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General discussion => Antique Gun Collecting => Topic started by: Curt Larsen on January 17, 2013, 06:32:26 PM

Title: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Curt Larsen on January 17, 2013, 06:32:26 PM
I know that there has been plenty of controversy about the Model 1803 and the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I wondered if anyone has ever seen an 1803 lock plate with an actual 1803 date.  Most of the repro locks have an 1803 date.  TRS has an interesting write up on what he has called the 1800 Harpers Ferry that he consideres the prototype for the 1803.  The 1800 is marked as number 15 which has been suggested to have been one of the original Lewis and Clark protypes.  I've recently read the Merrit Smith book on the history of Harpers Ferry and just bought the Hartzler and Whisker book on HF that TOW has had on sale.  Smith's book shows no Model 1803 production numbers until 1807 and Hartzler and Whiker show 772 of them produced in 1804.  I saw the HF number 15 exhibited a few years at the Baltimore show, but wasn't really up on the history then and I didn't take a look of the lock.  I know that Don Stith has done a lot of research on this and maybe some of the rest of you have as well.  I'm just curious and wanted to get some more thoughts.  I don't have a dog in the fight over the Lewis and Clark rifles.  The 1803 lock seems to be a scaled down version of the 1795 musket lock and it would seem natural to have used it as a model for any prototype.  While the number 15 rifle may be one of 15 commissioned by Lewis in 1803 is possible.  It's also possible for this new style lock to have been fitted to surplus 1792 contract rifles.  It certainly wouldn't have been any big deal to do this and shorten them and maybe refit them for slings.  It's still an interesting topic.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: timM on January 17, 2013, 08:26:38 PM
I haven't handled a 1803 pattern rifle with a 1803 lock date although I recall one being offered in the distant past....as thin as that is (smile).  Great topic and a old interest of mine, now I need to round up the reading you mentioned. 

There was an ancient article written for Man at Arms by a Mr. Frank Tait titled “US Contract Rifles Pattern of 1792”  This article makes a convincing argument of  1792 / 94 pattern rifles being the basis of the HF rifles “built” for the expedition. 

Regardless of how valid this article is today it is a great read and I would be happy to forward a pdf of this article to anyone interested.  tim
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Don Stith on January 19, 2013, 04:43:51 AM
Actually Frank Tait did all the serious research on the 1792 contract rifles and some of it was included in the Man at Arms article. Ten years ago does not seem that ancient to me. Frank was kind enough to share all his research with me.  His conclusion was that the 1792 was used for the L&C  adventure except for Lewis personal gun which was also outfitted with the new lock being developed at HF with interchangeable parts. He found documentation for the addition of slings. He did not find any reference to modifying the barrel length or bore. In fact he found references that led him to conclude they were not shortened. There was a follow up article in M@A where Frank responded to some of the questions raised by readers of the first article.
Frank and I examined the supposed No 15 rifle several years before Jesse had acess to it.  It is hard to believe it was an arsenal built rifle but I guess all things are possible. Unless someone perfects a time machine, we will never be able to verify exactly what path things took. The seven or eight known surviving 1792/1794 contract rifles all have 1812 dated HF style locks including one restocked model that turned up.
 They all have the original length barrels and do not have sling accomodations.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Dphariss on January 19, 2013, 06:59:40 AM
I know that there has been plenty of controversy about the Model 1803 and the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I wondered if anyone has ever seen an 1803 lock plate with an actual 1803 date.  Most of the repro locks have an 1803 date.  TRS has an interesting write up on what he has called the 1800 Harpers Ferry that he consideres the prototype for the 1803.  The 1800 is marked as number 15 which has been suggested to have been one of the original Lewis and Clark protypes.  I've recently read the Merrit Smith book on the history of Harpers Ferry and just bought the Hartzler and Whisker book on HF that TOW has had on sale.  Smith's book shows no Model 1803 production numbers until 1807 and Hartzler and Whiker show 772 of them produced in 1804.  I saw the HF number 15 exhibited a few years at the Baltimore show, but wasn't really up on the history then and I didn't take a look of the lock.  I know that Don Stith has done a lot of research on this and maybe some of the rest of you have as well.  I'm just curious and wanted to get some more thoughts.  I don't have a dog in the fight over the Lewis and Clark rifles.  The 1803 lock seems to be a scaled down version of the 1795 musket lock and it would seem natural to have used it as a model for any prototype.  While the number 15 rifle may be one of 15 commissioned by Lewis in 1803 is possible.  It's also possible for this new style lock to have been fitted to surplus 1792 contract rifles.  It certainly wouldn't have been any big deal to do this and shorten them and maybe refit them for slings.  It's still an interesting topic.

If they used Contract Rifles on the expedition they would have been relocked and shortened as you state.
There are number of things that make me question the Contract rifles. They reportedly were not all that good and Lewis would have known this. HF made 15 more rifles in the first run of 1803s than was called for. AND the 1803 with its 1/2 octagonal barrel was prone to failure in the round portion. Two of the L&C rifles failed in this manner. So there are valid arguments for 1803 or 1803 prototypes.
People need to READ the related articles and make a decision on their own. Taits article was not very convincing to me. The argument for the Contract rifle is "they were there so they must have used them". This is not documentation its supposition.  Pretty good idea but still supposition.  The 15 extra rifles, the burst upper barrels, the "short rifles" all point to 1803s at some level.
I would not say that EITHER was wrong for someone wanting a L&C Rifle. There is not enough to prove either to me conclusively enough to start telling someone one or the other is wrong.
Lewis had a letter that basically said "Make this guy anything he wants" so??
Dan
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Don Stith on January 19, 2013, 07:52:04 PM
Dan
 Your comment that the contract rifles were not all that good intrigues me.
  Can you give me some reference material for the comment?
 There was minimal or no field use of the contract rifles prior to the expedition. They were made and signed by the best gunsmiths in Lancaster. I have examined ones by Dickert, Gumpf, Feree, and Messersmith. The quality of work on them was equivalent to civilian versions I have handled by the same smiths. Measurement of the bores show remarkable consistency in size. The only deficiency I can visualize is the possibility of lock quality.  I suspect the relocking had more to do with field interchangeability than a quality concern.There was apparently no reluctance to issue them for the war of 1812.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: smylee grouch on January 19, 2013, 08:19:00 PM
My only trip to Cody's Museum and I thought I saw an 1803 there but cant remember if it had 1803 on the lock. Maybe someone close or who have also been there can elborate on the dated lock.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Hungry Horse on January 19, 2013, 09:15:48 PM
 I have examined a couple of 1803 model rifles made for the war of 1812, supposedly. Both were not dated 1803, and were dimensionally different from the model 1803, primarily in barrel length. One was dated 1811, and the other was dated 1814. Both had been converted to percussion, which, if they were weak in the barrel, or breech, would have shortened their working lives, and made them unlikely survivors.

