Author Topic: Rhode Island colonial musket help  (Read 699 times)

Offline flophound

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Rhode Island colonial musket help
« on: June 10, 2019, 06:44:59 PM »
Hi All,
I work at the Rhode Island Historical Society. A hundred years or so ago someone donated the below musket, said to have found it in the rafters of the Williams Cottage, and thought to have belonged to Joseph Williams, son of Roger Williams the founder of the RI.
"J W 1667" is inscribed on the barrel. I'm no expert by any stretch but the only thing about the musket that says 1667 to me is that inscription. Everything else feels off. The barrel has a bayonet lug at the 3 o'clock position, for instance. My thinking is that is if the piece is legitimate, it has been rebuilt at least once (there is a "1799" scratched into the stock by the lock). Barring that, someone could have simply tried to manufacture some provenance for any number of reasons.
Any insight you could provide me with would be greatly appreciated.
Regards,
Ken




























Offline 120RIR

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2019, 07:59:15 PM »
I'll let others with much more expertise than me weigh in on other aspects (but I do agree...nothing much here says 17th century) but that carved decorative band on the butt stock is really interesting.  At least to me it has a very Native American feel to it and that same general design shows up in ceramics and basketry work. 

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2019, 09:20:44 PM »
From a distance the stock profile is more like state militia guns than something earlier. Unless we could tell what wood it is stocked in Id be stumped. Weird front extension for a musket guard. Weird to have a cheekpiece. Carving behind the cheekpiece looks Scandinavian maybe. Dave?  Brooksie? JV?
St. Louis, Missouri

timM

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2019, 10:20:51 PM »

Charming piece for sure.  To my eye I am seeing a homogenized build that shows great age and appears to have rested unmolested for a very long time.  So for me the question would be; could this build date anywhere near the 1667 shown on the barrel? 

I am doubtful of that.  The barrel inscription looks good and the lock appears early, but I don't think the lock early enough.  The decorative scroll on the cheek side is an element that I have seen repeatedly used, at least through the first 3 quarters of the 18th century, starting with early Dutch fowler's found around the Hudson.

Without close examination and to somewhat guess, I would consider that this build was effected retreading an earlier barrel?  Beyond that I think this piece could date to the first third of the 18th century.  These thoughts are my opinion. 

Thank you for showing this early smooth bore.  Respectfully, tim

 













Offline JV Puleo

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2019, 12:39:01 AM »
It's pretty tough to tell anything from those pictures but I'd say 17th century is out. It may be a musket made up out of parts, including an old barrel but the first British muskets with socket bayonets date from the first decade of the 18th century, which isn't to say the bayonet lug couldn't have been added but it certainly raises questions. Ironically, I had the wreck of a German/Dutch musket I bought in a Pawtucket pawn shop about 50 years ago that had what I think is the same trigger guard and butt plate - I still have the trigger guard somewhere.

Based on this fragmentary evidence, I'd guess (if I had to guess) - a musket made up in the 1790s from old parts to satisfy the requirements of the first Militia Act in 1792.

JVP

EDIT:  I think I have the barrel as well... does it have a very large bore - like close to 100 caliber (1")?
« Last Edit: June 11, 2019, 02:03:34 AM by JV Puleo »

Online Elnathan

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2019, 02:33:42 PM »
I hate to ask this, but are we sure that this is American-made? The half-stock with the thimble soldered directly to the barrel like that is a common Germanic style, and the cheekpiece and carving make me think of Scandinavia. Lock looks Germanic to me, too, as do those very prominent screw heads on the buttplate.

They occasionally did build shotguns out of recycled parts in Europe - I've got a German percussion c. 1840 with a converted c. 1750 lock (and I suspect the matching barrel). This strikes me as something of the same kidney. I'm inclined to think that it is a late 18th century/Napoleonic era musket restocked as an inexpensive shotgun, very likely in Scandinavia (which did have a hunting culture that included poorer folks, not just the wealthy landowners).
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Offline JV Puleo

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2019, 12:52:32 AM »
I don't think the OP even suggested it was American made and I very much doubt it is Scandinavian. If it was donated to the RI Historical Society a hundred years ago that would be around WWI. There was little interest in old guns then and very few collectors so I think it is reasonable to assume the gun has been in RI for a very long time and Rhode Island didn't have any Scandinavian immigrants to speak of in the colonial period. The fact that the trigger guard, and probably the barrel and butt plate match those on a wrecked Dutch/German musket I bought 50 years ago in Pawtucket, RI suggest (to me at least) that there was more than one of these in the neighborhood. The musket I had did not have a cheekpiece which suggests a restock. It would be very unusual on any kind of musket from the middle of the 18th century.

