Sunday, October 6, 2013

Work by John Armstrong at James Julia Auction

Outstanding and important relief carved percussion rifle by John Armstrong, one of the finest  intact.

Rifle has a 41-3/4" full oct 44 Cal. rifled bbl signed in script "John Armstrong". Bbl is signed on a brass plate inlet into the top bbl flat. Four piece patchbox has three piercings and is finely and masterfully engraved throughout. Sideplate is also engraved and fastened by a small screw at its rear. Toe plate is nicely engraved with a small button release installed to open the patchbox. The stock, is decorated with twelve beautifully engraved silver inlays, eight of them forming the bbl key escutcheons. The two farthest rearward, are eight-pointed stars. Bbl keys are of brass. Oval silver inlay is set behind the bbl tang and two heart-shaped silver inlays are inlet in the teardrop carving behind the lock and sideplates. Relief carving on the cheekside of the butt is in Armstrong's finest pattern and is beautifully executed with C scrolls and rococo carving present ahead of and behind the cheekpiece. There is a basket weave design in relief under the cheekpiece and a 1-3/4" silver inlay engraved with an American eagle on the cheekpiece. Relief carving is high and distinct at the bbl tang and around the lock and sideplate mortises extending about 4-1/2" forward on each side. Fleur-de-lis carving at the rear entrance pipe flows into the raised forend paneling that extends to the nosecap on both sides. Lock is nicely signed "J.A." for John Armstrong. One of the finest example extant of the workmanship of this Golden Age, the rifle has survived in its original state and appears to have been little used. Of considerable interest is that this rifle is in percussion which is believed to be the original ignition system. This is quite possibly, the only known example of Armstrong's work in this system, and probably the latest example of his workmanship. Rifle is not unlike rifle number 208 in Kindig's Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age. John Armstrong was a gunsmith in Emmitsburg in 1808. Kindig states Armstrong was a fine gunsmith. He was a very good carver, and he made beautiful inlays and large patchboxes. His engraving was very good. He was one of the makers who developed a design and made many guns practically the same, he was a master engraver in both design and execution. John Armstrong's workmanship is magnificent, and his designs are just about perfection. This remains one of the most collectible and desirable of the guns of this period. 

PROVENANCE: See Collection Catalog, 1973, by Locke, p. 484; see Man at Arms, Alan S. Kelley Advertisement. William M. Lock, Alan Kelley, Thomas Wibberly, Richard Zeschke and Ray Brown Collections. Collection of Dr. Douglas Sirkin. 

CONDITION: This rifle is in outstanding original condition throughout with no visible imperfections. 4-49826 RG42 (75,000-125,000)












This surperb relief Carved Flintlock John Armstrong Kentucky Rifle, believed to be the earliest known by Armstrong.



44-1/2" full oct 48 Cal. rifled and flared bbl signed "J. Armstrong". Bbl is fastened to the stock with four bbl wedges, with two on each side of the fine forestock molding. Instead of interrupting the line of the molding, they become part of the flow. Each wedge is surrounded by an oval brass inlay. Rifle is profusely relief carved in the Armstrong style on the butt, forward and behind the cheekpiece, at the bbl tang, on both sides of the rear ramrod pipe and around the lock and sideplate mortises. Brass engraved four piece patchbox is in the traditional Armstrong style and has four piercings. Patchbox has a flow of scroll work along the edge and is accented by a finial consisting of a asymmetrical scroll pattern. A unique feature is the 10-1/4" long nicely engraved brass saddle plate between the trigger guard and the rear ramrod pipe. The saddle plate is symmetrical in design and consists of a bell flower motif, a highly engraved plate, a lovely piece of work. The brass engraved toe plate is 7-1/2" long and is accented with a unique engraved border. Armstrong's characteristic long nosecap on the forend accents this rifle nicely with a finishing touch. Bedford style lock plate is signed "J. Armstrong" in script and the stock is curly maple. The cheekpiece features Armstrong's characteristic silver oval inlay engraved with the American eagle. John Armstrong's guns are among the most prized for most collectors. They are beautifully balanced, graceful, exquisitely carved, and inlaid in the best workmanship. These guns do not vary greatly one from the other, but we have never seen a very plain Armstrong rifle. Armstrong was born September 5, 1772 so that it is conceivable this magnificent rifle could possibly have been made before 1800. Armstrong eventually left Emmitsburg, MD and relocated into Bedford County, where he taught the grace of lock and stock making in which he was so proficient. Armstrong's late guns are the prototype of the Bedford County rifle. The architecture of this rifle is very early and believed to be the oldest example known. This rifle has been illustrated in Sam Dyke's article John Armstrong Gunsmith Emmitsburg, Maryland and in Siro Toffolon's article A John Armstrong Rifle in Volume 7 Number 2 of the Kentucky Rifle Association Bulletin as well as by Albert Sullivan, Sr. in his article John Armstrong of Emmitsburg and his Rifles published in KRA Volume 3 Number 2. 



PROVENANCE: Herman Cooke, James Servin, and Siro Toffolon, Alex Acevedo, Collections. Collection of Dr. Douglas Sirkin. 



CONDITION: Entire rifle shows signs of honest wear but no signs of abuse. There is evidence of an old in period wrist repair extending from the bbl tang to the rear of the lock. Lock is a possible reconversion. Overall this rifle is in fine condition for its age and the carving is all clear and distinct. 4-49773 RG43 (40,000-60,000)








Copy and photos from James Julia, here and here.

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