When it comes to Somerset County rifles as folk art, this rifle by the gunmaker Benjamin Franklin Troutman is my personal favorite. It is a great honor to be able to share high quality photos of this unique Pennsylvania long rifle with the public. The rifle has a commercial Maslin "waterproof" flintlock, and lots of silver decorations, such as the well-executed eagle with shield medallion and the silver pick holder, and the moon-shaped barrel key escutcheons. The most interesting thing to me, however, is the silver depiction of Columbia in a Phrygian cap -- a theme that is seldom seen outside of Lehigh Valley rifles. How Ben Troutman came to use it is a mystery.
"Columbia" isn't any recognized name for this antique rifle, but is the name I use because a rifle this unique in the annals of Somerset County rifles deserves to be celebrated with a name. It certainly doesn't have a classic Somerset/Bedford county butt style. Instead, it has about the same Maryland-style butt stock profile as the Peter White rifle shown in Plate 127 of Calvin Hetrick's book "The Bedford County Rifle and Its Makers". It does have the pointed tail lock panel that is common to the region and also present on the aforementioned Peter White rifle. The patch box has the classic Q-shaped finial common to the region, with the subtle difference that the tail of the "Q" extends inside the oval. The seven cutouts in the patch box represent an inletting challenge that is well-executed. The buttstock has the incised wave shape along the lower edge that is a Ben Troutman signature trademark decorative feature.
This full stock rifle is featured on pages 166 and 167 of the now rare 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" by James B. Whisker and Larry W. Yantz. The rifle is also featured on pages 53 to 55 of the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" by James B. Whisker. Click here for biographical information on Benjamin Troutman.
The following photo highlights the buttstock and its complex and attractive seven-piercing patch box with a Q-shaped finial. Note the wave-shaped incised carving along the lower edge of the buttstock, and the relief carving in the wrist area. Also notice the silver inlay just forward of the upper end of the buttplate.
The next photo shows the lock and related lock panel of the Troutman rifle. Note the semi-heart-shaped inlay aft of the lock panel.
The next photo provides a closeup view of the lock on the Troutman rifle. It is a commercial "waterproof" lock produced by Maslin. In a waterproof lock, the pan is separated from the bridle and the fence, which prevents water runoff from the bridle and fence from entering the pan. Note the roller on the frizzen spring, which allows the lock to function faster and more smoothly. The excellent condition of the wood nearest the fence of the lock informs us that this rifle has not been used very much.
The following photograph provides a view of the right-hand side of the entry pipe area of the Troutman rifle. Note the delightful half-moon-shaped escutcheons for the barrel keys, and the inlay on the underside of the forestock. Also notice the incised carving above and forward of the entry pipe.
The next photo provides a view of the right-hand side of the forestock of a Benjamin Troutman-made rifle, and features the ramrod ferrules, nose cap, linear incised carving, and brass nose cap.
The following photo shows the left-hand side of the buttstock of the Benjamin Troutman flintlock rifle, including the vent pick holder and cheekpiece inlay. Have a look at the relief carving fore and aft of the cheekpiece, and the wavy incised carving along the lower edge of the buttstock.
The next photo highlights the silver lock bolt plate on the Troutman rifle, and the associated panel of the stock. The stock panel has the streamlined tail that is featured on a number of Bedford County, Pennsylvania muzzle loading rifles. A raindrop-shaped silver inlay trails the tail of the stock panel.
The following photo provides a closeup view of the vent pick holder and cheekpiece inlay on the Troutman rifle.
The next photo provides a top view of the tang and wrist area of the Troutman flintlock muzzle loading rifle, showing the decorative inlay on the top of the wrist, and the decorative inlay around the barrel tang.
The following photograph provides a view of the Columbia image that is located just forward of the trigger guard on the Troutman muzzleloader rifle.
The next photo is a larger view of the wonderful Columbia inlay on the Troutman rifle.
The next photo shows the inlay on the underside of the forestock just aft of the entry pipe.
The following photo shows the toe plate of the Troutman rifle.
The next photo is in shadow, which may make certain features of the Columbia rifle show up more clearly.
The following photo shows the muzzle of the highly decorated Columbia rifle. The bore has seven grooves.
The basic liberty cap theme dates to antiquity. The image that follows shows a second century AD bust of Attis with what is known as a Phrygian cap. (Cabinet des Medailles).
The image that follows is a World War I era depiction of Columbia in a Phrygian cap.
Page 117 of William S. Bowers' book "Gunsmiths of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia" shows another rifle Benjamin Troutman made that has a silver Columbia Head in front of the trigger guard. That rifle, which is signed "B* Troutman" on a silver barrel inlay, is also shown on pages 138 and 139 of the book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" by Whisker and Whisker. The lock bolt plate of that rifle is brass with silver inlays. The buttstock has the wavy line that seems to be a trademark decoration of Benjamin Troutman.
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