Author Topic: presentation hawken rifles ??.  (Read 1574 times)

Offline ron w

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presentation hawken rifles ??.
« on: February 02, 2019, 06:20:11 PM »
are there any known and/or existing examples of Hawken rifles that were built as presentation guns ?  fitted with all silver furniture and/or extremely fancy wood ?.

Offline sqrldog

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2019, 06:36:17 PM »
Yes do an internet search for Moses White Hawken rifle.

Offline Bob Roller

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2019, 08:11:53 PM »
I saw a fine silver mounted J&S (I think)in the Hawken Shop when Art Resell owned it.
The hammer was broken and the silver seemed to be an overlay on the trigger guard
and but plate.It also had nice wood. This may have been in 1978 as I recall.

Bob Roller

Offline Mtn Meek

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2019, 08:38:43 PM »
Here is a link to one.  This one has silver mounts and silver inlays.  The patch box design and trigger guard hark back to the brothers early training.  The lock is similar to the one on the Peterson Hawken.  But underneath all that bling is still the lines of the classic J&S Hawken half stock mountain rifle.

https://www.morphyauctions.com/jamesdjulia/item/52461-1-397/

This is the Moses White Hawken that sqrldog mentioned.



As far as fancy wood, there are surviving early and late Hawken rifles with curly maple.  The Atchison Hawken has a walnut stock, and the Moses White Hawken likely does, too.  About a third of the surviving J&S Hawken rifles have walnut stocks.

Bob, the image of the Moses White Hawken is from Art Ressel's Hawken Shop catalog.
Phil Meek

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2019, 08:47:02 PM »
thanks guys, I really like that and planning to build one such as that,.....some day.  a decent piece of dark walnut and silver mounted.

Offline rich pierce

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2019, 10:45:02 PM »
The Atcheson Hawken is another.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2019, 07:46:56 PM »
as I understand, the later Hawkens were built with walnut more commonly than Maple. that might support the number of walnut stocked guns in existence because the later guns simply have had less time to survive through and most probably a less rough life when they were actively in service. in the previously posted article about the Hawken Factory in ST. Louis a picture shows it's close proximity to a large furniture factory. I wonder if there was any connection between the two as far as stock wood supply being less expensive getting tacked onto the large lumber orders the furniture factory generated. it makes sense that Hawken, through a friendly agreement would be able to get the quality of wood that he needed in the small quantities(as far as the lumber industry is concerned)he used, by piggybacking the furniture company's orders, or simply just buying it outright at an agreed upon price. I wonder if there is any mention of such, in any of the books about Hawken guns. it is conceivable that an arrangement like that might be what made it possible for the Hawken rifle to be an appreciable part of the history of it's fame...…..just a thought....

Offline alacran

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2019, 03:22:49 PM »
The Modena Hawken was made in 1833 according to Baird.  In his book Baird shows another early Hawken that he puts between 1825 and 1830 (the Peterson Hawken). Baird doesn't say what kind of wood was used on this rifle but the pictures suggest walnut and not maple..
I do not know if it was just customer preference or what they had available on hand that dictated whether walnut or maple was used.
But the early manufacture of these two rifles alone show that walnut was used early by the Hawkens.  Unfortunately Baird's books leaves a lot to be desired, and I've lost Hanson's book.  The  Hawken Plains rifle had about a 35 year manufacturing run. I don't believe 35 years one way or the other in guns that on average are over 160 years old tell much about survivability of maple or walnut.

Offline Don Stith

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2019, 04:50:08 PM »
The trigger guard on the Medina rifle dates it about 1842
 I would also call the Kennet rifle a presentation rifle.
  It is on display at the School of the Ozarks

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2019, 06:51:31 PM »
alacran,
    I agree,.... with the note that both of the Maples are considered very low in rot resistance and Walnut ranks a bit better.….. but not enough to make a difference.   it would be interesting to find out why Walnut was used on some guns and if those guns were stocked with the wood that was more abundant and more easily obtained at the time or if they were "special ordered".  which brings me back to my above post,.....were the walnut stocked guns a result of the shop's location next to a large furniture factory that had a surplus of walnut at some point. was the walnut purchased as an over order by the furniture co., or did Hawken just take advantage of a source of perfectly useable wood when for whatever reason, Maple wasn't available or the price to a good spike.

Offline rich pierce

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2019, 07:01:37 PM »
There’s a lot of walnut in Missouri. I’m not sure that resistance to rot is something gunmakers consider. Conditions that could rot wood over a long time will render a gun unoperabke due to effects on the lock, triggers, and barrel long before the wood rots.