                     Hungry Horse
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Don Stith on January 19, 2013, 10:20:29 PM
The earliest dated actual  1803 model HF I have handled was an 1805 pistol and an 1807 rifle.. Had a friend that hunted deer in Missouri with an original HF dated 1809 until the mid 1990's. Don't know where it went after he passed. He used arrow head flint fragments in the lock
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Dphariss on January 20, 2013, 07:20:49 AM
Dan
 Your comment that the contract rifles were not all that good intrigues me.
  Can you give me some reference material for the comment?
 There was minimal or no field use of the contract rifles prior to the expedition. They were made and signed by the best gunsmiths in Lancaster. I have examined ones by Dickert, Gumpf, Feree, and Messersmith. The quality of work on them was equivalent to civilian versions I have handled by the same smiths. Measurement of the bores show remarkable consistency in size. The only deficiency I can visualize is the possibility of lock quality.  I suspect the relocking had more to do with field interchangeability than a quality concern.There was apparently no reluctance to issue them for the war of 1812.

I'm glad you asked about reliability.
After some digging through the usual suspects in the book case I find its not there.  After some thinking I also have an idea of where this may have been impressed on my memory some years back and have decided its "rumor" until I can get some documentation. Keller-Cowen calls them "obsolete" which I think is something of a stretch. Its not as though the 1803 or its prototypes were some new or different technology afterall. Even the new Harpers Ferry locks were identical technology to the 1790s and in fact were not state of the art for the flintlock of the 1790s.
I also found some things in "Firearms of the American West 1803-1865" that raised some suspicions... Though most of their stuff is pretty well documented. Their research on L&C  had apparently included contemporary writings of people using  the "improved" version of the L&C Journals leading Garavaglia and Worman  to state that Harpers Ferry built the rifles for L&C.  Which I don't think can be documented. Quoting some 20th c authot quoting someone else who had changed the original text, Elliott Coues did this in his version,  is not a good idea.  They cite Thwaites in the same chapter and should have read the relevant sections of HIS version before quoting Brown quoting Coues on where the rifles were "manufactured".  
Anyway....
In looking through this volume this I did find some information on Zebulon Pike's first expedition into the West that was concurrent with L&C (from Pike apparently not "editors"). His hunters had a lot of trouble killing game and was not the careful planner that L&C obviously were (or he had far less time, L&C was in planning for a long time). He complained that the rifle balls were too small for Buffalo and Elk, something L&C did not mention other than in reference to their personal rifles . I would guess that he was using the Contract Rifle in 50 caliber, though later experience right to this day shows the 50 will do the job if used right.  So maybe his hunters were poor shots. He stated that a ball of 30 to the pound was as small as should be used.  His later Expedition which was apparently armed with the 1803 had no problems killing animals, or it was not noted. Also they DID have some burst barrels as did L&C. This is something that makes me wonder about HFs barrel welding or the quality of the material they used. I assume this was corrected in later production. But HF was pretty new at the time of the 1803 and they may have had teething trouble?
Its irritating that L&C were not a little more concise concerning firearms. But there are pretty good inventories of what they took along and wood ramrods/blanks were not a part of this. Nor is there any mention of broken rods on the expedition. Given the level of planning the use of metal loading rods might have been a requirement. Even the Mountain men were known to carry a spare rod in the bore of their rifles by some accounts since there is nothing out here that is suitable.  But this is more supposition.
Back to the reliability of the Contract rifles. If there was a problem this would surely have been related to the locks and variations in material or variations in the hardening of the parts. I always figured this was the reason they were relocked over time with Gov't locks though the "interchangeable" HF lock would also have been a good reason to relock them. It's almost a sure thing that the contract rifles came with Birmingham locks and Birmingham could make a sows ear look like a silk purse as W. Greener indicated in the 1830s. So this could have been a factor. Shallow case on an iron frizzen would be problem since this can fail in 20-30 shots in some cases. A too hard steel frizzen would be another. Locks were always the primary concern for guns in hard or remote service. I would have been surprised if there was not a problem with at least some of the locks.

I always learn something during a discussion of the L&C rifles, either from someone's perspective or doing more looking,  this was no exception.
Dan
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Dphariss on January 20, 2013, 07:27:03 AM
I have examined a couple of 1803 model rifles made for the war of 1812, supposedly. Both were not dated 1803, and were dimensionally different from the model 1803, primarily in barrel length. One was dated 1811, and the other was dated 1814. Both had been converted to percussion, which, if they were weak in the barrel, or breech, would have shortened their working lives, and made them unlikely survivors.

                     Hungry Horse

That there were barrel failures with early production is pretty well documented. This does not mean ALL of them failed.
Poor material was a problem until the late 1850s. There was another improvement in steel making in the late 1860s.
The Colt Walker revolver of the 1840s had a very high failure rate in service, barrels and cylinders were prone to failure. Yet there are some survivors.

Dan
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Hungry Horse on January 20, 2013, 08:56:16 PM
 I seem to remember ( come on guys it happens) that years ago, in the old Buckskin Report (maybe), there was a partial Harpers Ferry found in Missouri that was speculated to have been one of the Corp of Discoveries HP's Jaegers. It had no barrel,or lock,, but it had a poured nose cap, that appeared to be original.  It was a half stock, and appeared to have been built that way. The patchbox, and  fittings were 1803's, and the stock dimensions were right.
 The speculation at the time was that the original plains rifles, may have taken their design from the old HF, if the Corps of Discovery dumped their equipment in St. Louis at the end of the journey, and they were sold to trappers going up river. There's a lot of parallels between the old HF and the later half stocked Hawken's, and Dimick's.

