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Scarce US Model 1841 Eli Whitney c. 1850 Unmodified

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Scarce US Model 1841 Rifle, Eli Whitney, c. 1850

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This is an original and unaltered U.S. Model 1841 Rifle manufactured by Eli Whitney 1850 with the original and rare STEEL barrel.

The history of the Model 1841 Rifle began in 1839 when the Master Armorer at Harpers Ferry Armory, Benjamin Moor, was assigned to design a new percussion rifle. The rifle specifications noted the weapon was to be made of “interchangeable parts standardized during the manufacturing process through the use of verifying gauges.” What would become the Model 1841 Rifle first appeared in flintlock form a year later when Harpers Ferry presented a pattern rifle to Henry Deringer, who was then under contract to produce rifles for the Ordnance Department.

The Ordnance Board made several changes to the percussion design of what would become the Model 1841 Rifle and Harpers Ferry eventually produced eight “Model” rifles in 1841 and one was sent to Springfield Armory “to serve as a guide in preparing models of the musket, cadet-musket, and pistol, with percussion locks.” This led to the Model 1842 Rifle Muskets being largely based on the Harpers Ferry Model 1841 Rifle design.

The remaining seven Model 1841 prototypes underwent trials by the Ordnance Board at the Washington Arsenal in 1842. These Model 1841 Rifles were tested against the English Brunswick Rifle, the French Delvigne rifle and a Swiss rifle design. The Model 1841 outdid these European designs during testing and the Ordnance Board officially adopted the Model 1841 design.

Although formally adopted, several modifications were made to the original “Model” design before it went into production. The original spanner-type nipple was replaced with a longer nipple with a square lug. The “Model” Rifle originally had sheet brass barrel bands and these were replaced with cast brass bands in January 1843. Based on these and some other small design changes, Harpers Ferry manufactured a production model 1841 Rifle in 1845 but did not get into full scale production until 1846. Contracts had also been let for Model 1841 for private firearms manufacturers with the first deliveries made in 1844.

With the advent of private contract production of the Model 1841 Rifle, the Ordnance Department changed from a competitive bidding system to a fixed cost per rifle of $13.00. Several private gun manufacturers proposed to the Ordnance Department to produce the Model 1841 Rifle in 1841 and early 1842 but, because the Ordnance Department was not ready to procure rifles at that time, no private contracts were let until after 1844. At this point contracts were let to Edward K. Tryon, Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence, John Griffiths and Eli Whitney, Jr. Griffiths eventually dropped out without producing any rifles.

The manufacturer of this Rifle, Eli Whitney, Jr., wrote to the Ordnance Department on December 11, 1846, offering to make rifles with steel barrels. Lieutenant Colonel George Talcott responded on December 15, 1846, “Mr. Remington is now making a few of that description and enough to test the principle as well as the cost. It is deemed advisable to wait the trial of them before taking further measures on the subject.” Because Remington’s production was significantly delayed, Whitney was allowed to deliver 2,000 rifles with cast steel barrels in 1849 and 1850. He continued to deliver rifles with iron barrels afterwards until late 1853, when he was again allowed to manufacture Model 1841 Rifles with cast steel barrels. This rifle is one of the 1850 models with a cast steel barrel. Only Remington and Whitney manufactured Model 1841 Rifles with steel barrels. Rifles manufactured by Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence, Robbins & Lawrence and Tryon all had iron barrels.

Only 92,807 Model 1841 Rifles were manufactured from 1844 to 1855. Harpers Ferry manufactured 25,207; Remington manufactured 10,000; Robbins Kendall & Lawrence manufactured 10,000; Robbins & Lawrence manufactured 15,000; George W. Tryon manufactured 5,000; and Eli Whitney manufactured 27,600 Rifles. Whitney entered into three contracts with the Ordnance Department. The first contract was signed on October 22, 1842 and consisted of 7,500 rifles. The second contract was signed on March 27, 1848 and this particular rifle was manufactured under that contract. In 1850, when this rifle was produced, Whitney manufactured 3,300 Rifles. The third contract was signed on March 2, 1853 and went from 1853 until 1855.

The Model 1841 Rifle is often referred to as the “Mississippi Rifle.” This came about through the use of the rifle by a Mississippi regiment during the Mexican War. This regiment was the First Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers and it was under the command of Colonel Jefferson Davis and fought during the Mexican War at the Battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. All of those rifles stayed in Mississippi after the Mexican War. In addition, on December 30, 1859, Secretary of War John B. Floyd ordered 10,000 Model 1841 Rifles transferred to southern arsenals. 6,000 of these rifles were manufactured by Whitney. Undoubtedly, Confederate units would have used all of the Model 1841 Rifles in their possession early in the Civil War. For those Model 1841 Rifles remaining in federal arsenals, these were also quickly issued to northern state militia units.

This particular rifle remains in its original Model 1841 configuration as manufactured by Eli Whitney in 1850. This makes this rifle very scarce as the Model 1841 is generally known as the most modified pattern firearm in American history. These alterations were undertaken by Remington, Harpers Ferry, Colt, Whitney and even separate state contractors and while the exact number of Model 1841 Rifles will never be known with precision, the number modified is probably in excess of 50,000 of the original 92,807 made. Most of these alterations involved changing the caliber, affixing long-range sights and/or modifying the rifle to accept a bayonet. Some were even altered to breech-loading rifles.