Resistance to rot is very interesting and variable. Black locust and Osage orange top rot resistance as far as I know, but are not commonly used for gunstocks for many reasons.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2019, 07:16:11 PM by rich pierce »
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2019, 08:08:32 PM »
maybe not now, but in those days guns were subjected to much harsher conditions and expected to last. I will agree it's not the ultimate consideration as stock materials go, but the properties of most woods were well known then already and if there is a species that fits both criteria better than another species, why not use it ?.  both Black Locust and Osage orange are much harder working than either of the Maples and/or Walnut.... that alone is enough qualifier.  at that time, both afore mentioned woods were directed towards the ship building industries as well. which made use of large quanties, making Hawkens orders pretty much inconsequential as far a volume goes. we all know what happens to the price when that happens. I think Maple and Walnut was just easier to get at affordable prices in the amounts his shop used. 

Offline Mtn Meek

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2019, 09:19:51 PM »
as I understand, the later Hawkens were built with walnut more commonly than Maple. that might support the number of walnut stocked guns in existence because the later guns simply have had less time to survive through and most probably a less rough life when they were actively in service.

ron,

I don't know if this was the way you meant to write this or if you inadvertently wrote it this way, but you got it backwards.  The correct statement is that a higher percentage of the early J&S Hawken rifles were built with walnut stocks than the later S. Hawken rifles.  alacran mentioned a couple of these.

Here is a list of J&S Hawken rifles with walnut stocks that I know of:
  • The Peterson Hawken – possibly the earliest extant Hawken rifle
  • J&S Hawken – Montana Historical Society – possibly built in the early- to mid-1830s
  • The Atchison Hawken – dated 1836 on the cheek inlay
  • The Don Stith Hawken – provenance dates it to pre-1840
  • The Barsotti Hawken – early full stock J&S Hawken
  • The Robert May Hawken – early half stock J&S Hawken – this rifle was restocked by Robert May
  • The Medina Hawken – earliest possible date 1838 but likely later as Don Stith pointied out
  • The Moses White Hawken – wood not specified, but looks dark in photographs

In the later S. Hawken period, rifles with walnut stocks are more likely to be the smaller caliber Hawken sporting rifles than Sam's mountain rifles.

...in the previously posted article about the Hawken Factory in ST. Louis a picture shows it's close proximity to a large furniture factory. I wonder if there was any connection between the two as far as stock wood supply being less expensive getting tacked onto the large lumber orders the furniture factory generated. it makes sense that Hawken, through a friendly agreement would be able to get the quality of wood that he needed in the small quantities(as far as the lumber industry is concerned)he used, by piggybacking the furniture company's orders, or simply just buying it outright at an agreed upon price. I wonder if there is any mention of such, in any of the books about Hawken guns. it is conceivable that an arrangement like that might be what made it possible for the Hawken rifle to be an appreciable part of the history of it's fame...…..just a thought....

Interesting thought, but no way to know for sure.

St. Louis was the "Gateway to the West" because its location on the Mississippi River connected it to various parts of the country with the least expensive transportation--river travel.  There was easy access to the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries, the lower Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, and the Ohio River and its tributaries.  There was no problem getting suitable stock wood to St. Louis.  A furniture manufacture and the Hawken brothers could have just a easily been buying wood from the same supplier as each other.

A couple other cautions about drawing too many conclusions from the photo of the Hawken Factory.  That location was the shop of J. P. Gemmer in the 1860s-1870s.  The J&S Hawken shop of the 1830s and 40s was more than a block closer to the river and on the other side of Washington Ave., the street that became the approach to the Eads Bridge in the photo.  Also, I can't tell from the photo whether that "Furniture" sign in the photo represents a furniture factory or a furniture retail store.

There is no mention in any of the books I've read about business between the Hawken brothers and any furniture manufacturing.  There is some interesting detail in the results of the manufacturing census conducted in St. Louis in 1850.

Quote from: THE HAWKEN RIFLE: ITS PLACE IN HISTORY by Charles E. Hanson, Jr., page 20
Samuel Hawken, gunsmith, had $1,000.00 invested in the business.  For the last year he had used 2,000 feet of lumber, 1 ton of iron, 520 pounds of steel, 2,200 pounds of charcoal and 50 pounds of brass, costing a total of $500.00.  He had four hands at a total monthly payroll of $120.00.  All work was done by hand.  The year's production had been 100 rifles and 20 shotguns worth a total of $2,700.00.  (Manufacturing Census, St. Louis County, Missouri, 1850.  Missouri Historical Society).