                     Hungry Horse
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: halfstock on January 20, 2013, 11:32:25 PM
Hungry horse : Yuuuuup on the similarity's.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Don Stith on January 21, 2013, 02:07:53 AM
Don't know when poured nose caps came in to vogue, but they were not on the 1803's. Threw my old pile of Buckskin reports out in the last move nine years ago, so can't look  up your remembered article.. Don't know what furniture you refer to but the patchbox and side plate on the 1792 contract rifles are similar to the 1803's. Butt plate and Trigger guards were quite different. The use of a poured nose cap became commonplace when converting a full stock to a half stock, but again I can not tie down a time period.
 I suggest that Jakes years at the HF arsenal had more influence on the Hawken design than a relic that might have floated by. Couple that with the oft mentioned influence of English sporting rifles and you get closer to the truth. We really need that time machine I mentioned earlier. These discussions are fun but proving anything may be impossible.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Longknife on January 21, 2013, 03:29:02 AM
The article referred to was in the "American Rifleman" mag. May 1985 by Kirk Olson.  The rifle Olson describes bears many similarities to an "early" 1803 HP rifle in shape, style and hardware. There were subtle changes in production rifles over the years and he explains it all in the article. Olson also states that the lead nose cap was fitted at a later date and not during production. There are no signs of it ever having an entry thimble like the standard HF rifles. (To speed up production?) The entire lock is missing now with only a hole in the barrel where drum was installed when it was converted to percussion.  The lock apparently was held on by only one lock bolt (To speed up production and make it easier to change locks in the field?).  The barrel is very similar in overall shape to standard issue rifle and does have US proofmarks but no serial number next to them. HMMMMMM And then we have the #15 rifle!....Ed  
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Don Stith on January 21, 2013, 04:07:57 AM
I threw out thirty years of AR when I left StLouis in 93.  Sounds like a lot of supposing was going on there.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Hungry Horse on January 21, 2013, 07:43:11 PM
 The early St. Louis Hawkens rifle built by Jake seem to be, for the most part, long barreled, and full stocked. Since sales are usually dictated by the customers desires, it appears that the customers must have requested a gun with a shorter barrel, and half stock. Maybe after seeing the old HF Jaegers floating around on the frontier.

                        Hungry Horse
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Longknife on January 22, 2013, 11:18:56 PM
I threw out thirty years of AR when I left StLouis in 93.  Sounds like a lot of supposing was going on there.

I would "suppose" that without the afore mentioned time machine that "supposing" is all we can do. 
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Curt Larsen on January 26, 2013, 08:29:49 PM
Well, I guess I got the discussion going again.  This has been an interesting thread and I have learned a lot.  For those seriously interested in the history of the HF armory/arsenal I recommend the Merritt Roe Smith book "Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology--the Challenge of Change" published by the Cornell University Press in 1977.  It is a decidedly scholarly work but filled with great information.  One of the things that struck me in our discussion was the topic of the locks.  The first superintendent of HF was Joseph Perkin who was trained in the firearms trade in Birmingham prior to emigrating to America in 1774.  During the Revolution he worked at the Rappahannock Forge armory in Falmouth, VA where he was primarily assigned to "gunlocks."  After the war he worked in Philadelphia where he set up a gun shop.  He eventually became the supervisor at the New London government arsenal in VA until it closed.  He then was assigned to HF as suprvisor.  His expertise with locks interests me and clearly the development of the 1803 lock with possible interchangeable parts would have fit into his expertise.  One the the threads that goes through Merritt Smith's book is the reluctance of HF to adopt more modern technology throughout the first half of the 19th century.  Perkiin must have pioneered interchangability there, but eventually may have been styimied by the work force available to him.  The staff was mainly made up of "craftsmen" like ourselves.  I guess after Perkin died the good old boy system took over which further kept HF behind the technological changes being made the Springfield armory.  It seems that the whole concept of interchangability had to be forced on HF by ramming the Hall Rifle Works down the throat of the post Perkin management.  In any event, if the 1803 locks were truly interchangeable they were among the earliest attempt at this in the U.S.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: mr. no gold on January 27, 2013, 06:54:31 AM
Just to throw in a few more ideas on this topic, Geroge Moller in his sholarly work, (two volumes) on early American arms, puts I/J Perkin in Philadelphia as armorer during the Revolution. His 'IP' stamp is found on the side plates of a number of muskets repaired there. Also, the now famous Christian Oerter
1775, griffin rifle has an I. Perkin lock which is signed. There may be one or two other locks that have turned up, as well. It would be nice to know what Perkin's origins were.
Dick
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Dphariss on January 28, 2013, 01:53:02 AM
The early St. Louis Hawkens rifle built by Jake seem to be, for the most part, long barreled, and full stocked. Since sales are usually dictated by the customers desires, it appears that the customers must have requested a gun with a shorter barrel, and half stock. Maybe after seeing the old HF Jaegers floating around on the frontier.

                        Hungry Horse

I think the 1/2 stocked guns were a response to the 1/2 stocked English sporting rifles that came through probably by the 1820s if not before. When you look at a 1/2 stock English rifles from about 1800 on you see a 1/2 stocked Hawken from about the trigger forward. They simply put a lighter American buttstock on the rifles. Reduced the caliber from something in the 62-72 range and increased the barrel weight.
So far as supposition... Where the L&C rifles are concerned thats all there is unless someone comes up with a better description from one of the missing Journal's.
So people need to read the documentation from the time, which is limited to perhaps a paragraph as far as I can see. Look at what contemporary researchers have found and decide what makes the most sense.
There simply is no adequate primary source material that I know of. Other that the rifles were short and they had locks made in Harpers Ferry its a dead in. I someone has other information from a member of the Expedition or from Harpers Ferry I have not seen or heard of it.
Dan
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Curt Larsen on January 28, 2013, 05:48:15 PM
I guess we've run the discussion into the ground.  Thanks for all the info.  As I said above, I've learned a lot from it.  We still didn't get to my original question though.  Has anyone really had their eyes on an 1803 lock with an 1803 date?
Curt
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on July 26, 2013, 01:21:17 AM
  I researched and wrote the article "The Short Rifles of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" for Muzzleloader magazine back in Mar/Apr 2000. There are many misconceptions about the "short rifle", the name used by the arsenal, the War Department, and Meriwether Lewis for the rifle we now know as the Model 1803. It was also called the "short rifle" and "iron ribbed rifle" in later ordnance correspondance.
  
  The contract long rifles in stores were in unsatisfactory condition, with many problems as pointed out by Michael Carrick in his article on an apparent early "short rifle". Many of these contract long rifles had poorly made locks, rusted locks, lacked depth in the rifling, and many failed proper proofing.
  