As to Dutch/German muskets in RI, there were two of them in the Daggett House museum in Pawtucket, RI, said to have been carried by brothers at the Siege of Boston. Unfortunately, the Daggett House guns were stolen many years ago and never recovered. I don't think they looked much like this gun although they were brass mounted but it does speak to the possibility that other guns from the low countries were in circulation in RI in the mid to late 18th century. It would be nice to see some better photos... or I could go down to the Historical Society and take a look but I dread trying to find a place to park on College Hill and will not pay one of the City of Providence's $100 parking tickets.

Offline flophound

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2019, 01:13:10 AM »
I don't think the OP even suggested it was American made and I very much doubt it is Scandinavian. If it was donated to the RI Historical Society a hundred years ago that would be around WWI. There was little interest in old guns then and very few collectors so I think it is reasonable to assume the gun has been in RI for a very long time and Rhode Island didn't have any Scandinavian immigrants to speak of in the colonial period. The fact that the trigger guard, and probably the barrel and butt plate match those on a wrecked Dutch/German musket I bought 50 years ago in Pawtucket, RI suggest (to me at least) that there was more than one of these in the neighborhood. The musket I had did not have a cheekpiece which suggests a restock. It would be very unusual on any kind of musket from the middle of the 18th century.

As to Dutch/German muskets in RI, there were two of them in the Daggett House museum in Pawtucket, RI, said to have been carried by brothers at the Siege of Boston. Unfortunately, the Daggett House guns were stolen many years ago and never recovered. I don't think they looked much like this gun although they were brass mounted but it does speak to the possibility that other guns from the low countries were in circulation in RI in the mid to late 18th century. It would be nice to see some better photos... or I could go down to the Historical Society and take a look but I dread trying to find a place to park on College Hill and will not pay one of the City of Providence's $100 parking tickets.

I had a chance to take another look at it today (I'm only in the museum 1 day a week, generally). It looks like it's about .80cal. The pictures were taken on my phone on the fly, but if I set up proper lighting and use a better camera, I should be able take some better ones. Anything in particular that you'd like to see?
PM me if you're interested in seeing it in person. We have a free parking lot.

Offline JV Puleo

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2019, 06:18:42 PM »
I think left and right views overall would be good. That's probably difficult given its length but 3/4 views of the left and right are likely possible. A view from the top and bottom would be good as well but you'll need some stands to do that.

My real email address is jvp5070@gmail.com
If you let me know when you'll be there, I'll make an effort to get down there. I can come during the day. I worked in Providence for most of my adult life but avoid the city now...I don't think I've been downtown 4 times in 10 years.

Or...if you can get permission to take it out of the building you can visit us at Man at Arms. We're in Woonsocket and you'd likely have the added attraction of having my colleague Stuart Mowbray look at it too. Stuart's dad was a trustee of the the RIHS so were familiar with many of the items in the collection.

Offline fahnenschmied

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Re: Rhode Island colonial musket help
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2019, 05:48:15 PM »
It certainly looks like a Scandinavian gun, with its protruding buttplate screws and scroll on cheeckpiece - Ive seen this same awkward scroll on many Scandinavian guns.  Of course I cannot find a good picture, save for this pinned Danish musket.  Whether Norwegian , Danish or Swedish I cant tell, but its most likely simply a cut down military musket.  Things end up in places, no need for Scandinavian immigrants to be somewhere.  Things gets sold and traded.  Here and image of a Danish pin fastened musket with big buttplate screws and scrolled butt.  http://www.arkeliet.no/guns/images/musk_1789.jpg