This quantifies the amount of wood that was used on an annual basis to make 100 rifles and 20 shotguns and to repair and restock numerous guns.  But more interesting to me is the quantity of steel and charcoal used.  The only parts of a rifle that were made of steel at this time were the springs in the lock and set triggers.  The rest of the metal parts on the guns were made of iron.  You wouldn't need 520 pounds of steel for the springs in that many guns.  What did they use that much steel on?

Hanson dedicated a chapter in his book on "Repairs and Sundries" of the Hawken shop.  His conclusion was that the Hawken brothers recieved as much a 43 percent of their revenue from repair work and sundry merchandise.  The steel was likely used to repair broken springs on guns and beaver traps, "steeling axes", fire steels, and various tools that needed to be hardened.

The amount of charcoal suggests a lot of blacksmith work was done.  The small quantity of brass reflects that most of their guns were iron mounted.
Phil Meek

Offline alacran

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2019, 10:17:12 PM »
Is it possible that using walnut was due to the Hawkens background at Harpers Ferry? Was maple used because then as now people liked curly maple?
Thank you Don.   

Offline Mtn Meek

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2019, 12:40:28 AM »
There may be a connection.  It appears Jake had more of a preference for walnut than Sam, and it could have developed from Jake's time at Harper's Ferry as Sam didn't work there.

It could have also been a change in customer preference.  I think a lot of the changes we see in guns over time are driven by fashion almost as much as for practical or economic reasons.

The preference for maple gun stock wood seems to have died out with the decline of muzzleloaders in general.  Nineteenth century cartridge gun makers seem to have chosen walnut as their preferred gun stock wood fairly early, and it continued until modern time.  I don't know of any practical or economic reason for that.
Phil Meek

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2019, 03:43:12 AM »
Walnut is certainly hard enough for stock work and is a fair bit easier working than Sugar Maple and less tear/split prone than any of the softer species of maple.   also, considerably less labor intensive when it comes to finishing than maple. possibly a likely consideration when you look at the labor overhead of a small shop like Hawken's. we, as hobbyists have tendency to look at things with a hobbyists eye. making a stock or 2 with hard maple is OK because that is what was used traditionally,..... Hawken was making a living against some fairly big competition ,....every stroke of a scraper and curl from a chisel counted. I think we can safely assume that he investigated all useable species of wood in order to arrive with the best results for his operation.

Offline Ray Nelson

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2019, 05:48:55 PM »
My observation into this discussion...

Living in Minnesota where temperature change and humidity change is quite extreme from summer to winter I've concluded walnut and plain maple stays more stable. My curly maple wood inlets and butt plate fits shrink considerably this time of year as the humidifier tries to get the level up to 30% or more. An example is: I now just checked the wood to nose cap final fit on 5 half stock guns and found the walnut guns have no descernable shrinkage change and the curlier the maple shows more shrinking change occurring thus far this winter.

If wood stability, durability, cost and availability of suitable walnut and plain maple near St. Louis was a criteria that existed and developed between 1823-1870 to better satisfy their current customer needs...then the final product had met its best intent.


Ray

Offline alacran

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2019, 06:14:29 PM »
 Ron is right. When it comes to production, walnut does not have to be stained. Scrape, sand, get the big scratches out put on oil varnish, you are done.
Maple has to be stained will show the smallest of scratches. It is harder to inlet and more care has to be taken while shaping. A walnut rifle can go out the door quicker than a maple one.

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2019, 09:48:47 PM »
alacran,...that was my intuition about the use of Walnut by the Hawken Bros. as far as a small business making the best of a very laborious process, it makes sense.  as records indicate, 2000 bft. of lumber, given that most of it was for gun stocks, is a lot of stock work for a small shop with only 4 or 5 employees.

Offline RAT

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2019, 07:37:39 AM »
Late period 1850's S. Hawken plains rifles tend to follow a pretty standard pattern. Straight grained maple was used that had little to no curl. Stocks appear to have had a hard dark brown varnish finish with no evidence of staining before the finish was applied. Earlier rifles show more variety.
Bob

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2019, 09:17:09 PM »
This quantifies the amount of wood that was used on an annual basis to make 100 rifles and 20 shotguns and to repair and restock numerous guns

   I find it hard to believe that stocking 120 new guns,....even with that number doubled to account for repair/restock work,.....would use up 2000 bdft of lumber !. he must have been buying #1 common ( or equivelant by period standards) for it's price and culling allot of lumber for resale or other purposes.  that equates very roughly to a new finished stock every 2.5 days, which, at 120 +/- guns a year, sounds somewhat reasonable,..... his shop must have done a fair amount of "non-Hawken gun" stock work.