  The fact is, Lewis had new rifles, locks, and parts manufactured at Harpers Ferry. We know this by reviewing his letters, and ordnance correspondance from Secretary of War Henry Dearborn and master armorer Joseph Perkin. As for the notion they used slings, this is based on a listing for musket implements procured from the Schuykill Arsenal (Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition). No mention is made in the L&C journals of slinging rifles, and they aren't pictured in Patrick Gass's 1807 journal with slings. While Lewis was later drawn with a rifle with a sling and swivels, it's a long rifle or fowling piece, and certainly not a "short rifle".

  Dearborn aptly describes the short rifle (Model 1803) in his May 25th, 1803 letter to Harpers Ferry master armorer Joseph Perkin.
  
  As for the Model 1803 featured by Kirk Olsen in his American Rifleman article, it has a Type II patchbox and Type III barrel from the 1815 production run, so it's not a Corps of Discovery piece.
 
  Being supplied by at least a dozen Pennsylvannia gunsmiths, the contract long rifles were run of the mill long rifles following the contractors personal patterns (or school of style, if you will). The only specifications were that they were to be a specific barrel length and caliber.
   We know that it took two months for the arsenal at Harpers Ferry to manufacture Lewis's rifles, and that he mentions progress on his "arms".
  
  Carl P. Russell presented journal documentation on the Expedition's "short rifles" in his 1957 book "Firearms, Traps, and Tools of the Mountain Men. The ordnance correspondance in James E. Hicks "Notes on U.S. Ordnance, Volume I" bears this out, as does the letters of Meriwether Lewis and Henry Dearborn, and later Tench Coxe. There is no documentary evidence that contract long rifles were ever modified to become Meriwether Lewis's "short rifles", which we know as the Model 1803. The "short rifle" is mentioned four times in the L&C journals by Lewis, Clark, and Sgt. John Ordway (and this is before two burst and the barrels cut short).
  
  Jess Melot of The Rifle Shoppe documented two of the earliest known 1803 dated specimens, numbers 14 and 94. Michael Carrick and others have thoroughly documented nearly every part of a suspected early production rifle. He graciously sent me pictures and it's quite intriguing.  

  Finally, it should be noted that Lewis's short rifles differed only slightly from the Harpers Ferry production pattern, for in December 1803 Dearborn suggested several improvements to the design- a larger rear sight, a brass band to the forestock, and a wider bell entry pipe.

  The differences in the types can be read here-

http://therifleshoppe.com/catalog_pages/us_arms/(500)_History_Facts_Description.htm  
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on July 27, 2013, 03:52:17 AM
I assume that arms made at Harpers Ferry by 1803 - at least new ones, would have had iron or steel ramrods by that time, given what they were doing with musket production.  I wonder if these early examples mentioned as possible expedition guns from HF and dated 1803 still have their original iron / steel ramrods?  Sorry to stir the pot yet again on this debate,  :)
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on July 27, 2013, 04:57:29 PM
As a follow up to my previous post, I have a bit of "new" information to offer as I've spent some time on and off looking into this.  In reading the original journals, it is mentioned that by July 1805, a little over a year after the expedition started in earnest, the corps was replacing their hickory ramrods (and axe handles) with those made of cherry.  Being just a year, it would seem to me that this would mean that the hickory ramrods were original to the rifles.  I would not think steel ramrods would need replacement in the field.  It is kind of a really short note, and written in a way that makes it really easy to miss in the journals but is unmistakable.

So if anyone wants an accurate Corps rifle reproduced, at least start with a hickory or cherry ramrod! :D

Knowing that muskets used steel ramrods at that time it seems that this had to refer to the rifles.  And it is written in plural fashion, so it was not just one rifle.

It is interesting that when you read Dearborn's original letter of May 25, 1803 to Perkins at HF about creating a new US rifle pattern, he directs Perkins to use steel ramrods for a new US pattern rifle.  Also in the May 25, 1803 letter, he also instructs Perkins to begin production on the new rifles "as soon as may be after completing the muskets now in hand" .  Actually the entire original letter reads to me as if Perkins is completely unaware of the various technical specifications of what ultimately became the 1803 - to the point where Perkins could have justifiably been a bit insulted if he already had created such a rifle. This correspondence was all well after the preparation of Lewis's guns at HF was underway (or possibly complete). 

I'm interested others' thoughts on what they really used, and don't have a preferred  theory on any of this at all.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on July 27, 2013, 09:55:05 PM
We know the Corps of Discovery had a wide range of firearms, from personal long arms, fusils, and a pair of pocket pistols, to the military issue short rifles, Charleville pattern muskets w/bayonets, a pair of horseman's pistols, and possibly some contract long rifles. Several of the French engages brought along their trade guns. 

  There is also mention of wiping sticks on one occasion (29 July 1805).

  Clark made a reference to using cherry wood for ramrods on 10 July 1805, when the expedition had finished portaging the Great Falls of the Missouri (note that he does not specifically mention rifles)-

" we ar much at a loss for wood to make ax  hilthes, [5] 13 hath been made & broken in this piece of a day by the four Choppers, no other wood but Cotton Box elder Choke Cherry and red arrow wood.    we Substitute the Cherry in place of Hickory for ax hilthes ram rods, &c. &c."

Yours, &c.

Mike




 
 

 
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on July 28, 2013, 11:51:32 PM
Another interesting angle, with regards to rifle transactions in the procurement period for Lewis at Philadelphia 1803.  Bear in mind this is all complicated, and not totally fleshed out in my mind - this could be a good dialogue if anyone out there has their own info to share to help me out or correct me - but here goes:

Who's who in March - June, 1803 at Philadelphia, Lancaster and York:
Israel Whelan - purveyor of public supplies.  Basically he was the army's purchasing agent, who was responsible for obtaining materials for Meriwether Lewis per the direction of Henry Dearborn's in Dearborn's March 14, 1803 letter.
Tench Coxe - replaced Whelan as purveyor later in 1803
William Irvine - superintendent of military stores at Schuylkill arsenal
Gratz brothers - Philadelphia merchants Hyman and Simon Gratz 
Joseph Simon - trade agent / merchant in Lancaster PA
Solomon Myers - trade agent / merchant in York, PA

