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January 2004


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"Daniel H. Weiskotten" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Dec 2003 20:49:44 -0500
text/plain (55 lines)
At 04:21 PM 12/29/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>Would anyone be able to tell me what type of firearm might be typically
>found on an upstate NY family farm around 1800 - 1810? I'm assuming most
>such farming households would have included some sort of guns.

At that time all weapons still had to be manufactured one piece at a time,
and although there were many varieties of weapons available, they general
types would probably be the standard smooth-bore muzzle loading musket and
the single shot muzzle loading pistol, both flint locks.  They would be
loaded with single round lead balls, and each weapon pretty much needed is
own matching mold for making balls.  Or, a variety of smaller lead shot
could be used for hunting fowl and small game, although I have heard tales
of ground glass, gravel, salt, and other small bit being loaded more for
affect and pain than massive damage and death.  There was a large industry
that supported the use of firearms, with powder makers, shot towers,
machinists, stock carvers, borers, and a dozen other specialists needed
just to make the gun and keep it supplied.

It wasn't until the eve of the American Civil War that the centuries old
technology began to change to shaped projectiles, contained cartridges,
percussion caps, and mass produced arms.

The type of weapon carried by a given person would be very much dependent
upon the purpose for which they carry it.  Many hunted with the old
flintlocks of their or their father's Revolutionary War days, and since
many were involved with local militias at the time of the embargo (1808) or
were worried about Indian attacks (or other marauders and bears) on the
frontier, the trusty musket would have been an absolute necessity.  It is
clear, however, that not everyone had them from the complaints of militia
leaders come muster day.  I can't imagine a landlord, shop or tavern keeper
hauling his musket around like a best friend since they had other ways of
finding sustenance.  Also, since that class of people were often the
militia leaders and would have had a finer weapon (or no firearm at all)
than the usual farmer who needed it primarily for hunting.

Pistols were more for close firing, and probably more for personal
protection than anything.  Some incredible dueling pistol sets, boxed,
monogrammed and polished, show that this particular type was finely crafted
and well taken care of for a single purpose.  The shop keeper, on the other
hand, might keep a rusty old single-shot flint lock pistol handy when
traveling or to protect his store goods.

Then you can compare the city dweller vs the pioneer, and it will be
entirely different for the same person in a particular environment.

I'm not sure when double barrel shotguns came into popularity.

Hopefully an arms expert on the list can help you more!  I know some that
can talk for an hour (!) about the differences between an 1802
such-and-such and the 1807 improvement, and the implications to the global
theater of the impending war (but one in a long series of world wars).

         Dan W.