Offline alacran

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2019, 11:27:48 PM »
I was thinking about those numbers myself. It just says they used 2000bdf, but it doesn't specify wether  they are 8/4  10/4 or 12 /4
boards. Also I would think the 2000 bdf is an entry in a ledger, same as the 50 lbs of brass.
 If they were 12/4 boards, you would get 666 3 inch by 12"x12" boards. Obviously they would be boards longer than that. But if they got 12/4 boards without any waste, and on average they needed 3' long boards that would give them 222 3'x1'x3" boards.
I guess what I'm getting at Ron is that if you ordered wood of suitable thicknes for stock making 2000 board feet is really not that much. I think you are right that they would buy a given amount of wood, which they would have to go through. If the wood is rough sawn,and  of random widths and length I could easily see half of it being dross.

Offline ron w

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2019, 12:00:30 PM »
given minimum dimensions for a stock blank (roughly 8" at but to 3" at fore-end x 2.5 x 33 long),.... 1000 bdft. equates to roughly 330+/- rifle stocks.   that's alot of stock work considering 4 employees and a production of roughly 100 rifles and roughly 20 shotguns per year.. (add to that hand gun numbers and repairs which aren't stated). somewhere I read that finding good enough woodworkers was difficult, as well which slowed production and reduced lumber use per year.   not all his employees were qualified woodworkers,...someone has to make the metal parts, too !. do you think they did that much stock work ?....  consider that some of that was pistols, repairs and waste,.....I just don't see it.  good clear lumber was so much easier to get back then, than now and i'll wager the price difference between select and #1 common wasn't nearly what it is now, so he might have been able to obtain all good clear and very useable wood, keeping waste at a minimum, as there was an abundance of both maple and walnut in that area. I understand that these figures were ledger entries, which accounts for over all consumption,......i'm just thinking that there is now way he used that much lumber building roughly 120 guns a year and partially why I speculated that his lumber purchasing was tied into the furniture factory in the background of the picture. he could obtain the quantity and quality of lumber he needed when his order was piggy backed onto a much bigger lumber shipment.  I also understand that his shop was not always in such close proximity to that furniture shop, but he might have had a working agreement with the factory to obtain the relatively small amounts of wood he used,....as you stated,.... 1000 bdft isn't all that much wood,.... as far as the lumber industry is concerned.

Offline Mtn Meek

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2019, 07:54:21 PM »
... his shop must have done a fair amount of "non-Hawken gun" stock work.

If you read The Hawken Rifle: Its Place in History, you'll note that as one of Hanson's main points.  The Hawken brothers did a lot of repair work and sundry merchandise.

As far as your math exercise for calculating how much wood they might use in making 100 rifle per year, you need to factor in that half to two-thirds of the rifles they built were likely full stock rifles.  That's the conclusion that Hanson came to when he tabulated all the records of purchases of Hawken rifles from 1831 to 1858 (pages 22 and 49 in The Hawken Rifle: Its Place in History).

Back to the 1850 business census figures, it doesn't specify the types of wood that were used in the previous year.  It's likely that types other than stock wood was included.  They would have needed hickory for ramrods.  Hanson also found records where they made axes, hatches, and likely tomahawks and would need suitable wood for hafts or handles for them.  The wood they purchased may have also included some firewood to heat the shop in winter.  I'm sure they used scrap wood for fuel but may have needed to augment that during the coldest months.  There is certainly no reason to assume all 2,000 bdf was used to make stocks for new guns.  There were plenty of other possible uses for some of it.

...i'm just thinking that there is now way he used that much lumber building roughly 120 guns a year and partially why I speculated that his lumber purchasing was tied into the furniture factory in the background of the picture. he could obtain the quantity and quality of lumber he needed when his order was piggy backed onto a much bigger lumber shipment.  I also understand that his shop was not always in such close proximity to that furniture shop, but he might have had a working agreement with the factory to obtain the relatively small amounts of wood he used,....as you stated,.... 1000 bdft isn't all that much wood,.... as far as the lumber industry is concerned.

Ron, you seem to be like a bulldog when you get an idea and just won't turn loose of it in spite of the lack of supporting evidence.  That picture of J. P. Gemmer's Hawken Rifle Factory and the "Furniture" sign on the building next to it was probably taken in the 1870s during the construction of the Eads Bridge or after it was finished in 1874.  Maybe 25 years after Jacob's death and 20 years after Samuel semi-retired.  We don't even know the furniture business was in existence prior to 1850, much less whether it was a factory or just a retail store.  It's one thing to speculate, but something else to jump to conclusions without any supporting evidence.
Phil Meek

Offline In Over My Head

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Re: presentation hawken rifles ??.
« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2019, 09:29:14 AM »
Was all their commerce cash and carry or did they need lumber for crating?