Summary of rifle trade and US rifle procurement 1792 - 1803 in Philadelphia / Lancaster / York - Gratz Bros, Joseph Simon and Solomon Myers:
This was a close-knit and interrelated group of jewish merchants / traders that worked between York = Lancaster = Philadelphia.  Their trade worked westward, with the Indians, but also eastward.  These agents / merchants worked with, and coordinated at least some of the efforts of the Lancaster and York rifle makers to provide contract rifles for the US government at Philadelphia (Schuylkill Arsenal). Joseph Simon actually for a long time was partner with William Henry  of Lancaster, going way back to the 1750's or earlier, and actively obtained / delivered 1792 contract rifles (Moller), who in turn delivered them to Philadelphia.  The Gratz Bros. were also key merchant for US arms from Lancaster / York.  For example, when US muskets were manufactured by Jacob Dickert in 1798, his deliveries were coordinated with the government by Simon and Hyman Gratz (Papers of the War Dept).   Solomon Myers was brigade inspector for York county, and he held the main role of delivering the 1792 / 1794 contract rifles from York to the US government, and delivered indian rifles made in York to the government in Philadelphia in 1803. 

Indian trade rifles:  Up to late 1803, while a good number of 1792 / 1794 contract rifles were still in storage at Schuylkill arsenal, indians usually received 1792 / 1794 contract rifles (Moller).  It was not until roughly September, 1803 after  Tench Coxe replaced Whelan, that the US appeared to begin contracting for new rifles made for indian trade in appreciable numbers (few known before that per Moller).  for example in the fall of 1803 Coxe was in direct communication with Lancaster and Solomon Myers at York for indian rifle procurement.

Meriwether Lewis procurement period (March-June, 1803) in Philadelphia: 

March 14, 1803 - Henry Dearborn, sec. of war, has his chief clerk write to Israel Whelan to obtain any materials that Lewis may require.  He does not mention rifles, or anything specifically.  On March 24, Dearborn follows up with a letter to Whelan an indicating that he will send a check for $1,000 to obtain equipment for Lewis.  apparently Whelan would have no idea that Lewis was obtaining any guns at HF - perhaps assuming that rifles would be part of what he will supply to Lewis.   

May 6, 1803, the Gratz brothers at Philadelphia receive payment for 20 new rifles at $13 each (Moller).  These are paid for directly by Whelan, and delivered to William Irvine. Based on what we know from above, these could well be Lancaster or York made rifles.  In George Moller's book, he assumes these rifles are intended for Indians, and possibly imported, since he never heard of the Gratz Bros. We do know that there were rifles traded to the Indians through this same period, but as Moller notes they had used rifles in public storage at the arsenal.  A letter written by Dearborn in this same period talks about Whelan obtaining rifles for the Indians from Irvine (therefore from public stores).  So why would Whelan go through the Gratz bros. unless the government wanted brand new rifles for a more important reason (if they still had plenty of 1792's)?
 
May 7, 1803, Lewis arrives at Philadelphia from Lancaster - he then works with Whelan to obtain everything he needs.  According to the receipts, some of Lewis' purchases were paid for out of the indian dept.   Lewis purchases his gun slings (perhaps for the 'new" rifles he sees at Schuylkill arsenal), and other riflemen equipment in Philadelphia.  His purchases shown on receipts include 10 packing boxes for rifles.  Does each box possibly hold two rifles?  At the same time, he obtains boxes for swords - though he never mentions buying swords in Philadelphia, he must have since they were included on the expedition.  Therefore this could explain why additional rifles were not listed either.

This could all be coincidence, but who knows?  Why else would Lewis take 10 rifle boxes from Philadelphia?  Did they not have boxes for rifles at HF?  I don't know why not since they shipped from there for the government.  I am convinced he obtained guns at HF, but as Mike notes above also, it is likely that other rifles were obtained also.  After all when he left HF the first time, he went through York and Lancaster and would have seen what the makers have to offer.



 
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on July 29, 2013, 08:36:36 AM
DaveM,
  Great stuff. There are tons of documents from the war department on the contract rifles I'm reviewing, unfortunately they only go to 1800.
 
  I don't have my copy of Jackson's "Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" handy, but will offer some points from my 2000 Muzzleloader article (which took two years to go to print, sheesh)-

March 14th, 1803- Letter from Secretary of War Henry Dearborn to Harpers Ferry master armorer Joseph Perkin stating "You will be pleased to make such Arms and iron works, as requested by the bearer Captain Meriwether Lewis, and to have them completed with the least possible delay" (Jackson, 75).

May 18, 1803
Items delivered from the Philadelphia arsenal to Israel Whelen in Pittsburgh-

15 powder horns
18 tomahawks
15 scalping knives and belts
15 gun slings
30 brushes and wires
15 cartouch box belts
15 painted knapsacks
500 rifle flints
125 musket do. [ditto]
50 lb best rifle powder
1 P. horseman's pistols
420 pounds sheet lead (Jackson 98).

On April 20th, 1803, Lewis writes to Jefferson from Lancaster stating he was detained at Harpers Ferry for a month overseeing the manufacture of his arms and iron frame boat, and that "My Rifles, Tomahawks, and knives are preparing at Harpers Ferry, and are already in a state of forwardness that leaves me little doubt of their being in readiness in due time (Jackson 37-40).

May 25th, 1803- Dearborn sends his letter to Harpers Ferry Master Armorer Joseph Perkin ordering the manufacture of "short rifles". Dearborn's letter is too long to transcribe, but it describes the Model 1803 with iron rib, iron ramrod, etc. He also states "I have had such convincing proof of the advantage the short rifles has over the long ones (commonly used) in actual service as to leave no doubt in my mind of preferring the short rifle, with larger Calibers than the long ones usually have and with stiff steel ramrods instead of wooden ones-"

June 16, 1803- Dearborn replies to Perkin about adding bayonets to the rifles, and that it's "not expedient" (Hicks, 25).

July 1, 1803- invoice from contractor Joseph Thompsen for 35 packing boxes, including ten for rifles, received by military storekeeper Joseph Engels at the Philadelphia arsenal (Jackson, 98).

July 8, 1803- Lewis writes to Jefferson from Harpers Ferry stating "Yesterday I shot my guns and examined the several articles which had been manufactured for me at this place; they appear to be well executed (Jackson, 107).

