Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 125: Flintlock American Long Rifle Attributed to John Bonewitz

Auction Date: September 10, 2021

Kentucky Rifle Association Best Relief Carved Rifle Award Winning Engraved Golden Age Flintlock American Long Rifle Attributed to John Bonewitz

Estimated Price: $45,000 - $70,000

Kentucky Rifle Association Best Relief Carved Rifle Award Winning Engraved Golden Age Flintlock American Long Rifle Attributed to John Bonewitz

Manufacturer: American
Model: Flintlock
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 50
Barrel: 45 inch octagon
Finish: brown
Stock: maple
Item Views: 1784
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 102
Class: Antique

This c. 1790-1800 rifle attributed to master gunmaker John (Johannes) Bonewitz (1758-1828) of Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, won the "Best Carved Rifle" award from the Kentucky Rifle Association in 1994 (silver award plaque included) and is certainly a very fine example of why his work is held in such high esteem by collectors of American Long Rifles from the Golden Age after the American Revolution. Bonewitz worked in Womelsdorf c. 1778-1809 and then moved to Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, where he remained active until his death in 1828. He is credited with training Leonard Reedy and Andrew Fitchorn Jr. The rifled barrel has traditional blade and notch sights and no visible markings, and the lock is also unmarked on the outside and only has a "DP" cartouche on the inside. However, the rifle closely matches the detailed carving, engraving, and furniture on other Bonewitz rifles shown in the KRA Bulletin, Volume 29, Number 2 for Winter 2002 in the article "John Bonewitz Master Gunsmith, Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania" and the 2012 article "Johannes Bonewitz- Master Gunsmith, Womelsdorf, PA" by Henry Bishop. In fact, the carving and other details on this rifle could be considered Bonewitz's "signatures." For example, the incised carved scroll pattern ahead of the patch box finial is consistently found on his work. The three-piece patch box itself is the same pattern as is found on many of his rifles, even the engraving is the same as some other examples, and the details of the other incised and raised relief scroll carving at the ramrod entry pipe, wrist, and sides of the butt are all highly consistent with his incredible work. The pattern found below the cheek rest is an uncommon design on American long rifles broadly, but it is found on Bonewitz rifles.

Rating Definition:

Fine as reconverted to flintlock configuration with mottled brown patina on the barrel and lock, some erosion at the breech, attractive aged patina on the brass, crisp engraving, aged patina on the blank silver wrist escutcheon, and mild overall wear. The stock is very fine and has incredibly crisp and detailed carving, smooth oiled finish, mild wear around the lock, some minor thin cracks, slight chip and repair at the toe, and minor scratches and dings. Mechanically fine. This is a beautiful golden age American long rifle. Very few rifles come available with such crisp carving and engraving, let alone award winning rifles with as fine of carving as this.

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