When it comes to Somerset County rifles as folk art, this Benjamin Franklin Troutman rifle is my personal favorite. It is a great honor to be able to share high quality photos of this unique 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, 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 rifle, but is the name I use for this rifle 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 patchbox 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 patchbox represent an inleting challenge that is well-executed. The buttstock has the wave shape along the lower edge that is a Ben Troutman signature trademark.
This 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 2019 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" by James B. Whisker. Click here for biographical information on Benjamin Troutman.
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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