December 2, 1803- Dearborn suggests minor improvements to the short rifle, including a larger bell mouth entry pipe, band on the forestock, and a wider aperture in the rear sight.

Specific mention of the short rifles in the journals-

Lewis, April 12, 1806
Ordway, June 18, 1806
Lewis, August 11, 1806

  Too bad they never took an artist along on such a historic endeavor.

Yours, &c.

Mike
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on July 29, 2013, 08:04:10 PM
Mike, I appreciate your info and assistance - one minor point, Israel Whelan was at the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia.  Israel was the person in charge of working with Lewis to purchase his goods.

The rifle packing boxes were obtained by Lewis, from Israel Whelan at the Schuylkill arsenal.  The invoice listed "10 packing boxes for rifles".  They were part of a longer packing box invoice of boxes for other items like instruments, stationary, 2 boxes for swords and belts (obviously from Philadelphia also), horseman's cloths, 6 boxes for musket ball, 1 box for "slow match" and 1 box for sundries.  The invoice had the note "for Capt. M. Lewis's goods".  Israel Whelan provided the boxes to GW Ingels. and the invoice was endorsed by Joseph Thompson of the Ordinance Dept.  Ingels was the storekeeper of the Schuylkill arsenal.


Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on July 29, 2013, 10:03:46 PM
Dave,
  Thanks, I'll have to dig out my well worn copy of Jackson's "Letters", it's packed away somewhere along with my Moulton edition journals.
  In an August 20th, 1798 memo in the War Dept record book, Perkin wrote an extensive list of tools to include "2 Plate moulds for Lock forgers" (Charleville pattern musket).

Of course we know that Lewis had locks manufactured at Harpers Ferry to include parts, etc-

Journal excerpts (Codex C, journal sent back from Ft. Mandan, noted by Moulton)-

List of goods packed away at Fort Mandan, from the "Bailing Invoice of Sundries, being necessary Stores Vizt.

Bale 1 (excerpt)- 3 Setts Rifle Locks

Bales 2, 3, and 4 contained the same contents, with bale 4 containing 1 pr trousers and 1 flannel shirt less.  
Bale 5- one set of Gunlocks
Bale 6- same as 5 - excepting some minor clothing and goods.
Bale 7- Capt: Lewis Gunlock
Box- Sundry iron works for guns
Primg. wires & Brushes
Capt: Lewis Gunlock



Recapitulation of Seven Bales & 1 Box of necessy Stores Vit. [viz.]

30 Blankets
15 fine Cloth jackets
35 flannel Shirts
11 pr Russia Over Alls
6 pr Cloth    Ditto
26 frocks
18 White Shirts
925 flints
11 Spike Gimblets
8 Small    Do
63 pr Socks
8 tin Boxes with memm. Books
2 [lb?] Col[ore]d thread
 ¼ [lb?] Nuns thread
11 Romall Handkf
4 papers Ink powder
6 pces Catgut
14 Setts Gunlocks
5 Screw Drivers
2 pcs Silk Handkf
9 quires fools Cap paper
18 half quires post
8 Sticks sealing Wax
3 vices
2 nippers
4 Watch Coats
4 pr. ox hide Shoes
1 pr English Do
2 Gro Awls
1000 fish hooks
1 fancy handkf.
1 Drawg. Knife
 the Glue
3 screw Augurs
62 files difft Sises
5 Chisels
18 Axes
2 howels
1 adse



Lewis, 20 March 1806-
"The guns of Drewyer and Sergt. Pryor were both out of order. the first was repared with a new lock, the old one having become unfit for uce; the second had the cock screw broken which was replaced by a duplicate which had been prepared for the lock at Harpers ferry where she was manufactured. but for the precaution taken in bringing on those extra locks, and parts of locks, in addition to the ingenuity of John Shields, most of our guns would at this moment been untirely unfit for use; but fortunately for us I have it in my power here to record that they are all in good order."

Yours, Mike
 
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on July 30, 2013, 03:24:37 AM
Mike, thanks - your note about them not having an artist is a good one.  I looked into the etchings that were created from Patrick Gass' sketches.  He is supposed to be the only one whose sketches were translated into illustrations. Supposedly the original original hand sketches that Gass made in the field are long gone.  I have seen in books on the subject where the authors ridicule the sketches as a later primitive attempt to portray the men - to some extent I agree, especially with some of the ones added in later editions of the Gass journals that were published.  However, somewhere I saw a reference that indicated that some of the uniforms were remarkably accurate in one of the early published editions of the journal.  This inspired me to study them further.   I suspect that some of the earlier sketches, such as "shooting at bears" may depict the rifles in much more accurate fashion than is generally believed.  I tracked down that particular image, and found that there is more than one version.  I was apparently retouched subsequent to original publication.  I was able to get a high definition digital scan copy of the early version from a university that had an early edition of the journal - on the one rifle that is featured somewhat prominently, there appears to be a distinct attempt to show a patchbox with a patchbox head.  Many may look at this and think I'm crazy but that is what it looks like to me.  The majority of the versions of this particular illustration that you will find published are the later retouched one, with dark cross hatching on the butt of the gun.  And even the earlier ones it is too hard to see this tiny unless it is a very high quality digital scan.  By the way, this is stuff I looked into awhile ago, just sharing while on the subject.  who knows!
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on July 31, 2013, 05:55:20 AM
Dave,
  I was thinking about an original or earlier drawing from Gass the other night!

  Located some pics of rifle number 15, I'm suspicious of the stock since it lacks a patchbox- the cutout is there, but nothing to show it had a 1803 style brass work. It's on a site called "Little Johns Auction House", Lot 691, 12CODY10-1 US MOD 1800 #15   (2012 auction). Yours for only $75,000 starting.

  I think before outlaying that much cash, I'd have the impression marks and barrel x-rayed, carbon 14 dating on the stock, and mass spectometry analysis of the soldered parts (buttplate and rib, since they are of two or more parts). 

I'll transcribe the notes on parts and post later.

  Also, there is a pic on the site from a copy of "The Gun Report" dated October 1978 with an article by Roger N. Conger entitled "The Guns of the Lewis and Clark Expedition"- anyone ever read it?

Yours, Mike
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on August 02, 2013, 04:14:55 AM
Mike, that rifle at auction is neat, but in my opinion very likely latter 1803 production.   

