no expert. Maybe C.C.G. will chime in. He knows his southern guns.   Oldtravler

Offline Molly

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2018, 04:19:29 AM »
SO, getting back to the initial topic....

Is one to presume that poor boy rifles were made in the same numbers as moderate to highly embellished rifles?  I would, with no hard evidence to support it, say no.  Thus, right out of the gate, there were fewer made so naturally fewer survived.  The idea that future generations of owners did not see them as worth preservation is also something I can accept.  I'm not ready to say the they were "used up" to any greater degree that any other gun.  And I tend to feel that many remained and still remain, hidden away because the were or are not visually appealing.  And there is also not a lot of value associated with them as measured against the embellished works combined with makers who are not as highly regarded....so they remain "just an old gun".
« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 04:27:53 AM by Molly »

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2018, 04:25:59 AM »
All depends on when and where. That can be VERY locale- and time-dependent.  Like Berks County versus Lancaster County in the 1830s or so. 
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Offline hanshi

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2018, 01:43:04 AM »
I will only comment on scrap collected during wars.  Decorative wrought iron fences at one time were quite common especially in the South and the "wealthier" neighborhoods in many areas.  Probably 90% of them were melted down during The War Between the States.  Anything not critical for survival or genuine heirlooms was collected for the war effort.  So again in WWI and WWII the same thing happened all over again.  I imagine these were the black holes down which many old arms met their fate.
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Offline Molly

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2018, 04:59:00 PM »
This link:

https://www.nber.org/papers/w13418

will take you to an interesting but lengthy article on the scrap drives of WWII and it will confirm the above belief that many historic articles went to the melting pot.  But it also shows that the consequences of the drives had little effect on the "normal" flow of scrap. 

   "If the drives were important it was through their impact on civilian morale."

The positive impact on civilian morale was the same if one gave up great grandads old gun or the hood to the Model A laying behind the barn...just my personal opinion.  Besides there really are a lot of old guns in the market if you think about it. 

I still lean to think fewer were made thus fewer are around.  It also seems fewer collectors relish in a original barn rifle vs the work of one the likes of  Isaac Berlin, etc.. (Not to mention the gap in prices.)

Offline Clint

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Re: Rarity of “Poor Boys”?
« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2018, 05:47:02 AM »
We certainly can't deny that scrap drives gobbled up a lot of cool stuff, that makes what's left more valuable. In contrast to that is the story about cannon barrels, loaded up onto freight trains, at the end of the civil war that were refused by the U.S. govt. In order to survive the cancellation, many foundries in the North East re puddled the cannons and poured cast iron fencing. Many of the cast fences in the area were produced and peddled in the 1870's, and often replaced the wrought iron fences, consumed at the height of the war.