The original lockplate is present and presents a pewter patina. It measures 5 ¼” by 1 ¼” and has a flat surface with beveled edges and a rounded rear profile. To the rear of the hammer, stamped vertically, is the “N. HAVEN / 1850” stamp. Forward of the hammer is the “E. WHITNEY / US” stamp, indicating it was made under Federal contract. The original Hammer is present and it measures 2 7/8” and has a convex surface with a checkered thumbpiece. The original 13/32” diameter Hammer Screw is present. Both the hammer and screw exhibit a mixed plum and pewter patina. The interior of the lock mechanism is in fine condition. The original mainspring remains in the white and the mainspring screw retains the majority of its original blued finish. The two-position Tumbler and Bridle both retain the majority of their original bright heat blue finish. The Sear and Sear Spring both remain in fine condition. The lock assembly functions perfectly. Both original Lock Plate Screws are present and both retain the majority of their original blued finish.

The original brass Trigger and Guard Assembly is present and measures 9” long. The both is also brass and measures 15/16” wide and is retains by slotted nuts, both of which retain the majority of their original blued finish. The iron trigger retains considerable original blued finish and is retained by the original blue trigger screw that still retains the majority of its original bright blue finish. The front, rounded edge of the plate has a serif “W” assembly stamp. The rear Sling Swivel is iron and is riveted to the front branch of the trigger bow and it moves freely. The original rear trigger plate screw is present and it retains the majority of its original blued finish.

The original brass Lower Barrel Band is present and it measures 5/8” wide at the top and it extends forward at the bottom to 1 1/16” and it retains its old, antique mustard finish. The Upper Barrel Band is also brass and has two ½” rings on the top separated by an open area and it is 2 5/8” long at the top and 3 3/8” long at the bottom as it extends rearward. The front Sling Swivel is iron and is correctly riveted to the lug on the bottom of the band it is still moves smoothly. There is a serif “W” assembly stamp on the bottom, rear of the band.

The original Ramrod is present and it measures 32 ¾” long. On the front is a 1” brass “trumpet head” shaped ramming end with a concave end. The back end is threaded the last ½” for ball screw and wiper. The body of the ramrod has a pewter patina with areas of old pitting.

The original brass Implement Compartment Assembly is present and is comprised of the lid that measures 4 ¾” by 1 ¾” and is attached to the original brass Hinge Plate by the original three convex headed wood screws. The lid/door works and secures perfectly. The interior of the compartment is in fine condition with the three router pilot holes still crisply cut and it has the hole in the front, lower edge for the spare nipple. The original spare nipple is present and it now exhibits traces of corrosion.

The original brass Butt Plate measures 4 ½” by 1 ½” with a straight rear profile and convex rear surface. It has a 2” long tang that is marked with a serif “US” stamp to the rear of the tang screw. Both the Tang Screw and Butt Plate Screw are present. The original brass Side Plate is present and measures 3 5/16” long with an “L” shape and it has a serif “W” assembly stamp on the outside. The original Ramrod Friction Retainer is present and measures 3 13/16” and has a spoon-shape spring end to secure the ramrod.

The original black walnut stock is present and measures 43 ½” long with an 8 ½” comb that is ¾” tall. The left stock flat has the two original cartouches. The first is a vertically-stamped oval cartouche with script “WAT” for William A. Thornton, who was the Ordnance Department Chief of Contract Inspection from 1840 to 1850. The other cartouche is also a vertically-stamped oval with script initials “GW,” which are the initials of George Wright, who was a civilian Ordnance Department employee who inspected Model 1841 Rifles at the Whitney factory. The stock has several very old areas of wood missing on the left side adjacent to the barrel, but there are no other significant areas of loss or cracks or chips noted.

The original Barrel is present and measures 33” long. The barrel is round with 2 ½” long side flats towards the breech. The muzzle correctly has a flat crown. The original seven groove rifling is present and remains in very good condition. The barrel exhibits a pewter patina on the top, exposed portion with areas of old corrosion. The bottom, protected portion of the barrel retains its excellent national armory bright finish. The original Rear Sight is present and is a standing leaf with a “V” notch that is dovetailed into the top of the barrel 3” from the breech. The original front sight is present and is an oval brass blade brazed into a mortise 1” from the muzzle. The original Breech Plug is present and has several inspection/assembly stamps. The top of the Tang has the matching “1850” date.

The Nipple Bolster exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina and the correct Nipple is present and it is clear to the chamber. The top of the barrel, adjacent to the Nipple Bolster, is a serif “US” stamp over a serif “SM” stamp for Stillman Moore, who was a civilian Ordnance Department inspector of Whitney Model 1841 Rifles in 1850. Adjacent to the Stillman stamp is a serif “V” “viewed” stamp over a “P” proofed stamp. The left barrel flat has the serif “STEEL” stamp, which were only used by Whitney in 1849 and 1850.

This is a very scarce and original, as found condition, Eli Whitney-manufactured Model 1848 Rifle that has the rare STEEL barrel only manufactured by Whitney in 1849 and 1850 prior to their third contract. As noted previously, few Model 1841 Rifles remain that escaped alteration before and during the Civil War. This rifle is in its manufactured configuration and it is still in firing condition.

This rifle is an antique and can be shipped to anyone. This rifle will also come with a historic writeup and a CD containing all of the photos in the listing. I accept Visa and MasterCard and charge NO FEES. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like additional photos posted.


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