I am re-reading some of the letters that Lewis wrote about packing his goods and shipping them, including a new letter that was just discovered a few years ago that someone was generous enough to share with me.  When the wagon that left Philadelphia got to Harpers Ferry, the wagoner thought his horse team was already at maximum load capacity and according to Lewis he just kept going on his way to pittsburg.  The share of goods from Phila weighed far more (2800 lb)  than combined goods that the wagoner was instructed to pick up at Lancaster, Frederick and HF combined, including the iron boat (Lewis said under 700 lb more total from these places). 

The wagoner's instructions from Lewis did include picking up these articles that were ready at Lancaster and Frederick and HF along the way.  But Lewis did not mention to the wagoner the he would need to carry empty rifle boxes, leave them on top so they could be pulled out for access for packing, or whatever.  That would not make sense to me.  In fact at Phila his instructions specifically stated that there would be no special order or arrangement to packing the wagon except to be careful with certain things and to use the expedition's blankets to separate more fragile items (not the exact quote but basically says this). 

I am feeling more convinced that the 10 rifle boxes from Phila had rifles in them, it just would not make any sense at all to purchase empty boxes in phila to use in HF.  Even if Lewis had 15 rifles from HF, another 15 or 20 for a total of 30-35 rifles that is about right for the number of men along with a few guns for trade.  They did end up trading a short rifle to an indian - then later traded a "shortened" short rifle (cut off at the muzzle) to the same indian later to get the full length short rifle back.  And the other items listed for the boxes in the same invoice at Phila don't sound at all like HF items.   

Who knows - maybe Dearborn had Whelan order Pennsylvania-made short rifles in March, not knowing or having enough confidence that HF could really produce new rifles in a form that Lewis needed - and since Dearborn liked the short rifles to begin with based on his experience.  That could explain why Dearborn's later letter at the end of May 1803 (a month after Lewis said his rifles were in a state of forwardness at HF) to Perkins at HF sounds more like new information to Perkins (basically Dearborn explaining to Perkins why HF should look into making a short rifle prototype after the muskets they were working on as of May).  And why did it take HF from the end of May 1803 until later that fall to even prepare for Dearborn a prototype rifle?  Is this all wildly confusing?  I hope no one is offended with my wild theories and rambling, just thinking on different angles.
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on August 03, 2013, 10:15:59 PM
Dave,
  Looking through some ordnance correspondance I noticed several things. When they issued rifles from stores, they noted whether they were inspected, wrapped, and packed in boxes (the sizes varied). One thing I did notice is that Lewis requisitioned 10 packing boxes "for" rifles, not "of" rifles as is usually written in correspondance from the purveyor of public supplies. I have no doubts they took along some contract long rifles (in addition to what is known by journal entries regarding muskets, rifles, pistols, etc.). It's rather odd that there is no arms list by s/n or marking, or issue to each member in the expedition's journals.

 There is mention of Lewis cleaning his goods on Sept 17, 1803-

"...I determined to spend the day and to open & dry my goods which I had found were wet by the rain on the 15th notwithstanding I had them secured with my oilcloths and a common-tent which I had as well as it was possible and the canoes frequently bailed in the course of the day and night    I found on opening the goods that many of the articles were much Injured; particularly the articles of iron, which wer rusted very much    my guns, tomehawks, & knives were of this class; I caused them to be oiled and exposed to the sun    the clothing of every discription also was opened and aired, we busily employed in this business all hands, from ten in the morning untill sun seting, when I caused the canoes to be reloaded, having taken the precaution to put up all the articles that would addmitt of that mode of packing to be put in baggs of oil-cloth which I had provided for that purpose and again returned to their severale casks, trunks, and boxes

  Will find my copy of Jackson's "Letters" and see how Lewis had his goods packed.

  We know Lewis had rifles made at HF, he mentions this in his letters to President Thomas Jefferson. I'm not convinced that rifle 15 was used on the expedition in it's current form, too many inconsistencies in my humble opinion (the barrel perhaps, but not the stock- who knows how many times it was modified after 1806).

Yours, Mike



 
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on August 05, 2013, 08:29:59 AM
Does anyone have pics of the original patchboxes from the purported "1792/1794" contract long rifles which are said to resemble 1803 patchboxes?

  Searched the web and no joy, have a few pics of early Peter Gonter and J. Dickert patchboxes; they have the same basic shape but are obviously not 1803 types.

  Also, if no one has ever read Dearborn's May 25th, 1803 letter ordering production of the short rifles I will transcribe and post...

Yours, Mike
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Longknife on August 05, 2013, 04:18:07 PM
Mike, This Contract rifle is signed Messersmith...


(http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg96/Longknife1776-photo/Contractrifle120_zpsd6d13ca2.jpg) (http://s246.photobucket.com/user/Longknife1776-photo/media/Contractrifle120_zpsd6d13ca2.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: DaveM on August 05, 2013, 07:53:29 PM
Mike, below is a transcription of the box invoice.  I appreciate your questions as that debate helps better understand these complicated documents.   The way I read this, boxes were purchased by Israel Whelan from the maker Thompson, for the storekeeper at the arsenal (Ingels) to use in packaging Lewis' goods.  The note at the bottom regarding  endorsements appears to indicate that these boxes were subsequently provided by Whelan to G. W. Ingels, the storekeeper of the arsenal for his use in packing. As noted above, Whelan was in charge of purchasing the goods for Lewis at this time.  This is not an invoice or list of what was actually packed onto the wagons in the boxes, rather it is one individual purchase receipt of the boxes themselves that were to be packed.

the U. States Military Department                              To Joseph Thompson Dr.
1803
March 21-June 30

to 6 packing boxes for stationary & etc.       @$2 ea          $12
    5   "                  for instruments                                   $5.85
    2   "      "           for swords & belts etc                          $4.62 1/2                                       
    1   "      '            for horseman's cloths                          $1   
    6     "     "           for musket ball                                   $3.25
    1   "      "            for slow match                                   $1.25
    1   "      "            for sundries                                        $1.25
    10   "     '           for rifles                                             $12.50
    30                                                                              $41.72 1/2

Endorsements: 
"No. 13 Josh. Thompson 48 47/100.    Ordnance Dept June 30, 1803"
"U. States Arsenal July 1, 1803.  Received of (from) Israel Whelan Esq. the above specified packing boxes.  G. W. Ingels."
"For Captn. M. Lewis's goods"


It also notes that several other boxes were added to the list.

Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on August 05, 2013, 09:45:33 PM
Dave,
  Thanks for taking the time out to post that document, I still can't find my copy of Jackson's "Letters" (still packed away in moving boxes). Thanks Longknife for the pic also!
  It appears one or two of the Lancaster contractors designs influenced the stock of the "short rifles". There is a nice pic in Hartzler and Whisker's "The Southern Arsenal" with an 1803 with what appears to be a Gonter style patchbox. Will post in a few.

Yours, Mike
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on August 05, 2013, 11:24:00 PM
Picture from "The Southern Arsenal" by Daniel D. Hartzler and James P. Whisker, p. 101, showing non-standard patchbox on an 1806 lockplated rifle. Also note engraved design on buttplate.

(http://i1317.photobucket.com/albums/t621/MadMike463/1803_patchbox_1806rifle001_zps5e1712f4.jpg)
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Mike463 on August 06, 2013, 04:10:35 AM
Dearborn's May 25th, 1803 letter to HF master armorer Joseph Perkin directing construction of the short rifles (Model 1803)-

Sir,
  There being a deficiency of rifles in the public arsenals, and those on hand not being as well calculated for actual service as could be wished.

  It is considered advisable to have a suitable number of judiciously constructed rifles manufactured at the armory under your direction.
 
You will therefore take the necessary measures for commencing the manufactory as soon as may be after completing the muskets on hand.

  The barrels of the rifles should not exceed two feet nine inches in length and should be calculated or carrying a ball of one thirtieth of a pound weight- the barrels should be round from muzzle to within 10 inches of the breech and not of an unnecessary thickness especially in the round part- the stock should not extend further than the tail pipe, from then to within two inches of the muzzle, an iron rib should be substituted for that part of the stock-the ramrod should be of steel and sufficiently strong for forcing down the ball without binding.

  The butt end of the ramrod should be concaved suited to the shape of the ball- the locks should be light and well executed- the mountings should be of brass- there should be at least two thousand of these rifles made. If you should be of opinion that any improvements may be made on the above construction or any parts thereof, you will be pleased to inform me of such improvement as you may think may be useful.

  I have had such convincing proof of the advantage the short rifles has over the long ones (commonly used in actual service as to leave no doubt in my mind of preferring the short rifle, with larger calibers than the long ones usually have and with stiff steel ramrods instead of wooden ones- the great facility which such rifles afford in charging, in addition to their being less liable to become foul by firing, gives a decided advantage to men of equal skill and dexterity over those armed with the common long rifle.


Quoted in the L&C journals-

Lewis, 12 April 1806-

"... after breakfast all hands were employed in taking our baggage over the portage.    we caused all the men who had short rifles to carry them, in order to be prepared for the natives should they make any attempts to rob or injure them."


Ordway
 "Wednesday 18th June 1806.    cloudy    Drewyer and Shannon Sent on a head to go to the villages of the pel-oll-pellow nation    they took one of the Short rifles in order to git a pilot if possable to go over the mountn. with us."

Lewis, after being shot by Cruzatte on 11 August 1806-

"the ball had lodged in my breeches which I knew to be the ball of the short rifles such as that he had, and there being no person out with me but him and no indians that we could discover I have no doubt in my own mind of his having shot me." 

Yours, Mike
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: arlen on March 16, 2019, 07:04:06 PM
I know that there has been plenty of controversy about the Model 1803 and the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I wondered if anyone has ever seen an 1803 lock plate with an actual 1803 date.  Most of the repro locks have an 1803 date.

Here is a pic of the lock and a pic of the barrel of the 1803 Harpers Ferry rifle in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum and is on display at the Cody Firearms Museum. The 94 stamp on the barrel is the serial number.

Another 1803 stamped lock Harpers Ferry is in the Smithsonian.

(https://i.imgur.com/6usabCM.jpg)

(https://i.imgur.com/XCILoZU.png)
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Bill Paton on March 17, 2019, 03:12:06 AM
Arlen,
Is there any chance we could see the thumb-nail images from the bottom of your 1803 images? I would love to look at them.

Bill Paton
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Skirmisher on March 18, 2019, 02:48:28 AM
Regarding problems with early M1803 barrels, I once owned a rifle dated 1804.  The barrel, however, was not of the earliest type and was likely made 1806 or later.  My supposition was that the original barrel had failed.  As regards the contract rifles, I am under the impression that no 1792 contract pieces are known to survive.  I believe the rifles we have all seen by assorted Pennsylvania makers are from an early 19th century contract, more or less contemporary to the early production of M1803 rifles. 
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Don Stith on March 18, 2019, 03:25:42 AM
I doubt anyone will ever convince all concerned about the actual rifles used in the L&C expedition

  However, there definitely are surviving 1792 contract rifles.  Frank Tait wrote a well researched paper on the 1792's that was published in Man at Arms magazine, I believe in 2003.  A copy still lives around here somewhere.  He identified them being transferred from the New London , VA arsenal to Harpers Ferry. Any that were not utilized for earlier purposes(ie. L&C) were outfitted with 1812 dated HF locks and issued for use in the war of 1812.  Frank located 7 of those rifles.  The patch boxes were not all identical, but closely resembled the 1803 HF boxes. They were made by Dickert and other Lancaster makers. I got to handle 4 of the 7. All were 49 cal,or 40 to the pound as specified
Don
Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Longknife on March 18, 2019, 04:27:17 PM
Richard Keller and Ernest Cowan have done extensive research on the "Short Rifles" and documented 11 short rifles with 1803 dated locks.  Four of these rifles appear to have been made before Dec. of 1803 as they do not have the changes requested by Dearborne in his letter to Perkins. The lowest Ser # is 15 and the highest is #567. Ser # 359 is the highest "pre- Dec" 1803 dated rifle. The lowest Ser # of 1804 dated rifle is 708, shown in the link below......Ed

P.S. The #94 rifle listed above is on his list.

http://www.johnjhayeshistoricalcollectibles.com/proddetail.php?prod=1803N%2FR (http://www.johnjhayeshistoricalcollectibles.com/proddetail.php?prod=1803N%2FR)

Title: Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
Post by: Skirmisher on March 19, 2019, 09:11:39 PM
Don- I recall many years ago seeing a couple of longrifles displayed featuring The military style locks and the 1812 dated Harper's Ferry locks.  I presume these must have been some of the rifles to which you refer.