Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1145: Henry Pickel Signed Lancaster Flintlock American Long Rifle

Auction Date: September 11, 2021

Very Scarce Engraved, Carved, and Henry Pickel Signed Lancaster Flintlock American Long Rifle

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $9,500 - $16,000

Very Scarce Engraved, Carved, and Henry Pickel Signed Lancaster Flintlock American Long Rifle

Manufacturer: American
Model: Flintlock
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 50
Barrel: 41 3/4 inch octagon
Finish: brown
Stock: maple
Item Views: 1446
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 103
Class: Antique

George Moller stated this rifle is in the style of 1792 U.S. Army contract rifles, and his "GDM" collection mark is discreetly stamped at the toe. In his section on these rifles in "American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume II: From the 1790s to the End of the Flintlock Period," he notes that no positively identified examples of contract rifles supplied in 1792 and 1794 are known. This has led to disagreement among collectors as to whether these rifles were the same as the civilian rifles produced by the contractors or if they were much plainer and more similar to the later 1807 contract rifles. Many have assumed the patch boxes were similar to the Model 1803 rifles. General Edward Hand had been directed by Secretary of War Henry Knox to contract with Lancaster area gunmakers to supply the rifles at $12 a piece following St. Clair's humiliating defeat at the Battle of the Wabash during the Northwest Indian War, the worst defeat in U.S. military history. St. Clair's casualty rate was around 97%, and the U.S. Army as a whole lost nearly 1/4 of its men. This left the frontier vulnerable to additional attacks. After initial batches, Knox wrote back requesting additional rifles have 42 inch barrels around .49 caliber rather than the .44 1/2 inches and .47 caliber of the early rifles and feature a fly on the tumbler, patch box with spring and button release, and well-seasoned maple stocks. Some were apparently marked with U.S. markings. It is now generally believed that it was the 1792 contract rifles that were used by the Corps of Discovery under Lewis and Clark. They were used by the Western Army under General Anthony Wayne during the later part of the Northwest Indian War as well as various militia units and as presents to Indians. Over 900 were later in the Schuylkill Arsenal in 1802. Some were shipped to the frontier in the early 1800s. Moller notes they may have been among the arms issued to the Kentuckians that fought under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Henry Pickel (1753-1827) was active initially in York County and then later in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Kentucky Rifle Foundation notes that Pickel was "an excellent engraver with good carving skills." This rifle is signed "Henry Pickel" followed by an unclear marking ending in "157." Since some of the other U.S. contract rifles are known to be numbered, this may lend credence to the idea that this rifle was one of the 1792 contract rifles, especially given Pickel is known to have made pistols and rifles under contract for the U.S. Ordnance Department. Regardless of whether this rifle was sold to the government under the 1792 contracts, it is a very desirable example of an early national period American long rifle. It has traditional blade and notch sights, light accent marks ahead and behind the rear sight, a tapped hole in the upper tang possibly for a "lolly-pop" peep sight, unmarked lock, single trigger with scroll design, brass furniture, scroll engraved patch box with domed lid with faint period inscribed letters, heel button patch box release, attractive molding along the forend terminating in a raised relief carved fan design that is repeated by the barrel tang, molding along the bottom of the butt, "Roman nose" comb profile, incised lines on the edge of the cheek rest, staples for a vent pick below, and mix of raised and relief carved scroll pattern ahead of and to the rear of the cheek rest. The ramrod is hickory with a brass band at the tip. Provenance: The George Moller Collection

Rating Definition:

Very good as reconverted to flintlock configuration with crisp engraving on the patch box, dark brown patina on the lock and barrel, strong rifling, aged patina on the brass, soldered repair on the ramrod entry pipe, refaced frizzen, and mild overall wear. The stock is very good fine and has distinct carving with some smoothing at the ramrod entry pipe, some cracks and repairs in the forend edges, general light scratches and dings, faint tension crack at the rear lock screw, and some subtle figure. Mechanically fine.

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